As I Began to Love MySelf: Speaking the 5 Love Languages to Our Self.
As we begin 2017, the Kula is focusing on this ubiquitous yet seemingly unreachable concept of Self Love. This process of truly and unconditionally loving oneself is a life-long journey, and one which I am also still walking. In recently re-reading Dr. Gary Chapman’s book on the 5 Love Languages, mostly focused on how to show love between partners, I started to think about how we can apply these concepts to loving ourselves.
Chapman’s theory is that just like speaking different verbal languages, people also speak different love languages. Therefore, just as one can’t understand Spanish if he/she doesn’t know the language, one also can’t understand a loving gesture if it is not done in a way that one understands in their love language. So, how can we learn what love language we can best speak to and understand?
In this new year of 2017 we are already facing challenges of love that many never thought possible. To spread our love into this world that desperately needs it at this time, we must first start with truly believing in the love of our Self. I invite you to join me in a challenge.
I challenge myself to dedicate 2 weeks to speaking each love language to myself to find out which I resonate most with. At the end of these 10 weeks, I will write another blog to discern my thoughts and feelings of this experience. Will you join me in this challenge?
Love Language 1: Words of Affirmation
These are sharing verbal affirmations with your partner to show love. “You inspire me with your actions”, “I know you will do so wonderful on your speech tomorrow”, and so on. This makes sense as a way to share affection with a partner, but what about to myself? It’s a fact that the words we say to others are quite often much nicer than the words we say to ourselves.
Our mind loves to negate itself. Whether consciously or unconsciously, our mind is often telling us what we can’t do, or how stupid an idea is before we speak of it, or how bad we look in the mirror. Next time a negative thought comes through your mind, I challenge you to stop, recognize it, and repeat it out loud. Then consider whether you would say that same thought to the person you loved the most in your life. Would you want to? Then why would you say it to yourself? Recognize that is a thought and it is not you. Then, here comes the next part of the challenge - write that thought down.
After, make a list of all the truths of yourself that prove that the thought is a false judgement, that it is unnecessary self deprecation. The act of making this list is important - write anything that comes to you. If you can’t think of something to write, repeat the last words you wrote. Do this for 5 minutes without stopping. Then take this list and read it out loud to yourself, somewhere where you feel comfortable to do so.
So for the next two weeks, here is my challenge to myself and I hope you join me:
- Notice a negative thought when I think it about myself
- Say it out loud and consider whether I would say this to the person I love most
- Write down that thought
- Make a list without stopping my pen for 5 minutes about all the truths of myself that prove the thought to be silly.
Love Language 2: Quality Time
Spending quality time with someone is giving them your focused, undivided attention to listen, learn, and share. This may hiking in nature or even cleaning the house together - the activity does not matter as much as the intent to do it together, rather than just doing it. To spend quality time with oneself is a bit more intimidating. We often feel uncomfortable when we are just with ourselves, so we pick up our smartphone and scan through the latest newsfeeds, or call a friend to talk about our problems rather than reflect on them ourselves. I find this phenomenon most often in transit. Everyone is on their phone in the subway, on the bus, even walking down the street! Finding a distraction keeps us from recognizing this beautiful gift of quality time with our Self.
When I first moved to Guatemala from Washington DC eight years ago, I was completely shocked by the complete opposite pace of life. In DC I would take the Metro for 30 minutes sometimes, but there were always plenty of distractions to keep me busy: the newspaper, my iPod of music, reading articles for work. When I arrived in Guatemala, I would take hour long boat trips to nearby villages for work.
These trips could be agonizing, especially because there is no real schedule for the boats and they often run out of gas in the middle of the lake or stop at multiple private docks adding precious time to the journey. On these boat rides, I only thought about all the things to do when I arrived, rather than enjoying the precious gift of time with my Self. Now, this was before the widespread use of smartphones and so today on the Lake, I have a smartphone. It is easy for me to work on my phone during this long trip across the Lake, and still miss out on this quality time.
So, my challenge to myself for two weeks, which I hope you join me, is to NOT distract myself or use my smartphone while in transit. I challenge myself to be with myself in clarity and calmness of thought during these times. To take time to reflect, meditate, or even just focus on your breathing. These exercises can be incredibly energizing, clarifying and calming. Even if you drive to work, take this time for yourself without music or talking on the phone. Let’s enjoy the journey!
Love Language 3: Giving & Receiving Gifts
A gift is a physical representation of love or an affectionate thought, action, or memory. It’s not important how big or expensive the gift is, but what it represents. Often, we find giving a gift can be even more rewarding than receiving a gift. So, let’s do both to our Self!
On the 5th week of this challenge (after spending the four previous weeks on the first two challenges), I challenge myself to write a list of all the things I love to do for myself. What’s my guilty pleasure? My preliminary thoughts go to give myself a pedicure date, get a new dress, or enrol in that class on herbal medicine that I’ve really wanted to take. Then, I challenge myself to give those to myself over the following two weeks. Don’t worry about the money, just give and receive, and all will be in balance.
Notice if you have resistance to spending on yourself. Notice if you have resistance to making the time to give yourself these gifts. Write about that, and then try to do it anyway and see how it feels. Make yourself things. Find beauty in nature and create an altar. Take a class to learn something new. Take that Kula training or retreat that’s been on your mind! Take the time, it’s the biggest gift we can give our Self.
Love Language 4: Acts of Service
In this language, Chapman describes doing an act for someone else that you know he or she would like you to do. This can be something like washing the dishes, taking care of that annoying phone call to the insurance company, getting the car fixed, or walking the dog. In order to perform acts of service for our Self, there are two ways to go about it.
One way is to do these things for your Self. Clean your room to feel clean and organized in your mind. Finish that project that’s been hanging over your head, like giving away old clothes or organizing the bookshelf. Make your favorite dinner for your Self. I challenge myself to try this for a week.
The second week of this part of the challenge, I challenge myself to ask for what I need. Ouch. For the strong, stubborn, and independent out there, this can be hard. When I was younger, part of my young strong-woman mind was that I didn’t need anyone. Since then, I’ve learned that part of servicing myself is expressing my needs. I challenge you to speak them too.
Do you need help around the house? Ask. Do you need a tender massage for your tense shoulders? Ask. If the thought of asking for help makes you uncomfortable like it used to make me, then I challenge you to do it!
Love Language 5: Physical Touch
Physical touch is a biological need of human beings. Studies prove that babies who are held, caressed, and touched from the time of birth develop quicker than those who aren’t. When in physical contact, the brain releases the ‘bonding’ hormone Oxytocin, which can help reduce blood pressure, stress, and anxiety. The gift of touch can be difficult to give to ourselves, yet we can explore it in different ways.
The first way is asking for and engaging in physical touch, like we worked on in the previous section. Challenge yourself to ask for and receive a hug. Challenge yourself to be vulnerable in expressing your need for touch and to opening up your personal physical space.
Another way to give yourself this love language is by taking special care of your physical body. Take a long bubble bath. Get a pumice stone and cleanse yourself of the old and stagnant energy that lingers on your skin. Practice self-massage. Challenge yourself during your morning yoga practice and notice how asana is it’s own form of massage and tension release! Drink water - drink LOTS of water - cleanse yourself from the inside and you will be amazed at the results. I challenge myself to drink 10 full bottles of water a day for two weeks! Experiment with me during these two weeks of our final Love Language and find which suits you best.
And so with these challenges to learn how we can better love our Self, I leave you with these eloquent words of inspiration for your next 10 weeks, shared by one of America’s quietest Yogis, Charlie Chaplin:
As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.
Today, I know, this is AUTHENTICITY.
As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody as I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me.
Today I call it RESPECT.
As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow.
Today I call it MATURITY.
As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment, so I could be calm.
Today I call it SELF-CONFIDENCE.
As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm.
Today I call it SIMPLICITY.
As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything the drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism.
Today I know it is LOVE OF ONESELF.
As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time.
Today I discovered that is MODESTY.
As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worry about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening.
Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it FULFILLMENT.
As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But As I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally.
Today I call this connection WISDOM OF THE HEART.
We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born.
Today I know THAT IS LIFE!
Jessi teaches a Vinyasa based practice to combine elements of dance and natural movement with traditional yogic sequencing. She incorporates attention to rhythm of the breath, and allows for organic movement to flow in each pose. She is grateful for the journey of yogic creativity and loves to share this movement of bliss with others along the
Jessi, along with her husband Zach, are also in the process of creating a Holistic Retreat Center, Seven Springs, in her mountain home of East Tennessee. Seven Springs is a place of natural abundance and cultural diversity where people learn how to create holistic sustenance for themselves and their communities. The space seeks to provide an innovative and transformative space for local and global communities to experience high quality holistic education. Retreats offered vary from yoga, massage, natural medicines and foods, creativity, social innovation, team-building, eco-building and permaculture.