“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.” ~Jean Shinoda Bolen
As we grow older, a lot of us fall out of love with ourselves, and as a result, have a hard time figuring out what we value and what lights us up.
Self-love is crucial to creating a life that aligns with our desires because it serves as our inner compass, empowering and enabling us to steer our life in a direction that makes us happy. Otherwise, we end up turning to external sources for love and happiness. That’s what happened to me.
I started dating late in my life compared to all my friends, so when I entered a serious relationship, I was over the moon. Finally, I felt complete because I found someone who liked me enough to want to be with me.
I was so desperate to maintain the relationship that I ended up trying to be like him, doing what he liked so that he’d love me more.
Along the way, I lost my own interests and lost touch with some of my friends. When the relationship came to an end, I didn’t know who I was and felt so empty. I knew then that I needed to learn how to love myself again.
Recently, I’ve been spending time with my niece and nephew, who are between the ages of two and six. It dawned on me that there’s a lot we can learn from children when it comes to re-learning how to love ourselves.
So what can we learn from children?
Say what’s on your mind.
Often, children say exactly what’s on their mind because they haven’t yet formed the belief that it’s wrong to be honest. For the most part, there is no hidden agenda in what they say. If there is, we can easily see through it, as we listen and work with them to find a compromise.
Depending on your upbringing and your experiences, you may have developed certain rules or beliefs about speaking your mind. As an adult, you now have a choice. Instead of operating like you would have in the past, you can decide if you would like to change your rule or belief.
With my cultural upbringing, I was taught that it is impolite and disrespectful to question elders or people of authority. So I did what I was told because I would get reprimanded when I asked why.
I carried this belief throughout my school years, and when someone pushed me to speak up in class or in work settings, I always felt guilty and uncomfortable.
One day, I decided to give myself permission to not feel guilty when someone asked what I thought. I changed my belief to I feel valued and safe when someone asks for my opinion.
Slowly, I realized that you can simultaneously respect someone and speak up.
So why not honor that little voice inside of you and say what you’re thinking? In doing so, you are expressing your truth, and this is an act of self-love.
Likewise, if you are the receiver in the conversation, practice listening to the speaker with compassion and openness, as you would with a child.
In creating a safe, respectful space for mutual sharing, you’re creating the opportunity to connect with others on a deeper level, strengthening your relationships and your self-love at the same time.
Incorporate more playtime into your life.
As adults, our work tends to get in the way of play. I am certainly guilty of this.
My definition of play is doing something big, like a night out of town with friends, or traveling. As such, I often go a long period of time without ‘play.’ In hanging out with my niece and nephew, I realized my definition of play is too rigid.
Like children, we need to incorporate playtime or break time into our day-to-day life. Not only does playing provide health benefits, but there are also studies that have shown it increases creativity, connection, and productivity.
So bring out your inner child and look for simple ways to create opportunities to laugh, relax, and have fun in your life.
This could be going to the park and getting on a swing, getting a game of Candy Crush in, organizing game nights, having a dance party with your kids, or going for a coffee break with colleagues.
When you incorporate play in moderation into your life, you are giving yourself permission to relax, clear out your mind, and reap the health benefits. This action in itself is a form of self-care and self-love.
Smile at yourself instead of criticizing yourself.
Children adore themselves. They love looking in the mirror and seeing themselves, just the way they are. They smile, they blow kisses to themselves. There are no judgments.
As human beings, we are love. It is our birthright to be loved and to give love. It is what keeps us alive and what gives us hope and helps us grow.
But over time, we start to dim our lights and build walls around our heart. When this happens, we not only close the pathways to love, but also make it hard for others to love us.
Next time when you look in the mirror, challenge yourself to look in your eyes and refrain from being critical. Be kind to yourself.
Smile at the person you see, even if you need to imagine yourself as a younger version of you. Acknowledge your inner spirit with your eyes.
This was always hard for me to do. I found it uncomfortable to look into my eyes, as I knew I would start criticizing myself.
I’d say things like you look fat, look at the black circles underneath your eyes, look at that zit, you need to take better care of yourself. What are you looking at? There’s nothing to look at.
At that moment, I’d look away, take a few deep breaths, and remind myself of where that voice was coming from. It was a combination of my own and my parents’.
They criticized me because of the way they were brought up, and it was how they showed their love and care, but I knew I could choose to say “thank you but no thank you.”
I would then take another deep breath and look up again.
At first, it felt kind of like a peek-a-boo game. But once I locked eyes with myself, I acknowledged myself and said, “See this isn’t too bad. I just want to say hi. I see you and I love you. Thanks for playing. Let’s see where this goes after a month. If nothing changes, I’ll stop, I promise.”
Things did change, though. I felt more peaceful and grounded, and I noticed I smiled more when I was out and about.
So what are you waiting for? Rekindle your connection with your inner child and you will soon feel the self-love you once had when you were a kid, and you’ll love your life a lot more as a result.
Girl in a meadow image via Shutterstock