Love Yourself In Every Language: Words Of Affirmation
Recently, I've been working my way through exploring the concept of self-love in a deeper way. (See post one here, and post two here.) I mean, we talk about self-love all the time in our society - we remind ourselves to treat ourselves, to spoil ourselves. But sometimes we get caught up in the minutiae, and for some people, a pedicure isn't an "I love you" gift at all. And even among those of us who are familiar with the idea of love languages and the way everyone speaks an inherently individual dialect of the language of love, we still often manage to forget to pay adequate attention to loving ourselves.
In tying love languages to self-love, adequately loving ourselves is a two-fold process, because in self-love, we've got the love flowing in both directions simultaneously - we're putting love out in action for ourselves, but we also have to be willing and able to accept that love from ourselves, in part because this inability to practice accepting love from ourselves often sets us up as unable to accept love from others.
Alright, so where do we start?
Of the five love languages, I believe Words of Affirmation is the easiest to put into practice when it comes to self-love. I mean, how hard is it to pay yourself a little compliment now and then, right? After all, we see the way other people light up when we point out to them that we love their dress or their shoes or their purse - it only makes sense that we would have the same reaction to compliments sent our way, too. And who says a compliment has to be sent externally?
I believe self-love begins with cultivating compassion and understanding for yourself and your experience. It begins with understanding that you've probably done the best you can in the situations you found yourself in, with the tools available to you based on your experiences. Once you've done that, you'll be able to seek the good in those experiences, actively looking for the lessons available to you as a person, accepting that you didn't always make the right choices (because you're a human and humans make mistakes) understanding that you did whatever you may have felt was right at the time (informed by the previous experiences of your life, which may or may not have been under your control), and forgiving yourself for mistakes you wish you hadn't made (again, you're only human).
These are simple things, in theory; in fact, we practice them all the time with other people without even realizing it. In my role as a mother, I take the duty of building my children up seriously (when I'm not failing and going off on them because I'm overwhelmed or tired or exasperated), and as such, I actively practice finding ways to compliment them, to encourage them, to make them laugh. I work to practice compassion when they're struggling with something, even if that struggle seems silly to me - I know it isn't silly to them, and validating their struggle is the best way to empower them to push through it. And when they mess up, I forgive them, telling them some version of, "It's not okay because this was wrong, but I forgive you because our relationship is more important than this disagreement."
I do the same thing in my role as a friend - only, I don't need to coach my friends on how to be people, so that last bit about acknowledging mistakes and disagreements is often ignored instead. I don't need my friends to feel duty-bound to mention mistakes and grovel and beg forgiveness/ I don't need to feel good about having forgiven them verbally. All I need is to forgive the slight, understand where the other person is coming from, and let it be because I value the relationship more than I value my desire to feel "right."
Applying this to ourselves is the first act in learning to value and respect ourselves the same way we do with our loved ones. When my daughters get down on themselves, I often ask them, "Would you let someone talk to your friends that way? Would you allow someone to step up and talk to your sister that way?" Inevitably, the fierceness of their loyalty to their loved ones washes over them; they scowl and tell me, usually in no uncertain terms, that they absolutely would not stand by and allow a friend (or a sister) to be mistreated. Which is when I remind them that they owe themselves the gift of that same friendship - that they shouldn't allow themselves to talk to themselves that way, that when their minds want to play back hurtful things that have been said or done to them, they owe themselves the good friendship of arguing back. "No, you are not worthless. You are not forgettable. You are not stupid."
But standing up to ourselves in order to shut down the inner bully is just one side of it. Yes, we do need to defend ourselves against ourselves sometimes, but what about when the inner bully is quiet and yet the spirit is longing for love? The absence of negativity is not always equal to the presence of positivity - shutting down the inner bully is only part of the process of learning to befriend ourselves, learning to love ourselves with grace and compassion the same way we would love our friends, our siblings, our children.
And what do we do when a friend is down? We encourage them, feed the needs of their emotional selves, hear them out with compassion, validate and acknowledge their trials. Yes, sometimes we dish out tough love ... but tough love is called that for good reason - because it's tough to dish out, and it also tough and often hurtful to receive. This is why when a friend is cheated on in a relationship, we're always on their side. It's why when they've had a bad day at work, we take the time to hate their jobs with them. It's why when they come to us in conflict, we're always quick to lift them up in the way that they need.
So why is this so hard for us to do for ourselves?
In the next post, we'll talk more about self-love and how to love yourself in the best way for you, but until then, let me urge you to practice this language. Love yourself with words of affirmation - compliment yourself on having a good hair day (or figuring out how to disguise a bad one). Tell yourself how great you look in those jeans, or what a great job you did completing a task that was challenging or unappealing in that moment. Even if all you did was the dishes, or mow the lawn, or wash the car. Even if you still have twenty other things to do. Build yourself today - and every day - with words of affirmation that will encourage and empower you, not only to keep going through whatever you're going through, but so that you can fill up with joy and positive energy you can share with others.
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