We live in a fairy tale kind of culture that teaches us that love is always magical and ends in happily ever after. We are taught about soul mates, knights on white horses, and big romantic gestures that sweep us off of our feet into the land of coital bliss. This kind of fairy tale thinking can cause a ton of issues in romantic relationships but it also poses problems when you are figuring out how to love yourself!
Perhaps you think that self-love is about eat, pray, loving your way through Italy (Yes, I just used Eat, Pray, Love as a verb!). Or that you should carve out a night for taking a bubble bath with rose petals, candles, soft music, and a good book. Or that you need to book an expensive retreat in an exotic location.
And while those things might be helpful, even supportive of your self-love journey, grand gestures aren’t necessary for self-love.
Instead, learning how to love yourself happens in the everyday, mundane moments of life.
It took me some time to figure this out.
And, though it has been ten years since it happened, I remember the moment as if it were yesterday.
The Meltdown Moment
I was standing in the middle of my closet, getting ready to go have coffee with a friend, with tears running down my face.
I’d been working for someone else since I was 14 and had left my last j.o.b. just weeks before.
Going to coffee on a random Tuesday felt momentous because I didn’t have to call in sick to pull it off. The only schedule I had to abide by was the one I created for myself. It was a freedom that I’d been craving for as long as I could remember.
But, instead of being excited, I was on the verge of a t-total meltdown. I could not find anything to wear.
My closet was packed full of argyle sweaters and dress pants. I had argyle to match black pants, blue pants, brown pants, and khaki. I even had socks and shoes to match.
Living In The Land of Should
See, my last job before starting my energy healing/coaching business was at a high-end golf club.
I worked there for a few years and learned really early on that certain things were expected of me if I wanted to stay employed.
I’d be required to say good morning to the “big boss” every morning with a smile on my face. I was expected to have a bit of small talk with him before going into my office.
Out of about 50 employees, I was one of two women who worked at the club, so, I was also expected to befriend my immediate (female) boss. I also needed to play nice with the man I shared an office with, who was quite frankly an ass. And, of course, exchanging pleasantries with the clubs members was a must.
The part I hated the most, though, was what I had to wear.
Image was everything at the club.
In the interview, I was told to wear “business casual” every day. It took me a couple of weeks to realize that what they really meant was that I needed to dress like a Town & Country magazine model. No one ever came right out and said so, but the “big boss” would give his approval by giving a compliment, or no compliment.
Receiving a compliment meant to wear that more often. No compliment meant never wear that again.
The most favored outfits were knee-length wrap style dresses or anything that looked like I was about to go play a round of golf (AKA argyle). Nothing else merited a compliment.
Since dresses were never my thing, I quickly took to argyle most of the time. It seemed like the easiest thing to do if I wanted to stay somewhat happily employed.
The A-Ha Moment
So, when I left that job to start my business, the argyle filled my closet.
On the day that I was supposed to have coffee with my friend, I felt like I was staring into a closet that belonged to someone else.
That moment spurred me into a journey of discovering what it is I actually like to wear. But, more importantly than the clothes, those argyle sweaters taught me something really, really important:
It’s really easy to lose yourself in the sea of shoulds.
You bend and you mold and you pretend your way into a person that doesn’t even remotely resemble you. And one day you wake up and realize that you have a closet full of argyle sweaters and nothing to wear.
Self-love is about peeling back the layers, argyle sweater by argyle sweater, and figuring out what’s underneath and figuring out your TRUTH.
And you do that in ordinary, everyday moments.
You don’t need to make huge grand gestures and book retreats in Bali.
Yes, those things can be awesome.
But what really matters is what’s happening in the here and now and the clue’s it is providing you about the way forward.
In the moments when you feel overwhelmed. And the moments when everyone else’s needs are screaming louder than your own. In the traffic jams and in the grocery store.
Those everyday moments are showing you how to love yourself. They are showing you the places that need your compassion; the places that need your attention.
You just have to be willing to listen and respond with love.
Take a moment to tune in.
What do you most need at this moment?
What feelings are simmering under the surface?
Where do you need more love?
What actions could you take to honor the answers?
Take time out of each day to ask yourself these questions. Even if you aren’t ready to act on the answers. That comes with time. Just asking a remarkable step.