In my last post, I discussed the first way we can cultivate self-love, which is to think of ourselves as a little child. Just like children need love, encouragement, care, and compassion to flourish, we also need these things.
Think of yourself like a little child who needs love and nurturing to flourish.
This leads us to the second thing we can do to cultivate self-love: Nurture yourself by speaking to yourself like you would to a little child (or a best friend).
About six years ago, I suddenly realized one day that I spoke negatively to myself all of the time. I said things to myself that I would never say to a child or a friend. In fact, I generally tried to be really encouraging to everyone else—just not to myself. When I realized this, I asked myself, “Why do I think everyone else deserves love, but I do not?” I realized that I was a constant voice in my head saying things like, I’ll never be able to do that. I look horrible. I am stupid.
It is no wonder that I walked around with frequent feelings of anxiety, self-loathing, and discouragement. The day I realized how negatively I spoke to myself, I made a decision to start saying nothing but loving and encouraging things to myself. It definitely took practice, but saying loving things to myself has made a world of difference in my life and has cultivated in me a great deal of peace and power.
If is helpful to you, you might even imagine yourself as a little child and work on cultivating loving and compassionate feelings towards the “little you”. This is an exercise that has been particularly mentally and emotionally healing for me.
Recently I found myself in a really difficult situation that escalated my anxiety. I felt alone and frightened. I suddenly remembered the lessons I had learned about being a good friend and about saying loving things to myself. In the midst of my anxiety, I said silently to myself, “Shelly, you are doing a good job. You are going to be okay. You’re safe. I’m here with you. I’m always your friend, and I have your back.” Immediately when I became present with myself and said these things, I calmed down, and I was able to think clearly and peacefully. What we say to ourselves makes a big difference. Our words can wilt our spirit
or empower us to live more fully and lovingly.
Here are some loving messages you can send to yourself.
I am proud of you.
You are working hard and making good progress.
You are really growing a lot, and I am proud of how you have handled difficult situations.
You are so beautiful. You have beautiful hair. You have really pretty eyes. You have a great smile.
I respect your intelligence.
You have everything you need in you for success.
You have so much talent and power, and you are developing it every day. Awesome job.
It’s okay to feel sad. You are going to get through this.
It’s okay to make mistakes. That is how we learn and grow.
It’s okay that things didn’t turn out the way you wanted, and it’s okay to feel disappointed.
You are full of wisdom, and you are finding a solution to the problem you are facing right now.
Perhaps you are thinking, “But what if I don’t believe those things about myself?” It is perfectly understandable that you have that worry, but consider this: I bet you would have no problems saying those things to a small child or to a good friend and believing them. You would believe them because we often look at the best in others, but for some reason we look at the worst in ourselves.
Of course you have dark parts in you. Everyone does. It is important to note, however, that just like a baby or a friend, you also have a good and beautiful side to you. This good side of you is your Light.
It is your True Self. It is our childlike nature that is full of potential, love, goodness, and joy. Of course, our True Self can grow clouded by emotional wounds, fear, anger, and ignorance, and when it becomes clouded, this leads us to do all of the bad things we do.
For instance, we suffer hurt from another person, and we feel scared, angry, and alone. This causes us to lash out at other people. As another example, someone we love abandons or hurts us, and we put up walls and stop being vulnerable or letting people into our lives. These are common reactions to pain and fear, but they certainly dim our light. We need to remember, however, that while we can dim our light, we never lose it or our True Self. The more you honor and nurture your light, and this is what you do when you send yourself loving messages, the stronger and brighter your light grows.
Before I went back to graduate school, I was a middle and high school teacher for many years. One of the most important lessons I learned as a teacher was that students flourish in an environment filled with positive goal setting and praise, and they wilt in an environment filled with criticism. At the beginning of the year, I helped students imagine the kind of meaningful classroom environment we all wanted to create together so we could learn well. Throughout the year, I praised students consistently both as a group and as individuals when they acted in such a way to support a positive learning environment or as they made progress in class.
Speak to yourself like you would your best friend or a child you wish to nurture. It makes a big difference in your life.
I would regularly say things like “You guys are doing a great job of focusing on this lesson”, “Your writing is really improving”, or “I am so impressed at how independent and self-directed you are becoming. You guys work with each other really well.” Students visibly perked up when I showered them with these true and loving statements, and when I praised them, I noticed that over the course of the year, they began to act more consistently in these positive ways.
I believe that this happened because my praise helped students to recognize their Light, their True Selves, and the more they saw their own light, the more they wanted to cultivate it.
Did my students ever act badly? Of course they did. Students are human. But when they did so, it was usually effective to redirect their attention to the positive ways they had previously been acting and to praise them for the good things they were currently doing. Often this was enough to help them correct their own misbehavior.
The point is that all of the loving statements I wrote above are already true about your True Self, and so it is absolutely good and appropriate for you to shower praise on yourself for these things. As you do so, you will be cultivating and nourishing your own light, and you will likely notice that this part of you will grow and flourish. It is important to commit ourselves 100% to our True Self and that leads me to the third thing you can do to become your own best friend: Take a Self-Pledge. I will write about this in my next post, coming in a few days.
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 By the way, almost every major religion speaks about this True Self of ours, although it refers to it in different ways. Christianity refers to our True Self as the image of God in us. Buddhism speaks of it as our Buddha Nature. Hinduism speaks of it as our Atman.