With Valentine’s day so close we can almost touch it, Love is in the air!
But what about Self Love? Have you got any of that on your list for this coming Friday?
If not, it’s a good time to start!
Here’s a little practice that I whole heartedly (you see what I did there? Hearts. Valentine’s Day. I love puns and I’m not sorry) believe everyone should do. Not just for Valentine’s day but as a daily practice.
It’s a conversation with LOVE.
Originally this idea came from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. Have you heard of it? Of course you have. It’s a practice that she’s done daily as a part of a self care routine for the last 20 years! I’ve only been doing it for about 2 months, and admittedly not every day yet, but already I can see how deeply important this is as an act of self love and care.
Essentially it’s journal writing, but in the form of a dialogue between our higher self and our shadow self.
What does that mean?
Let’s start with our shadow self.
The shadow self is the parts of our self where our demons lurk. It’s our low self esteem, low self confidence, the things we maybe don’t like, maybe even hate about ourselves. Our doubts. Our guilt. Our fear. Our shame. It’s anything that we see about ourselves in a negative light.
Our higher self however, is the opposite. The things we see positively about ourselves. The things that are authentically us. It’s the things we know and like about ourselves. It’s also our inner cheerleader. It’s where our love and kindness for others emanates. It’s our empathy. Our warmth. It’s our sparkle!
The funny thing about our higher selves though is while it can be so easy to give our empathetic selves to others, most of us are really really bad at giving this to ourselves! This is why we need to have conversations with Love.
Think of your best friend for example. Your best friend just got their feet knocked out from underneath them. What do you do? You give them a hug, help them up, dust them off, talk some shit with them about the person/situation/thing that knocked them down, and then you tell them all the reasons why they are amazing and wonderful and strong and resilient and I’m proud of you and I love you, and you’re worthy and and and. And you mean these things! You’re not just reading off a list of synonyms for the word “great”. It’s heartfelt. It comes naturally.
Most of us are pretty good at this when it comes to other people.
Have you ever tried to do this with yourself??
If you have, you probably noticed it was pretty awkward at first. Remember that sketch on Saturday Night Live “Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley”? He looks into a mirror and says “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me!” Cringe! And yes, it’s meant to be cheesy, that’s the point of the joke. But joking aside, in reality, it can feel uncomfortable giving ourselves positive affirmations! What’s the deal with that??
When I started doing these A Conversation with Love journal writings, I didn’t just feel like it was cheesy or a little uncomfortable. I noticed something stronger. It was guilt. In the beginning, even if I didn’t say it out loud even myself, it was there. I thought “this is selfish.”
I felt guilty for simply talking to myself, in writing, in a loving way.
Shame. Shame is the root of all of our negative self talk. It’s the reason why we can’t get up and sing karaoke in front of a room full of people we don’t know. Let’s go deeper. It’s the reason we don’t like the way we look. Even deeper. It’s the reason we don’t chase our dreams. Whatever the obstacle, that obstacle is there because we have a certain degree of shame attached to it. The shame we feel in that situation, is the result of some incidence in our past that made us believe in that moment, we weren’t good enough. And that moment changed a belief we had about ourselves.
For the rest of our lives.
Or at least maybe, up until now.
Shame is a mother f#&*er!
So what is the antidote to shame? How do we kill it?
According to Brene Brown, it’s empathy.
Empathy. Empathy is the opposite to shame and is the key to unravelling shame and taking it down.
How do we do this?
One way, have conversations with Love.
As I said it’s journal writing, but it’s a conversation, and you’re both sides of the conversation. Essentially, Love is telling you what you need to know as if you and Love were strangers. Or if it makes more sense to you, as if it is you yourself talking to another person that you care deeply about and want to show them love in their difficult time. Except it’s not someone else, it’s you.
So you write from your shadow self, whatever it is that’s blocking you, holding you back, causing fear, whatever it is.
And your higher self, Love, answers back. With love. With empathy. With encouragement. With unwavering support. Love says I’m here, I’m with you, I’ll never leave you, we’ll go through this together. I’ve got you. Love talks sweetly, kindly. Lovingly. Love can’t make it go away but it will be there through it all. Love doesn’t know when the hard parts will end, but it’s there next to us, even in our darkest hour. Love doesn’t fix anything. It’s just present.
On the hardest of days, maybe the conversation starts with your shadow self saying, “I need you” And Love responds with “I’m right here”
It’s a dialogue with yourself. A practice of speaking to yourself lovingly. Telling yourself that you’ve got your own back. You can be your own strength. You’re not going to give up on you. And also, these pieces of ourselves that aren’t our favourite…our guilt, our shame, our fear…we’re allowed to love on those too!
And if we love on them hard enough, they’ll lose their strength. They’ll lose their power.
That’s why we need to have conversations with Love.
So, get yourself a journal or notebook, maybe you have your laptop next to your bed, or maybe you just use the notes app on your phone, whatever, but when you wake up in the morning, maybe even before you get out of bed you write to Love.
And listen carefully to what Love has to tell you today.
Maybe it will feel a little strange at first, you may even feel a little guilt or shame, but keep going. Because that’s all the more reason to do it. And whatever Love tells you, carry that with you through the whole day.
You’re worth that.
With Love, Happy Valentine’s Day