Edited by Sarah Baker
It was the first weekend of my 200-hour yoga teacher training program, and I couldn’t feel more inspired. I was going through a personal heartbreak, which at first seemed like I was drowning at the bottom of a dark gloomy swamp. One day I decided to do something about it, something for myself, something I always dreamt of doing. Yoga teacher training was the dream for me, which happened to have a whole healing of its own just waiting for me.
During the second day of my training course, we had to do an inner peace project module, relating to someone or something that you feel a non-positive emotion with. I wrote about the person of whom I felt hurt by and had to read it out loud to the whole class. Shaking and reluctant to share, I did it anyway.
What my instructor then asked of me was that if this statement didn’t exist in my mind, where would I be? Would I be a different person or feel a different way? “I would love myself more,” I said. He then went on and asked me to reverse the story I had in my head by completely turning around the idea of "this person does not care about me and does not love me,” to say the exact opposite. I had to tell myself that this person does love and care about me. "Now, how do you feel when you believe that? Could it possibly be true?" Teary eyed and in complete shock, I replied, “I feel more love for myself and of more value because maybe that person does really care.”
Moral of the story, “we cannot depend on others for our joy. Happiness comes from within, and that is the greatest love of all.” I was thinking that if someone I cared for didn’t love me, then I didn’t love myself. Once I erased that thought completely, I felt the real value and worth of myself, and love was able to pour out again.
Through this training I have learned 8 steps to loving myself and I want to share them with all of you.
In order to love yourself you have to have self-respect. This is the only dependable way to create love in your own life and to be able to share it with others. When you expect love from an external source and that source does not fill your void, you feel worse than before. To be able to be loved, you must love and respect yourself as much as you do others.
2. Find the real ‘True Love” in life.
When most people think of love, they think of receiving, not giving. Instead of thinking, “how can this person make me feel happy,” true love begins when you say, “how can I make that person happy.” The essence of love is to give, and in return you shall receive. The more love you give out into the world, the more love you receive in your heart.
3. Express yourself
Nothing helped me get to know myself more than journaling. Getting your thoughts, hopes, dreams and even suffering out on paper helps you to see your hidden inner thoughts for what they really are. Expressing yourself helps you to actually understand yourself more, and in the end, feel more love for yourself.
4. Forgive yourself.
“Anything bad in our life can be turned around and made for good.” All of our mistakes should be looked upon as learning experiences. The only way we can become stronger and wiser is by messing up. “Make millions of mistakes so that you know what you need.” The most important part is learning to forgive and let go. With forgiveness comes understanding and with understanding comes love.
I have found setting intentions and affirmations to be extremely positive and beneficial in my life. I made a jar of “gratitude,” in which everyday I write one thing I am thankful for in my life, or one thing I love about myself. I have found that the more positive thoughts I put out into the world, the better I feel more blessings keep coming my way.
6. Be true to yourself.
Dance in the rain, sing in the shower, and cook weird foods with a sombrero hat on. Just be yourself, and don’t be afraid of what others think of you. Everyone feels the same way, wanting to express themselves. Most are too afraid to show it, but happiness comes from being you, freely with no judgments or fear.
7. Do what you love.
“Find something you love and do it well.” If you find something that you love to do and spend time doing it, you will experience love, joy, and happiness in your heart. That is when you truly connect with your authentic self. As a result, you become happier and more loving.
8. Stop trying to be perfect.
“A perfect rose is perfect until its petals wilt.” People who want to be perfect are usually unhappy. They may have happy moments when things are going right, but it will never be a consistent contentment that comes from inside because perfection does not exist. You will find real joy by accepting yourself as an imperfect person who tries their best.
These are the 8 steps to achieving self-love, but you don’t have to jump into all 8 right away. Start slow if you need to. Try a step or two at a time. What’s important is that you do what works for you. Once you have discovered and achieved all 8 steps, then you will be able to do the most important thing of all-love yourself.