We hear the word “self-love” and it can seem quite scary. It is about learning to love all of ourselves, even the parts that we believe are unlovable. It means having to look deep inside, face parts of us we have maybe tried to avoid seeing and accept every single part is worth being loved. It is about learning to boost yourself and not needing or wanting others to boost you. Loving yourself is the best way to show someone else how to love you. People will come and go in your life but you are who you will spend the rest of your life with. If you love yourself, then you will always be loved.
WHAT IS SELF LOVE?
Let’s start with really breaking down what self-love is. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, self-love is an appreciation for one’s own worth or value; proper regard for and attention to one own’s happiness or well-being. Now, reading those definitions one could consider this to be narcissistic because you are so focused on yourself but there is a HUGE difference. Narcissists tend to be boastful because they are trying to prove they are all these great things. They are trying to almost talk themselves up so much that if others agree with them, then maybe they can believe they really are those things. When deep down, most are lacking self-love and this is why they seek and crave it from others because they can’t find it within themselves.
Yes, self-love is about being selfish but in the best way possible. It is about caring for your own happiness. It is about loving yourself in a way that you deserve and not sacrificing yourself for others. That is the key – you are loving yourself how you deserve to be loved and that is not selfish - that is essential.
THINGS THAT KEEP YOU FROM LOVING YOURSELF
As state above, it has been thought that loving yourself, putting yourself first, is selfish, narcissistic and arrogant. The truth is that it is actually a very positive and healthy element of life. Loving yourself is not about ignoring other peoples needs or becoming self-obsessed. By practicing self-love you are trying to create a positive relationship with yourself that you can then carry over into relationships with others. By focusing on yourself, you are allowing yourself the opportunity to focus on healthier relationships you have with others in your life. Practicing positivity within yourself allow it to spill out toward others overtime. When you eliminate the negative self-talks you are then able to be confident and with confidence comes greatness not only for yourself, but people and things around you in life. They say that a smile is contagious and that is so true. So, if you are able to truly be happy and cheer yourself on, that will spread to others around you. How is this selfish?
Another reason why it can be hard to practice self-love is because we can sometimes confuse self-love with the practice of self-care. When we care for ourselves, it is a broad term that covers caring for ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally. It can include things from the most basic of needs like making sure to eat and shower to pampering ourselves with things like getting our hair done, spa days and so on. The way we care for ourselves can differ from person to person. When it comes to self-love, it is overall the same for everyone – see your worth and focus on your own happiness and well-being. It is about mentally wrapping ourselves in a warm blanket and being kind to ourselves. This isn’t about a particular physical activity but more a mental state. Self-care is one form of self-love because self-love goes deeper than into yourself that self-care doesn’t quite reach.
It can be hard to not let outside influences affect us. From seeing things on social media to the way people we have dated treat us, it can be difficult to not let all this effect how we see ourselves. Maybe we don’t look like all the girls on social media, and it makes us question our attractiveness. We start doubting our appeal to others because we judge every part of us against someone else. Maybe we have continually dated people who make us feel like we are worthless because they haven’t shown us respect. We start believing that maybe we aren’t worth love and attention since no one wants to give it to us. Then, once we start getting all these negative thoughts flowing it is hard to focus self-love because all the positive is blocked by the negative.
WAYS TO LOVE YOURSELF
Despite the difficulties we can face, there are ways we to overcome them and find self-love. The options are limitless, you just have to take the first step to finding which one works best for you. I want to share with you some places to start. Some of these I have tried, and they worked for me, some of them didn’t. Just remember, don’t get discouraged if you try a way and it doesn’t quite work. Not every option will fit for everyone. So don’t give up and try something else. Hopefully, you find one or two from my list that are great jumping off points for you.
Start your day by telling yourself something positive. Maybe you have heard the word “affirmations” or maybe not, but they are positives statements that are repeated frequently (usually daily) and are meant to brighten your outlook. They are there to challenge negative thoughts because the more repeat them, the more we can start to believe them. If we start each day by shifting our mindset from a negative or neutral state into a positive one, it can shift the outlook for our entire day.
I have tried this one and I’ll be honest, at first it just seemed silly. It seemed pointless to say a sentence or two about something positive, but I stuck with it and after a few days I noticed that I started seeing a pattern. My affirmations had a recurring theme for their topic. I was telling myself what I needed to hear each day and honestly, it did become easier and easier to believe the positive statement I was saying was true about myself.
Find your happy place. This could be a physical place you travel to but not many of us have time for this on a daily basis, so one of the best ways to get to your happy place is to just close your eyes and let your mind travel. This place should be somewhere where you are able to calm down, feel at peace and have positive vibes flowing around you. It is safe and secure in a way that allows you to let go of everything and feel happy. The best thing about a happy place is that it is all subjective and there is no right or wrong location. Maybe it is a quiet library surrounded by all the books in the world, possibly hiking through the mountains or maybe a quiet park with the sun shining down on you. Another great part about your happy place is that there are no rules. Maybe it defies physics, maybe a waterfall pops up in the middle of a desert with penguins walking around. It doesn’t have to be real; it doesn’t have to be a place you have ever been to in real life. It just needs to be your place to step away from all the craziness of life to focus on yourself. To focus on slowing down and being mindful of the moment and how you feel.
Set boundaries and don’t feel bad about them. There is nothing wrong with settling limits for yourself and with others. I can speak from experience that this is a tricky but much a needed element of loving yourself. Self-worth and self-value play a big part in setting boundaries. We can sometimes have a hard time placing boundaries out of fear we will be sacrificing relationships with people in all areas of our life: family, love, work, friends and such. So out of this fear, we will place less emphasis on our value and more on theirs. We sacrifice our happy mental health because if we set boundaries they might have a negative effect on the relationships. We think – what if the person gets mad at leaves? What if I’m left alone? What if they don’t think I’m worth the effort?
This is all valid to think because the truth is, some people are going to get mad and do those things, but guess what, that is okay. If someone can’t respect you enough to care about your need for boundaries and things in life, then they aren’t someone you should keep around anyways. When we set boundaries it is knowing you’re worth it and that you are not afraid to maintain your happiness and well-being. Sure, you might lose people on the way but that then brings the right people forward in your life that know your worth and respect you.
Forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. It happens but it doesn’t mean we can’t forgive ourselves for our wrongdoings. Let yourself not be perfect because the truth is, we will never be perfect and that is okay. Our mistakes our in the past and we cannot change them, but we can learn and grow from them. Take the opportunity to see what could have been done differently and put that to practice in the future. Maybe you were in a horrible relationship and looking back you feel stupid for putting up with it for so long. Take a deep breath and realize you can use this as a learning experience. Accept the mistakes you made. See how you could have handled it differently and use those feelings and knowledge to make better decisions in the future. If we just ignore our past mistakes, we will never be able to grow from them. Accept and forgiving yourself can allow you to release some of those negative thoughts we are holding onto and make room for more positive self-loving thoughts.
Practice mindfulness. Think of all the moments you have spent criticizing yourself and your life. Imagine all those joyless moments you stress about the past with things you can’t change and the future with things that haven’t even happened yet. Mindfulness is about being fully present in this moment and not being overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. It allows us to focus on what we are doing and feeling right now. It is awakening of your sense of self. By slowing down and living in this moment, it makes life and what you are doing more meaningful. Moments that might have been missed are now enriched because we are consciously engaging in them. Practicing mindfulness allows us time to slow down and we have a better chance to react calmly to situations and work on our overall well-being.
THE TIME TO START IS NOW
I have listed a handful of ways to start practicing self-love but there are so many more out there. Search some other ways and try them out. My only advice is to start with one or two and commit some time to them to see if they work. Don’t be quick to toss them aside but also don’t be afraid to realize it isn’t working for you and move on to another one. There is no right or wrong way to do them and just because you find one that works doesn’t mean you can’t change it up. You decide what works for you and go with it.
I truly wish you success on your path to finding self-love. I know it will be tricky at times, but it will be worth it in the end. What may seem like daunting tasks to practice each day will overtime just become natural routine ways of your life. The more self-love you give yourself, the more you will see the benefits it plays not only for yourself but the world around you. Your happiness, positivity and confidence will spill out into your world and change it in ways that you didn’t know could happen all by giving yourself the love and attention you deserve.
I want to add this additional note. I am not a professional. I’m just an individual, like you, who has been working on loving herself through trial and error. I have read books and articles online, just like I’m sure you have. I’m still learning as I go but wanted to share some of my thoughts and ideas with you to let you know, you can do this. You can start loving yourself and seeing your worth. I can tell you, once you do start truly seeing your worth and value, it will be hard to ever go back to a life without that view of yourself.