“Why compare yourself with others? No one in the entire world can do a better job of being you than you.” ~Unknown
The idea of loving yourself often seems cliché. We throw around the phrase, but do we really understand what it means? Do we actually know how to love ourselves? Or what the process of self love even looks like?
I really believe that everything in our lives is directly affected by how much we love ourselves, but I'm often at a loss for words when trying to articulate what is really all about. In my attempts to answer these questions, I am excited to have come up with a little analogy that I feel really pulls it all together. So I figured I'd share, in the hopes that you all can explore and expand on this concept with me.
To start, think of people are like cars. In order for a car to function properly you need to fill its tank with gas. So in order for us to feel as centered, loving, and grounded as we'd like, our “love tanks” need to be full.
When our love tanks are full, we have the energy and patience to give love to the world around us; but when we are running on empty, that's how we feel: empty.
With an empty love tank, we feel overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, sad, you name it. And that's how we treat others, which can ultimately lessen their love tanks too.
If you think about the people you know and love, and make a mental image of their love tanks, how full do they seem to you overall? If you look at yours, in this moment, how full is it?
Remember our love tanks have the potential to shift throughout our days and lives.
So how do we fill our love tanks?
Many people go for the quick fix; we find some temporary external source to fill our love tanks with, to get rid of the yucky feeling that comes with an empty love tank.
We go to the fridge, get a drink, call up an ex, smoke a cigarette—anything that gives us a temporary high and a feeling of relief from the discomfort from an empty love tank (which ultimately ends up emptying out even more, starting the cycle all over again).
Sometimes we go for more “positive fillers” that may seem to be what we need: giving to others, being social, getting love from someone else. These may not be as detrimental as the previously mentioned fillers, but they still make us dependent on an external source to fill our tanks.
So how do we fill our love tanks?
The answer is simple: with love.
Seems obvious, right? So why is it so hard to do? Unfortunately, our schools didn't teach us to process of self love, and as humans, it doesn't happen naturally, so it's not surprising that we don't necessarily know how to do it.
The first thing we need to do is decide whether we actually believe we are lovable.
Most people feel that only “certain parts” of themselves are lovable. For example, “my kind, happy self is lovable, but my sad, lonely self needs to stay hidden away, because no one would love that part of me.” This is where the process of self-hate actually starts depleting the love tank.
We do it unconsciously all day, every day. Just pay attention. Any time we are comparing, judging, or simply being negative we are depleting our love tanks, which makes us feel bad, and therefore makes us want to do it more. So how do we get out of this pattern?
First we need to realize we are in it, and we have no control over it.
What do I mean we have no control over it? Turn off your thoughts for a solid minute and don't think of anything. Doesn't work, right? Why? Because our minds have a “mind” of their own. They simply run on the “programs” that were “installed” in them during our childhoods.
Each of us have different types of mind chatter (and feelings), because we all had different life experiences that created them. Taking the time to learn about the chatter of our minds is what psychology is all about, and something I highly recommend we all do for ourselves.
But at some point we need to learn how to get beyond that chatter and get it to chill out. Through the practice of self observation we begin to see and understand the chatter of our minds; and with some work, we can learn how to better deal with it, which ultimately is the process of self love.
So here are a few practices of self love that I find helpful when trying to fill our love tanks with what they really need:
- Validate our feelings, “It’s okay to feel bad sometimes.”
- Refrain from judging or placing negativity on our thoughts or feelings.
- Give ourselves a little extra comfort and soothing.
- Listen to and respect our inner experience.
- Reassure ourselves that what we are experiencing will pass.
- Remind ourselves of all the wonderful things that we are.
- Be grateful for the little (and big) things in our lives.
- Take action towards improving elements in our lives that negatively affect us.
- Commit to our physical health—cut back on drinking, improve eating habits, and exercise regularly
- Invest in our psychological/emotional/spiritual health.
All of these things take time and effort and don't happen without some intention and inner work. But it's worth starting, in at least one small piece today. How do you refill your love tank?