Confession time: I’ve been hiding like crazy.

For the past month, I’ve been feeling stuck and blocked off from the qualities I talk about and try to embody as much as possible: compassion, spaciousness, acceptance, appreciation, presence. Everything felt like an enormous effort. Just being me felt like too much work. Nothing was flowing: not my writing, not my coaching, not my creativity.

I told my husband a little of this on Saturday, already dreading the Monday when I would have to suit up and try to be somebody – somebody who had it together, who was confident and relaxed and knew what to do next. He responded by playing me a pop song by Colbie Caillat. When she asks, “Do you like you?” I realized that no, I don’t always like myself that much. At some points (like the past few weeks), I’ve downright despised myself for being weak or anxious or lazy or indecisive.

As a recovering perfectionist, I know that blame, fear, guilt, and bullying are not great ways to motivate myself. They’ve worked in the past, but it’s not a sustainable model if I want to be both successful and happy. What’s left to motivate me and help me get unstuck when I take away the negative cattle prods goading me forward?

Oh, crap. Anything but self-love. Please?

Saying that I love myself sounds audacious at best and arrogant at worst. I want to retreat into middle-school parlance: “I mean, I like myself, but not like-like, you know?” Saying it, even to myself, feels like blurting it out on a first date. I don’t know that I’m ready for that level of commitment, you know?

But if I don’t commit to myself, with all my beautiful flaws and idiosyncrasies, I don’t know that it’s fair to ask anyone else to do the same. If I don’t believe that I’m truly worthy of the highest good that’s available to me, I’ll never feel confident in accepting it. I’ll always feel like an imposter, like I’m cashing in on someone else’s success. I won’t reach out for the opportunities that come my way – may not even see them – because I don’t believe things like that happen to me.

I downloaded a little book this weekend called “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It.” The author, at the bottom of a well of sickness and depression, decides that he’ll just keep repeating “I love myself” until he starts to believe it. As it sinks in, his life begins to turn around. There are worse practices to try.

I got practice in loving myself this weekend, when we went grocery shopping. After a week-long vacation in California, I’d gotten used to having fresh fruit around. I really wanted to bring that into my morning: berries, peaches, apricots. The taste of earth and bright sunshine. I always never buy berries because they always seem so expensive. I spied a container of apricots, little fuzzy golden gems glowing under the fluorescent lights. They, too, seemed pricey. As I stood there, agonizing over a few dollars’ worth of fruit, the question popped into my mind, “If I truly loved myself, would I buy these?” and the answer was a swift and unequivocal yes. Into the cart they went.

Now, those apricots are so much more than fruit. They’re a symbol of saying yes to loving myself. I open the fridge and there they are, a golden reminder of love. When I eat one, I feel loved all over again, which reminds and inspires me to continue the practice.

What’s more, I’m feeling refreshed and re-inspired. As I fell asleep last night, an idea for a new project drifted into my mind. I awoke this morning, eager to take action. What changed? Not much. All I did was stop trying so hard, say “it’s okay” to my pain and discomfort, and make the intention to love myself more. Such a small shift, but I can already feel it rippling out into the rest of my life.

Now I’m dreaming even bigger and imagining a culture of self-love, where we don’t seek to fill our emptiness with food and possessions and other people, but instead are welling over with love for ourselves that spreads to our interactions with the rest of the world. A culture free of desperation and striving and endless approval-seeking, where we make good choices because we know we deserve the best, not because we fear the consequences of choosing wrongly. A culture where no one else’s love or approval is needed for our own well-being, but is often freely given anyway. Can you imagine it? What would that be like? And how can you help yourself feel loved today?

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