Happy heart month! I am assuming that, like me, you were inundated with media promoting how to show that special someone you love them on Valentine’s Day. I’ve always been curious about this day and why society promotes the concept of showing love one day per year, as if it would suffice. And where do single people fit in? Are they encouraged to do something special for themselves to demonstrate their love for thee? And where does self-love fit into Valentine’s Day?
This article will take us on a journey to discover ways in which we innocently and unconsciously limit our own potential by denying ourselves the love and compassion we offer to others. Self-love has been my learning edge, meaning it is where I have devoted my readings and research for the past two decades. I am affectionately known as the language police in my inner circles as I know the power of words to change my life. My intention is to share some tips and tricks I have learned to help you raise your consciousness of the power of language and why those internal dialogues matter.
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who does not desire and need love. We are preconditioned by society and our life experiences to give and receive love. It is human nature. As newborns, we learn to seek and feel love through touch and needing consistent re-assurance that someone will take care of our every need. As children, we learn to seek and feel love through our behaviours and actions, both positive and negative. As youth, we expand from our inner circles and seek to find love with friends and through romance. As adults, we continue to navigate this path and grow in our understanding of love based on the combination of all our experiences. We are preconditioned to believe that love is something we seek outside of ourselves. And Valentine’s Day reinforces this culture of love as giving and receiving.
In Atlas of the Heart, Brene Brown states “Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can be cultivated between two people only when it exists within each one of them – we can love others only as much as we love ourselves.”
Deep down we all know this and yet we don’t give our own internal dialogues nearly as much attention as we give when we communicate with others. Why is that? Because as human beings we are habitual and unless we raise our awareness and become curious about our own thoughts, they remain unconscious. Those inner dialogues and the choice of words we use have the potential to erode who we are and reduce the amount of love we give ourselves. We limit our own potential by not paying attention to our language and what we tell ourselves. We also limit the capacity of love we have for others and our own capacity to receive love.
Ever heard change your mind and your thoughts and you will change your life? Mostof us have been exposed to the concept that our thoughts impact our results. As a writer, in my professional and personal life, I know the importance of words. Yet, I was choosing to ignore my internal dialogues and perpetuated society’s culture that love was something I gave and received from others…not myself. My religious upbringing is a whole different topic and if you were raised to practice a religion, consider how those beliefs impact your working definition of love. Religion is where I learned that love was conditional and now, I know unconditional love is possible. I’m working on expanding that unconditional love towards myself using the lens of compassion.
In the past decade, I gave my inner dialogues more attention by slicing it thin – looking for patterns in words. I learned that I use words to withhold love from myself and at times, bully myself forward for the sake of another achievement. I began to see patterns where those inner dialogues took me to a place of regret where I would ruminate about the experience long after it was over and done! Some of you may recognize this pattern of resisting your own results. There is nothing loving about holding on to regret about something I cannot change! And if I stay down there long enough, I might even begin to feel shame and guilt. The idea is to be genuinely curious and have some fun learning about the ways in which you may deny your self love. Society has already done a good job of telling you all the ways you show up that are not okay! Let’s look at ways to stop this cycle now.
Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve
One of the biggest patterns I discovered is the use of the words ‘should’ve’, ‘could’ve’, ‘would’ve’. These were words I used often in my inner dialogues and journal writings. As I increased my awareness of these words I realized, to my horror, that I also used them with others where I had authority. Using any of these words kept me in the past, reliving the experience, and telling myself who I was in that moment was not good enough, not smart enough, not competent enough, etc. The use of these words was sucking my energy dry and keeping me stuck. Let me share an example.
Being an open book is something I admire about myself and yet it often gets me in trouble. I’ve been in several important business meetings when something came out of my mouth that I regretted, usually the minute the words came out. I have not even left the meeting and my internal dialogue has started to psychoanalyze each word and my imagination or inner critic is set loose. If only I had said ‘this’ instead, I would have come across the right way. Saying ‘this’ would have been more professional. Oh Honey-Ray, that was stupid! I should keep my thoughts to myself moving forward. Then I move on to I could reach out to so and so and get feedback and hear their thoughts. My experience is that we use these words often and they continue to reinforce a withholding of love, beginning with the self. It permeates a culture that love is conditional, starting with the conditions you have placed on your love for yourself. And if by chance what I regret saying had the potential to harm another, regrets’ friends, guilt and shame, will find their way to the party!
Hot tip: Start listening and paying attention to your self talk and see how you use the would’ve, should’ve, could’ve words to recreate the scenarios in your life and make yourself wrong. Find a way to keep reminding yourself – I like visuals and am very animated. I pretend to shoo away a bug over my shoulder while repeating out loud ‘don’t should’ve, would’ve, could’ve on me’. And that is enough for me to raise my awareness and adjust to a more gentle, compassionate lens. From there, I can ask myself now what?
As I continue to practice increased awareness of these words and limit my use of them with myself and others, I have a greater sense of freedom to be me, express myself fully, and a deeper sense of inner peace. I experience self-acceptance and self-love at a different level.
When parents use of the words should’ve, could’ve and would’ve of, we are perpetuating a culture of self-judgement rather than encouraging a culture of self-love. Most of us are unconscious of the impact our words have. This is not about being a good or bad parent, this is about what you learned in your early years. We’ve all heard the adage that we teach people how to treat us. If I don’t allow self-love to permeate my relationship with myself then I cannot allow it in our relationship. Remember you can only give love to the extent that you give yourself love.
Another way language showed up for me big time were accidents and mishaps. I continued to tell myself I was a klutz for years – a word my mom used to describe me forever. She meant no harm by it and eventually I took it on as my own. Why? Because that’s what we do as human beings. I call these characteristics because the words we tend to use in these situations are words others have used to describe us. And its not that the characteristics themselves are bad, but they are usually things you don’t love or even like about yourself. Let’s look at a simple example.
You know it! I would stub my toe and call myself all kinds of friendly and not so friendly terms like stupid, can’t you watch where you are going, what is wrong with you, and so on. In those moments I could hear my mom’s voice say you are a klutz, Lucie. You need to pay attention to where you are going and so on. Those voices and the characteristics continue to have an impact until you change the dialogue. How many times do you berate yourself or talk to yourself under your breath? Are there particular areas of your life where you are more likely to have inner dialogue that does not reflect loving words?
My health and my body are one area where I deny myself love in exchange for some grand achievement. In my mid fifties, I was encouraged to train and compete in a body competition. Long after the competition was over, I was working out and giving myself royal heck for my inability to complete my three sets of 10 to 12 reps. In perspective, I weighed under 135 lbs and was attempting to complete bench presses with 100lb weights! It was like a light went on for me that day. I asked myself why I was pushing my body so hard. Not one answer was compelling enough for me to continue. I now choose to treat my body with gentleness and care so it can sustain me and serve in the longer term.
Would you use the words you use in your self talk with others? So why use them to describe yourself? What makes you less worthy of love and compassion than others in your life? These are some of the questions I use to help me get curious.
Hot tip: I use a lot of humour in my self-talk. It’s one of the ways I have learned to turn the voices of the past and society down while I turn my ‘magical chuckle’ way up. This strategy shifts my energy immediately. Using the stub toe example, my reaction might still be F*&% you klutz, and the next line will be ‘kiss it better?’ which is what my grandkids ask for each time they hurt any part of their body. Humour allows me to return to a state of childlike wonder and the magic of making it better.
There is one last piece I want to address, and it is one of the decades top hit words – self-care! The topic is big enough for an article of its own. Suffice to say, for now, that what began as a self-care movement to help us feed our souls has evolved to become a way people show others how much love they give themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I believe wholeheartedly in self-care. I have solid daily rituals that include journaling, exercise, and communing with nature. These all cost very little and each one fills my soul with love and connects me to my purpose and the fulfillment I want to experience in life. What do you define as self-care and is it an act or words that express self-love? If you get a pedicure every month, is it an act of self-love or self-care? I believe there is a difference.
I want to leave you with words of wisdom from Neil Strauss: “Perhaps the biggest mistake I’ve made in the past was that I believed love was about finding the right person. In reality, love is about becoming the right person. Don’t look for the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Become the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.” An inner dialogue of self-love and compassion creates space for more love and compassion in all your relationships. Treat every day like Valentine’s Day and give yourself and those you care about the gift of love.
I am called to help humanity transform darkness into light: illuminating pathways to love. My personal healing journey led me to gain a deep understanding about the pieces of me I consider dark and how these limit our potential to love others and ourselves fully. My deeply rooted desire for self-love led me to 30 years of research, group and one-on-one facilitated sessions, and an exploration of what others might consider tough topics – on the dark side. If this article inspired you and piqued your curiosity, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. My website www.life-changesconsulting.com will launch in Spring 2022!