We are used to the idea of love in our relationships, with our partner, our friends and our families, but what about self-love and the relationship with ourselves?
Who can claim to love oneself? (Applause if you can).
The relationship with have with ourselves determines our relationships with others and our environment, so it should better be a good one.
Let’s talk about self-love, self-care and how you can practice it in your daily life.
What is self-love?
To define what self-love is, let’s flip our approach and eliminate right away what self-love is not:
- Self-love is not being selfish: you can’t fill someone else’s cup if yours is empty.
I become a dragon when I don’t get enough sleep for example. Am I making my partner a service by going to bed earlier? Definitely!
- Self-love is not being a narcissist: self-love means accepting the person you are, as much as you accept others. While narcissists think they are better than everyone, self-love people think they are just as good as others.
Note: you’re the person you are spending the most time with. Loving yourself makes sense simply because it will make your life much easier.
Now that the clarification is out of our way, I’d like to offer my own definition of self-love:
Self-love is a way to honour ourselves by meeting our needs in a holistic way: accepting and nurturing our body, our mind, our spirit, and our emotions, leaving no space for self-critic or self-judgment.
The benefits of practicing self-love
Self-love should have a place in a holistic wellbeing approach. Changes may be subtle from one day to another, but here is a sneak peek of the changes you can expect by committing to loving yourself a bit more every day.
1. Self-love sets you free
Once you are comfortable with being yourself, with your qualities and flaws, you stop comparing yourself and feeling sh*t for believing that everyone but you has already figured out everything.
2. You live aligned with your values
Our values are like our inner compass. They indicate what matters to us most. When we are dissatisfied in one or more areas of our lives, that’s often because we’re not aligned.
3. You develop resilience
Resilience is our capacity to cope with challenging situations. Once you and yourself become besties, you know that you can count on yourself. You know that you are enough because you have the necessary resources to face any issues. Every little victory will build upon and boost your self-confidence along the way.
4. You have healthier relationships
As mentioned earlier, you can’t fill someone else’s cup if yours is half-full. By making sure you’re comfortable with yourself, taking responsibility for your own mistakes, you’re in a much better state of mind, available for others, and not expecting anything from anyone. Good things appear like the cherry on the cake.
To make a long story short: When you feel content and complete with yourself, you stop being in victim mode, express your needs, say goodbye to toxic relationships, stop doing stupid things just to be liked, because … you know you are already loved.
Should you practice self-love? Take this quick test to find it out
- You can’t say ‘No’
- You put yourself last
- You apologise for being yourself
- You think you’re not good enough
- You feel generally dissatisfied without really knowing why
- You can’t remember when was the last time you did something for yourself
If you answered ‘Yes’ to at least one of the statements, welcome to the club and let’s practice some self-lovery together!
Self-love in practice: getting started
If you feel you’re not enough, you may want to improve the relationship with yourself. As we explained earlier, there is nothing selfish with that, quite the opposite!
Any change starts with awareness, so start being mindful of your thoughts and self-talk.
What do you tell yourself most of the time? Keep note of your monkey mind speech for a week and review it. Are you happy with your thoughts?
Are your needs being met?
Going back to the definition I gave about self-love, our needs should be met on different levels. That being said, can you tell what your needs are?
They are different from one person to another. I’m not asking what you think you should need (eg. ‘I haven’t run for a while, I should run again’).
No, you shouldn’t. Unless it makes your little you dance and happy flappy.
Forget about the ‘should’, ‘have to’, ‘need to’, and what everyone will think of you.
Asking yourself this simple but oh so important question is your first step towards more self-lovery. And if the first answer that comes to you is the classic ‘I don’t know’, take your time.
Now that you’re seeking to gain more awareness, trust that the answer will come. Learning to listen to ourselves needs some practice. Don’t rush it, but don’t give up on it either.
Note: The first step may be the most challenging, but when you’ll be ready, you’ll embark on an incredible self-discovery journey, and speaking of experience, you can’t even imagine where it will lead you to!
How to cultivate self-love?
In case you need a little nudge to get started, and wonder how self-love looks like, I have listed a few examples of how you could cultivate your self-love. You may be doing these things already:
- Setting boundaries
- Having a positive self-talk
- Living aligned with your values
- Asking for help when you need
- Treating yourself in a healthy way
- Taking a break when you feel the need
- Letting go of negative emotions (it doesn’t mean denying them!)
- Not beating yourself up when you mess up (we all do, we’re just humans after all)
Self-love is a journey, just like personal growth. Don’t expect to wake up one day and do all the above-mentioned things (and don’t beat yourself up for not being there yet either!).
It takes time to rewire our habits. And if those habits are hindered by deep rooted limiting beliefs, the journey may be a bit longer. BUT you’ll get there.
If you’re reading this article, chances are that you’re already on your way. Remember the baby steps: progress, no matter how small and little, is still progress.
Self-love vs. Self-care
Self-love can be expressed in many ways like saying ‘I love you’ to your reflect in the mirror or huging yourself, but just that doesn’t come easy. I found that self-love can supported by self-care. It’s one of my favorite topics and I already wrote an article about self-care Sunday ideas.
It could be Sundays, or any other days of the week, here are some ideas to practice self-care. I split them into the holy spirit of a holistic approach:
- Massaging your hand and/or feet
- Taking a bath
- Doing a face and/or face mask
- Doing some stretching movements, or even some exercise
- Reading a chapter of a good book
- Go to the hairdresser
- Learning something new
- Call someone you love
- Practicing an activity (crafting, drawing, painting, dancing, singing maybe?)
- Listening to your favorite song
Tip: Make some me-time a non-negotiable. Why not plan ahead and book a date with yourself for at least 30 minutes a week, and do what puts a smile on your pretty face?
Personal growth over perfectionism
I’m reading the book Self Compassion – Stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind written by Dr. Kristin Neff, an expert in the self-compassion field, and it’s sooo interesting.
In her book, the author explains that we criticise ourselves first so that we are prepared in case someone would criticise us. If you’ve been blaming yourself over and over again for something, it won’t hurt that much if it comes from someone else.
We naturally fear being judged, rejected, and abandoned by others (one of our greatest basic fears). This is why we adapt by rejecting ourselves before others can do so.
Emotions, and love especially drives our behaviors. We want to be loved and some believe that being perfect will make others love us more.
People who are perfectionists tend to be very self-critical. Besides being not nice to themselves, negative self-talk increases stress level and may lead in the long run to depression and dissatisfaction with life.
You deserve some self-compassion, just like the compassion you would show to others. Accept that you’re not perfect. You did and will make mistakes, hurt people, and fall, but this is what life is about. If everything would go as planned:
- Life would be boring;
- You would learn nothing.
And if you don’t grow, you basically regress, so which way do you choose?
Why you should start loving yourself right now
In conclusion, accepting who and what you are is crucial to start falling in love with yourself.
If you feel dissatisfied in one or more areas of your life, look inside. Self-love is one of the main ingredients for happiness.
More self-love equals a greater inner peace, which is part of a healthy lifestyle.
Looking at the bigger picture, becoming more in love with yourself basically sets you free in all aspects of your life, so what are you waiting for?