A radical act of self-love doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune on yourself or masking pain with fun distractions. It can just be a willingness to check the intent of your loving action at the door to make sure its purpose is to truly nourish your soul.
There are quite a few actions that I categorize under self-love, such as relaxation, choosing foods that nourish you, respecting yourself and your intuition, etc. But what is considered self-love can sometimes blur the lines with our defense/coping mechanisms. We can choose healthy foods to love our bodies, and sometimes we choose not-so-healthy treats to comfort and “love” our emotional body. When the choice to “love” our emotional body outweighs physical nourishment, this is not self-love. Relaxation can feel rejuvenating to the mind, body, and soul, but can be taken to the extreme when we become sloth-like, refusing to step out of that feeling of calmness and safety. This is where mindfulness and the intent behind our “loving” actions play a crucial role in moderating self-love with our defense and coping mechanisms.
Opportunities to practice this tango between pure loving actions toward myself and lust for what’s comfortable arise daily. When I’m exhausted after a long day, Netflix is usually there, cat-calling me in my weakened state.
“Hey, girllll….you sure look tired. Come sit by me and I’ll make everything ok.”
I negotiate, “Well, maybe just one episode.” Netflix and my couch wink at each other because they’ve heard this reasoning before, along with the rationalizing that happens five episodes later.
Is zoning out on the couch truly what I need in that moment of tiredness? Is it providing me with what my soul really needs in that moment? It helps to stop for a beat and become conscious about it. What made my day exhausting? Was I running a mile a minute, thus leaving me in a state of really needing to rest, or were there a lot of emotional drains that left me feeling depleted? I frequently ignore the differentiation and auto-pilot myself straight to my movie queue. If I was being real with myself, though, I’d acknowledge that 99.9% of the time my rather sedentary job leaves little excuse to be physically exhausted. This exposes the dreary face of emotional negligence staring back at me, complete with a sneer of judgment. It can be so unbearably uncomfortable to look back at that face, hence my feigned ignorance towards it.
With a bit of self-compassion, and a heavy pit in my stomach, sometimes I make eye contact with it and start a discussion. What am I avoiding, and what happens if I stop avoiding it? Underneath my feeling of ‘exhaustion’ lies the 35 times I felt inadequate during the day. The 10 times I felt anger and suppressed it. The 1,002 times I wasn’t grateful for the equal amount of things there were to be grateful for. The 1,002 times I judged myself for not feeling grateful. To make a long story short: I feel. By not zoning out, I end up feeling everything I didn’t fully feel during the day. Sometimes it’s pure joy that I didn’t fully appreciate in the moment; sometimes it’s something more uncomfortable. And what I need to do is process it. This moment of honesty with myself might simply require a moment of acknowledgment, or a few more moments that bring on the tears and a sense of defeat. But I tell you what, what comes after that release is so much more real and fulfilling than the entire nine seasons of The Office. But, it’s not easy. Not for me, at least. It’s a choice every single time I come home from a day that didn’t provide the level of comfort my home offers, and I don’t always make the right one. But that’s okay. Because self-compassion is also self-love, and it’s necessary to keep growing.
Netflix-induced relaxation is only one example of myriad actions that some of us would justify as ‘self-love’, along with indulging in too many sugar cravings, distractions instead of housework, or any other way we choose to zone out. But, dialing in to what your mind, body, and soul truly need in the moment, such as meditation, exercise, a creative outlet, finishing a task, or taking a nap in the sunshine, is much more of a loving commitment to yourself than reruns of Friends (most of the time).
Author: Christie Kruisenga is a naturopathic practitioner offering consultations for those desiring holistic direction on their wellness journey.