Self-Love is a Practice
“Accepting compliments is a skill. Internalizing them could be a secret superpower.” Liz Funk
Since I was little, I have felt like I had to earn love. That I somehow wasn’t worthy or didn’t deserve it naturally, that I had to work harder. More recently, I’ve been on a self-love journey. Learning to love myself more but it’s hard. The most frustrating thing is people would say things like “you gotta love yourself more” or “just practice more love.” And I’d always ask “But, how? How do I do that?”
And most people’s answers were either confusing or inconsistent but I think I have finally figured it out. One simple way is that when someone compliments you and you don’t believe them – because you don’t see that about yourself – is that you admit it.
Six years ago, a couple spoke to me after class and the girl was so excited. She was standing beside her boyfriend and her face lit up and she said, “Aleks, thank you so much! This is only the second class and I can’t believe we’re dancing because I never thought I could do this. I was scared to join. But you’re making this fun and you’re making it so easy! And I am just so grateful!”
So I looked at her and smiled and as I hugged her I gave her a little pep talk. “Hey, it wasn’t me. None of this was me. It was all you. You did all the hard work! I’m proud of you!” And as I was speaking and hugging her, I felt her body stiffen. As she pulled away from the hug, I could see that she was frustrated.
Her face was no longer lit with joy and she responded in a much more subdued tone. “Okay, yeah, I did the work. You’re right.” Then she grabbed her boyfriend’s hand and walked off. I thought it was an odd response but I filed it away to think about later as I got ready for the next class.
The very next day I was speaking with my mentor. We were talking about the business and going through papers and right at the end, I said, “Oh, by the way, this is what happened. It’s strange. I don’t get why she was acting weird. I was building her confidence.”
And without looking up from his papers, he said “No man, the problem is you don’t love yourself.”
“What? What do you mean I don’t love myself? Of course I love myself. Aleks is awesome!”
He finally looked from up the papers. “Dude, you don’t even believe that. You don’t even believe that you’re good.”
And I start to tear up because I know he’s telling the truth. Frustrated, I said “But what do I do? I’ve been working on trying to love myself more and more. What else am I supposed to do?”
“Simple. Next time a student gives you a compliment, say you don’t believe it.”
“No, I can’t do that. That’s awkward. Can you imagine someone says; Hey Aleks, you’re awesome. And I say; You’re a liar!”
“Well one, obviously you don’t say it like that. But two, what’s awkward is that someone came into your home and gave you a gift and you rejected it. They walked away feeling rejected and you walked away, not receiving that gift and not feeling loved. That’s awkward.”
So I tried it. A couple of weeks later, the same couple came up to me at the end of class. The girl had even more sparkle in her eye this time. “Aleks, this is such an amazing class. I’ve had so much fun! Thank you! Thank you!” And my natural reaction was to reject the compliment. But I looked at her and I saw the light in her eyes.
“Listen, it’s hard for me to believe that.” I looked down and my face turned red because my walls were coming down and that little kid who wants to be loved started coming out. “Um it’s really hard for me to see myself the way that other people see me. Not because I don’t believe you, but because I’m still struggling. So, thank you. Thank you for that gift.” I start to tear up. “I’m still working on it and even if I can just sit with 1% of that love you give me, I think I’ll be a little bit better.”
As I was still looking down, I saw these tiny little feet pop into my line of sight. I looked up and it’s her boyfriend. He was about six foot two but he had tiny feet! Then he hugged me and then the girlfriend hugged me. We were in this group hug for maybe 5 or 10 seconds but it felt like an eternity and we didn’t say anything. And then we pulled away and like little kids we started giggling and laughing. And in that moment something just shifted in me and I learned to love myself 1% more.
Maybe I have had a similar conversation with some of you. One where I admit it’s still hard for me to believe the compliments. But it is something that I’ve trained myself to do over the years.
But you know what gang? Here’s the best part. Every time I’ve actually admitted that it’s hard for me to believe a compliment or praise, all that’s happened is I’ve gotten more love.
And I figured out why it helps is because in the moment when someone gives you a gift and you admit you don’t feel like you deserve it, that’s when your guard is down and it’s the real time to heal. Self-love can only happen when you feel your guard going up most but instead of building the walls, you break them down. That’s when real self-love occurs. I love you guys.
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