The Art of Self-Love: a Six Step GuideAnna Ciulla
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” –Buddha
In recent years, there has been a surge in spiritual interest and self-help literature, both of which have risen to the pantheon of pop culture. Nowadays, self-love is not just an obscure term used by doctors in psychiatric wards or therapists in private counseling sessions—it is part of our collective vernacular. So what is self-love?
Like other priceless intangibles related to emotion and character, self-love is not something that can purchased, feigned, or summoned on-demand. Nor is it attainable through new relationships or by reading inspirational literature. On the contrary, self-love is a dynamic, deeply entrenched state of self-appreciation that stems from healthy living and applies equally to the mind, body, and soul. It is attainable only through behaviors and actions that lead to growth and maturation. Self-love remains elusive to those who feel they can cheat their way into obtaining it, and short-lived to those who do not develop the supportive habits and behaviors necessary to sustain it through the inevitable challenges that arise.
Although active addiction is threatening to the very foundation of self-love and naturally self-defeating, developing a clear, focused strategy can prove life-changing to those willing to challenge their existing behaviors and beliefs. Those struggling with active addiction—or in early recovery—should never succumb to negative opinions and beliefs (their own, or others) designed to keep them stuck in a quagmire of self-hatred and pity. They should instead find comfort and hope in the following six guidelines and suggestions that have helped millions of people develop self-love in the face of overwhelming odds:
- Practicing mindfulness—mindfulness is not a spiritual practice that requires special capabilities. It simply requires being conscious of whatever you do, think, feel, want, and believe. Research has proven that those who are self-loving are conscious of these factors, whereas people who are not self-loving—or even self-hating—frequently are not. By being aware of these multifaceted aspects of living, you can begin to take notice of whatever is unhealthy, destructive, or stands in the way of self-love, and gradually work on improving.
- Living intentionally and courageously—no one is “perfect,” and living a stress or flaw-free life is not possible, especially in the context of addiction. However, by setting clear goals toward sobriety and healthy intentions for living, you will begin making decisions that support these aims. Once you actually begin seeing yourself accomplish goals and fulfill positive intentions, you will begin experiencing greater self-love. More importantly, you will summon the courage necessary to accomplish new and even greater goals, and fulfill even higher positive intentions.
- Allowing self-forgiveness—in general, humans are extremely hard on themselves. This universal truth is exacerbated by addiction, which holds millions of otherwise wonderful people hostage to self-blame. Whenever you make a mistake, or reflect upon past mistakes—a virtual certainty in active addiction and early recovery—remember that there are no failures, and that learning and growth can now come forth as a result.
- Establishing boundaries—healthy, functional living demands saying “no” in certain situations and eliminating emotionally, physically, or spiritually destructive influences whenever possible. Although impaired cognitive states and co-dependent behaviors threaten this process, you will find your level of self-love exponentially increasing the more you engage this practice.
- Practicing impeccable self-care—self-neglect is major source of self-hatred and frequently an aggravating factor in addiction. By choosing a healthier lifestyle based upon sound nutrition, adequate sleep, proper exercise, and social and spiritual connection, you will experience greater self-love based upon greater self-respect and optimal physical, mental, and emotional functioning.
- Acting upon needs, not desires—the downfall of many people involves living a hedonistic, self-serving lifestyle. By remaining focused on your immediate needs and prioritizing your recovery, you can avoid indulging in behaviors that lead to further drug use, relapse, and tarnished self-esteem. Over time, this practice leads to greater self-love and a newfound set of behavioral tools that benefits every area of life.