Women I speak to and coach have asked me what I think the secret to fulfillment is and my answer is always the same, “self-love”. When I’m in a playful mood sometimes I say chocolate covered caramel with a hint of sea salt, but let me stay on topic here.

It’s during these talks that I can often look into a woman’s eyes and literally see her energy shift when she hears me prioritize self-love over everything else. It’s like somewhere along the way self-love got lost in translation. “Selfish” is heard as opposed to what’s really being said… and the sad part is, the confusion makes perfect sense.

Women are trained from girlhood to be outward expressives of nurturing and caretaking. While little boys are encouraged to crash their tonka trucks into the baseboards, little girls are often coached toward the intimacy of caring for Dolly… feeding her, changing her, doing her hair.

Name one of the 7 plus billion people alive in the world today who didn’t get their start from a woman. Even women who, for whatever reason, have never given birth are still very much invested in the caretaking and nurturing roles of godmother, auntie, sister, niece, mentor, neighbor…

And this isn’t to say men aren’t invested caretakers and nurturers, many are, but they don’t tend to lose themselves in the function.

It’s harder for women to turn off the “them first, never mind me” tape that can bogard our head space. We can even go so far as to find value in the number of times a day we hear our name called in reference to “needs” we have the power, influence, and expertise to satisfy.

It feels really good to be depended on. That is, until it doesn’t.

So what about restoration?

The natural effects of sleep are even stalemated for those who continuously bed down making mental note of the dreaded “undones” while still pledging commitment to the future “fires” that will inevitably beg for attention.

Listen, exhaustion is not your calling. Neither is saviorhood. And if tiny snatches of resentment are beginning to creep in through the cracks of that worn wonder woman emblem on your chest, then that’s not just more evidence that you aren’t a savior, it’s evidence that you need a savior. Allow self-love to come to your rescue.

You can’t get blood out of a turnip.

If all you have is $10 and I ask you for $10.10, you don’t have enough. You can set your sights toward begging it, borrowing it, or turning a two minute continuous cartwheel to earn the other dime but, right now, you don’t have enough. The same is true with trying to do all that loving, nurturing, and being there for everybody else with no practice in place for developing and demonstrating love for yourself from yourself, first.

It’s really not news. Everybody knows it’s impossible to give something away that you don’t already have. It’s called fraud in many circles, but when it comes to women and our need to meet needs, we act as if we got a pardon from somewhere. We did not.

And so, what does this self-love look like, anyway? Has it got anything to do with keeping personal stashes of the aforementioned chocolate? What about weekly bubble baths? Or owning a German car? What about coveting our very own pair of “real” red bottom shoes?

The world of marketing and advertising wants us to believe it does, but I strongly disagree.

Self-love is…

Self-love is about emotional freedom. It’s not needing acknowledgement from others about what a necessary and awesome contribution you are to the world, but being secure in your own knowledge of your value whether “they” toot your horn in celebration or not.

It’s about having the capacity to appreciate and celebrate yourself. It’s about deeming yourself interesting enough to explore the deep knowings of who feeds your soul, and then valuing yourself enough to let them into your life. It’s knowing what activities make you feel awesome and warm, and then giving yourself permission to mark as many occasions as you can by doing whatever they are.

Self-love is listening to and honoring your heart’s desires, talents, and gifts. Unapologetically.

It’s taking the time to discover what you’d like to learn so you remain truly interested and invested in this thing you’ve living called your life. It’s trusting that your intuition is honorable and valuable enough to follow into the experiences and relationships that just might graduate you into the joy of take-your-breath belly laughs.

Self-love is about acceptance of where you are right now and an unwavering unconditional respect for who you are at all times. It’s fingering the folds of your tummy fat and loving it for being there without judgment and softly reminding you that, when you’re ready, you can ( and will) let it go.

Self-love is a powerful self-reflection that radiates in your life like an attentive discerning body guard. When you have it, any person, place, or thing not serving your highest good must relinquish its power and right to hold the space. Quickly.

So self-love is all that (and more), but where does it come from?

God. Duh, right? I mean, really… that sounds like religious programming nowadays, but please, hear me out because I have an addendum that resurrects this response from graveyards of cliché into full blown life again.

And it’s certainly a revival we need because the truth that self-love comes from a relationship with God is truth. It’s as alive today as it’s ever been, so it’s really our relationship to the relationship that needs the resurrection.

The second we make up our minds as women that we’re ready to go all in and start cultivating some real deal, bonafide self-love, is the selfsame second we’ve got to release the practice of approaching God in old antiquated religious postures. Praying the same old prayers we’ve been repeating since we were knee high to a duck will not produce the harvest we’re after here.

When self-love is the goal…

When self-love is the goal, the posture has to be true submission, true willingness to be led into the depths of the darkness of who we’ve become and why; who we allowed ourselves to be shaped into while we were focused on surviving the wilds of a world that didn’t seem to care.

When self-love is the goal, we women wail powerful prayers like, “Lord, show me how I am” and “Show me who I am”. We pray this waybecause we know self-consideration and correction is the only way in, and up, and out of the too little lives we’ve been cramped inside of for way too long now.

And then buckle in for the ride of your life because this pursuit of self-love just isn’t for the weak. The famous Love chapter in 1 Corinthians? Well, get ready to see yourself doing every single one of all those things true love doesn’t do.

Get ready to see yourself plainly puffed up, impatient, seeking your own and keeping score towards you! It’s wild watching this process of emotional maturity thing play out!

Which is why you have to remember to remind yourself that the biggest steps toward love, even self-love, is forgivineness.

Receiving God’s light into your dark places is all a part of receiving His guidance. God didn’t send us a Savior because we didn’t need one. He sent us a Savior because we did!

So trusting the process of sanctification and remembering that God loves you anyway, always has, through it all, is the remedy to beating yourself up as you grow in self-understanding, acceptance, and love.

God’s perfect love, and forgiveness, and Christ’s passion for YOU the individual is the only thing in existence strong and lasting enough to bridge the gap between the self accusation and shame that so easily besets and the self-love that must be cultivated if you really want to sincerely give yourself permission to thrive and become all God created you to be.

But it won’t just happen!

As much as I wish it did, self-love is not a state of being that comes automatic with the Born Again experience. It is the Kingdom’s precious pearl, the one of great value that has to be intentionally sought out, gotten above all, and cultivated.

It’s the Good News I think the Gospel is all about: you are set free and made ready to reach for, receive, and cultivate a greater love for yourself without fear of rejection or failure because of Christ’s sacrifice.

And as you grow in that Love It will introduce you to the riches of your true authentic expression where you and everyone in your circle of love and influence will benefit in the most beneficial ways.

Self-love is not selfish.

Pursue it and wear it proudly like a favorite garment because in it you’ll begin to see yourself stronger, more purposeful and sure, more creative and bold, more forgiving, radiant and free!

You’ll bloom into more and more of your God-made self: the glorious woman God created you to be!