Part 1 explored the notion that you cannot love others unless you love yourself. Then, the post suggested that if we are not explicitly taught how to love ourselves due to poor modeling by our caregivers, neglect, abuse, or other sub-optimal conditions, that maybe loving others might be a viable alternate pathway to learning self love. We also touched on the possibility of unspoken expectations and desperate hopes we may inadvertently, unconsciously, or even consciously place on others due to our dearth of self love. Part 2 introduces the idea that self love is like our own personal garden — something we can each create and maintain to be much more sustaining than depending wholly on others to provide that which we all need. And, at the end of Part 2 I liken some of the more uncomfortable work of therapy to the work of pulling weeds and digging into the dirt to unearth the dark, rich muck which will serve as the magical soil that is perfect for planting the garden of our choosing.
Here in Part 3 we look at what we might plant in the soil, how to nurture what grows, and figure out how to tend a personal garden for the long term.
You can use some therapy sessions to explore the seeds and seedlings of what and who you really want in your life that support and represent self love. For example, you can plant balance as a form of self love. Maintaining balance in how you spend your time, your material resources, your energy, your focus is an external way to be kind and loving to yourself. One way to demonstrate self love is to take time to stop and figure out what you need to support you in reaching for your goals and dreams. What positive behaviors do you see in others that you want to develop in yourself? Who seems genuinely happy, at peace, joyous about their life? Plant these in your garden.
In many ways, your garden reflects your identity. Who are you? What thoughts do you think on a regular basis and are those thoughts kind, pleasant, motivating, supportive? Notice your pattern of life choices. Do any of them serve you, get you closer to your hopes and dreams? If so, plant them!
Each individual’s garden of self love is unique and perfect. Some are more wild, flowery, fragrant, colorful. Others are sparse, logically organized, uncluttered and simple. Some grow lots of vegetables and fruit to share with others. Still others are a planned out work of art. There are as many ways to design and grow a garden as there are people. Only you will know what works in your garden and that is often a process of daily discovery. You’ll learn through contributing to other people’s well-being. You’ll learn from observing the gardens of others. You’ll learn as you ask for and graciously receive help to get things underway.
And, over time the garden will change and evolve. For many years, you may need the simplicity and clarity, the quiet grace of succulents. Then, you may develop a taste for creating abundance. Your joy then may be rising to the challenge of nurturing and sharing the wealth of your labor — zucchini and tomatoes, strawberries, corn, watermelon, who knows? You might be drawn to a mix of flowers that support insect and animal life and provide you with a more scent-ual experience. Growing and maintaining a garden requires commitment to being present to nurture your needs. Just as different plants require different amounts of water, sunlight, pruning, fertilizer, protection from harsh elements, so does your development of self love. It’s not a one day massive effort and you’re done deal. Some days the garden will be easy to maintain. Sometimes there will be many days in a row where it feels like all you are doing is pulling new weeds to stop them from choking out your precious seedlings.
This I know for sure: it’s so very worth the effort! Suddenly, you will realize that the roses are in bloom and your daily thoughts are gentle and kind to yourself. The green beans will be ripe and ready and you will notice that getting enough sleep and hydration is now a habit. Just after watering the succulents, you’ll see the magical droplets of water between leaves and realize you are feeling suffused with calm, grace, serenity.
It’s an ongoing process, creating and maintaining your self-love garden. You will find that the more time you spend thinking about, tending, and merely BEing in your garden, the more beautiful and precious it becomes. Then, you and your garden can serve as inspiration for others who seek a way to grow their own garden.
For now, I send you a virtual basket of love grown in my own hard-won garden… Peace be with you!