My self-love secret.
On one of my favourite podcasts, Ologies, the host ends each episode by telling listeners a secret. It is usually funny or heartwarming, and something we didn’t really need to know, but I always listen to the end of the episode just to hear the secret.
There must be something freeing about sharing these small everyday moments of humanness, without shame or embarrassment.
So I’m going to try it with you today.
It’s no secret that I love my cat. Nim is precious and cuddly and warm. She’s also incredibly anxious, fearful and sometimes aggressive with other people. She wasn’t shown love in her life before coming to live with me, so I always want her to know she is loved (especially when my brothers are calling her a demon cat … sigh).
I find myself telling her I love her multiple times a day. When she greets me at the door, when she comes to lay with me on the couch, when she’s chasing her toys, when she just sits there existing.
I mean, just look at her!
A few months ago I wondered, “what would it be like to receive this much love?”.
It is so easy for me to give that love to her, but what if I gave myself the same kind of love?
So my secret is, everytime I say an automatic and impulsive “I love you” to Nim, I quietly whisper “I love you, Elspeth”.
These small whispers remind me that I also get to be loved for simply existing. That I don’t need to be meeting any expectations, that I don’t need to prove my worth.
And this hasn't always been easy for me.
When I was in grad school, we were asked to take the Self-Compassion Quiz by Dr. Kristin Neff.
I’ve always considered myself a kind and compassionate person, so I thought I was going to ace it. But I didn’t; my capacity for self-compassion was low. When it came to how I treated myself, I often operated out of a place of judgment, rather than kindness.
So many things have changed in my life since taking that quiz. The biggest change has been my relationship to myself and my understanding of self-compassion and self-love.
Whispering “I love you” to myself sometimes feels silly, but I have learned that loving words and actions, no matter how silly they appear, are fundamental for increasing my self-compassion.
I’m not going to tell you to love yourself like you love your pets, especially if that doesn’t feel authentic to you. But I can confidently say you are deserving of love, just for existing.
I have an upcoming art therapy group where we explore all of these themes. If you want to increase your capacity for self-love, read on.
SELF-LOVE CLUB is a 6-week art therapy group focused on nurturing relationship with self, connecting with needs and cultivating self-love.
Guided therapeutic art activities focus on connecting with our innermost selves through the five love languages. We:
dive deeper into an understanding of self-love and self-compassion
check-in with ourselves through journalling and meditation
make art based on weekly themes
share our experience with group members
dedicate 12 whole hours of time to ourselves
This group has been truly transformational to my own understanding and expression of self-love. I learn more about myself every time I offer these sessions.
This time around, I am offering the group in person in Vancouver on Tuesday evenings, and online on Saturday mornings. If you join online you might even get to see my lil cat hanging out in the background!