The journey of life is one of learning self-love. Each and every day, we are presented with endless opportunities to practice this beautiful act of reverence toward ourselves. The ability to love ourselves, without condition, is a gift bestowed upon all of us, if we are willing to listen, love, and learn. Here are 10 ways that life is always encouraging you to practice self-love.

1. Using negative self-talk. Every instance that you notice yourself engaging in negative self-talk is an opportunity to reverse the pattern by reminding yourself that you are a human being with infinite incredible qualities, who is alive for a very important reason, and who is worthy of getting everything you want in life. Maybe you picked it up from watching how your mother, father, sibling, or relative related to him or herself. Whatever the case, negative self-talk is a bad habit that takes you further away from the true essence of who you are, and it is a beautiful opportunity to practice self-love.

2. Judging yourself. Throughout our lives, we establish a perception of “me”. Every experience we go through, when we attach meaning to it, adds to this “me”. Be mindful of the labels you use to characterize yourself. If I asked you “who are you?” what would you say? Would you be likely to say you are someone who enjoys nature, social gatherings, and exercise (neutral labels that don’t carry a lot of emotional weight)? Would you be likely to say you are a kind-hearted person with a lot to offer the world (charged labels that carry positive emotional consequences)? Or would you be likely to say you are a no-good person who can’t ever do anything right (charged labels that carry negative emotional baggage)? Self-judgment often arises as a result of ascribing meaning to an otherwise meaning-less situation. So be careful as to what you make the events in your life mean. Use instances of self-judgment to rewrite the story you tell yourself about yourself. Take advantage of this incredible opportunity to practice self-love.

3. Comparing yourself to others. We don’t live in isolation. Every day we encounter people who are different than we are. “Different”. Not “better than”. The tendency to compare yourself to others is a sign that you are not acknowledging your worth as a human being. You are instead allowing your worth to be determined by how you stack up to the people around you, whether by status, looks, personality traits, wealth, or some other measure of “being good enough”. It too is an opportunity to practice self-love.

4. Feeling shame. Shame is an emotion we feel when we believe that, at our core, we are somehow wrong, flawed, bad, or unworthy because of something we’ve done, didn’t do, or went through. Rather than letting a poor choice, mistake or instance when we didn’t act in our best character be a fleeting situation, we let it inform who we think we are (our self-identity) and how worthy of love and connection we are. The next time you make a mistake that sets your team back at work or you do or say something that hurts someone else’s feelings and you feel shame creeping in, tell yourself that yes, you made a mistake but you are not a mistake. Acknowledge that something you did or didn’t do is not an indication of who you are or are not and use the experience of shame as an opportunity to practice self-love.

5. Needing to say no. What kind of life would you live if all you did was say “yes” to anything and everything asked of you? One of limited time, restricted personal freedom, and wavering happiness, perhaps? Life is meant to be lived feeling free, not trapped. That’s why life is asking you to learn to say no and dissolve the fear of letting someone else down. Know that you come first and that you cannot control other people’s reactions nor can you control the degree to which they do or don’t love you. All the more reason to love yourself. Again. And again. And again. So any time you need to say no, remember that this too is an opportunity to practice self-love.

6. Conflict in your friendships and/or relationships. Any time you feel an urge to engage in an argument or some sort of conflict with a partner, friend, family member, colleague, or anyone else in your life is an indication that something isn’t feeling right to you. Perhaps your needs aren’t being met or your values are being challenged. This type of situation, if approached consciously, is a true gift. Your soul is asking you to tune in to what is important to you, to let your needs be heard, and to find resolutions that invite more love into your life. So go within, allow yourself to feel the discord between what is happening and what you really want, and tend to the needs of your precious heart. Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to practice self-love.

7. Going through difficult times. There is not one person alive who lives 365 days a year without some fluctuation of their life experience from negative to positive and everywhere in between. This is because the contrast is important for us to experience as human beings who are always evolving into a greater version of themselves. It asks us to care for ourselves in a way that is more soft, loving, and pure than when everything is simply going well. It asks us to practice self-compassion, to acknowledge – with our hearts and our minds – the tenderness of our human experience, and to be fully present with ourselves in our most trying and vulnerable moments. Unlike any other life experience, it not only asks for, but demands, that you practice self-love.

8. Physical pain or discomfort. We can stuff emotional pain away for years before it makes a roaring comeback. Physical pain, on the other hand, immediately demands our attention. Often a representation of the emotional pain we’ve long stuffed down, physical pain and discomfort enters our life experience to ask of us a love we may never have experienced before. “Can I accept this new reality I am experiencing even though it is unpleasant?”, “Can I ask for what I need?”, “Can I be courageous enough to delve into the emotional roots of this pain?”, and “Can I love myself even and especially with this pain?” are all questions that you may find yourself asking if you are someone for whom aches and pains are a routine part of life. Know that you can heal your pain. Know that pain is an invitation to practice self-love.

9. Weight gain. How much of your self-identity is wrapped up in what you look like and how much you weigh? In a society that judges based on appearance, gaining weight can feel like failure. But it doesn’t have to. It depends on what you choose to ascribe your self-worth to. Are only people who look a certain way worthy of love? The answer is no. What, then, makes someone worthy of love? Your heart makes you worthy of love. Your soul makes you worthy of love. The fact that you are alive inherently makes you worthy of love. After all, you wouldn’t be born into a Universe that you didn’t belong in and weren’t an important part of. So the next time you notice a few extra inches or pounds, embrace it as a gift you’ve been given and an opportunity to love yourself no matter how much you weigh, no matter what you look like, and no matter how much or how little you resemble a centerfold model.

10. Health issues. Issues with the functioning of our physical body often arise at inopportune times. Heck, is there really ever a convenient time to experience a deterioration in health? Probably not. In another sense, however, health issues often are  perfectly timed in that they tend to arise after periods during which we’ve been ignoring our own emotional and/or physical health. Learning of a problem with our health invites us to slow down, to reflect on how we may be living in discord with our heart and soul, to refocus on what’s really, truly important to us, and to care for ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Because life does not exist without health, issues with our health – unlike any other disturbance – encourage us to practice self-love in a big way. “Love me or cease to be,” your body says. “Love me or cease to be,” your inner self echoes. This, above all, is an unparalleled opportunity to practice self-love.

All of life is an opportunity to practice self-love. A love that you are worthy of. A love that was yours from the very beginning. So go on, reclaim that love and let it infuse your very beingness with the joy, passion, and fulfillment that marks a life worth living.

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