How do you get better at something? You practice. This applies to anything and everything, no matter the subject or the length of time you may have already spent on it. If you want to get better, you practice. 

Self-love is no different. Gratitude is no different. Living the life that you want to lead is no different. You are able to make the shifts necessary to love yourself more, appreciate life, and live your dreams if you are willing to put in the practice.

So what does that actually mean? What does it look like to be in the practice of self-love? 

I lost myself in my relationships

Recently I have been processing two different breakups and for the first time in 11 years I find myself needing to show up for myself as the true foundation to my happiness. That might seem obvious or even basic knowledge, but being in a relationship for over a decade straight, I’ve come to realize how much of my happiness I was assigning to someone else. 

If I was feeling happy, in a good energetic place, I’d be all over my self-love activities. I’d be crushing it when it came to my exercise, meditation, eating habits, etc.

But then there would be those days or weeks where I felt so low, where it felt like the world was overwhelming, I was stressed or sad. During these times, I would rely on my romantic partner.

I’d go to them and, in a way, I’d use them to help me feel better. The immediate response of being hugged, kissed, and told how much I was loved became my go-to response to feelings of heaviness. And why wouldn’t it? It was easy and it felt so good. Wasn’t this the whole point of a relationship after all?

Being single was a teaching moment

It wasn’t until recently, being on my own, that I truly began to see how much room I had to develop my ability to show up for myself in these moments. To still rely on a relationship to feel better, but a relationship with myself, because I am the one person that I can always count on being there no matter what.

And there’s a rule that I live by that is simple to understand, and yet sometimes not so easy to implement: give from the overflow. To fill up our own cup so much that we are never depleting ourselves energetically in order to help others.

In my travels and work, I meet so many incredible humans who are such givers. They care so much about others that they are willing to run themselves into the ground giving and giving, putting their own mental, emotional, and physical health as an afterthought.

But in reality, this is not sustainable. Burnout is inevitable. And how much can we help others if we are completely rundown. And so the foundation of a healthy relationship with ourselves begins with us filling our cups first. This can be done in two steps.

Step 1: allow difficult emotions to move through

This steps begins with listening to yourself. Listening to what your body, mind, and heart are feeling and starting to understand what they are asking for.

Are you feeling sad?  Don’t spend time judging yourself for it. There’s no need to feel any shame for how you feel, because it’s what you feel and it’s worthy of being felt. Give yourself permission to create a safe space to feel it.

Maybe that’s just 10 minutes locked in the bathroom where you know you won’t be disturbed and you can cry. Feeling angry? Self-love might look like going on a hike and screaming from the top of a mountain. 

There’s no wrong way to process your emotions as long as you aren’t hurting yourself or someone else in the process. And HOW you process  is simply based on what YOU enjoy. What works for YOU.

And this is learned through practice. Do you even know what works for you? Do you have an idea of what helps you feel better when you’re sad or angry? It’s okay if not, since you’ll learn quickly and get better with time. 

Step 2: fill the new space with something more desirable

Anytime we move emotions through our system, it creates room for new emotion. Most people have had the experience of crying deeply and feeling better afterwards. That’s what happens when we move heavier emotions because under the surface is more love.

It’s the essence of who we are. But far fewer people spend time intentionally designing what they want after a good cry or after a healthy screaming session. And yet, this step is incredibly powerful in the overall process.

What is it you are calling into your life? Is it more gratitude? Is it more fun? Is it more joy? Once you let yourself feel the heavy emotion and move that energy through in some way, tune in to how you desire to feel now.

For me, I’ve released a lot of sadness over the last few months, and I know that I desire to feel more appreciation for myself. So in the times I’ve been feeling sad, I allow myself to move physically through dance, exercise, or stretching. This will often lead to a good cry.

After I allow that cry to release the emotion, I spend time appreciating myself. Thinking about how proud I am of my willingness to feel.  Acknowledging myself for the courage to face my pain. That’s the routine. It’s really that simple. 

After months of intentionally doing these steps I am noticing some major shifts in how I feel. I am seeing how much more often I am feeling love for who I am and for the gift of this life. I am spending less time in the heavy emotional states that used to dominate most of my waking hours. I’m experiencing more restful sleep and no longer waking up in the middle of the night from stressful dreams. It’s working.

And I’m not going to stop my practice now that it’s working. I’m intentionally doing the opposite. I’m feeling better, so I’m using that as motivation to keep going. I am doubling down and spending more time doing these activities.

Self-love for me is a journey, not a destination

It’s giving me the confidence to go deeper, because I’m trusting the process more and I’m also trusting my ability to handle it. I’m developing my practice into habit, which is how it becomes embodied. I know that over time, I won’t have to worry about how to love myself, because I’ll be living it.

I will be a walking billboard for what self-love looks like and that will inspire those around me to go on the journey for themselves. And that drives me. That’s the overflow that I’m so excited to share with the world. 

You get to be that as well. You get to inspire and encourage those around you to love themselves more, by first learning to do it for yourself. And that’ll come with time. And practice. The fact that you’re reading this shows you want more self-love. It also means that you’re willing to invest your time and energy into developing it.

That’s incredible and I want to acknowledge you for it. You’re doing great. Remember to have fun while you continue practicing and to celebrate the moments you notice you’re getting better at it. You’ve got this.

If you want to go deeper into this subject and hear some practical activities I have been using in my self-love practice, I invite you to listen to “Why It’s Called A Self-Love Practice” which is a podcast I recorded on the topic. You can find it on Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud, or watch the video on Youtube. If you want daily inspiration, you are welcome to follow me on Instagram or Facebook, where I’m posting everyday.

Furthermore, you can also check out my Facebook live training on how to love yourself first so you can love your life more.

You are not alone in this journey. Thank you for being on it with me. As always, in all ways…

You are seen.

You are heard.

You are loved.

With love,

Adam Roa