We often find it difficult to love ourselves first. Why is that? Perhaps we got the message from a young age that putting our needs first, or even loving ourselves, was selfish. And selfish is bad (right!?), so be sure to always consider others first. How has that internalized message been working of you? It's silly to fight with old standing beliefs we have about ourselves that no longer serve us. Instead, it's more helpful to acknowledge what is true (in this case that self compassion is healthy and not selfish) and stick to it, even when it means redirecting yourself over and over again.
Loving yourself, and putting yourself first, is healthy and ultimately the best for all of those connected to you. When you love yourself first, you bring your whole, lovely, presence to interactions with others. Alternatively, when you have difficulty showing yourself love, you will have difficulty caring for your own needs. This can lead to illness, for example, which means you're too run down to care for others.
Today I recorded a loving-kindness meditation that I have lead clients through in individual and group sessions. It's a wonderful practice to cultivate warm, fuzzy, heart centered energy toward others and yourself. For a lot of people, it is easier to feel love for certain others - or for pets - than it is to feel love for themselves. So first in the meditation we will practice cultivating loving-kindness toward others. Then you'll engage in the often difficult task of receiving loving-kindness for yourself.
The meditation takes about 10 minutes, so you'll want to set aside some time without distractions. Whatever that means for you, do it. Making time to practice this meditation is an act of self love. Get situated in a comfortable, upright position. And if you'd like, you can let your eyes close after you press "play."
Now that you've practiced loving-kindness, how do you feel? Are there some lingering judgments about yourself, or about the way the meditation was structured? Were you able to cultivate love and related emotions and sensations for others? For yourself?
When done on a regular (daily, weekly) basis, loving-kindness meditation and practice has been shown to increase pleasant emotions and feelings of connectedness with others. In this practice, you give loving-kindness to both others and to yourself. I hypothesize that when we feel more love toward ourselves, we feel better and we are better equipped to connect with and enjoy the company of others.
If you liked this post and exercise, you might also enjoy mindfulness of breathing.