Loving Yourself: All Aboard

With Valentine’s Day smack in the middle of the month, February is often focused on love — and the common ways of expressing it with flowers, cards, chocolates and special surprises.

If we take the commercial aspect of celebrating love out of the picture and press pause for a moment on sharing it with other people, what we’re left with is love and ourselves.

The idea of loving ourselves isn’t airy-fairy, or based on superficial or narcissistic qualities, and it can’t be summed up in a few easy tips, tricks or hacks. It’s also not focused only on important aspects of self-care, like taking time to relax and recharge, doing yoga, getting bodywork, or finding an enjoyable hobby.

Rather, learning to love ourselves is an ongoing journey of discovering what it looks and feels like to bring such a nebulous concept to living, breathing life in our daily experience. And it’s a critical part of our own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being that extends to every part of our lives.

One way to explore what it means to love yourself is through the use of metaphor. I heard a metaphor many years ago that has proved to be instrumental on my own path toward loving myself. It’s called “everyone on the bus.”

Essentially, the idea is that all parts of you — the parts you like, don’t like, ignore, try to avoid, want to improve, would like to leave by the side of the road, and so on — get a seat on the bus.

The bus can represent whatever feels right for you, like the vehicle in which you journey along the road of life, one that transports you from Point A to Point B, or one that looks cool to hang out in but doesn’t move.

(Note: If at this point you feel like just the idea of allowing all parts of yourself to gather in one place is enough to digest, my suggestion is to let the concept settle in to your head and heart for a bit before doing the following visualization exercise.)

If you feel ready to explore further, you can close your eyes or simply imagine what is happening with your mind’s eye.

See yourself standing outside the bus. What does it look like? Is it large, small, short or long? What color is it? If you touch it, how does it feel? Is its throaty, rumbling motor turned on and idling, or is it off?

Where are you in relation to the bus? For example, are you standing by the open door, watching all your parts board the bus, or are you standing up front, looking at the cast of characters in front of you?

You can think of these different parts as people with their own personalities, ways of being and styles of dress. Your parts may also show up as qualities like patient, impatient, kind or self-centered. Or they could be shapes or colors. However you envision them, trust that the type of visual that comes to you is right for you and how you relate to your own parts.

Take note of what stands out to you, or how you may feel as you observe the details about each part. Are you drawn to some and feel glad to have them aboard, while with others you’d like to avoid them or show them the exit? Can you let them all be themselves, and present, without strong attachment or judgment?

You can continue to experiment with this exercise and the idea of allowing and embracing the myriad aspects of who you are in ways that feel right for you. It’s a practice not only of noticing and including your various parts, but also recognizing who they are and how they tend to show up so you can make conscious decisions about the roles they play in your daily experience.

For instance, some parts may well be passengers on the bus, but they don’t necessarily get to drive, navigate or sit up front. They can grumble, complain or do what they do, but ultimately there’s a driver and a leader of this diverse crew, and that person is you.

As you increasingly connect with your wise, intuitive and authentic parts, you may find that you have a skilled internal driver who can steer with knowledgeable confidence among the twists and turns of life — even with a bunch of sometimes unruly passengers aboard the bus.

Kristen Quirk

Kristen Quirk is a transformational coach who helps professionals and spiritual seekers explore what it means to know themselves better, love themselves more and share from the heart. Kristen hosts the Being and Doing Now podcast and blog, and she is passionate about continually finding ways to connect more deeply with life, humans, animals and nature.

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