I have realised that self-love means facing the really, really dark parts of our pain, sadness, grief, and anger.
Deep down we have all constructed ideas of how we should think, feel and act. In the face of our constant pressure to achieve, succeed and thrive in this life, will we ever fully understand what it means to love yourself? We speak with New- York-based Kundalini yoga teacher, well-being writer and founder of Benshen, Desirée Pais about the path towards loving yourself and how self-acceptance is truly a journey and not a destination.
TBE : How do you define self-love?
Desirée : We often think that self-love is just affirmations and the yoga classes but, it really boils down to self-respect and being able to hold the space for ourselves to heal. I have realised that self-love means facing the really, really dark parts of our pain, sadness, grief, and anger. We have to allow ourselves to go there and go through the motions – to cry and to heal. Not healing these emotions is what keeps us from loving ourselves.
TBE : How has your own journey shaped your understanding of self-love?
D : I’ve gone through a lot in the past few months that has bought up so much pain and sadness. I remember sitting in the back of an Uber one evening, feeling so ashamed of my need to cry. I felt like I needed to be happy, grateful, strong and mindful all the time. Eventually, I just looked up at the ceiling of the car and let the tears roll. I held space for myself to cry because I knew that there was so much sadness inside of me that needed to be worked through. Unless I made that space for myself I knew I wouldn’t be able to love and care for myself the way I needed to. Once I got to dinner I told Lacy (@freeandnative) everything that was going on and she turned to me and said, “I need you to go home and get in fetal position and just cry and go through it.” This moment helped me understand self-love.
In the wellness industry, ‘self-love’ has become such a buzzword that it’s lost meaning.
TBE : What do you think about the recent focus on ‘self-care’ and ‘self-love’?
D : In the wellness industry, ‘self-love’ has become such a buzzword that it’s lost its meaning. There’s a lot of pressure on the idea of cultivating love for yourself. People think that if they don’t love themselves fully then nothing will come to them and no-one else will love them. We struggle these ideas because we don’t feel good enough and, we want to feel both good and “good enough”. So, ironically, the idea of self-love has become another means of perfectionism and self-destruction. Really, I think self-love boils down to self-respect. Are we living a life in which we respect ourselves and take care to avoid behaviors that drain our energy? You should treat yourself like royalty. And, if you do fuck up, you have to allow yourself to process, heal and move through feelings of self-sabotage.
TBE : Why do people struggle to love themselves?
D : The biggest block to self-love and self-care is comparing yourself to others and how they live their lives. So, the first step to self-love is cutting out any avenue through which you compare yourself to others.
TBE : Can you describe the rituals that you perform to help you feel affection towards yourself?
D : I try to look at it more from a space of power. I really look at the areas that make me feel powerless (acting a certain way around men, touching my face, not doing my Kundalini practice, spending money carelessly, etc.) and make massive efforts to not engage in these behaviours. The feeling of having power is so important to cultivate but, so many of us are afraid of it so we destruct before we can. I made a list and took inventory of all behaviours that make you feel powerless – seeing it on paper was really profound! Then, I made an agreement with myself to not engage in these behaviors, to the best of my ability.
TBE : Making that agreement relies quite heavily on trusting your own judgment. How can we cultivate this trust?
D : Trust is so hard, and honestly, I am still really working on building it. I think it’s about taking action and putting yourself in environments that encourage trust. If I want to encourage prosperity and abundance, I do my Kundalini meditations. If I don’t meditate, I feel less confident in opportunities that are coming my way. That’s just me, we all have different tools that help to build trust. I also listen to a lot of Esther Hicks in order to train my mind to think differently. Her talks give me a consciousness upgrade, and it makes me think, “Huh, okay that’s possible!”
We need to be more selfish in our self-care and self-love so that we can show up bigger in the world.
TBE : Why do you think it is important to cultivate identities as individuals outside of our relationships with others?
D : When we live our lives for ourselves it keeps us in our power. We are radiant because we are doing what we love rather than sacrificing our lives for someone else. I think we need to be more selfish in our self-care and self-love so that we can show up bigger in the world. So we can love our friends more, our family more, our partners more. So we can call in more work, opportunities, experiences. So that we can feel so good about ourselves that other people just want to be around us. Self-love is really the most magnetic thing!
Desirée Pais is Kundalini Yoga and Meditation teacher and Beauty Editor living in New York City. In 2010, Desirée became fascinated with the mind-body connection and began studying Yoga. She completed a 200hr certification followed by an advanced training in Hatha Yoga + Tibetan Buddhist lineages. Along the way, through a synchronous encounter with Daoist Grandmaster Sung Baek, he inspired her to begin studying Chinese Medicine at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. Then, she found Kundalini Yoga + Meditation, which was life-changing, to say the least. Two years later, Desiree completed her third yoga Teacher Training, Level 1 Kundalini Yoga + Meditation with Harijiwan, Tej, Guru Jagat, and Gurujas in Los Angeles.