Learning how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury felt like the most appropriate topic to write about given Valentine’s Day is this week. We see so much about being in a couple at this time of year, but how are we in being with ourselves? And what about after a challenging illness or injury which has changed your body?
Learning how to fall in love with yourself after an illness or injury can feel difficult. It’s not uncommon to feel like your body betrayed you, or you have this illness that is like an invader you are trying to fight, or you’re frustrated with how your body has changed and what you can no longer do as a result, or you live with the fear of relapse.
How can you fall in love with yourself after illness or injury with all that going on?
I believe you can. Because I’ve helped myself to do that and have helped others too. So I know it can be done. And I share an exercise here to help you do that.
This exercise is a bit different. It asks you to be with yourself in a way we may not always do in our society because we are rushing around, thinking what to do next, etc, etc. This exercise is about slowing down and listening to your heart/ gut/ intuition/ soul, whatever you call that part of yourself which may or may not have much of a voice in your life.
I’d like to acknowledge Heart of Business whose work around acknowledging your needs when in business for yourself inspired me to write this blog.
An exercise on how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injuryHave you felt like you have fallen out of love with yourself due to an #illness or #injury? Want to learn how to love yourself again? Then read this blog. #selflove #selfcare Click To Tweet
Make sure you’re comfortable enough. You can stand, sit or even lay down for this exercise. And you have a bit of quiet time to yourself with hopefully no or minimal interruptions.
Remember a time when someone asked you, ‘How are you doing?’ or ‘How are you feeling?’ or ‘Can you go out with us today?’ with that questioning look in their eye and you just didn’t want to give them the honest answer about how tough things really are for you. Or maybe you tried to do something but due to all the changes you have experienced, you struggled and felt frustrated. Or it could be one of those times when you feel hopeless that your circumstances will change for the better.
Just notice how you felt in that moment and what you wanted. If it felt uncomfortable, hard or you felt like you had to give people the answer they wanted to hear, annoyance or something else, just be with what you felt at that time.
What do you notice?
What are you feeling? If that feeling is a sensation in your body, where in your body do you feel it? What is the sensation like? A knot, waves, a pounding, a numbing sensation, something else?
As you feel whatever you feel, ask yourself:
Is love available for me here?
What is the purpose of that question?
It’s to raise our awareness of how we are or aren’t tapping into our own self-love when we may most need it. This quote explains it well.
“When you find the love, you find yourself.
The secret is in the love. You are the love, not another.
Everything is in the love, and everyone needs the love.
When you have the knowledge of the love, you feel peace
in your heart.
The jewels are inside you.”Music of the Soul, by Sufi Sheikh sidi Sa’id al-jamal
Think of love as a jewel, which is inside of you.
Ask yourself that question again: Is love available for me here?
Notice again how you feel as you ask yourself that question.
When you ask yourself that question in a moment of discomfort, your needs can feel heightened.
Then ask yourself:
What is it I truly want for myself? What am I yearning for?
Sometimes what people often want is to go back to the person they were before their illness or injury
That is understandable. After a serious illness or injury, you are a changed person.
You may yearn for that or something else: acceptance of your situation, a person to love you as you are now, understanding from the people around you, something else.
If you yearn for something physical – and it could be anything like money, a new wheelchair, a new job, whatever – ask yourself:
And if I were to get that, what would that give me? How would I feel then?
Often times it is a quality like acceptance or acknowledgement, self-compassion, certainty, strength, truth, belonging, or something else.
This is a need you have
Just be with yourself and notice you have a need without any expectation of changing it. This isn’t about judging the need as bad or good. It’s also not about judging yourself as less than for having this need. And it’s not about collapsing into the need in a way that depletes you. It’s about acknowledging the need. It is what it is.
As you sit (or stand or lay down), open yourself up to receiving whatever it is you need. So if it’s acknowledgement of your situation, open yourself up to receiving acknowledgement.
This may sound kind of abstract. You may be wondering…
How do I open myself up to receiving what I need?
There are different ways you can do this. How you do it may be different from someone else and that’s ok.
Some people like to physically arch their back a bit so their chest is open and shoulders are back. They then consciously think of receiving acknowledgement for example. Or acceptance. Or self-compassion or whatever it is you need.
Or you may skip the physical gesture of arching your back to open your chest and just consciously think of receiving whatever quality you need and notice how that feels in your body.
Hint: I recommend you focus not just on the thinking aspect, but also how it feels in your body. This helps to make change happen because you are doing that on different levels – the body and mind – which is a holistic approach to change.
I like to think of a watering can above me that pours the quality I need over me. Like in this picture here.
You may imagine someone real or imagined giving you what you need.
You may journal it.
Or you may simply write down the word of the quality you need. Or draw a picture of it. Or make a collage.
When you do this, you are not waiting for someone else in real life to give you what you need. You are actually giving it to yourself.
Practice receiving what you need
When you start doing something new, which this may be for you, you may wonder if you’re doing it right, or wrong, or is it working. Those questions are natural as we can feel a little uncomfortable when we do something new. But you can put all those questions to one side.
Just have a go and notice what it’s like for you.
I encourage you to make this a practice you do several times a week, daily even. This increases your familiarity and comfort level with the exercise. It also helps to make the practice of giving yourself what you need more automatic.
A good time to practice it is when you feel yourself wishing for and wanting things to be different. In those moments, ask yourself if love is available for you here, what you are yearning for and open yourself to receiving what you need.
More important tips on how to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury
It helps to hold the intention ‘I can love myself again’ and ‘I’ll take action to help make that happen’.
Then take action to make that happen. This can be in addition to the exercise above. And these can be small actions of self-care: spending time in nature, setting an intention for your day, consciously noticing what goes well for you, asking a family member or friend to spend time with you, a bath, a cup of tea from your favourite mug, journaling, doing a favourite activity, etc. Whatever healthy act of self-care that you enjoy.
When you practice self-care, you are saying to yourself and the world, ‘I matter’ and ‘my needs are valid’.When you practice #selfcare, you are saying to yourself and the world, 'I matter' and 'my needs are valid'. #wellness #chronicillness Click To Tweet
Nurture your relationship with yourself daily. Be mindful of self-criticism, calling yourself not-very-nice names, relying on others to feed your self-worth and pleasing people.
Also be mindful to surround yourself with people who support and love you. Keep in mind they won’t be perfect at it and you may have to help them to help you.
Why you must fall in love with yourself after illness or injury
Because the most important relationship you have is with yourself.
Also, when you love yourself, you implicitly give the message to others, ‘Yes, I am worth loving.’ And this helps your sense of belonging.
What’s it like for you?
How have you found this exercise in self-love? What else is helping or has helped you to fall in love with yourself after illness or injury (even if it was a loved one’s)? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).
If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.
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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2020