You know that thing where a friend asks you what superpower you’d most want to have? Then you say something like, “Flying,” and your friend looks aghast and says, “Seriously, flying? Invisibility is way better than that.” And then maybe someone else suggests that mind-reading would be cool, or super-strength, or super-speed. Or maybe it’s just you two, arguing over “flying” versus “Invisibility” for days.
I admit it. I always love that conversation. I love hearing why people want the powers they want, and I even like the way we all get indignant over the suggestion that the power we want isn’t actually the best. In the end, of course, it doesn’t matter. No one flies. No one turns invisible. The laws of physics still hold sway.
But even within the constraints of our merely mortal reality, I believe that superpowers exist, and I’m more and more convinced that love—our ability to give and receive it—is the most useful superpower of all. It lies at the center of our most meaningful acts. It connects us to each other and to our planet. It fuels our best work and our bravest art. In the final moments of our lives, how well we loved will be the measure of how well we lived. And all love begins with self-love.
Self-love (or its lack in our lives) affects everything from our health, to our choice of work and mate. Armed with self-love, we’re less likely to act in self-sabotaging ways or to audition for the love and attention of others. Rather we expect to be happy, to live fulfilled lives with people who care about us. When we accept and value ourselves, we move differently in the world. We stop comparing ourselves to others. We speak up, confident in the value of our voices. We stop worrying about whether we fit in, and focus instead on living happier, more meaningful lives.
So, if self-love is such a great (and achievable) superpower, why aren’t more of us busy trying to master it?
There are many reasons. First, we’re busy. We have bills to pay and schedules to maintain. We have people who depend on us; if something has to fall off our plate, it is the path of least resistance to make sure that something is ourselves.
Second, we know ourselves really well. We know when we fall short of our own expectations. We know when we let fear stop us from leaping. We know when we’re making excuses, when our thoughts are less than generous, when we haven’t put forth our best effort. We know, and we judge. That thing about all of us being our own worst critic? It’s true. And we can be quite brutal in our own condemnation; we would never talk to other people the way we all too often talk to ourselves.
Third, and maybe this one is the hardest to fix, our society doesn’t really value self-love. We talk a good game, but in truth, we value busy-ness. Say no to someone because your life is so full there’s no more white space on the calendar, and we will understand. We’ll applaud your obviously productive life. Say no because you’re carving out time for your passion, your art, or just your own personal space, and suddenly you’re on the defensive. As a society, we understand your obligations far better than we do your personal evolution.
But self-love is so critical to our health and wellbeing, I believe it’s worth the effort it takes to make it a practice. Like yoga or meditation, I believe self-love is a not only a way of being, but a skill we can learn through daily practice. The actions don’t have to big. You don’t have to go on a pilgrimage or treat yourself to a spa weekend. Every time you engage yourself creatively, it’s an act of self-love. Every time you take a minute to be playful or delighted, it’s an act of self-love. Every time you follow your curiosity, or choose to forgive yourself, or let go of some ill-fitting old story that no longer suits you, it’s an act of self-love.
Want to get started? Here are three self-love suggestions that are fun, fulfilling, and easily incorporated into your day:
Instead of heading to the local deli or cafeteria for lunch, go to a park; read a book, shoot some hoops, lie on the grass under a tree. Ride your grocery cart back to the stall. Perform a random act of kindness. Play hooky. Go barefoot. Break a routine. Surprise yourself.
It doesn’t really matter what you create. Make art out of discarded things. Build the perfect pizza. Write a poem. Compose a song. Construct a city out of playing cards. Make up a new cocktail and name it after yourself. Engaging creatively is a like a full-body workout for the soul.
Let go of something
Whether it’s a limiting belief, a toxic relationship, an old guilt, or maybe a goal you’re no longer interested in achieving, there is no faster way to lose weight, then to let go of your own useless baggage. I find burning ceremonies are helpful. Write down on a piece of paper the thing you’re letting go of. Use tongs to hold it over a flame until it catches fire, then watch it burn. Try to feel it inside you, the space that gets created as you watch this thing that no longer serves you literally turn to ashes and disappear. (No worries if burning ceremonies aren’t your thing. All that’s required is your conscious decision to Let. It. Go.)