Guest post by Siena Lee-Tajiri
Last month we reinforced how we already know how to love as evident through how we care for our beloved cats. We also touched on how our cats can serve as secure role models for love. Today I’m going to shed some light on why self-love is so hard, and how our amazing cats can help us turn more of our love towards ourselves.
How the conscious and subconscious parts of our brain create habits
Let’s start with some basics about the brain. Although it’s much more complex than this, at any moment we’re generally using either the conscious part or the subconscious part of our brain. The conscious part of our brain is the “smart” brain, when we’re fully present and can think clearly and reason. The subconscious part is more primal, reactive, habitual, and the part that can do things on autopilot.
When we’re born, and for several years after, our brains are like sponges. This is when we’re soaking everything up and actually “learning” how to be a human. We’re also developing the subconscious part of our brain. Our experiences and how we’re cared for during this time help shape what will become our “programs” or patterns. This can be our tendency to lean towards certain feeling states and how we cope with these feelings. It’s interesting to realize most of our patterns as an adult are developed during those very early years when we had no control. But thankfully, the conscious part of our brain begins to develop. This is the brain that’s present, aware, and focused…the part that does have control.
But here’s the catch: according to holistic psychologist Dr. Nicole Le Pera, 95% of our lives are run by habit, stored in the subconscious. This is why you can learn all these tools on self-love but not succeed at implementing them for lasting change. What’s happening here is you used your conscious brain to read that new self-love book, but when you put it down and went on with your life, mostly run by habit, your subconscious and old patterns took control and you continued doing what you normally do based on the patterns set up in your early years.
How our nervous system contributes to our habits
Our nervous system also plays a very active part in our habits. We can do everything to try and change our lives but really, our nervous system is in control because it remembers the patterns and programs stored in the subconscious. Still, there’s a gift here: you can feel when your nervous system is triggered. You know when you’re in fight or flight: your heart rate goes up and you start taking more shallow, quick breaths. Fear or even panic starts to rise up. When you can identify these things, you can use them as cues to regulate your nervous system so you can switch from using your subconscious brain to your conscious brain. Again, it’s the conscious brain that can make choices aligned with the changes you want to make in your life, like loving yourself.
We cannot control when our nervous system is triggered, but we can control what happens after. Part of this is being aware of when you’re triggered and to do this, you need to commit to cultivating more conscious moments in your life. You can do this through one minute meditation/awareness breaks where you practice bringing yourself fully present into your internal and then external world. This will then help create space between the trigger and the habitual reaction, so we can then consciously choose the desired reaction.
I offer all of this to say that this is a big part of why it’s so hard to love ourselves. We can know what to do but then slam into our old programs. If you didn’t have secure role models of love growing up and if as a baby, your care was inconsistent and/or distant, you might have developed patterns and paradigms of “I’m not lovable. You can’t trust people to be there for you.” You then continue growing with this pattern as a foundation for all relationships, including the one with yourself. As an adult, you take seminars, read books and learn the tools, but you can’t seem to integrate them consistently because the old patterning kicks in and the cycle continues.
Cats help us cultivate conscious moments
But finally, here’s where our cats come in! Our cats are our healers. They can serve as secure role models for unconditional love. In fact, they can play a significant role in being a part of your commitment to cultivating conscious moments.
Several times a day, sit with your cat. Pet them. Notice how their fur feels. Are they purring? Look around at the room you’re in, then look back at your cat. Do this for one full minute, several times a day. Just sitting near and petting your cat not only brings you fully into the present, it also releases calming and other feel good hormones. All of this is fabulous for regulating your nervous system. Cats keep our hearts open and they are the perfect co-pilots on our journey of self-love.
In conjunction with cultivating conscious moments with our cats, begin paying more attention to how you love and care for your cat. Try incorporating your self care with care for your cat: when you feed your cat, check in with yourself to see if you need a snack. Change their water, then pour yourself a glass. Groom and brush your cat while soaking up a hydrating face mask. When your cat is napping, check in and see if you could use a nap or do something that feels relaxing to you: stretch, meditate, or watch your favorite show. When you play with your cat, actually use it as time to really let your inner child out and play. Play like a 6-year-old might enjoy playing: put some fun music on, enjoy twirling around the wand toy, or using bouncy balls. I bet you’ll find yourself smiling more, giggling and enjoying this time with your cat even more.
We can begin chipping away old patterns and beliefs around self-love through consistent self-care. Incorporating new patterns of self-care together with your cat’s care will move energy and begin sending new loving messages to all your cells. This is a life more in line with who you truly are. And when you practice self-love, you expand your own capacity to love more deeply, which in turn helps you to sustain nurturing, healthy relationships.
Thank you for reading! I’m so grateful that together, we’re creating this safe space to learn how to better love ourselves!
With Love and Above,
Siena Lee-Tajiri is the founder of the Love and Above Cat Club. Please visit, sign up for their mailing list, and browse their shop.
FTC Disclosure: The Conscious Cat is an affiliate partner of the Love and Above Cat Club. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.
All photos ©Siena Lee-Tajiri, used with permission