Learning from lived experience creates potential for self love

Published on Charity Village
Date: 22nd April 2021

We often refer to the lived experience of those who access service, but what about the lived experience of those who offer it? Rather than being encouraged to pay close attention to our experience, service providers are often reminded that our energy and focus is better directed toward others. We become robotic in our lives ~ just going through the motions ~ and we kid ourselves that this lack of consideration for ourselves is indication of our great capacity for compassion for others.

When tuned into our own lived experience, we feel the discomfort of a moment and can consider the message within that pain. Whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual distress, you are the one who has premier access to that awareness. The sooner we feel that, the quicker we can respond. When we overlook the truth of our lived experience, we turn our backs on ourselves, sending the message that we don’t matter enough to respond. It becomes second nature to make ourselves wait for our attention. We turn to other distractions to appease whatever might be calling for our attention.

When personal experience becomes something we want to get away from, it might look like this:

I’m on a hamster wheel, obsessing about the same situation over and over. I put it off and stick my head in the sand for just a bit longer. If I don’t look at it, maybe it will disappear.

My heart is aching. I walk around sad and defeated most of the time. I feel sick to my stomach when I open my eyes in the morning. I need to find ways to take the edge off.

I know exactly what I need to do but I just can’t face it. Maybe, if I just ignore it and avoid any confrontation, the situation will take care of itself. I find myself creating reasons to be angry or act out, so I can create space in this relationship or situation.

My heart has not been in it for a while now. I tell myself that all I have to do is just get through the day. I watch the clock, stay in bed until the last possible second, stretch my breaks, and linger in the hallway trying to look busy. All I want to do is get out of here. I daydream about winning the lottery and running out of here so fast I leave heads spinning.

But what if we leaned into our lived experience, seeing it as an opportunity to express love, compassion, and care to ourselves?

Honour your lived experience as an expression of self love

We tend to approach self-loving behaviour as a milestone event instead of a way of life. It’s like loving ourselves is a job to be undertaken ~ a task to be scheduled. Sure, there may be certain activities we pencil in as personal treats, but the experience of self-love is not an appointment in our agenda. Can you imagine telling a loved one that you’ll “love” them on the 3rd Tuesday of every month?

It is common to think of self-love as a place that we finally step into after a prolonged period of suffering ~ as though we have to pay our dues first before we treat ourselves with the compassion we deserve. Like, there’s some kind of reward for punishing ourselves.

The connection between self-compassion and self-care

Self-compassion is the conduit through which the energy of love can be tangibly transformed into self-care. Self-compassion is the connection between loving ourselves and demonstrating that in caring action. When we love ourselves and our journey, it allows for the expression of self-compassion for our experiences and that in turn ignites action ~ self-caring action.

Self-compassion is also the key to balancing compassion for others. If you think in terms of compassion fatigue, you will likely continue to behave in a transactional manner ~ feeling depleted and then running around looking to some external source in order to refuel.

Self-compassionate acts occur as soon as you recognize that you need a moment to pause and breathe and you take it. It happens when you decide to let unexpected tears flow as they arise. You know you are being self-compassionate when you choose to speak to yourself in a gentle tone as opposed to one of frustration. Self-compassion is expressed in the ability to forgive yourself when you mess up or act out of integrity and it provides the courage required to step into accountability.

Self love as an expression, not a task

We demonstrate self-care in what we do. But, long before we take action, we set the stage internally in terms of the energetic impulse. If we treat self-care as a task as opposed to an expression, it feels empty and we never truly reap the rewards intended in the act.

Evidence of self-love is demonstrated in our response to both the self and our personal experience as life unfolds. It’s not a planned activity as much as it is a caring response. It requires that you listen to the wisdom of your body, the knowledge of your sensations, the messages in your emotional energy, and the intuitive guidance in your soul. Nothing says I love you like the investment of time, energy, and curiosity fuelled by the genuine desire to understand and connect. We often reserve that for other people and neglect to offer it to ourselves. And not that it’s for this reason alone, but the deeper we understand who we are, the greater capacity we have for intimacy with each other. Wanting intimacy with self and others is an expression of self-care.

It’s all in the moment

All the information you need for your next step exists in the right here and right now. Honouring lived experience attunes us to this moment. The opportunity to choose our response within a situation can only exist in the moment in which we recognize it.

Develop and schedule plans for self-care and self-reflection, but remember that the power is in the implementation and the most powerful time for that is the present moment.

All of this leads to an alternate universe from how we started off this article:

I notice how energized I am each day and how I can’t wait to jump out of bed and get on with it.

I am amazed at how quickly the day goes by. The time just flies no matter the challenges or ups and downs. I am present and engaged in what I’m doing. I am grounded in a foundation of joy.

My relationships are fulfilling and harmonious. Even when we disagree, the thing that remains constant is my commitment and our shared love and mutual respect. I don’t linger in relationships or situations that drain my energy or hurt my heart.

When I notice that I am getting bored or am ready to stretch myself, I seek out opportunities for new learning and potential adventures. Because I know myself so well, I am very aware when I am ready to expand my horizons and I feel confident that the way will be made clear.

Life is meant to be lived and to be savoured ~ even when it’s hard. Set intentions to encourage you to love yourself through every moment of your lived experience. Don’t wait for earth shattering moments and mountain top epiphanies.

Life occurs in the daily walk. Love it all even when you don’t like it.

This is the second article in a six-part series on Love and Service. We invite you to read the firstthird, fourthfifth, and sixth articles in the series.

Elizabeth Bishop is the creator of The Conscious Service Approach. She regularly facilitates workshops based on the principles of the approach both online and in person.

Elizabeth can be reached at www.elizabethbishopconsulting.com, on twitter at @askelizabethb, and Facebook and Linkedin at Elizabeth Bishop Consulting.

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