SOUL food | Loving

This is the final post in the SOUL food series—you can find the first one at SOUL food | Seasonal, the second at SOUL food | Organic, and the third at SOUL food | Unique.

Relationships are one of the most important primary foods in our lives, and we rarely (if ever) think about our relationship with ourselves as one of them—and so it is perhaps the one we rarely tend to.

I’m a podcast junkie, and one of my very favorite ones is Over it and On with it by Christine Hassler (although I’ll admit that the capitalization of that title gives me fits—no version ever seems correct). I first heard Christine speak at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®, where I got my health coach certification, and her podcast consistently delivers wonderful content that I’m always recommending to others.

One of Christine’s coaching methods is to poke at the bigger questions behind the caller’s original question, gently leading them back to their relationship with themselves—specifically to what they were like as children. This could easily devolve into the traditional “it all goes back to your relationship with your parents” or “it’s all your parents’ fault” sort of therapy session, and it never does.

Instead, Christine always points out that our ideas about love are most often rooted in our relationship with our parents: we may grow up thinking that love means showering someone with material gifts…or hugs and kisses; it may mean being strict or being permissive; it may mean impossible-to-achieve standards or effusive praise for the smallest of accomplishments.

Whatever it looks like, we often perversely desire something else from our parents, and yet as we grow up, we carry that idea of what love looks like with us, often filling our lives with friends and lovers and spouses who treat us the same way, even if on the surface, they seem to be our parents’ opposites. And we look to others to complete ourselves.

Christine frequently says that every relationship in our lives is there to teach us something about ourselves, and only when we learn that lesson are we free to move on—either taking the relationship to a higher plane or releasing it if it no longer serves us. (One of my favorite lines from her is in reference to her former marriage: “It didn’t fail; it had an expiration date!”)

So in a sense, once we can give ourselves what we really desired as children (soothing words? a feeling of safety? an occasional material gift? quality time?), we can get “over it and on with it.” An practice that Christine often recommends is to take a picture of ourselves as a child and reassure that child that s/he is loved/safe/etc.

That may sound hokey, but let me ask you this: what are the first words that pop into your head when you see yourself in the mirror? Are they, “I look wonderful today,” or are they, “When did I get so old/fat/gray…?” Are they, “I am killing it in my life,” or are they, “Why can’t I ever get anything right in my life?”

And really, if you don’t hear, “You’re so beautiful, you’re amazing, I love you so much” on a regular basis from others in your life, maybe it’s because you don’t believe these things or say them to yourself? And if you don’t, is it any wonder you don’t consider yourself worthy of the best self-care?

As with secondary foods, we are all bio-individual in the area of primary foods: what is self-loving for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. It takes time to discover what is really loving self-care, whether it’s in the realm of relationships (with ourselves and with others), career, spiritual practice, physical activity, sleep, time outside in Nature….

Discovering truly loving primary food also requires that we have a sense of what our most deeply held principles and priorities are: asking ourselves at every turn whether the choice we’re making is in alignment with those principles is they way to finding that perfectly nourished lifestyle—one that is “right” for us…and doesn’t keep others from living their own best life.

(And because I really am a podcast junkie, I have to mention an episode from Jonathan Fields’s Good Life Project, in which Last Cut’s Samantha Paige talks about her version of living in alignment with her principles.)

An exercise for the week: whether or not you’ve read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages before, I really encourage you to (re)read it and figure out how you can start speaking your own love language to yourself on a regular basis. If you’re in, drop me a comment and let me know 1) what’s your love language, and 2) how can you show yourself a little love this week?