Before we dive in, let's take a moment bring form to the concept of self-love and and consider this: what is the difference between self-care and self-love?
In my opinion, self-care encompasses the actions we take to nurture ourselves. Proper rest, proper play, exercise, healthy eating, indulgence, meditation, spending time with supportive friends, writing, fresh air, petting animals. Self-love is the energetic nurturing we offer ourselves. We often use our acts of self-care to drop into our energetic field of self-love, especially when we feel that we are spiraling. An act of self-care is like a pause button that allows us to remember that we are healing some deep old stuff and that this is a job no single day in bed or yoga class could fix. This is a job for love.
I think when we endeavor to tackle a concept as broad and challenging as how to cultivate self-love, it's important to remember that it can be just as difficult to find love for our strong spots as it is for our tender spots. With energetic nurturing, we are celebrating the diversity in our pattern, and as one of my favorite teachers Matt Kahn says, "loving what arises".
Ever done a really great job at work and received some praise and immediately wanted to shrink and hide? Here the act of self-care may be to phone a best friend and tell them about your success. This creates space to drop into the self-love state of acknowledging your gifts and power. Send some love to that vulnerability, like you would to a child running into your arms from an overwhelming wave of shyness.
Ever drank so much and the next day forgot where the car is and see photos of yourself doing a headstand at the bar and wanted to move to a different country? Here the acts of self-care may be to hydrate, eat, take a walk, and get some rest. This allows you to recover and remember to love the cyclical nature of human behavior, and appreciate the feelings that nudge you to evolve into the best version of yourself. Send some love to that heavy place, and catch that spinning top that whirled its fun loving self right off the edge of the table (it may take a few tries).
It's also helpful to remember that we don't necessarily feel the healing and relief of our self-love when we are elbows deep sewing these seeds. It's not as if we reach a point where we've been diligent in our acts of self-care and then a flip switches and we don't trip and fall when weeds pop up in our field. This is a practice that likely will need tending for life... not because you will never heal, but because new things happen!
So get dirty, fall in the mud, take a bath, light the good candle, and love the rain (even if it's leaking through the roof).