Self love, not self help.

I have a friend who has been reading what one would normally call "Self Help" books for the last few years. However, he doesn't call them "Self Help", he calls them "Self Improvement/ Self development" books- which shifts the paradigm from "Something is wrong with me" to "I am forward thinking and want to better myself." 

I'd like to take that one step further and invite in a paradigm shift of "Self love" over "self improvement". Our minds, bodies, and souls (whether or not you believe in this last one- up to you), aren't working parts to a machine that constantly need to be updated. Instead, it feels like the constant lesson that is being dished up by the universe is more of an "unlearning" than a learning.

I've had my fair share of self-development experiences and while many of the experiences have awoken me to my patterns of thought, language, and action; I have found myself overwhelmed with it all. I could no longer claim naiveté and became ridden with the "shoulds". It got to the point where I would think "I shouldn't be thinking this_____" and then piling on another layer of "Well I shouldn't be "should"-ing myself!". Geezus, sometimes I'm sad and I find myself wishing I wasn't sad and trying to "think my way out", which makes me more sad- and frustrated. Vicious cycle I tell ya. 

Instead of adding on more to our plate, what we need is a peeling away of the layers and going back to the basics. 

AHIMSA means non violence- to others and ourselves. A big part of this involves finding compassion for ourselves

AHIMSA means non violence- to others and ourselves. A big part of this involves finding compassion for ourselves

What self development often doesn't teach us is to pair mindfulness with compassion. We become mindful of the way we move about the world and we understand how our thoughts lead to language which lead to action. However, when any of these moving parts don't align with this shiny new positive perspective, we aren't equipped with the tools of self love to catch ourselves. The basis of many self development programs and books lie in telling us that we, as we are in this very moment, not enough. We aren't enough so they'll give us the tools to help us be "better" because who we are and how we are living our lives simply isn't good enough. (Mind you, every book and every program is a business and the basis of capitalism is to make us feel inadequate but that's a topic for another day.) 

So what's my point?

True self development comes in the form of radical self love. Just like a toddler flourishes when allowed to explore far and wide- knowing full well that his parents will be here, ready to catch him should anything happen; we need to approach ourselves with the same tenderness. 

Discernment, not judgement. Notice your limiting thoughts, and, with that said, don't get down on yourself for having them (or down on yourself for getting down on yourself). It's a practice, it's a journey, and surprise surprise, you're human.