Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Thumbnail image for Heart 2.jpgLast week I was at a spiritual gathering and the leader asked for definitions of love. Eventually there was a tie-in to self-love. I defined love as caring enough about yourself to do whatever it takes to nurture every aspect of your life, and helping those I care about when I can. Most definitions came back to self-love. Love is not related to how much money you have, or how pretty you are. It’s an inner, not an outer emotion, relating to WHO you are, not WHAT you have or have done.

Self-love begins with accepting yourself as you are in your own imperfect skin.

Self-love is tied to every area of your life. Like self-esteem, it’s an inside job. I believe that self-love is the most powerful catalyst for success and happiness in general. Almost every personal growth book encourages developing self-love, explaining the importance of having a good deal of it. But they don’t give a blueprint for how to develop it. That’s why I’m preparing my book, How Do I Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways, to give away for free. I want you all to feel the kind of self-love that I do. I’ve read things like:

•    Love yourself more in order to build confidence and increase self-esteem.
•    You’ll never attract someone to love you until you love yourself.
•    Self-love is necessary for you to move forward on a positive path.

That all sounds logical and good, right? But, many people say to me that knowing they need to love themselves leaves them wondering, how do you do it? How do you love yourself? There’s no magic pill. You can’t just change your mindset and all of a sudden love yourself, if you’re still hating what you see in the mirror or feeling low because you’re not as successful as you think you should be or think you don’t deserve to be loved.

Just knowing the importance of loving yourself more doesn’t make you love yourself more.

You don’t have to love your extra pounds or your job or your age or your abilities, or lack of them, to love yourself. Self-love is caring about and appreciating the essence of you as a person, despite flaws you perceive. When I was a DoorMat, my self-perception was based on my dislike of my body since I wasn’t “thin enough” and my hair that got frizzy often. I hated myself and thought I was fat and ugly. That definitely was not fertile ground to build self-love! Leaving DoorMatville was the first major loving thing I did for me.

Every loving thing you do for yourself is a small brick in the foundation of self-love.

I thought about that when I ran in Central Park last week. It’s been exceptionally hot and humid during June and July, so I didn’t get to run much. Last Monday and Tuesday there was a break in the humidity, so I planned to get up early both days to do it. I had a long run on Monday, then an hour of weight training in the afternoon, so I was a bit burnt. I still got up Tuesday and went to the park.

I was tired and not in the mood to run, but knew the next days would be back to more humid. So I had to do it then! As I ran the last leg, I was tired and had a conversation with myself about stopping, giving some good excuses to walk to the end. But I knew running was important for my well-being, especially since I hadn’t run much for 2 months. So I pushed myself to finish. As I sped up at the end I thought about the discussion about love the night before. Spontaneously, I said out loud, “This is self-love!”

Even if you don’t love yourself a lot yet, consciously do things that are good for you or that make you happy.

I developed my own self-love by building it with small bricks of kindness towards me. One small thing at a time that made me feel good added to my worthiness for love. Loving acts that make you feel good puts the focus on your happiness and well-being. The more I felt good about things I did for me, the stronger my self-love became. The stronger my self-love, the more I was motivated to do loving things for me. It’s a delightful synergy you all can attain!

Whenever you do something that makes you feel good or that will improve your health or appearance long term–and you should make the effort to do loving things for you–get into the habit of saying, “This is self-love.” Even if you don’t feel the love yet, express that what you’re doing is self-love, because it is an act of kindness for you.

    * If you get a manicure: “This is self-love.”
    * If you take a class to improve your skills: “This is self-love.”
    * If you splurge on an expensive face cream or shaving lotion: “This is self-love.”
    * If you pass on dessert because you know sugar isn’t good for you: “This is self-love.”
    * If you push yourself to go out and walk for 20 minutes: “This is self-love.”

Do you get it? Anything you do that improves your health or makes any kind of positive difference in your mood or your life is an act of self-love. Acknowledge it!

When you recognize acts of kindness as self-love, it will begin to sink in that being loving to you feels good. Even if you don’t make a lot of money, you can afford the more expensive bottle of wine! $16 more won’t break you but will feel good to have. Even if you’re dying to lose 20 pounds, eating a little less is a loving start. Even if you never considered yourself worthy of love, being loving to you can break the ice and change that dynamic.

I was thrilled at how spontaneously I acknowledged finishing my run as self-love. I went home with a big smile.

The more you acknowledge loving acts, the more you focus inward with love. Start with something small, like making the effort to clear your dish drain at night so you feel good entering your kitchen in the morning. Call a good friend. Get a haircut in a good salon. Buy one small thing that you wanted badly but felt it wasn’t necessary. Make sure you acknowledge, “This is self-love.” By loving yourself brick by loving brick you can build the kind of self-love that keeps this former DoorMat who hated herself delightfully happy every day. The more self-love you build, the more doors you open for a happy life!

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