“What do you love?” Her soft voice cut like glass through the air of the yoga studio, “What are the things you love? Who are the people you love?”
Well, I thought, I usually love this pose, pigeon, but not today. My whole body ached, especially my hips. It was easy to think about what I didn’t like. In a flash of a second, I had quite a list. But that wasn’t the question and her question wouldn’t leave my body. The words What do you love? hung on every inhale; they searched on every exhale.
Sprawled out in pigeon on my right side, I began to compile my list of things I loved: my son, Johnny; my career; my health; the opportunities I have on the horizon; my teachers; the tribe of amazing people I have in my life…
“And how long,” she continued, “did it take before you listed yourself? Are you even on the list?”
Are you even on the list? The words hit me like a ton of bricks. My chest collapsed into my mat and I realized that even with all the work I’ve done over the years – despite where I find myself now, which to be honest, is a pretty good place – even with feeling really good and proud of myself, I still didn’t make the damn list.
A familiar burning sensation began to form around the corners of my eyes, but unlike my previous emotional experiences in yoga, I didn’t fight this feeling, and the tears that followed for the remainder of the practice were neither rapid nor frantic. Unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, these tears were heavy and slow and intentional – the kind that felt like a somber mourning.
Loving myself hasn’t always been something on my radar. In fact, if you had asked me 10 years ago, I would have told you the idea of “loving myself” was something that was secondary and contingent upon my appearance – how I looked and what I weighed. Since fully embarking on my ED recovery and healing journey 4 years ago, I’ve practiced forgiveness, compassion, and greater levels of self-love and respect. And while I’m still doing this to a greater degree and I’m much quicker to redirect my focus and language when self-criticism and judgement come up, I realized I never actually celebrated me. I never once listed the things I loved about myself. The act of “loving myself” has become a very passive practice, one built on redirection and replete of intention. On a very subtle level – and I’m talking so subtle, that when looking at the big picture I didn’t even see it – I was still making self-love contingent upon something else. While I didn’t have specifics of what I had to do, what I had to have or what I needed to look like in order to feel worthy of loving myself, the fact that I wasn’t on the list of things I loved – and just how deeply impacted I was by that – was evidence for me that if I wanted to love myself more, I had to make it intentional.
Loving ourselves is hard. In fact, it’s the hardest assignment we have in life. It’s the hardest asana or pose. Actively loving ourselves as we are is an edge.
Loving ourselves is hard because we have to believe we are lovable – and so often we only buy into this theory part-way, only believing certain parts of ourselves are lovable. We believe: My kind, loving, happy, talented self is lovable but my sad, broken, lonely, dark side needs to stay hidden away because no one can love that part of me. And, by buying into that theory, we buy into criticism and judgement and fear, which actually depletes our love tank and our capacity to love.
The only way to fill our love tank is, well, to love.
This was the piece I was missing because there was no amount of self-work that could make up for a lack of self-love. I simply had to practice loving myself. I decided I didn’t just want to be “interested” in self-love and what it could be like to love myself. I wanted to be invested. And the only way to do that was to get gritty and intentional. So, I decided to start a love list of all the things I loved about myself. It wasn’t an easy list to compile and I actually stared at a blank page for a solid 25 minutes. I wondered, What am I so afraid to acknowledge? Why am I so afraid to love myself? And after a bit of digging and questioning, I began to write.
I love my…
- ability to inspire others
- passion for personal improvement
- ability to give others grace
- list-making and task-tackling abilities (OK, my OCD!)
- open mind
- organizational skills
- ability to feel deeply
- dedication to doing something meaningful with my life
- ability to write and paint a picture with my words
- style (even if it is only athleisure wear)
- ability (and willingness) to write a list of things I love about myself
So, what do you love? Even better, what do you love about YOU? Don’t wait to see if you make the list. Instead, actually put yourself on the list. Revisit it daily. Add to it spontaneously. Start a conversation and ask your friends what they love about themselves and then share what you love about them too! This week, start a conversation that matters and realize YOU matter.
Ready to make this month the start of your own personal revolution? You can join me for a FREE intenSati class this Wednesday, February 15th at 6pm at the Athleta in Bryn Mawr, PA. This Wednesday we’re celebrating loving our strengths and stepping into our power – hope to see you there!