Words by Christina Huntington // Photography by Sarah Prikryl // Contributing Photography by Christina Huntington
As we deep dive into all things L-O-V-E this month, we come face-to-face with the most crucial form of love to master: self love. It’s easy to look at seemingly endless social media feeds overflowing with infinite selfies and moment-to-moment replays of every minuscule activity as if everyone is engaged in broadcasting their own 24/7 reality series and think that self love is maybe the last thing we need to be worried about right now. But self promotion and even self confidence are very different from self love. As “look-at-me” culture skyrockets, studies show that our collective self worth seems to be plummeting to an all-time low, proving true the old adage that comparison is the thief of joy. In my work as a meditation teacher and spiritual counselor, self love is Issue Zero…the singular point of origin of all our issues, disappointments and challenges. Of course a healthy relationship to self love is something we all want. And if it were easy, we would all have it. But like reaching out for shooting stars we can never get close enough to, no amount of trying, efforting or chasing seems to allow that love to finally drop in our laps. Which is why we then fall back on those easy quick-fixes for the little hits of confidence that never seem to last, creating an endless cycle of needing more attention from external sources to continue to prop ourselves up on. Frankly, it’s exhausting. I’m tired just from writing that. So…what can we do?
Actually, we need to start by taking self love off the table completely. It’s a great idea but being a “concept”, it’s really hard to put into practice. How do you just suddenly start loving yourself if you’ve never been given the tools to do that, have a litany of stories and experiences in your head to prove otherwise and you don’t even know what it actually means? The simple secret is this: self love boils down to SELF CARE. If you want to learn how to love yourself, you have to learn how to care for yourself first. Like a parent put in charge of a newborn baby, at a certain point in adulthood you finally realize that your life (and heart) is now in your own hands. You are responsible for your own sense of comfort, safety, nurturing, protection, well-being and security in the world. So the first step to self care is learning to self-soothe, self-parent and fill our own needs. This doesn’t mean forcing ourselves to try to be happy and put on a smiling face whenever things get tough in an effort to just “make things okay”. It means meeting ourselves exactly where we really are and being okay with whatever that is. Allowing feelings like sorrow, loneliness, frustration and anger to be there if that’s what we are feeling. The important part is that we feel safe enough in our own company to build a trusted line of open communication—being able to both SPEAK our truth to ourselves and HEAR our truth from ourselves without judgment. Simply being able to listen to exactly what is happening inside of us and say, “Okay. I hear you. And I’ve got you. What do you need right now?” Then giving ourselves the things we need.
“FILL YOUR OWN NEEDS”~
In my meditation classes, I teach a few very simple exercises that can instantly transform your relationship to self love. The first one is literally just learning how to fill your own needs. It doesn’t require years of therapy or personal growth, just the ability to ask yourself three questions each day. Every morning when you wake up, take a moment to close your eyes and focus your attention on your heart (the energy center right in the middle of your chest). Then ask yourself these three questions…
In order to feel peaceful, nourished & cared for today…
- What do I NEED?
- What do I WANT?
- What do I DESIRE?
Just write down a one or two word answer for each in a small journal. Then your only assignment is to give yourself at least ONE of those things each day.
There are subtle differences between phrasing here. “NEED” is just about our baseline survival—what do I absolutely HAVE to have in order to feel at peace today? “WANT” is something that is a preference that we would like and enjoy if it happened. “DESIRE” is something that feels really yummy, like a special treat for the soul. Don’t try to control the answers. Create a space of silent listening instead and wait for the answers to come through and show themselves to you. Maybe one day you NEED to get a good night’s sleep. Maybe the next day you really WANT to see friends and share some laughs. Another day you might DESIRE turning down the lights and slipping into a hot bubble bath with your favorite mood music. Be open to whatever you might hear from your own heart and soul and know that the answers will be different each day because YOU are different each day.
In emergency situations, this exercise can be distilled down even further. When you feel yourself experiencing an uncomfortable emotion or heading into the internal danger zone, simply put all of your focus on the center of your chest (you can even put your hands here if you wish, as a gentle physical reminder that you are present and listening with yourself) and ask: “What do I need right now to feel cared for and at peace?” Just this exercise alone will transform your entire relationship to yourself if you practice it regularly.
“50 HAPPY THINGS”~
This exercise is not only easy, it’s really fun and fills your life with delicious doses of daily sweetness. Sit down and make a list of 50 things that make you happy for no reason. (They are not going to further your career or skyrocket you to success.) These are little simple tangible experiences that you enjoy just because. Preferably inexpensive or free and easily accessible on a daily basis. Perhaps you like the feeling of grass beneath your bare feet. Eating fresh organic berries from the farmer’s market. The way the light comes in the window of your apartment in the late afternoon and your pet watches the tree shadows dancing on the floor. Gazing at the stars when everyone else is asleep. A hot jacuzzi. Scented candles. 60’s soul records. Okay…maybe those are all things I love, but you get the picture. The point is to create a list of things you love that you can give yourself EVERY DAY. And then that’s the next step: just commit to giving yourself ONE of these experiences every single day. Actively seek out these little ways to bring more simple joy into your life.
As with everything, that only way you’ll know that any of this works is if you try it yourself. So just for this week, your assignment is to take on a Great Self-Care Experiment. Practice asking yourself what you need in the morning and then meeting one of those needs each day. Get curious about what fills you with joy and then actively bring those Happy Things into your daily life. Try this out for seven days straight and see how you feel. I promise you can turn your entire relationship with yourself around in just a week if you really take this on as a spiritual practice. Be willing now to take responsibility for your own happiness, feelings of worth and sense of well-being. Give yourself the thing you have been craving your entire life: to know that you are heard, you are cared for, you are loved.
HAPPY LOVING!! xoxo, Sirens & Scoundrels
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This such a beautiful article from the heart and soul. Thank you Christina for these insightful words. My heart was filling up w/love just by reading this 💖
So happy you were moved by it, Megan! Much love to you!
Thank you Christina for such a wonderful article on self care. It’s amazing how these small things we can do for ourselves everyday can really create long term and positive impact. Wonderful!
Thank you, Amy! We’re so happy you found this info useful! Self care really does require daily practice but the benefits are life changing if you can make it a habit!