For 12 months, myself and a small group of women (and one man!) connected online through our shared commitment to self-love, improving our lives, and more fully accepting ourselves. Each month we read a different book related to self-love, sharing our thoughts and lessons learned with one another. The experience ripped apart so many of my limiting beliefs and reinforced the truths that I held in my heart, while showing me how to bring them into practice in my day-to-day life.
While each book provided its own insights into what self-love means and how we can truly come to adore ourselves, there were also truths that came across again and again. Although they were often expressed differently depending on the particular worldview of the author, these messages came through as almost universal principles. The basic tenets of self-love.
Here they are, as I see them.
Self-love is a form of spirituality.
Last month I read Mastin Kipp’s debut book Daily Love and in it he writes, "Spirituality is a measure of how Loving you are, how unconditionally accepting you are toward yourself and others." And in one way or another, I think this is what all of the authors we read were saying. All of them experienced some sort of spiritual transformation through their self-love journey - some through religious practice, some through new age mysticism, and others through a deeper communion with their heart and intuition. But ultimately, the practice of self-love is spiritual in and of itself because it's all about getting in touch with your own unique spirit.
Loving ourselves is not selfish.
We can't truly love others until we learn to love ourselves. Although most of us know this on some level, we still seem to feel guilty if we don't prioritise the needs of everyone else above our own. Putting ourselves first and committing to self-love is the first step in being of service to the world.
Gratitude is the attitude of self-love.
Self-love happens in the here and now. We can't hinge our self-love on some future achievement. This is a practice in savouring the present moment and learning to accept ourselves just as we are. When we practice gratitude we cultivate a pervading sense of contentment, we see the beauty that is all around us, we learn the lessons when things don't go the way we wanted, and we free up space to stop wishing and start making things happen.
Happiness is a choice. Or rather, it’s the product of our choices.
We might think that one small choice - to act out of integrity with our beliefs, to fall out of line with our ambitions, to disregard our intuition - doesn't really matter, but each time we make a choice it becomes easier to make that choice again. And those choices add up. They become our habits. We are the product of our choices. They dictate how we feel and how we think. With intention, we can create happiness and a life we love.
Surrender breeds clarity.
We hold on to things so tightly - our hopes, our feels, our relationships with other people - that we can no longer see them clearly. We become confused about who we really are and what we really want. When we learn to let go and surrender the outcome (which we aren't really in control of anyway), we give ourselves the space for clarity.
We already have all of the wisdom that we need.
Self-help books, gurus, and workshops have the power to enrich our lives, but they don't have all the answers. You can't learn anything until you're ready to learn it. Self-love tunes us into our inner knowing - the wisdom we already have about who we are and what is best for our unique spirit.
Loving yourself is a radical mode of being.
We aren't taught how to love ourselves in school. In fact, for most of us growing up means being instilled with the belief that we aren't good enough and that we need to repress what we really want in order to climb society's ladder. Loving yourself is a radical act and it has the power to transform your life. But you can't just say it once and be done with it. Self-love is a lifelong commitment that you must reaffirm everyday through the choices you make, the thoughts you think, and the very way you live your life. But it's never to late to get started (or start again).
The Self-Love Book Club is currently on hiatus, but I want to hear from you: should we bring it back? How would you most like to participate? Did you like the monthly linkups and Facebook group or would it be easier for you to engage if we held the conversation in the comments of a blog post? Would a Twitter chat be more fun? Do you have an entirely different idea for a format? Is one book a month too much? What books would you most like to read? I'd really appreciate any feedback you have!
Photographs by Rosie Hardy.