How many times have you stood in front of the mirror and perused your features, your limbs, your body?
“I have such a big nose.”
“I hate how my hair looks.”
“My belly is so chubby!”
Now, ask yourself, when was the last time you said, “I love you,” to yourself? Can seem difficult to remember, doesn’t it? We live in a culture of social comparison and perfectionism thanks to highly unattainable aspirations provided by social media. There are visuals; images and videos of beautiful people all around us which can make it difficult to feel adequate when faced with such comparisons. However, we fail to realise that these images give us a glimpse into other professionals’ lives, someone who is great at what they do, which includes putting on an aesthetically pleasing show for the public. Unfortunately, our human nature pushes us to compare ourselves and look for validation externally.
Unless we look inside ourselves and seek confidence from within, inadequacy will always plague us. But if you don’t love yourself and be your own cheerleader, who else will? Loving yourself is a journey, it begins by accepting yourself in the present; flaws, insecurities, faults, beauty, values, all of it. Humans aren’t meant to be perfect; we wouldn’t be human otherwise. We’re made up of mistakes, pain, or insecurities but we are also made up of power, resilience, hope and strength. Seeing yourself as someone with both will help combat the negative emotions with healthy, positive thoughts. The mirror is our ultimate instrument of self-perception, you see what you think. If you love yourself, you will love what you see.
In Buddhism philosophy, seeing means looking deeply, to seek understanding, empathy and compassion. This practice of attaining appreciation and awareness of the world around us as well as within us is called maitri (loving-kindness). It means showing active goodwill towards all, including yourself. Looking at our reflection allows us the opportunity to look inside ourselves, to understand our suffering, to empathise with our pain, to be compassionate to drawbacks. Practising mindfulness techniques like yoga and meditation can help free ourselves of negative emotions that interfere with our ability to love ourselves.
How can you cultivate self-love through yoga?
We, as humans, always look towards our own experiences of self-worth to enrich our inner lives. Embodying this form of self-care through yoga and mindfulness can allow us to love without fear. Loving-kindness yoga encourages you to spend more time with yourself, becoming friends with your body, your senses, your emotions, as well as extending this trust and friendship towards others. As you accept your victories, your flaws and your mistakes, you can find compassion within yourself to forgive and celebrate both you and others.
Your usual yoga practice has all the elements needed to build a strong sense of self-love. However, practicing chest-opening asanas like the extended mountain or the butterfly can open the heart space and encourage trust, courage and softness. Pairing these with positive affirmations can help you stay focused on the goal of kindness. Simply say, “I am kind” or ask yourself, “What is the greatest kindness I can show myself? What about to others?”
Your perspective shifts as you spend more time with yourself, understanding who you are. You realise that it’s the only way to be. Choosing to practice yoga every day is an act of self-love itself, as it arms you with the power of self-knowledge. The fact that you’re doing this for yourself means you prioritize putting yourself first. Yoga teaches you that you’re everything you need to be right now, all the answers lie inside you. By setting an intention to be present, to be aware of what is instead of what isn’t, you develop a bond with your body, your soul, becoming an ally.
How can meditation help you love yourself?
Meditation for self-love gives you an opportunity to touch the real and vulnerable parts within yourself. Accepting your thoughts and emotions rather than escaping them is an act of self-love. The practice of meditation is a tool for you to be aware of the fact that thoughts aren’t permanent, they aren’t meant to be picked apart. Connecting with your heart as you meditate can help create a compassionate space for yourself, free of judgement and pain. You can escape your thoughts of ‘not good enough’ by reminding yourself that you’re worthy of love, the one that you need to give to yourself.
The following meditation can help you become friends with your body through the power of experience.
Take your journal and write down the answers to the following questions, feel free to be expressive.
- What do I love the sight of?
- What do I love the smell of?
- What do I love the sound of?
- What do I love the taste of?
- What do I love the feel of, on my skin?
Once you’ve answered these questions, create experiences that can help you include these senses into your life. If you love the smell of coffee, maybe you’ll be more mindful of that next cup you make for yourself. If you love the breeze of the ocean, perhaps you should consider planning trips to the beach once in a few weeks. If you love the sound of nature, allow yourself more time for walks in nature, maybe you can even practice yoga outdoors. You already know your body; you are anchored to it but building a deeper connection requires spending time with it. And along the way, you’ll find a home within yourself.
Read more: 5 Simple Ways To Show Self-Compassion