We can think of honoring ourselves in many different ways. Therapist Lisa Neuweg, LCPC, defines it as “accepting all parts of ourselves: “the good and bad, the perfect and imperfect, the disappointments and triumphs.” According to somatic psychotherapist Lisa McCrohan, MSW, given our current culture, it means living our lives around what’s most sacred or important to us — instead of based on “the time on the clock.”
For self-acceptance and self-love coach Miri Klements it means being honest with herself and acknowledging what is true for her. It means treating herself with compassion, understanding, gentleness, acceptance and love.
For so many of us all of that is hard to do. It may feel foreign. Unnatural. It’s hard to accept all our parts. It’s hard to prioritize what’s important. Do we even know what important is? It’s hard to treat ourselves with compassion and even more so, with love.
Part of this is because we simply haven’t been taught and trained to honor ourselves, Klements said. Maybe we grew up with parents or caregivers who were struggling with their own wounds and traumas, she said. Maybe you heard a lot of: “Don’t be so selfish. It’s not all about you. What is wrong with you? Get over it already. That’s ridiculous to feel that way. Enough. You don’t really feel that way! Stop crying now. Can’t you see I’m busy?”
McCrohan sees many people in her practice who hold destructive beliefs about staying busy, running themselves ragged. (In fact, every day, she talks to moms who do.)
“We can be so entrenched in ‘hurry, worry and busy’ that to honor what is most sacred in our everyday lives feels like some fanciful dream. So we get used to living half alive and believing we have no choice.”
Thankfully, you do have a choice. Many of them.
While we don’t immediately undo or heal damaging beliefs or wounds, we can ease into honoring ourselves. We can take the below steps every day. Because as Gretchen Rubin says, “What we do every day matters more than what we do once in a while.”
“Forgive yourself for yelling too much, for arguing with your spouse, for not completing a task on time,” said Neuweg, who practices at Agape Counseling in Bloomington, Ill. In other words, forgive yourself for not being perfect, for being human, for making mistakes.
Sometimes, you might actually say “I forgive myself” aloud, she said. “It is easier to change bad habits and live a more peaceful life when we are gentle with ourselves.”
Practice the “sacred pause.”
Honoring ourselves starts with pausing, or getting still, said McCrohan, also a compassion coach and writer. As she writes in this post, a sacred pause can be a mini retreat we savor every day—no matter how busy we are. It might look like this:
Take a moment to pause.
Maybe you’d like to sit down.
Feel the feet on the floor.
Let the legs relax.
Soften the belly.
Feel the heart slightly lifting up to the sky.
Feel the crown of the head lifting up to the sky.
Soften your face—eyes, jaw, lips.
Feel the shoulders relax.
Sense your attention deepening and feel your body.
Take a few full breaths—slowly exhaling.
Sense yourself softening—your eyes, shoulders, judgment
Sense yourself softly smiling.
Feel the heart—from the back of the heart—lifting.
Feel the sensations of your body—maybe tingling in your shoulders, or warmth in your hands.
Feel the body from the inside out.
Allow yourself to rest—just breathing in and out, feel the rise and fall of your breath.
Stay here, still and breathing, for as long as you need.
When you are ready, open your eyes gently and slowly.
Notice how you feel.
Respect your body.
Neuweg suggested listening to our body’s different requests. This might mean eating when you’re hungry. It might mean resting when you’re tired or stretching when you’re experiencing tension.
If you normally ignore your body, set an alarm on your phone to go off every hour. When your alarm rings, check in with yourself. Notice if you’re feeling any tension. Notice if you’re thirsty or your stomach is growling. You can even start at your toes, and move all the way up to your head, and focus on how each body part is feeling.
Be honest with yourself.
Klements, also a Medical Reiki™ Master, shared this powerful quote from Pema Chödrön: “The most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
After Klements started getting honest with herself, she realized that she regularly talked herself out of what she wanted to say or ask for. She realized that behind her go-to phrase “I’m fine” was actually a woman who felt empty and exhausted. A woman who had no idea who she really was.
Observe how you’re doing and feeling from a “place of compassionate curiosity.” Acknowledge the feelings and needs that arise without judging, blaming or shaming yourself. Talk to yourself as you would to a young child in pain, she said.
“Notice when you want to talk yourself out of getting or doing something. If it’s truly important to you, do it and honor yourself.”
Pick an activity from your feel-good list.
A feel-good list includes anything you enjoy doing, Neuweg said. That might be practicing yoga, journaling, reading a book, watching your favorite TV show, meeting a friend for lunch and sleeping in. She also suggested including quick options, such as listening to your favorite song on your way to work.
“The most important part of this process is that you are doing something you enjoy every single day.”
Think of “sacred” in seasons.
McCrohan suggested considering: “What will I do in this season of my life to honor myself?” The “season” might be this fall. Or it might be a particular time in your life, such as being a student or being a mom to young kids or working at a new company.
In this season of her life, what’s most sacred to McCrohan is aligning her daily decisions—what she eats, the communities she’s involved in—with her inner wisdom (or the “’whispers within’ that we know as truth”). She’s also focusing on communicating her “yes” and “no” more clearly.
Commit to radical self-compassion.
For McCrohan, this looks like seeing supportive practitioners, including a somatic psychotherapist and massage therapist. “I began to see myself as worth of such an investment financially.” It also means saying no to certain professional opportunities, because she’d like to focus on writing and resting.
When you really think about it, what does treating yourself with compassion look like for you?
Even if you don’t think you deserve it, try these practices, anyway. Therese Borchard’s quote on exercise and depression is particularly relevant here: “I think sometimes we have to lead with the body, and the mind will follow.”