I have struggled with the concept of "self-love" and held a deep misunderstanding that "self-love" is narcissistic and self-indulgent. But what is "love" but tender affection and acceptance? Think of the tenderness you feel toward a child or a small animal. Why would we not hold this same tenderness for ourselves? We are no less deserving. And we the adult can provide this unconditional tenderness to our own inner child. I have come to understand that the embodiment of such tender care to one's self, AKA me, is a matter of attending to each and every aspect of my multifaceted human nature from my physical body, to my need for meaning.
The Benefits of a Practice: Paramahansa Yogananda suggests we "crowd out bad habits by substituting good habits in all departments of life." I know that I can easily get into a negative habit of thinking. But creating an active habit of attending to each of these areas every day, can pave forward a positive path of self-love. Different traditions term these aspects of our humanity a little differently. Maslow from Western psychology refers to our "hierarchy of needs. Some Easter traditions term these needs, "Chakras." Whatever you call them they are all a part of our essential nature and none is superior to another. We need to attend them all. And the more of them we attend to, the more well-being we can experience. Following is a 7 point cheat sheet on how you can cultivate love of self by respecting and attending each of your 7 essential needs according to the Chakra paradigm. Thanks to Kathleen Hanagan for this elucidation, see her interview with Karen Uppal for more.
I find it helpful to make a list of these and consider them daily.
Taking Care of Your Survival needs (Root Chakra) is about survival, health and safety. You can cultivate well-being here by attending to sleep, good nutrition and hydration, exercise, and hygiene, and in our culture, solid finances. Write down some ideas you wish to do in this area:
Attending to Your creativity and sexuality (Sacral Chakra). Humans are creative and sexual beings. Attend to this aspect of well-being by doing something creative and attending to your sexual vitality (drawing, singing, qigong, yoga, meditation, sexual connection with a partner or self-pleasure). What inspires you? What are the curiosities that enliven you? What does your soul yearn for? Write down some ideas you wish to explore in creativity and in your sexuality:
Standing in our unique personal power (Solar Plexus Chakra): This area is about personal power, self-confidence and self-esteem, and establishing and holding healthy boundaries. Attend to well-being by acknowledging your unique gifts and manifesting and standing in your own power and not comparing yourself to others. Write down some ideas of where you can exercise your personal power:
Love (The Heart Chakra). This needs is our affinity for one's self and others through love, affection, tenderness. Attend to well-being here through loving the inner, innocent child within, and finding daily ways to connect with friends and family.
Communication and Living in one's Truth (Throat Chakra) This aspect of ourselves is about communication and self-truth. Attend to your well-being through clear, clean, empowering and positive speaking that is from your deepest authenticity. When we repress what is true for us, it can create resentment or depression. Bring awareness to your day and ask yourself if you are expressing your truth, remembering that this is just your truth and respecting that truth may be different for other individuals.
Attending to your Intuition (3rd Eye Chakra) This is our intuitive center and seat of the soul. Attend to your well-being here by trusting your own inner knowing. It is soft. This deep place of knowing is never a voice of self-harm or harm to others, such a voice is the voice of ego. We often don't appreciate this deeper place of knowing in our "evidence-based" society. There is a place for both. Do your analysis, but then put it aside and see what arises from this place. This is the place that can lead to surprising possibilities but it can be scary. It is that knowing it is time to leave a dangerous country and going, now!
Remembering our Connection to something bigger than self (The Crown Chakra) This is our connection to nature, or Divine, or God, or Great Mystery or whatever way you call that thing greater than ourselves and representative of our higher self. Attend to this area of your well-being by staying connected to that which is greater than yourself through meditation, or prayer, or walks in the woods, or singing and chanting or however you find this for yourself. (A new study shows that just 20 minutes of contact with nature lowers stress and hormone levels. Woo hoo... go sit under a tree!
Having daily practices keep us grounded and Sane! When you run into difficult times, it can be helpful to run through this list daily to actively seek positive ways to stay connected helps with these different aspects of being human. Having a practice you can do keeps you in the present moment and calms the stress and anxiety response.
In loving partnership and practice in all these areas myself !