As the chocolate buzz of Valentine’s Day fades, I find myself thinking about radical acts of self-love. Over the last week I’ve polled my friends, asking them for their take on the qualities of someone in a state of self-love. For some, the question conjures images of a person standing with good posture, shoulders back and down, heart open, in the physical embodiment of that classic "inner body bright" stance of Anusara Yoga. For others, it is expressed in one’s character: confident but not arrogant, light-hearted but without self-deprecating humor. After my informal focus groups, here are seven of my favorite surefire signs that you or someone you know might be in a profound state of self-love:
1. Someone practicing self-love strives to be their best self, but never compares themselves to others.
The amazing, prolific writer Iyanla Vanzant says: “Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” Vanzant’s words clarify the magnitude of the damage comparisons create. She offers a valuable frame for those of us committed to Gandhian nonviolence as a philosophy or lifestyle, and we must stop the self-reproach if we accept her idea as true.
2. Self-lovers can be observed engaging in PDAs (“public displays of affection”—in this case, acts that publicly display love and respect towards themselves!)
I’m not speaking of simply buying oneself flowers or candy or indulging in a spa day. I am talking about people who clearly honor and respect themselves in every aspect of the way they live their lives. A self-lover clearly leads by example, showing us what self-respect, dignity and self-care really look like.
3. Self-lovers regularly check their emotional blind spots.
We all have emotional or psychological blind spots—places in our lives where we may not be fully aware of the impact our thoughts or actions have on ourselves, or others. Those who act out of self-love are gentle with themselves, but consistently check their blind spots, and their commitment to healing and positive momentum is palpable.
4. Self-lovers practice the ‘Golden Rule’ in reverse!
In addition to doing unto others as they’d like others to do unto them, those practicing radical self-love also are as kind, loving, and respectful to themselves as they are to others. Sometimes the reverse direction can be a harder one to embody, and those committed to true self-love take steps to heal whatever might keep them from being as good to themselves as they are to others. For those of us working to break the habit of being way too hard on ourselves, I offer the “five year old test.” When evaluating and passing judgment on ourselves for a behavior, word or deed, stop to think about what you’d do or say to a small child, perhaps a five year old who had just done the same thing. Sure, there are teachable moments that call for accountability, but can you approach your self-reflection with the same kindness with which you’d treat that kindergartener who needed a talking to?
5. A self-lover eats well and takes good care of their body “temple.”
Eating healthy honors the self, and by running the human body on clean fuel, limiting the use of drugs and alcohol, the self-lover treats their body and their mind with the utmost of respect.
6. A self-lover finds the means to get meaningful, restorative sleep.
Increasingly, studies show that sleep is a key to physical and psycho-spiritual well-being. Those committed to radical acts of self-love do all that is necessary to get enough quality sleep (with the exception perhaps of new parents, who may not, despite their best efforts, get enough!). They pursue the counselling and support they need to rid themselves of anxieties that keep them from resting, and give themselves permission to get the hours they need nightly, even if that is more than others need. (See No. 1.)
7. Self-lovers believe in “all good things in moderation, including moderation.”
Those in self-love are questing for the balance between commitment and overwork, slacking off and self-deprivation. They understand that love of the self sometimes means more work and less play, but most often means the opposite. They recognize that joy and delight are not only possible in the face of the many challenges of our day, they are an essential component in the pursuit of solutions to these challenges. They know when to put down the “To Do” list and go fly a kite, and they will laugh loudly and encourage us all to go with them!
Are you a self-lover? What are the attributes you are most proud of in your pursuit of true self-love? Please share them in the comments below.