When I was in the grim clutches of bulimic hell, the idea of self-love seemed about as possible as understanding Stephen Hawkin’s theories. I didn’t know if I was up to the task.
I was like, self-love? You’ve gotta be kidding!
You see, I was mistaking self-love for being in-love with myself. I thought self-love meant looking at my body and thinking it was gorgeous all the time and that I would never having a bad thought about myself. I would feel good all the time, always believe that I was enough, and just think I was amazing. All day. Every day.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
These days, I never obsess about food. I eat what I like. My body has been the same weight for almost ten years. And yet – recovery doesn’t look anything like I thought it would.
I don’t always make “good” choices. I have good days and bad days. Sometimes my feelings get hurt and some days I feel like sh*!.
Mistakes, failures and dumb moves are a part of my life. To be honest, I still don’t particularly love how I look. It’s amazing how fast I can drop into a deep pool of shame, wanting nothing more than the ground to swallow me up.
It’s a choice…
Nevertheless, self-love is alive and well in my world.
I now understand that self-love is a choice, not a feeling. Self-love is an action, not a destination.
I realize that being loving doesn’t always come with good feelings. There are plenty of parents who detest things their children do without ever losing their love for them.
The best partners are the ones that move past being in love to being loving. They are forgiving, accepting, caring and considerate. They don’t condone bad choices, but they accept that mistakes will be made.
Not a destination
When the penny dropped that self-love is an action and a choice, not a feeling or a destination, I started to look at what choices and actions I could take to be loving.
Like what would acting compassionate, forgiving, accepting, caring, grateful look like?
For example, instead of trying to stop hating how I looked, I practiced accepting how I felt and forgiving myself.
Instead of trying to get to a place where I never felt shame, I nurtured compassion for being a person who has a whole range of experiences.
My daily self-love practice:
As I began to act with self-love I started this simple, yet elegant, daily practice: walking for ten minutes, in nature, while thanking every part of me for the job it does.
I begin with my feet. I feel them and say,
Thanks, feet, for all the walking and connecting me to the earth and carrying me to all the destinations that you have. Legs, thank you for holding me up and walking and running and moving me around. Thanks, heart, for beating…
You get the picture.
Doing this every day doesn’t make my life perfect. It doesn’t mean I never have a bad thought about myself. But it does make a difference. It brings compassion, caring and love into my life without having to pretend I’m any other way than exactly how I am.
Plus it’s a great reminder that my body is an amazing machine that allows me to experience the world. When I give thanks, it leads to an attitude of gratitude.
The beauty of this practice is that you can do it in any emotional state. It’s not about trying to stop feeling a certain way. Or pretending to feel in love with yourself. It’s simply putting your attention on your body and being thankful for what it does for you.
Give it a try
Over the years this simple daily walk has morphed into a slightly longer walking mindfulness meditation (that I lovingly call Nature Bathing). However, I have never veered from the basic principle of thanking each part of myself.
If you do nothing else today to forward your recovery (from whatever place that is – years in or starting from scratch) a ten-minute walk noticing your body and thanking it for its service will be an act of self-love that can totally change the game.