As I mentioned in my last blog, it is only once we grow apart from the innocence of childhood that we slowly start to disengage with truly loving ourselves. We undoubtedly used to love ourselves in the peace and happiness of childhood, so this next section is all about learning how to rekindle and nurture the love that has been misplaced.
There are of course exceptions in circumstance but on the whole, most people will say they had a happy, carefree childhood. Part of the reason for this is that children are inherently mindful, until the world teaches them to change. Can you remember the intensity of feelings that you had as a child? The vividness of particular memories? In part, yes, it’s because life was simpler. In part, however, it’s because as a child you were mindful. As a child, you live in the moment, which is why the world seems so intense, why textures, tastes and feelings seemed so strong. This was only possible because as a small child, you unquestioningly loved yourself – a state away from which most of us drift, during our teens.
The first exercise in the Mindful Baker's approach to self-love is to try and reignite the warmth you felt for yourself as a child, before you went to school, and see how the current life you are leading would be interpreted through the eyes of your inner child. How do you think your inner child would react to the ways you have been treating yourself? I know for certain that mine would have been in absolute turmoil until fairly recently in my life. Imagine telling a child that he is an ugly waste of space who couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery (well, perhaps just a milk-drinking competition in a dairy). If I actually treated a child in the way I was treating myself, there is no doubt that I would have been imprisoned for cruelty.
As an important first step towards recapturing the love you once felt for yourself, you need to envisage your inner self reverted back to that of a child and treat yourself appropriately. Try this for two or three days at first. Obviously you can still perform your normal life as an adult but talk back to yourself when your mind produces negative thoughts. Look after your mind like it is that of a child again. Imagine that you are taking responsibility for a child. You’ll find that you no longer berate yourself for past failures, you’ll sympathetically acknowledge the mistake and calmly find an effective way to put it right. As an example, let’s pretend that you’ve just received a parking ticket. I know that in the past I would have irreconcilably chastized myself for being so stupid and parking in the wrong place, and basically beaten myself up about it. When I treat myself more compassionately, though, like I would a child in my care, I would calmly observe what the mistake was, realise it’s not the end of the world and maybe even laugh about it, allowing me to evade the stress, see it for what it is and move on with a healthy mindset.
I came across an aspiring self-help guru on YouTube, called Teal Swan, who says you ‘can’t practise loving anything before loving yourself’. She has devized a very simple strategy to put this premise into practise and advised her followers to conduct it every day for a full year. I don’t like to submit myself to prolonged regimes but I have given this a go and it has had a miraculous impact on my state of mind. I therefore implore you to also give it a go.
Here it is: Before you make any decisions, I want you to ask yourself, ‘What would someone who loves themselves do?’ Whether it’s a critically important decision about your future, or even something as simple as whether you go to pub A or pub B for an evening drink. Have a go at using this incredibly simple technique to help you determine an outcome. Putting your decisions to this test and doing so consistently for a set period of time will effectively help you achieve everything you spiritually need to reach a state of confident self-love. I say spiritually because loving yourself has no physical bearings in life. It is all about reaching a definitive goal which can only be accessed through your mind and, moreover, your spirit.
Ask yourself this question before absolutely any decision and your higher, loving self will immediately give you an answer. It is then all about having the courage to act on your intuition. You will be asking yourself to come to a decision through the medium of love, so don’t ever doubt the answer presented to you. When people choose to be guided by love, they choose the right outcome and the most important relationship in life is the one we have with ourselves.
Teal’s suggested self-loving questioning highlights the simple fact that loving yourself is about consistently carrying out actions that feel aligned with your heart, gut or intuition. Loving yourself comes down to your actions,nothing more, nothing less. You have the ability and power to start loving right now.
In taking care of and cherishing yourself (your inner child) – and the more often you do it – you will start to experience new growth within yourself. You’ll witness an abundance of energy, a feeling of safety and a zest for life – like taking a Berocca for your soul. By continuing to participate in a lifestyle that neglects and ignores your inner child, you will notice a downward spiral in your self-esteem and self-love, culminating in a lack of the drive and happiness needed to promote successful living. I will therefore give you a list of actionable tasks to help get your self-loving started. You don’t have to take them all up straightaway but do try to gradually introduce them into your daily schedule. You’ll notice that the more you do, the less of a struggle life will seem and loving yourself will become second nature.
Lets start with one of the most basic, yet fundamentally imperative, actions required to reignite your self-loving....
You need to be active. I’m not saying you should run a marathon, though that is certainly a great goal you can set yourself. Setting any kind of goal in respect to this will not only increase your fitness but will motivate you to take part in life. Achieving it will give you a massive amount of self-respect. If you are chronically stagnant for too long, the energy which is meant to be burnt off through exercise finds itself dwelling within your body and then turning itself into anxiety, stress and sadness, the polar opposite of what you should be feeling. So instead of playing computer games, watching TV or sitting in your office chair all day, go for a walk or a run, or go to the gym. Do anything that raises your heart rate a little. Jog up and down the stairs. Go dancing. Why not walk to work, if it’s not too far. Or if you get the tube, get off a couple of stops early and then walk from that stop. If you drive, park a mile away from work and then walk from your car. Just change whatever you normally do in order to start burning off the energy which needs to be let out. It will also make you a happier person, so it’s win/win.
I will be publishing a later set of blogs dedicated to Nutrition, so I’m not going to go into too much detail. Just know that the food you put into your body is not simply for fuel. Humans are not combustion engines. We are very complex, dynamic, organic and infinitely sensitive systems, so learning about what to eat is imperative to getting the best out of your body and mind. Gorging yourself on fast food whilst sitting in front of the TV is most definitely not a self-loving practise. Neither is watching the news, reality television or following friends on social media who are constantly negative about everything; so delete the negative friends because there is no reason you should be brought down to their level. They are the junk food of your mind.
We spend roughly a third of our life asleep, so make it good and make it count. The bedroom should be for sleeping, or for incredible sex with your other half. It shouldn’t be a place to play with your smartphone and post mindless sentiments about nonsensical drivel you recently discovered. So take all electronic items out of your bedroom and cultivate a fondness for yourself and your other half. There is plenty of time to look at your phone in the daytime.
Be more decisive about how you spend your time and start to set goals for what you want to achieve. Learn to say no to all the things that wear you down; be they socialising with people who don’t share the same values as you, or taking on unnecessary work commitments that serve you no favours at all. Dedicate time in your calendar for all the fun, light and playful scenarios you can possibly partake in. The more you honour, cherish and simply spend time with yourself, the more you will cultivate your inner child and develop self-love.
Alongside your fortified sleeping regime and new-found healthy eating, start to take time out for yourself. There is no way you will be able to function effectively and help anyone else if you are not in top shape. So take a nap in the day if you need one and do not let anyone make you feel guilty about this. Meditate whenever you feel pressured by any situation and you’ll be amazed by how quickly you can relieve your mind from constricting thoughts. Go back to the 'Simple and easy techniques to stop your meditative mind from wandering' blog and re-read the Love in the First Degree paragraph on re-igniting the feeling of a past love, for yourself. Free your mind. Take your mind off everything. Just lie down on the floor and breathe.
You don’t have to be alone to meditate but it’s not easy to make a social activity of it either, so relish the opportunity to be by yourself and take full advantage of this quiet time that you have acquired. You’re freeing your mind from all the detritus that has gathered in it but at the same time you’re stimulating a love story with your inner self.
Roll Over Beethoven ♫
So you’re rested, your mind is at ease and you’ve just got back from a great little run. This time is all about you, have some fun. You’ve got to incorporate regular play into your schedule. Retrace your life back to before you were working every hour of the day and think about what you did to entertain yourself. You could even take up something new that you’ve never done before. I got into painting last year and I will now happily while away many an evening trying to create some Timmy art, instead of staring at the TV or the screen of my phone until I am ready to go to sleep. I’m not saying I’m any good but it is certainly very relaxing and liberating. I used to be a bit of a wannabe rock star and only very recently have I picked up my guitar again and started trying to recreate Jim Morrison’s poetic masterpieces. It has brought back many fond memories and is just such a great way to unwind. So recapture your playful, creative side and dedicate time for yourself, because it’s one of the fastest ways to re-awaken your inner child.
This next exercise is about self-recognition and is purely to help you recognise, appreciate and acknowledge your achievements because more often than not we overlook a lot of what we have done well, passing it off as just another mundane act.
As mentioned earlier, instead of always criticizing yourself and seeing the flaws in everything, look at what you are actually doing really well. It doesn’t have to be the sudden realisation of how to achieve world peace – although any ideas are welcome, so send them to me on a postcard. It merely needs to be something that has brought you an element of pride and joy and helped you to focus on your own inner beauty.
‘At the end of each day, write down every single achievement, however small’. It can be anything. You may have opened the door for an old lady. You may have found someone’s wallet and handed it in to be reclaimed. Perhaps you completed your daily run 30 seconds faster than yesterday’s time, or remembered to nip to the post in time, rather than missing it for the third day running. Maybe you won £10 on a scratch card and then gave the winnings to a homeless person. Whatever you have accomplished today, write it down and know that whatever is on that bit of paper is only there because of your brilliance. Every so often read over your recognitions and love that they were only possible because of you.
When you’re with your other half you need to spend time with each other to cultivate your love. It’s a normal recreation. But you also need to do that for yourself, which many people overlook because they either don’t feel that they achieve anything from being on their own, or feel that they should be dedicating their time to others. To fully re-energise your self-love, you have to be happy to spend time by yourself.
As discussed at the beginning of this blog, children are naturally happy and love themselves; it is only when we grow up and have to manage in this scheming world that we become detached from our inner selves. Spending quality time on your own is an excellent way to reaffirm love for yourself. Next time you are in the presence of a child, notice how happy and content they are to be by themselves. They can play for hours in a world of their own creation because they love themselves, naturally. On top of this, they are often extraordinarily free and giving with their affection. Only once you are truly comfortable, happy and able to love yourself, can you truly start to pass your love on to others.
There are plenty of activities that you can do by yourself, which will help to foster your re-found self-love. Try going for a long walk alone. The enjoyment and self-love that you'll get from being alone will be an unpredictable after effect, which you'll start to cherish. Try going to the cinema by yourself. Rise above the stigma of going alone – you can’t actually talk to whoever you’re with anyway. It’s definitely the worst place to go on a first date, unless you have nothing to say. So embrace your inner love and go alone. Maybe take yourself to a restaurant afterwards and then go for a drink in a local bar. In fact, take yourself on a full-on date. The more you spend time with yourself, the more you will grow to love yourself and the easier it will be to share the love around.
I have a selection of personal stories for the next blog, highlighting my journey to learning how to love myself again.
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