Some of us didn’t get the memo that no matter what, we are worthy. It got lost or buried underneath some old trauma, weird messages from our parents, a culture of sin and shame, or wonky neurocircuitry.
We think of love as a feeling, but it’s actually information. And the way we get that information is through action.
If you change your behavior, you can change your thoughts and feelings. We often get that backwards. We wait for our thoughts and feelings to change so we can behave differently. I’ve spent the ten thousand hours working on this shit, guys. Here is a list of action steps that I hope are helpful:
1. Surround yourself with people who openly love themselves. We are like tuning forks in that we tend to take on the characteristics of the people with whom we spend the most time. Loving yourself is a healing process, and healing happens in a relaxed state, not a stressful one. Chronically inflamed relationships are stressful. Let them go.
2. Imagine yourself as a child. Find a photo and do a metta practice where you send loving-kindness to yourself in the photo. Try the practice of Tonglen. Do this every morning or evening for a week and see what happens.
3. Imagine that everyone on Earth is in a giant hospital, in various states of healing. Cultivate compassion for the idea that your soul chose Earth to incarnate into as a way to explore healing. Only the baddest asses incarnate into temporary meat bodies that eventually die. It is your job to heal yourself and thereby be a force of healing in the world.
4. But stop trying to help people. By this I mean: stop deciding what other people need. Often when we think we’re “helping” people, we are 1) viewing them in a place of deficiency and lack, 2) taking on their wounds as a substitute for healing our own, and 3) creating a co-dependent dance in which we rob others of their capacity to help themselves. Set your intention to being of service. This is a less egoic approach that is better for everyone.
5. Keep promises to yourself. Practice energetic boundaries. This builds self-esteem. The trick is to not make promises you can’t keep, like saying you’ll never ever eat refined sugar again or saying you’ll go to a dear friend’s birthday party when you’d rather be painting. It means showing up for yourself no matter what. This can be difficult but it gets easier with practice.
6. Pray to be willing. Try this: “I am open to being willing to being open to being willing to be willing…to change.” Transformation is everywhere. It is often uncomfortable. But it is the natural evolution of things, including yourself.
7. Study vulnerability. “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.” ~Brene Brown.
8. Anchor your intentions through EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, or “tapping.”) It affects the amygdala, the part of the brain’s limbic system that controls memory and emotional reactions. Try this when you tap: “Even though I don’t know how to love myself yet, I’m willing to try.”
9. Observe nature. Study the properties of plants and animals. Any wisdom you could ever need is available via the Earth.
10. Eat real food. Be in your body. Smell things that trigger affection and well-being. Take medication if you need to. Love yourself by respecting the wisdom of your organism. Find ways to enjoy and connect to your body. Don’t put a bunch of petrochemicals and unnatural shit in it. See a nutritionist, health coach, or poke around online to educate yourself about herbs and supplements.
11. Avoid alcohol. It’s a depressant and lowers your vibration.
12. Do therapy. Therapy is cool. The evidence-based kind, like my personal favorite, ACT. When we say we can’t afford therapy, we really mean it’s not a priority. Do it online, do it with a group, do it with worksheets and books. But do it consistently. Just showing up week after week builds self esteem. (See #5.) You could even look at some love quotes by lifehacks to make you feel a little better.
13. Be creative. Make art. Any kind of art. Give up perfectionism. It’s a form of self-abuse. Don’t worry about whether it’s good or not. Just show up and create something new. This creates a feedback loop of respect and worthiness in the heart and mind.
14. Penetrate the notion of “not-self,” or anatta. The idea being, you are not really separate; you are an aggregate of elements that presents as a “self.” For some of us, it is easier to love a dog than to love ourselves. But given the idea of anatta, we are not really separate from all the things worthy of love.