One of the biggest obstacles on the path of self-love is dropping the idea that criticism is the best way to improve your life.
This fear typically takes shape in thoughts like:
- If I love myself now, how will I ever be successful/lose weight/find the love of my life?
- If I accept where I am, how will I ever make any changes?
- If I love myself, I’ll probably do nothing but eat potato chips on the couch while watching The Real Housewives.
This orientation to change is not your fault. Our culture, including most schools, ways of parenting and even the criminal justice system, incentivizes good behavior by punishing bad behavior.
Shift the fuel for change from fear to love.
One immediate mindset shift is to look at all unwanted behaviors as a cry for love. If you binge eat a box of Oreos, why would you punish yourself when you’re clearly already hurting? This is a call for love. Tune in, ask yourself why you’re hurting and how you can show up for yourself in a better way.
We think we can punish ourselves down the Yellow Brick Road to immortal happiness, but it never works.
Feel-good change must come from a place of deep acceptance for what already is.
Even if you hate every ounce of yourself and of life, you are still worthy of love, and changing won’t make you more or less worthy of that love.
The most important step for greater self-love and happiness is to appreciate who you are now and the blessings in your life, exactly as they are. We often think happiness comes from getting what we want, but it comes from appreciating what we have.
A lot of people walk a spiritual path hoping to get something — whether that’s enlightenment or radiance or expansive self-love. This turns all the potentially nurturing and healing practices, even yoga and meditation, into new opportunities to punish and push ourselves, to look for ways we’re deficient.
This journey isn’t about fixing yourself. It’s about accepting yourself exactly as you are.
So then, how do you make life changes while accepting everything exactly as it is?
THE SECRET TO LOVE-FUELED CHANGE
Make acceptance the foundation, and then act from the desire to create the best life possible. It’s a balance. You’ll need to decide to act, and then while acting, consciously practice gratitude and acceptance for all the steps in between the seed of desire and its actualization.
All decisions carry a quality of intention. If you search for jobs with the intention of finding a new one that’s nothing like your current one, you’ll probably end up with another job you end up hating. That’s because this intention of resistance was infused into the search, influencing your decisions.
If, however, you made it your intention to find a career that resonated with you on a soul level while completely accepting your current situation, you would approach the search much differently. You wouldn’t be in a rush to find a new opportunity because you would be at peace in your current job, looking for the blessings and finding ways to manage the stress.
This place of acceptance would help you wait for the best opportunity. It would help you apply to positions that excited you, not the sure things just to escape your current position.
The same is true with losing weight or finding a lover, or whatever change you want to make.
Are you acting to get away from something or are you acting with the intention of creating a life that fills your heart with ever more joy?
When I was younger, I moved all the time. I was actually running from myself, but of course, I didn’t know that then. Soon after arriving someplace new, I’d immediately start searching for my next adventure. I had an idea of what I was looking for, but could never stay in one place long enough to build the life I dreamed of.
Fast forward to today, I’ve been living for six years in a place that I’ve resisted pretty much the entire time. My husband and I are finally planning to move, and the lessons of my past are coming in handy.
It’s tempting to say yes to the first opportunity, but I know that infusing this move with the quality of resistance, with the desire to be anywhere but here, will yield a new situation that turns out to be as bad or worse than my current one. So I’m taking my time because as much as I hate it here, I’ve come to accept it and understand its blessings even if it hasn’t been easy.
Had I not accepted this life, I never would have built a business using my exact talents and passions. Just to say that every place of friction in our lives carries the seed for an immense blessing.
The more we love ourselves and the ugly parts of our process, the more beauty we find in it all.
Creating change from a place of self-love means not punishing yourself when life doesn’t look like you thought it would, or when you don’t look like you want to.
As another example, let’s say you want to find love and can’t stand being alone. The key to find that love, as you’ve heard infinite times, is to love yourself first.
I know it’s hard, but to truly find a lover who is a happy person, who will treat you right, requires you to be that person for yourself first. You won’t find an emotionally available person unless you are emotionally available to yourself. You won’t find a supportive person unless you support yourself.
This isn’t about vibration or alignment or any of those other new age adages, but a matter of practicality. If you allow yourself to treat you a certain way, you’ll allow others to treat you that same way. You won’t know the signs of a bad relationship, because you have a bad relationship with yourself. You’ll miss the telltale signs that this person will use you and abuse you because you won’t know what a healthy relationship looks and feels like.
If you allow unhealed wounds to fester, you’ll keep making decisions based on them. Have the courage to heal, to cultivate the love you seek from within.
The last example I’ll use is losing weight or starting an exercise routine. I’ve often heard of people falling off their movement routine after feeling the deliciousness of self-love, and this is a sure sign that they were using self-hate for motivation.
You might think you’ll never move if you love yourself, but self-love is about filling your life with the things that make you feel alive. Movement is something that feels insanely good.
To exercise more regularly, move not to look a certain way, but because you love yourself and want to feel good. Wanting a six-pack isn’t bad, as long as you love yourself without a six-pack.
To eat better, set the intention of eating in a way that reflects your self-love, or even the desire to love yourself. How would a person who loves herself eat? Probably reasonably nutritious with a few special treats. That’s what works for me any way. Maybe another way will work for you.
Here’s a little homework for you: What changes have you been trying to make? What is the quality of intention behind those changes? How can you infuse more love into the effort?
I hope this served you.
All the love,
p.s. Dive into self-love and get to know yourself better with 30 days of journaling. Click here to learn more and sign up!