Take this Quiz:
Start thinking of all the things you love in your life for a few seconds.
How long before you mentioned yourself?
It’s very common to not think of listing yourself when recalling what you love. We tend to take care of others before ourselves—especially those of us with children, lucky spouses or aging parents. But practicing self-love—loving ourselves and paying attention to our needs, wants and desires—makes us more whole and authentic. It also puts us in a much better place to take care of and love others.
It’s not selfish to practice self-love. It is nurturing and kind—and everyone else in your life will win as a result of you loving yourself more.
If you are not yet convinced, consider Buddha’s words:
“You yourself, as much as anyone in the universe, deserves your love and affection.”
Or Deepak Chopra:
“If enough of us embrace love, the world will eventually be saturated with love. The love in the world begins with the love within ourselves.”
The most important relationship you have is the one you have with yourself. So where to start?
Grace Under Pressure
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a weekend seminar at Kripalu with Christine Arylo, the queen of self-love. She taught me and 13 other women powerful secrets to taking care of our selves, going for our dreams and having “fierce grace under pressure.” Her 2012 book, Madly in Love with Me, The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend, gives the reader practical, enjoyable ways to incorporate the 10 branches of self-love into living a fulfilled complete life. Each branch is important alone, but they all work together synergistically to create an optimal balance in our life.
The following priceless information is obtained mostly from Christine Arylo’s book and our Kripalu weekend together (with Christine’s gracious permission), with some commentary from my own practice of self-love over the last 51 years.
Christine Arylo’s 10 Branches of Self-Love:
1. Self-Honesty and Self-Awareness. A first step toward self-love is taking a pause to reflect on who you are and who you are not. Being truthful about this will allow for inner growth in the areas you wish to evolve. If you can’t be honest with yourself, then it is hard to have honest relationships with others.
2. Self-Acceptance. The act of accepting yourself for who you are without judgment can be challenging. The pressure to fit into some societal norm is coming at us from multiple vantages on a daily basis. And even though we have all had fantasies about being someone other than our true self, most of us would not consider actually becoming anyone else. However, we can aspire to improve upon the aspects of our self that we recognize need evolving.
3. Self-Care. This is the process of taking care of your body, spirit and mind. It involves firstly knowing what you need and then making it a priority so you can take the steps to make it happen. It can be as simple as making sure you are getting enough sleep, eating a nourishing diet and taking time to breathe in the middle of a workday. Or more complicated, like ending a relationship that is not serving you, changing careers or attending a revitalizing conference on self-love! Keeping your “energy tank” filled up with self-care allows you to be a more loving giving person. As Christine Arylo says, “Never serve from your reserves!”
4. Self-Compassion. This is similar to self-acceptance, but takes it a step further. Compassion is having the empathy and kindness to embrace yourself with unconditional love—having forgiveness for your imperfections and vulnerabilities. For me, letting go of the “crazy super-woman, super-human perfectionistic expectation” is an ongoing battle, but freeing to acknowledge. Let the judgments go and focus on all that you do and all that you are.
5. Self-Trust. No one else knows what is right for you better than YOU. Everyone has had times in their life where they made a decision based on the pressure and influence of others, going against the inner voice that was saying “No, bad idea. This doesn’t feel right.” And then you kick yourself knowing that you should have listened to your intuition.
However, we learn from these experiences, and having that renewed awareness allows us to move forward making choices that are driven by our inner most desires, true to ourselves and authentic in nature.
6. Self-Esteem. Having high self-esteem is a belief in yourself that allows you to feel like you can do or be anything. This confidence allows you to proceed in life unapologetically because you know that your thoughts and actions are based in your own truth and others do not have to agree with them. To boost your self-esteem, it is important to value yourself and embrace your highest qualities such as what you offer to others, what you are really good at, and what positive affect you have on those around you.
7. Self-Empowerment. Being a self-empowered person means taking responsibility for your actions and choices to create the life of your dreams. Don’t blame others for your place in life. Don’t let others control your life and prevent you from going where you need and want to go. Be strong and courageous to reach for your dreams and goals. This may mean taking some risks and acting outside of your comfort zone—and perhaps others will be upset by your choices—but it is your life to live, not theirs.
8. Self-Respect. Making decisions that respect all the parts of you—mind, body and spirit—is critical to self-love. Choose to have relationships with people who are kind, loving and respectful and honor who you truly are without wanting to change you. Get rid of relationships in your life that leave you feeling drained, stressed or badly about yourself. Your body and soul are sacred and those you choose to spend time with should treat you with love and honor.
9. Self-Pleasure. “Live. Laugh. Love.” We see this slogan everywhere, and it is a concept many of us strive to embrace. Pull into your life things, people and situations that create joy, laughter and fulfillment. Push away those that don’t. Make a point to recognize what brings you joy and feed that notion. Schedule it into your day if necessary, but make it happen every day. Fresh cut flowers in your bedroom? Hugging your dog? Taking time to read your favorite book? Listening to music that fills your soul? Spending time with a best friend? Make it happen!
10. Self-Expression. Be yourself—fully expressed without censorship or apology! Living authentically and expressing your true self is freeing and opens your world to maximize your participation in life. Express yourself honestly in alignment with your true self. Practicing self-love and working on the 10 branches allows us to get closer to honest self-expression.
I left Kripalu with a renewed appreciation for who I have become and what I have accomplished. I also received a renewed interest in where I want to go in life, what relationships are not serving me, which ones excite me and make me laugh, and what dreams have been squelched but should be nourished. A few days after I returned home I decided to trade in my stuffy city house for a cottage on the water—a lifelong dream!
Sandra Musial, M.D., is a pediatrician who believes that the foundation of a healthy life starts with healthy food. Growing up, she was inspired by her father, who had a keen interest in nutrition. She earned a B.S. in Nutritional Sciences and then went on to get her M.D. from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. After training as a pediatrician, Sandy worked in private practice for 13 years, where she focused on children’s health and wellness, as well as breastfeeding. She then joined Hasbro Primary Care as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Brown University, teaching the pediatric residents and medical students. Working with an increasing number of undernourished obese children, she was motivated to train at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition® to earn a certificate in Health Coaching. Though she has witnessed the healing power of allopathic medicine, she has also seen its limitations, especially with regard to disease prevention through healthy nutrition. Sandy helps others find their optimal health by exploring the various facets of health and wellness, and making changes toward a healthier whole life. Sandy enjoys gardening, yoga, knitting and sweater alchemy. For more information visit www.healthcoachconnect.com