I am so sick of hearing about self love and self care and it not making a damn difference. Most of us “know” that these are keys to health, happiness, abundance, etc., yet some of the most abusive relationships are with ourselves. One day something finally snapped for me in Bali and I’d had enough. I went from crying in my pillow to three days later dancing and giggling through the streets of Kuala Lumpur covered in glitter. What happened?
Something happened when I took the leap of faith to leave my comfort zone and travel indefinitely. It’s either the energy of Southeast Asia or that I’m more alive than I’ve ever been, maybe a bit of both. Either way, I’ve found that everything is multiplied now, the highs and the lows. I’ve experienced more joy than I ever thought possible—dancing on the beach, sweating like mad in a crowded yoga class—and I’ve encountered intense pain, more self hatred than I’ve felt at one time. Yeah, turns out that crap follows you everywhere you go, even halfway around the world.
I’ve been lucky enough to experience three New Years in three different countries in the past four months. On January 1st, the American New Year, I was in the United States, sorting through my stuff to put into storage or throw away. On March 21st, Nyepi, the Balinese New Year, I was in Ubud, Bali, facing my demons as the locals paraded theirs through the streets. On April 13th, Songkran, the Thai New Year, I was in Phuket, Thailand, literally and figuratively being washed of my past as we rode through the streets getting sprayed with water guns. It wasn’t my plan, and I couldn’t have planned it better myself!
Backtracking to Nyepi, the Balinese New Year, the locals parade through the streets loudly, chasing out the bad spirits, followed by a day of complete silence where no one goes out of their home and many people fast. On that day, I was happily locked up in a sweet villa in Ubud with four friends. We neither kept silent nor fasted, but tried to keep it down to honor those around us. It was a day of bliss and fun, dancing, jumping in the pool, one of those days where I pinch myself to make sure it’s real. This was followed by a wave of self loathing that had me in tears in the evening. There was no sense behind it, but words cannot describe how much I desperately wanted out of my body. I hated everything about my body in that moment. And no words of love from anyone around me could help me see anything but ugly.
I awoke the next morning with a revelation: I would never, ever allow someone I was dating or in a relationship with to treat me the way I treat myself. I imagined a date saying “You, know, you could stand to lose a few pounds.” He would immediately be kicked out the door!
I realized I couldn’t expect to experience this magnificent “love of my life” that I’d been waiting for if I didn’t first cultivate that love within me. I also realized I had a huge opportunity in front of me: to date myself, no—better yet—court myself. Dating can be casual and noncommittal. Courting is aiming for the long haul. So I started to imagine courting myself with the love, care, respect and decadence I would expect from my Perfect Partner (PP).
Thinking in this way shifted everything for me. Immediately, I could imagine him authentically telling me I’m gorgeous even when I really feel fat. He would love the natural me, without makeup, and we would enjoy dressing up together for fancy nights out. He would spoil me silly, sending me to the spa, booking a hotel room with the softest sheets and room service. We would dance together like kids. He would surprise me with sweet little gestures—flowers, love notes, a massage. We would eat the best food together: most often healthy and fresh plus indulgences (I can’t spend the rest of my life with someone who takes himself too seriously).
I imagined us giggling over big pieces of chocolate cake, moaning over pizza we spontaneously ordered at midnight. And would he ever tell me to watch what I eat or cut back? No! He’d be a goner immediately! Besides, by really honoring myself, I would listen to my body and give her what makes her feel good. Chocolate cake every night would not do that. Nor would I want my PP to be a total pig. Remember, by courting myself I would also embody and be how I want my PP to be. That includes being confident, active, successful, generous, and adventurous.
The most important revelation for me was that I would of course want my PP to be constantly communicating and displaying his love for me, whether through words or gestures, till death do us part! I realized I had sold myself short with the stingy “self love” I had given before. I had it in my mind that I could take really good care of myself for a week and then be good for a month (or longer). So I inevitably found myself frustrated when I would [obligingly] take these actions of self care and then the next month be right back where I was before. Nope, true self love is an everyday, life long commitment. I decided to make a short experiment of it just to be sure.
21 days, I kept thinking, the amount of time it takes to develop a habit.
So on March 22, 2015, I officially began courting myself for 21 days, 21 days to prove I’m the love of my life! I began immediately by fixing a plate of raw chocolate with nuts and seeds to eat for breakfast in bed. Good start.
I wondered if I could keep it up for 21 days without fail, but then I realized I didn’t have to be perfect; no relationship is without some waves. If we (me and my inner PP) had a “fight” or falling out, we would extravagantly make it up to each other after to re-communicate our love. Win-win!
I also shared it with others (the best way to stay accountable). I Instagrammed and Facebooked my actions every day for myself (see images at the end of this post or on Instagram @Carly.Noel or Facebook @Carly Noel).
21 days later (well, actually 22; somehow I lost count and did an extra one), I had left Bali, traveled through Malaysia, and ended up in Thailand, just in time for Songkran. I can’t describe in words how new I felt. The Thai people celebrate their New Year with water “fights,” throwing water at each other for 1-3 full days. It was symbolically perfect, riding on our motorbike to the beach while getting sprayed and drenched with water, every one laughing and screaming.
So what gave?
Well, a lot of things. Here are some of the most significant results I’ve experienced from 21 days of courting myself:
I started complimenting myself everyday, multiple times a day. I began standing taller and feeling more beautiful, for real!
Reduced Sugar Cravings
Leading up to the 21-days I was experiencing intense sugar cravings that had me eating cake or cookies almost every night, rarely feeling satiated. Quickly, these cravings subsided and I could fully enjoy a small amount of dessert once in a while, stopping without forcing myself because I was satisfied (one night I even at one Oreo cookie and then happily was finished…I don’t think I’ve ever done that!)
More Mindful Eating, Less Emotional Snacking
I slowed down my meals, really focusing on my food and enjoying each bite. I wouldn’t want my PP to be on his phone while eating dinner with me or to shovel food in his mouth, so why should I? In the end, I’ve felt fuller, more satisfied, and my digestion has improved impeccably! I even leave food on my plate when I’m full now!
I started moving more in ways that made me feel good. Some mornings that meant dancing or yoga or pilates, sometimes a little mix of everything. The only requirement was that it had to be enjoyable for me. (Did you know you actually hold onto weight when you’re stressed, so if you hate your workout, you are actually being counterproductive?)
Giving Generously & Receiving
I became more generous with others, offering my food to share with friends, leaving tips at restaurants (not expected in Asia), complimenting strangers. I was surprised with the amount of generosity I received back as well…a friend giving me a leg rub without me asking, another buying me a breakfast drink one morning, and the list goes on!
Increasing My Standards for a Partner
I quickly began to attract a new caliber of men, many of them platonic friends, yet all treating me like a Queen. From a stranger offering to carry my heavy luggage from one side of an island to the other, to two new friends setting up an apartment for me to stay in Thailand, stocking the fridge with water and fruit, showering me with compliments, kindness, and no traces of judgment every day. I began to realize that all of the qualities I want in my PP actually do exist in reality, plus more I hadn’t even imagined!
Since my PP would be wildly abundant and never worry about money, I stopped worrying too (I admit, I do have to remind myself from time to time). Nonetheless, money flowed naturally into my bank account! Doing bits of work remotely here and there was a joy (because I’m worth it!)
Taking Time for Me
I restarted the morning routine that I love: journaling, meditating, reading and movement. I had previously told myself I had no time for it. I renamed it Morning Lovemaking too because a routine sounds like homework. It’s amazing how a good morning sets the tone for the rest of the day.
I started to notice I’d think of something I want and it would appear soon after. From craving Indian food and sitting down to a plate of paneer minutes later, to desiring flowers and being given a bunch of daisies that afternoon. The small things sometimes make the biggest impact.
Expanding Capacity for Pleasure
This includes sex but isn’t just about that. From being able to be completely present, even the breeze on my skin sends shivers down my spine.
Allowing Myself to BE
This is probably one of the biggest things for me. I’ve finally really given myself permission to slow down and let go. Yes, I’ve been traveling for several months now but always with the “should’s” and ego telling me to be “productive,” to at least see and do all that is around me. That’s a lot. Stopping all the do-ing has led to deep connections and conversation with others.
With all of this (and more that I haven’t shared), I must say I really love courting myself and I won’t ever stop, even when my Perfect Partner walks into my life in physical form.
My mission now is to share this with others and invite people to take on the 21-Day Court Myself Challenge. Whether you’re in a relationship, married, single, whatever, this can benefit everyone. There’s no limit to the amount of love we can receive, only what we allow ourselves to receive. So love yourself up! And do it in the way that is true for you. I gave myself what I needed; you may be completely different.
I will be launching a group challenge soon for women, so stay tuned or contact me here for more details.