Hint: Your parenting skills may by transferrable.
When we go through tough times, especially involving heartbreak, we all get the same advice: love yourself. For a long time I aspired toward that goal but had no idea how to actually do it. It was sort of like waiting for God to speak to me when I was 7 years old the way my mom said he spoke to her. “What does it sound like when God speaks to you?” I’d ask.
After the umpteenth time of reading Codependent No More, I began to understand just how important it is to love yourself, but I still didn’t have any concrete steps for doing it other than the self care tips in the book. I started feeling better by setting my own life goals and making self care a priority. But there was still something missing.
What Self Love Feels Like
My understanding of how to love yourself went one step further when I stumbled onto Mimi Clark’s Twin Flame Journey posts. For the sake of simplicity, let’s think of “twin flame” as a romantic partner. Remember what it felt like the last time you were in love? In You are the Hero of Your Twin Flame Journey, Mimi says:
What you felt with your twin, was something that exists in you at this very moment. The light you felt was light within magnetized to the surface by the connection. It’s not up to your twin to fulfill you…it’s not up to your twin to bring you your joy. What you feel in that connection is a reflection of who you are, and a glimmer of the energy you are capable of. It’s time to notice how you feel, and where you may be relying on energy out side of you to feel good or feel better.
But there was still something I didn’t realize.
How Self Love Really Works
My love yourself ah-ha moment came during a conversation with parenting coach Christina Cline Schneider. The focus of our discussion was co-parenting, but when she reached her explanation about feelings and needs, I stopped her mid-sentence. Something had clicked in my head:
True, feel-good self love comes from recognizing and meeting our own needs.
What I’m talking about here is targeted self care on steroids. This is beyond bubble baths and pedicures. Here’s how to do it.
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
Like Mimi said, it’s time to notice how you feel. This is something I’m helping my 3 year old learn to do by reflecting his feelings back to him in concrete language. When he throws himself on the ground and cries, I say “You seem upset.” When he runs in circles and laughs, I say “You’re happy today!” As adults we can refine our vocabulary even more by sitting with our feelings and trying on different names for them—uncomfortable, overwhelmed, anxious, rested, peaceful, content.
2. Identify Your Needs
Behind every feeling is a met or unmet need. Christina uses the 5 As to sum up our children’s needs: acceptance, attention, affection, appreciation, and autonomy. As adults going through divorce or other traumatic life change, some of our common needs are sleep, touch, safety, exercise, nourishment, community, and humor.
3. Meet Your Own Needs
We’re really good at figuring out what our children need and how to give it to them. What if we parented ourselves with that same level of attention and love? We’d probably feel better and act better, just like well-cared-for children. Some of us may need to start with the basics of 3 healthy meals per day, 8 hours of sleep at night, and a bubble bath or pedicure to make us feel like functioning, sane humans. But don’t forget about those more advanced needs like safety and love.
Self Love in Action
One of my biggest challenges is meeting my own need to feel safe, worthy, and loved all by myself on my own two feet with my boys at my side as a single mom with or without a man. I’ve written earlier in Happily Ever Anxious about my constant craving for approval and reassurance in the dating arena. Part of meeting that need has been reading books like Codependent No More and writing posts like the one you’re reading right now to better understand what it means to love yourself.
Christina gave me another concrete tool for meeting these needs. During our conversation she asked if I would be willing to place sticky notes on my bathroom mirror with phrases like “I’m okay. I’m good. I’m safe. I’m worthy. I’m loved.”
It may sound a little hokey, but I think she’s onto something. Part of self love involves rewiring our brains and our lifelong patterns. We have to learn to speak kindly to ourselves and not feel guilty for showing ourselves so much attention.
Meeting our own needs can be transformative in mastering our feelings and understanding our behavior through life’s difficult transitions. We spend so much time focusing on others—our children, our exes, and our current partners. It’s time to find out what’s possible when we finally master the art of self love.
If you’d like to learn more about understanding feelings and needs for yourself and your children, sign up for Christina’s newsletter and check out this free Feelings Inventory and Needs Inventory from the Center for Nonviolent Communication.
How are you feeling right now? And what is your biggest need in this moment?