Take the self-love challenge and discover the beauty within.

By Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway

"To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness." - Robert Morely

Love is one of the most powerful energies on the planet. We are born with love in our hearts, and it lives within us all. But some of us put so much focus on finding love and approval "out there" that we never get a chance to truly develop it within ourselves. We look for it in the external world--from parents, partners, friends, bosses, new people we meet, people we admire. If any one of them disappoints, devastation follows.

How many times have you been hurt because of someone else's opinion of you? When we experience self-esteem only through the eyes of others, one unkind word or a bad mood in another can shatter our sense of self.

Are you feeling the love? If not, it is time to take our self-love challenge--10 tips and techniques to help you enhance your life by cultivating love from within.

Learn to give yourself the love you deserve.

Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway is author of Rituals for Love and Romance: Attract Your Soulmate with Ceremony and Self-love (HealingEbooks, May 2009) and the e-course, Find Your Spiritual Soul Mate. She is moderator of The Soulmate Project.  This is excerpted by permission from Rituals for Love and Romance, all rights reserved. Visit her at www.LaurieSueBrockway.net.

Create a Self-Love "Curriculum"

Lack of self-esteem can grab hold in times of stress and challenge, and self-loathing is fueled by exhaustion and hopelessness. Self-love can be reborn by making a commitment to add life-affirming activities to daily life. It is crucial that we nourish ourselves--body, mind, and spirit. This does not mean going to a spa every few years. It has to be blended into our lifestyles and treated with as much importance as a doctor's appointment or worship service.

Many of us are very generous with those around us. We give of ourselves to friends, family, coworkers. We twist ourselves into pretzels to accommodate the needs of others. But when it comes to ourselves, we can be stingy.

The First Step: Chart a course to improved self-image that stimulates all the senses. This will fill you with a sense of hopefulness and potential! Make a list of 10 things that will enhance your feelings of self-esteem. Incorporate everything from meditation and prayer, to taking yourself out on dates, to activities that bring you joy, and enhance your well-being on all levels. Above all, "follow your bliss"!

Replace Self-Defeat with Self-Love

Being kind to yourself is a healthy habit to get into. Work to release feelings of regret, angst, fear, and anxiety, and instead fill up with love, joy, possibility, and spirit. For example, does your current morning meditation include sipping coffee while berating yourself for a goof-up at work, worrying about something that happened between you and a friend, or giving yourself guilt because of that chocolate cake you ate? If someone else were beating up on you the way you beat up on yourself, you'd fight back. In this case, you have to learn to fight the urge to defeat your own purpose in life and replace repetitive, negative thinking with that which uplifts you heart and soul.

The First Step: Begin with a prayer to be filled with Divine Presence and possibility--positive, hopeful thoughts and ideas. Create a new intention that if you slip into negative self-talk you will switch your focus. Try a special mantra or affirmation that can redirect your energy. Some possibilities to get you started: I am one with God. I am a good person. Light fills my being. I radiate good energy and thoughts.

Open Your Heart

We may say we want love, success, and happiness, but we don't always back up our dreams with self-honoring actions. Without self-love, we have no foundation to uphold or contain love, self-esteem, and true potential. Someone can love you with more heart than you ever imagined, but where will it go if you have no internal mechanism for recognizing pure love? The universe can shower you with opportunities, but you will miss the best plums on the tree because you won't think you deserve to reach for them.

The First Step: Take 10 to 20 minutes every morning to meditate to a piece of music that feels heart-opening to you. One that I like is this moving and soul-stirring chant, "Open My Heart," by Ana Hernandez and Ruth Cunningham, from their CD HARC: Inside Chants. Hear more at http://www.myspace.com/anahermusic.

Write a New Mission Statement

Loving ourselves can be a learning process for some of us, and we all learn best when the topic we are dealing with is presented to us in plain language.

The First Step: Craft a "Self-Nurturing Mission Statement" for your life. The statement should put forth the intention and vision for a fulfilling life in which honoring yourself is key. Your mission statement might look like this:

I am a beautiful person, and I have so much to share with the world. Honoring myself and my needs is my first priority. My life is enhanced daily by simple acts of self-nurturing, and my world is in balance. I have excellent boundaries, and I wake up each morning with a deep sense of self-love, self-esteem, and the knowledge that I deserve good things in my life. It is my birthright to be happy, successful, and loved.

Redefine the Word 'Selfish'

What if Selfish became self-ish? Try taking this word, which has a negative connotation, and giving it a positive spin. It is time to be a little more self-ish!

The First Step: There is a kabblistic tradition taught by Rabbi Joseph Gelberman that tells us to take each word and imbue each letter with a new, fuller meaning. Try this on for size:

S Nurture your SPIRIT.
E ENJOY moments alone.
L LOVE yourself.
F Keep FIT and FEEL good.
I Make your unique needs IMPORTANT.
S SHOWER yourself with gifts.
H Be HAPPY and open-HEARTED.

Email Yourself Love Notes

Send yourself an email every day (for at least 30 days) with a new message of encouragement and love. Think it's goofy? Think again. If you were falling in love with another person, how would you feel if he or she emailed you some loving words of encouragement every day, just because they care? You would feel high on life, happy, whole, and thrilled. You would feel like something magical is happening. You would be uplifted and empowered because someone had chosen you and was honoring you by constantly letting you know how they feel about you. In this case, you are creating all the same feelings--by yourself, for yourself.

The First Step: You can write anything you choose. Some examples to get you started: Tell yourself how beautiful you looked today; give yourself laurels for any job well done; thank yourself for all the good things you do for others in a day; write yourself a romantic note extolling the virtues of...you!

Literally Bathe in Self-Love

We all need to recharge and regenerate ourselves. And there is nothing like giving yourself some "me time" in a warm, wonderful bath. Use it as a way to clear your mind, reclaim yourself, heal, and transmute blues and blahs.

The First Step: Draw a bath. Play relaxing and sensual music. Slip into the warm water, daydream, and allow yourself to bask in the energy of love. It truly creates an impression in your own mind and spirit that you are someone who deserves royal treatment and who is willing to receive it! You can power your bath with your own special salts and scents, or use these special formulas:

1. Basil Bath--Just a tablespoon or two boiled in a tea holder and poured into the bath promises a sense of well-being. Studies show that basil relieves stress, and the Hindu culture used basil to stimulate fertility and good fortune.
2. Rose Bath--Using rosewater and fresh rose petals, this is a bath the ancient Romans used to evoke the love goddess, Venus.
3. Salty Sea Bath--Conjure the healing of the ocean with one or two cups of coarse sea salt, which will restore your electrolytes. Feeling achy? Use some Epsom salts too.

Fully immerse yourself to clear your energy field. Dunk nine times and say a prayer with each. At the most primal human level, a nice warm bath gives you a chance to get a new perspective on life.

Put Healthy Things into Your Body

We all know by now that certain foods, chemicals, and substances like alcohol can work against us in all areas of life. It is time to truly acknowledge that your body is your temple and treat it as sacred. If you are having any kind of imbalance or dis-ease--depression, illness, self-hating blues--see if you can find an external "chemical" cause for it. Start with what you are eating. Then look at what you are drinking, as well as chemicals you are taking in. For example, sugar, wheat, yeast, processed foods, certain carbs, and alcohol can all add together to make an I-Don't-Feel-Great stew and a grumpy you.

The First Step: There are many things we can do to lighten up and alleviate the cause and effect of the things that may make us cranky, ill, and feeling hopeless--which can all add to lack of self-love and self-esteem. Experiment with eliminating different potential trigger substances from your life. Delete things from your general diet that cause you to turn on yourself. Make a choice to find out what foods empower your well-being--perhaps more fruits and veggies, or your body might need more lean meat to keep your head clear--and add in the things that help you feel great.

Perform a Self-Love Ceremony

When I teach relationship readiness seminars, I have people look into a mirror into their own eyes and recite vows to themselves.

The First Step: The following is an abbreviated sample ceremony, just to get you started:

1. Light a candle and bring light into the room.
2. Say a brief prayer: Divine Spirit of all there is, please fill this place with your sacred presence. Support me in my efforts to express my love for self. Help me see my own divinity. Amen.
3. Sit down and meditate on the qualities you most honor in yourself.
4. Write down three vows that are personally meaningful to you: " I adore you...I love your strength and wisdom...I will promise to love and honor you..., etc."
5. When you feel ready, look into the mirror and connect with your own eyes and read the vows to yourself. It may be uncomfortable at first, but you can transcend that. Your self-love vows will send a powerful message to your subconscious mind.
6. Celebrate your union with self with a sip of something sweet.
7. Play celebratory music.
8. Dance...and feel the love.

Need a shorter version? Every time you pass a mirror, smile and look deeply into your own eyes.

Choose a Personal Theme Song

We all need a self-love anthem, a song that makes us feel good about ourselves and snaps us into a state of higher self-esteem and hopefulness immediately.

Some people come alive when they hear Frank Sinatra. Some relate to an awesome gospel song or religious hymn. Others connect to anything by Natasha Beddingfield, such as the song "Unwritten."

The First Step: Pick a personal theme song that makes your heart sing and always brings a knowing smile to your face. Music has the power to lift our deepest spirits as well as our self-esteem.

Ultimately, the more we love ourselves, the more love we can share with those around us. And the more love we bring to our families and friends, the more love we add to our world.

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