We hear about this kind of thing and there are no shortage of articles on loving and caring for ourselves, but what exactly does it mean and how can we explore this from a functional angle? Perhaps if we start from a theoretical viewpoint: what are the things I do that do not serve me? Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:
1) Nutritional habits. When I eat something that is "naughty" does it become less and less enjoyable (the law of diminishing returns), yet I continue to pursue the habit, ignoring the little voice that tells me it's a waste of time/energy/money. Or perhaps I drink alcohol when I could just as easily not drink. Or smoke a cigarette - people are still doing this, btw.
2) Relationships. Am I engaging with people that don't make me feel that great about myself, or perhaps don't contribute to the relationship in the way that makes me feel fulfilled, when I walk away? 3) Boundaries. Am I allowing my boundaries to be compromised in relationships, to the point that I feel some kind of self-loathing or discomfort when this happens?
4) Priorities. Am I feeling hollow and empty in my life and not following through with things that I want to do for ME, because I am not putting my needs first - that's selfish, right?
5) Work. Am I in a job/career that I loathe, but I have neither the drive nor the energy to quit and do something that I really like?
6) Fitting in. Am I feeling like an "outsider" in the world, because my interests are deviating from the interests of my friends and family. Do they not accept my new interests, or am I afraid to even share about them?
All of these questions indicate that we might be experiencing an existential "crisis." The good news is that it is not uncommon and there are many things that we can do about this.
Meditation, discipline and exercise are a good start.
Make new friends. With the availability of the internet, we can also align ourselves with individuals or groups that share our interests. A virtual friend is as good as a 3D friend when we are looking to make changes. A positive motivator is a good thing, however we look at it, and online groups and friendships can lead to greater things.
But back to the main question: how do we love ourselves?
It's as simple as this: we give ourselves more of our time, instead of giving it to others who don't receive it well. We give ourselves more of our attention, so that we can begin to transform, to redirect our energy towards things that "feel" right, that "feel" appropriate. We make time for our interests, and we allow ourselves to explore. We might need a little courage to break out of the old or to enter into the new, but we are gentle with ourselves and give ourselves as much time as we need to feel comfortable. In the meantime, we take good care of ourselves. We eat right, or we start to learn to eat right. We rest, we exercise and we slowly become the person that we feel comfortable being. Taking care of ourselves and applying self-love means taking the time it takes to make a change. And all good things will come as a result.