Do you love yourself?

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Do you love yourself? Turns out, I don’t.

Earlier this year, I did a workshop called Free Your Future. As part of it, I had to write down things from my past that I felt had caused me hurt.

Then, the facilitator asked us how those events make us feel now.

My answer came very quickly: inadequate.

I don’t think I’m useless or a terrible person; just not good enough.

Straight away, I could see how this plays out in my business, my relationships, my health, how I feel about my body, my family… pretty much everything.

I was left feeling daunted — turning this around is going to be a big job — but also hopeful. As they say, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

I had a similar experience when I first started to meditate. Up until that point in my life, I’d always thought I was fine. Not stressed, anxious, sad or angry, just fine. With everything, all the time.

But when I really started to pay attention to my internal experience, I realised I was distracted, tense, fidgety — really not comfortable in my body or at peace in my mind. I also noticed that the more I meditated, the more these things began to change — quite quickly, in fact.

I remember feeling, a few weeks into meditating every day, the most calm I could ever remember feeling. I had a realisation that I used to think I had lots of problems, but really I only ever had one problem: not having a calm mind.

A friend called me during that time and asked me how I was, and I said, ‘I’m not fine, and I’m absolutely delighted about it!’

It might sound strange, but I felt complete trust that bringing awareness of not being fine meant that a totally transformative, healing process was unfolding.

And that’s how I feel now. I’m at the start of another leg of the journey. As the poet Han Shan wrote, ‘There is no path that goes all the way.’

One of the things I’ve done to address it is to start seeing a therapist for the first time in my life. I’ve done lots of coaching and workshops, wellbeing practices and, of course, meditation, but never therapy.

It’s been uncomfortable, but very valuable, to talk through some of the painful experiences that have happened in my life and see how they are affecting the way I relate to people now.

Another discovery has been ‘mindful self-compassion’, as taught by Dr Kristin Neff. It was revealing to do her self-compassion test and see how low I scored. It did feel a little bit like giving myself another reason to feel inadequate — failing at self-compassion! But I feel encouraged knowing that her research has shown that when people do her course, on average, they significantly improve their self-compassion.

It feels vulnerable to write this because, as a coach and someone who teaches meditation, I feel a kind of pressure to be more ‘sorted’ than other people. But one of the things I really like about Dr Neff’s approach is that even she doesn’t claim to have perfected her own teachings: she says she’s still working with the messiness of her own life and self-criticism.

I highly recommend her meditations on the free app Insight Timer, and her workbook and online courses, which I’m starting next month.

I think we could all benefit from learning to be a bit kinder to ourselves.