Self-love: I should’ve said stop - but I didn’t (and here’s what I learned)

by Majbrit Villadsen on April 17, 2016

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Take care of yourself. An often used phrase at the end of an email, or as a goodbye greeting. Or said compassionately to a friend in a time of distress. It’s said so often that it has almost lost it’s meaning. We need to make it important again. We need to make it valuable to take care of ourselves. Self-love has come to stay.

I don’t know if it’s more important now than ever before, but I do know we’re faced daily with so many inputs, requests, demands, and decisions to make that it can easily make your head spin and leave you feeling overwhelmed. Once overwhelm has set in, it’s very hard to feel what you really want, what is good for you and how to take better care of yourself. So we stay in the good girl ‘rinse and repeat cycle’.

Unhealthy attachments

When I look back at my life I now recognize many situations where I should’ve said stop or no, but I didn’t. There are many reasons for that, but underlying all of them was a need to be loved (self-love was not in my vocabulary at the time). Like when a seemingly friendly man would touch me inappropriately and I didn’t say anything because then he might think I was a prude and therefore not worth loving. Or when I was working way too hard, taking on too many tasks at work, to prove myself worthy of love. Or when I continued making love to a man even though every penetration felt like being stabbed with a knife.

I know for sure if you’re a woman you have your own experiences of incidents where you should’ve said stop or no but didn’t. Maybe it’s the same for men? Would love to hear from you in the comments. What I also know is that we women have a tendency to beat ourselves up, blame ourselves and knock our heads against the wall when we realize how we’ve neglected to take care of our own needs. I get it, I’ve been there. And although taking care of ourselves is definitely our own responsibility, it doesn’t mean we failed when we didn’t. Self-love is not a one-time thing, it’s a continual process of trial, error and success.

Self-love is inner fulfillment

Wanting to be loved is very human, nothing wrong with it. If we turn inwards in our search for love instead of outwards it’s much more rewarding, and it supports us in our efforts to take better care of ourselves. The experiences we go through are pointers as to where we do not fully love and embrace ourselves and so they become our companions on our journey of self-love. If we choose to shine a light and become more conscious of our communication with other people, if we reflect on our daily interactions we can use our experiences to discover the main source of love that comes from within.

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I’m on a journey of discovering myself and increasing self-love, and I’ve learned to take better care of and protect myself. When I started asking questions as to what I wanted, how I wanted to feel, and what I thought of myself the answers revealed themselves in the way I chose to act in different situations.

For instance a family member would ask me to do something that I’d normally do without questioning whether this is something I feel like doing or not; something I’d do out of a sense of obligation or to keep them happy aka continuing to love me, although doing what they asked didn’t fit into my planning. And even if they didn’t ask I’d still see it as my responsibility to save them from their problems (as if I’m God!). I’d also take on the responsibilities of my colleagues to give them an easy pass (often my thought was I can do it much faster or better than them). One more thing I’ve noticed is the tendency to take responsibility for how other people feel. If they’re angry or sad I feel a need to fix it. Learning to let go of that one as well.

Listening to your own needs

Realizing that I wanted more free time and less problems, made me choose to prioritize my own projects and problem solving. Combined with the fact that a teacher of mine told me very clearly that by doing what I did, taking on others problems as if they were mine, I was in fact also taking on other peoples karma - and trust me, even if you don’t know anything about karma, you don’t want to go there. At the same time I was stealing away their opportunity for learning and growing - and in a karmic sense keeping them stuck. Ouch!

When you start to prioritize your own projects and needs, or actually just by thinking about wanting to do it, you can be sure that the voice in your head, often referred to as your inner critic, will become quite loud. It’ll start to rationalize why you can’t possibly be so selfish as to take care of yourself. Or it’ll question your worth or ability or something else that puts you down and keeps you small. Make a decision to do it anyway. In this blog post I talk more in depth about the voice in your head.

Serving others authentically from a place of self-love

The way I see it self-love is a non-negotiable. It doesn’t mean we become narcissistic and unwilling to care for anyone else. And yes, we will compromise once in a while in our relations. But we move away from the role of a victim (or a martyr!) and take charge of our life. We stop the self-sabotaging cycle and we stop accepting situations and circumstances that are not healthy and beneficial for our physical, emotional or psychological well-being.

From here we give from a place of love and abundance, we don’t drain ourselves when we give to others. And equally important: we don’t expect anything in exchange. Love is no longer a commodity we bargain for; I do this for you and you give me your love in return. It’s an unhealthy dependency to be trapped in this bargaining cycle, and we always end up not feeling loved enough or not feeling loved in the right way. Self-love is the new superpower to cultivate on a daily basis.

Seeing the teachings

I can now see the value in the times I should have said no but didn’t. Each situation has acted as my teacher. It was (and is) a learning process of seeing my own worth. Of finding myself and feeling my wishes, needs and desires and discovering the underlying thoughts standing in my way of creating the life I want. You might argue that it still would’ve been better not ending up in situations that is not feeling right to me, and you might be right. I honestly don’t know; my view is different. It did happen the way it did and I have accepted that. And I’m grateful for the lessons learned and for where I am today. No matter which way you look at it, it has shaped who I am and I feel pretty good about that.

Let me know in the comments below how you care for yourself. What’s your self-love practice? And what were the situations and realizations that brought you where you are today. Let’s give self-love the attention it deserves and cherish it as a way to bring more peace and healing into the world.

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