What I learnt about self-love

After leaving a very violent and abusive relationship, I had so little self-love that I couldn’t recognise love. I couldn’t appreciate the love of my friends, I couldn’t nurture the love I received from the young beautiful man I was dating at the time, I couldn’t see the love I was expressing in my passion, in my cooking, in my dancing, in my relationships. I would always dismiss any compliment addressed to me, I would never allow myself to receive care from other people without feeling unsafe, and wary. It was difficult for me to trust new friends, to trust lovers, and of course to trust myself. 

I was perpetually unsatisfied, which was a drive to continue achieving more, running after an ideal perfection. I was doing a lot. But, actually, I was stuck in darkness commonly called depression. 

One night, the beautiful young man I was dating asked: “Maud, do you tell yourself ‘I love you’?” I laughed. Did I? Of course not. I told him: “Wouldn’t that be a little arrogant?” He explained to me his practice of self-love, and why it was important for him to care for and appreciate himself. He made me promise to try. I agreed, without much conviction. A few days later, he checked on me: “Have you tried? How does it feel?”. I said, embarrassed. “Hmm yes, a few times. I don’t really think it’s… my thing…I don’t feel it.” And he added: “Continue until you start to believe what you say.” So I did, I tried. I didn’t believe what I said. I stopped. I went back to it. I tried French, then English. I even tried Frenglish. 

It was three years ago. 

And last month, I did it! I said “I love you” to myself, out loud in my bed room, curled up on the bed. And my heart felt it. I got it. 

I am grateful to this beautiful soul for leading the way, for encouraging me to nourish myself with self-love. 

For the past year or so, I have been practising a few rituals like this one to nourish self-love, self-care and self-compassion. It has given me greater appreciation for my gifts, clearer understanding of my challenges and helped me be happier and more successful. It also made me a better friend, sister, daughter, teacher, and lover. 

Offering myself flowers, weekly. I go to the bush and pick flowers, or I choose blooms in the shop and compose a bouquet with scents, colours and textures. I admire, and smell the posy at home - a delight. 

Eye gazing. Looking in the mirror, into the depth of my own eyes, I gaze with love, compassion, friendliness. I sometimes say a few nice words, like “you are learning”, “it’s okay to feel that way”.

Using the mantra: “Darling, I am here for you.” I am no longer waiting for anyone to ‘save’ me from my despair, but nonetheless allowing myself to feel supported. 

Writing a love letter: I have written a few letters of appreciation, like I would write to a friend or to my parents. In these letters, I allow myself to feel proud of my achievements. 

Offering myself a gift…a note-book, a new ensemble of lingerie, a book. Something that says ‘thank you’ and also allows self-appreciation. 

Solo love-making. Finding time to connect with my desires, to feel sensual, to appreciate my body and explore pleasure.

Self-love isn’t arrogance, it is the most valuable gift you can offer your friends, partner, children...because if you receive love from yourself, you are able to give love selflessly around you.