A couple of weeks ago, I was preparing to assist at a 3-day impact intensive personal development program, and one of my roles was to take care of the program leader’s welfare.
I had a phone chat with him to go over his welfare requirements, and I declared that I intended to fulfil the responsibilities of this role from a place of love.
That was when has asked me this question (somewhat paraphrased because I don’t recall the exact wording):
“Over this past one week, what’s one thing you have done that was an act of love for yourself?”
My mind went blank, and I couldn’t answer. The first thought that surfaced from the blankness: I don’t even remember what happened this past week!
I opened the browser on my laptop and looked at my Google calendar, and that’s when I saw how it had been a crazy week for me — preparing for my roles for the 3-day program had taken up the bulk of my time; plus on top of my usual work tasks, I had started running two vlog series on YouTube, and submitting my latest animation to film festivals.
I realised that for the past 1.5 weeks, I had barely slept more than 4 hours each night, I hadn’t taken a day off, and even when it came to my meals I was grabbing whatever was convenient rather than what I truly enjoyed.
And that’s when it occurred to me that if I can’t even take the time to show and give love to myself, how can I show love for someone else? If I can’t even prioritise my own welfare and well-being, how effective would I really be at prioritising another person’s?
In the little everyday moments of our lives, showing and giving love to ourselves can be as simple as taking a few hours off for adventure or our hobbies or doing whatever we want, having our favourite food and savouring every single bite, pampering ourselves in a way that recharges us, going for a walk and enjoying the sunset… the list is endless, really…
But if I don’t even make an effort to show myself love in little ways in my everyday life, how will I be able to show myself love in a greater way, especially in the form of pursuing something that truly matters to me?
For some reason, when it comes to something we truly desire or something we want to do just for ourselves, it becomes the most difficult thing ever. This is especially more so when it comes to fulfilling our dreams, pursuing a worthwhile purpose, and creating the life we have always envisioned for ourselves.
I experienced this firsthand eight years ago when I organised my first solo exhibition, which was also symbolic of the manifestation of my childhood artist dream. At the time, it was by far the most challenging thing I had ever done, and honestly I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off if I hadn’t worked on this as part of a five-week group project coaching program.
(In fact, even with the group coaching support structure, there were nearly two weeks where I was so overcome with resignation about fulfilling my dream, that I couldn’t bring myself to get anything done for my exhibition!)
It’s so easy to say “Pursue your passion! Go after your dreams! Fulfil what your heart desires!”… but in reality the part where we have to take action is an uphill battle.
Most of the time, though, the difficulty arises not because of the external actions we have to take.
The real challenge comes from dealing with our own internal barriers that stop us or slow us down. (Procrastination, anyone?)
Thus it requires great love for ourselves in order to be able to push through and transcend our procrastination, fears, the feelings of “not good enough”, the voices in our head chanting: “you don’t deserve it, you will fail, you won’t make it, you’re unworthy,” etc. and whatever else becomes our reason / justification / excuse to not pursue what we really want.
Fulfilling what truly matters to you, following your passion, and making your dreams come true requires an act of great love for yourself — you love yourself so much you’re willing to go the extra mile and do whatever it takes to make what you truly desire and envision for your life become your reality.
Our ability to do this comes back down to our day-to-day: do we show ourselves love, do we take care of our welfare, do we nurture our personal support structures and systems, do we strengthen our foundations so we can build the life we’ve always dreamed of?
And going beyond that — what have you really done for yourself that was really just for you? Not because you’re trying to please another person, or to fulfil their expectations of what you’re supposed to do, or to gain recognition and impress others.
In a world where most of us go through the motions of survival and believe that’s what life is all about, it’s easy to get caught up with how we’re supposed to act, how life is supposed to be, and how we’re supposed to be… and we put aside our deepest wises and desires and forget what we truly want and who we truly are.
And when was the last time you celebrated you?
When we see someone share their accomplishments or breakthroughs on social media, it’s natural for us to feel happy for them and want to celebrate their success.
But what about your own success? When was the last time you celebrated the wins in your life, even the “small” ones? Sometimes we believe our wins are “small” and not worth celebrating, but perhaps they are more significant than we think!
When was the last time you rewarded yourself for a job well done, for going the extra mile to fulfil something important to you? When was the last time you took a break from the busyness of your obligations and commitments, to spend quality time just being with yourself?
At the end of the day, the only person who will journey with you for the rest of your life… is you. Friends can’t always be there when you need them, romantic relationships will eventually end, and your support system won’t be around forever.
You are the only person who will always be there for you, thus it’s essential to cultivate and nurture a loving relationship with yourself.
So whatever brings you joy, whatever allows you to show love to yourself, now’s the time to start incorporating that into your day-to-day living.
Schedule it into your week, and keep to that appointment like you would for any other important commitment in your life.
And little by little, your little acts of self-love will grow into greater ones, and you’ll be turning more of your dreams into your reality.