An Exercise In Self-love

An exercise in self-love.

Self-love is the foundation for all mental health. When we love ourselves unconditionally, we will do whatever our bodies and minds need to keep them healthy and feeling loved: eating well, exercising to our body’s ability, and practicing self-compassion. Think of someone you love unconditionally, perhaps a child or a partner. Would you do anything for them? You deserve this level of love too.


The challenge is that most of us, by a young age, have learned not to love ourselves or only love ourselves on condition. We must get A’s, be smart enough, pretty enough, outgoing enough, talented enough, well-behaved enough, and so forth. The truth is we’re lovable without having to perform or succeed, but we’ve been conditioned to believe otherwise.


So, how do we break those lies we’ve learned over time and increase our self-love? It’s many levels, but I have one exercise that I’ve found helpful. Remember when you were a small child? Think of that sweet, innocent, silly, full-of-life child you once were. If you can’t recall, grab an old photo of yourself. Look at that face staring back at you. Look her in the eyes and see her for all she is. She was full of love and had her entire life before her. She is still there, and you are still her. She never left. She may have been hidden away, but just like the sun behind the clouds, she’s surely still there. Let that love you feel travel throughout your body. Sit with that feeling and look at that face for a few minutes or as long as possible. When the critical voice starts up and begins saying things like “her childhood was so miserable” or “look at her crooked teeth and messy hair”, say out loud, “Untrue” and then go back to cultivating loving thoughts. Do this as often as necessary. Just like a meditation, you keep leading your mind back to yourself.


Do this exercise each day upon waking and before bed. I keep a photo of myself on my phone screensaver right now because this exercise was reintroduced to me recently, and I was reminded of how powerful it can be with repetition. Just keep that photo on hand and ready for love.


Tend to your self-love foundation and see how other areas of your life change. It’s usually a slow progression, but when you commit to it, it’s worth the time and effort.

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