Discover the key to unconditional self love and learn to practice the five languages of self-love
“Accept [the children] yourself the way we accept trees—with gratitude, because [they] you are a blessing—but do not have expectations or desires. You don’t expect trees to change; you love them as they are.” ― Isabel Allende
Unconditional love is made up of acceptance, understanding, and appreciation – with no expectation or judgment.
Unconditional love of oneself is the opposite to the endless striving of perfectionism which is based on fear of exposure as not good enough.
You may be a struggling with unconditional self-love when you:
…receive praise and downplay your achievements;
…are constantly striving to do better to the detriment of yourself or relationships;
…feel ashamed of parts of yourself and want to hide them;
…beat yourself up about a mistake you made.
Some of us believe that loving oneself – conditionally or unconditionally - is "vain", "selfish", or "self centred". However, without self-love, there is no self care. And without self care, life quickly loses its shine and joy, leaving only exhaustion and resentment for others and for oneself. Yet, as Byron Katie says, "It is not your job to like [love] me, it's mine."
According to Dr. Kirsten Neff, key to learning to love ourselves unconditionally is self-compassion. Self-compassion is only possible when we give ourselves permission to be human, like everyone else; to be kind to ourselves; and being mindful of our thoughts, letting them pass without over-identifying with them.
“Compassion isn’t some kind of self-improvement project or ideal that we’re trying to live up to. Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don’t want to look at.” – Pema Chodron
Become Fluent in Unconditional Self-Love:
Inspired by Gary Chapman's book "The Five Languages of Love", I invite you reflect on how you are currently expressing self-love. Discover how proficient you think you are in each of Chapman’s languages and identify langues you'd like to add:
Language of Love1 - Words: What does your self talk consist mostly of? Most of us tend to be extremely harsh in ourselves, using words such as "stupid", "fat" and "ugly" quite carelessly when referring to ourselves. Some of us also tend to say "yes" when we actually mean "no". Start every day with 10 things you are grateful for about yourself to help to shift yourself out of the negative self-talk.
Language of Love 2 - Actions: What do your actions say about how much you care for yourself and your body? Do you tend to do more for others than yourself or are you able to prioritise your health and wellbeing regularly? Commit to doing one small caring action for yourself for each day in February.
Language of Love 3 - Gifts: Do you give yourself gifts or do you tend to give away more than you receive? If you are good at giving, choose a gift or teat for yourself and practice receiving. Can you find something that is not expensive yet valuable (e.g. make affirmation cards and place them where you can see them or set positive affirmation reminders in your phone; light a candle and make a wish for yourself).
Language of Love 4 - Quality Time: Of the 24 hours in a day, how much quality time do you spend with yourself? Quality time can be different from person to person. I see it as a nurturing time and focused only on you - no multitasking allowed. The most enriching quality time is time you take to do nothing. This can be as simple as a few seconds of pausing between tasks, during which you briefly check in with yourself and breathe.
Language of Love 5 - Physical Affection: In what ways do you show your body in particular that you care for it? Do you go for a massage, take time out to cuddle a pet, child or partner, and take a relaxing bubble bath to soothe your body?
It is common to notice that you favor one or two of the five types of languages of love. This may also be the language you tend to use to express love to others and in turn expect to receive from others. However, for this month of December I invite you to start expanding your expression of your self-love to all five languages. Enjoy!