Self love is not selfish

Put on your own mask before assisting others

“Radical self love is an internal journey that impacts our external reality.” – Sonia Renee Taylor

Although it has been quite some time since I have flown on an airplane, I often think about the cabin pressure level speech. “Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.”

Every time I am flying with my kids, I contemplate this unlikely scenario: I think I would put it on them first! If I can’t breath, they can’t breath so I need to get that mask on them ASAP. My mother lion instincts are challenged. If it comes down to “saving” me or my kids, I will choose my kids every time. However, this is not the situation. It is not an “either/or” scenario and objectively I understand the rationale behind this routine direction. I can’t possibly assist them, or anyone else, if I don’t have my own oxygen supply.

Whether on a plane or playing in our family room, the same rule should apply. How can we possibly expect ourselves to take care of others, namely our children, if we are empty? The math simply doesn’t make sense. Yet, parents — particularly moms — continue to pour, give and provide until we are depleted. Until there is nothing left and our own needs are not even relevant. Thinking about one of my main themes — we are always modeling — is this what we want to be modeling for our kids? Our sons and daughters? We are not important enough to have our needs identified and met?

Self love is taking responsibility

I used to think of “self love” with a negative connotation. It was something I certainly didn’t have time for. Then I realized what self love really is — and what it isn’t. To me, self love is taking responsibility for my actions. Tuning into my own needs so that I can be aware of what I am feeling and what I can do about it.

Upon reflection, I also realize it is hard work. Self love means I am taking responsibility for myself and not blaming others for how I respond. In fact, it’s actually much easier to continue to neglect myself and blame my kids when I lose my cool. It requires much more work to love, spend time with, and get to know myself on an intimate level.

Self love starts with awareness

As psychologist Nathaniel Branden said, “The first step toward change is awareness.” The more I have been increasing my awareness to my own needs, the better I have felt. And the better I feel, the more capable I am of helping others. Slowing down, tuning in, and spending time on myself hasn’t been easy. I would much rather focus on everyone else besides myself. Oh you have a problem? I’ll solve it! However, spending time looking within has enabled me to serve others in ways I never even realized were possible.

I do not have a Peloton bike, however, I am absolutely obsessed with their strength, stretch, and meditation classes. Part of the reason I am so motivated to take the classes is because the instructors are preaching self love. Jess Sims, my favorite, is constantly reminding me:

  • we practice hard things so we can do hard things
  • the way you do anything is the way you do everything
  • you don’t have to do this, you get to do this
  • say yes to putting myself first
  • accept where you are right now so you can get to where you want to be

Her wisdom applies on and off the mat. Whether this is about holding that plank for 10 more seconds or responding to my kids calmly instead of yelling, the same truths apply. Sims also says, “If something isn’t going well in another area of your life, work out.” When bedtime rolls around and I think, there is no way I can find the energy to put 3 small humans to bed, I channel the same part of me that says there is no way I can do one more set of squats. And in both instances, I do it.

Tuning in

Tuning in requires awareness. Awareness to what I am feeling and what I need. The more attention I am paying to myself, the longer my menu of options becomes. Just like for my kids, I don’t always need the same thing:

  • get fresh air
  • straighten my hair
  • put on mascara
  • Gua sha my face
  • put on chapstick
  • put on lotion
  • put on cozy socks
  • brush my hair
  • cook
  • create something
  • put my phone down
  • get my heart rate up
  • connect with a friend
  • stretch
  • organize
  • write
  • focus on breathing
  • light a candle
  • eat a piece of candy
  • put on a sweatshirt
  • dance
  • pray
  • take a shower
  • take a bath
  • read a book
  • read a magazine
  • drink hot tea
  • drink water
  • be alone
  • be with others
  • eat a snack
  • have a glass of wine

Without paying attention, I might grasp for some items on this list more than others. I might think wine will help when really I need fresh air. Or start organizing when I’m actually dehydrated. The more I can pay attention and increase my self awareness, the better I am able to identify what I need and advocate for myself.

This doesn’t mean that I am able to do all of the things on my list all the time. However, if I can identify the overarching need, I can find a quick respite to hold me over until time is on my side. Sure a massage would be great at 5:30PM (ha!) but taking 20 seconds to step into another room to be alone and just breathe is a close second 🙂 When I feel overwhelmed, noticing I am dehydrated and actually take a few seconds to drink water. Or yes, letting my kids play by themselves, watch a show, or work out with me so I can do my 20 minute Peloton class.

Always modeling

Lastly, I want to touch back on this point. We are always modeling for our kids whether we intend to or not. I do not want to be modeling self neglect. To inadvertently teach my kids to love others and ignore oneself. Or worst case, to blame others for our own actions…in fact, the tuning in is exactly what I am asking my kids to do. To pay closer attention to their own needs and feelings so they can advocate for themselves. To develop an arsenal of coping strategies so they can actually deal with challenges that arise, not push them aside or act on impulse. The best way to teach this is by living it. Self love is not a hippy dippy selfish yoga thing. It is the key to taking responsibility for our words and actions.

Below is a visual from Susan David’s newsletter highlighting the Emotional Pyramid of Needs.

Self Love from around the web:

30 Ways to Practice Self Love and Be Good to Yourself

13 Steps to Achieving Total Self Love

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