When I sat down to write today, what popped into my mind was the question, “Why is it so tough to love ourselves?” I realize it isn’t always difficult for each of us to feel self love. Certainly, many have worked diligently on this lesson and may have widely surpassed my own strides.
As well, the intensity of self love can ebb and flow. The more stress we are under, the less accessible the self love seems to be.
Even though I have decided to keep that wording in this blog post’s title, come along with me as I find a more useful way to examine the topic from a very different perspective. Never mind that “Why” question . . .
2 Exercises for Increasing Self Love and Self Compassion
1) Practice Imagining an Inner Child
Maybe there is some part of me who feels she does not deserve to be loved. I can imagine relating to this part as if to a small child. I can imagine placing her on my lap, looking deeply into her eyes, and telling her I accept and love her exactly as she is. She probably needs a lot more attention than she has been receiving lately.
- I invite you to play with the idea of creating playtime for yourself AND within your imagination. For instance, you might imagine a 3- or 4- or 5-year-old version of yourself. Ask her or him what would be fun to do. You might imagine this inner little one playing with a puppy, or riding a painted horse on a carousel, or making a snowman with you or with a warm grandmotherly person or even with a fairy godmother.
- Other possibilities for nurturing a younger inner self could include actually reading children’s books you find at a library, or watching a kids’ movie, or dancing around in your room by yourself.
- If you have 1 or more photos of yourself from childhood, you might bring them out where you can look at them.
- Make an agreement with yourself to engage in any combinations of these types of activities 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes each time.
- Re-evaluate how your life is feeling after 3 weeks. If having playtime is enhancing how you feel about yourself, do you want to keep including it? (I do!)
2) Mirror “en Face” Experiment
In one of the source books from my dance/movement therapy training and later in Samyama training, “en face” was described as sustained eye contact with another. The specific reference has to do with mother-infant bonding that can happen when they gaze at each other with faces about eight inches apart. This is a tender and important part of emotional development, to be repeated many times in the healthiest of situations. For various reasons, some people miss this phase altogether or receive only a fraction of what might be optimal.
Similarly, when there is a relaxed and sustained eye contact between two adults, both tend to be truly present for one another rather than lost in entertaining their own individual thoughts.
In the Mirror en Face Experiment, you practice with yourself.
- Sit in front of a wall mirror, or sit with a 6-or more-inch face mirror in your hands.
- Look into the reflection of your own eyes. Find the distance that is the most comfortable for you to focus on your eyes in the mirror.
- Quietly speak, or simply think, a message similar to this one. “I, ______ (first name), gently forgive myself for any shortcomings. I love and accept myself for who I am and for who I will become.”
- Gaze into your own eyes, and feel whatever is arising – any and all emotions are welcomed. If thoughts show up, remind yourself to come back to your feelings, and let thoughts exist at a distance as much as possible.
- If you are moved to say other positive messages to yourself or to speak in comforting ways to yourself, this is welcomed also.
- Do this once a day, for 10 minutes or more. It becomes easier with practice. (If you want to do an extra session sometimes, go for it.)
- Make a commitment to do this for 9 days. You are welcome to sign up for another 9 days after that, if you wish.
Maybe you have some strategies in place already that help you increase and/or replenish your reserves of self love. Please share your experiences in the Comments section or on our FaceBook page. I’d also love to hear of any experimenting you might do with the exercises in today’s post.