It’s true, the concept of Self Love is over hyped. But legitimately, the practice of Self Love is one of the most transformational habits we can establish.
The president of the Brain & Behaviour Research Foundation, Jeffery Borenstein defines Self Love as “a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others.”
At first glance, this may appear self serving or narcissistic, but with deeper reflection, it’s fundamental. Any medical class will teach you to first address your safety. Everyone knows to put their own oxygen mask on first. Why? Because you can’t truly help anyone else if you yourself are at a detriment. The same is true with the practice of Self Love.
Self Love helps us to create a reserve of kindness, empathy and compassion that can then be authentically shared with others. It helps us to be more in tune with our own needs which then informs our ability to see and address the needs of those around us. And honestly, Self Love feels good.
Obviously, Self Love is exceptionally personal. Only we as unique individuals truly know what we need. But how do we begin to figure out what form of Self Love would serve us most?
One easy clue is, what do you desire from others, particularly in your more intimate relationships? Do you desire more attention, more hugs, more kind words? Do you desire intentional dates, sweet notes, authentic listening? The actions and feelings you want others to give you is a great place to begin a practice of love for yourself.
To start, make a list of the feelings and actions you desire from the important relationships in your life: spouse or partner, parents, siblings, children, friends, co-workers… Go through each person in your mind and begin listing what you want from them. Some will be unique to the particular relationship, but most likely you will begin to see repeats. This is where you can begin your practice.
You mean Hug myself?!
Yes! And take yourself on dates, and listen more authentically to yourself, and speak more kindly to yourself, and look yourself in the eyes and smile… All the ways in which you want something from others, you can show up for yourself. And you need to, because you are your own oxygen mask. Your ability to love yourself is the measuring stick for how much you can love others. You can’t give what you don’t have.
And it is a practice, meaning you have to repeat the actions to get a better result. Self Love is pretty innate when we are young, but with time, self doubt and intolerance creeps in. The loss of that initial knowing of our own value happens for a variety of reasons, which is why the Self Love journey is personal. But once we can narrow in on how to love ourselves, we must practice. We have to build that muscle in order to see the potential, which is vast.
An objective way to view Self Love is that it’s the act of managing our inner critic. This allows us to gain a more honest perspective of our “failures,” and to see our efforts and growth in a more kind, supportive, compassionate way…just like we would offer another. Some foundational ways to practice Self Love are:
- Avoid negative self talk- Choose kinder words. If you are uncomfortable singing your own praises, at least use language you would use for someone you care about. Try taking a more understanding tone with yourself. When you catch yourself in self criticism, consciously give yourself grace. “Brandi honey, you tried… Brandi dear, you are still learning… Brandi friend, you will figure this out…” It doesn’t have to be a 180 change, but be softer to yourself and grow that capacity.
- Create rituals of self care- What is the difference between a habit and a ritual? Intention. Habits become rituals simply by becoming more present and having a sense of purpose behind your actions. Recognize yourself in your simple acts of self care: hygiene, exercise, meals, meditation…. Be present with yourself and be intentional. Attention is one of the greatest forms of care.
- Set healthy boundaries- Be aware of your “Yes” autopilot. Obviously, we all have obligations outside of our own that we have to show up to, but over accommodating others is depleting. Before you say yes, notice your gut reaction. Are you saying yes from a space of “should”? Do you feel light, easy or excited to help. Or do you feel heavy, guilty, or tired about showing up. It’s OK to say no, and it actually allows others the chance to grow.
- Be compassionate to yourself- Beyond your self talk, notice how you feel. Are you in a challenging time or situation? Are you suffering? Just as you would hold space for another who is experiencing difficulties, give yourself the same understanding and kindness. Be nice to you. You may want to change in ways that bring you more health and happiness, but this has to be done because you care about yourself, not because you think are worthless or unacceptable.
- Make space for self reflection- create some objectivity around your life. Take time to simply document your efforts and your challenges. Just notice and allow. Then also notice what went well, what is working out. Make this easy, maybe a couple short, constructive observations, and a few wins. These can be small are large. A great conversation, a good workout. The key is to take time to feel your wins. Enjoy them for 30 seconds, celebrate them before you move on. I recommend this daily, briefly at the end of the day. It will truly help to shift your perspective on your life, and yourself.
What’s the point?
You are! Your happiness. Your health. Your productivity. Your energy. Your capacity. Your motivation.
Self Love has the capacity to transform your life from the ground up. It’s the best hack for changing your situation. We can’t always change the circumstances surrounding us, but we can change the way we respond.
Some of the evidence based benefits of a Self Love practice include:
- Decreased anxiety
- Increased self awareness
- More self acceptance
- Better mental health
- Higher self esteem
- More motivation
- Better sleep
Self Love fortifies us to respond with genuine kindness and care. It helps us to feel capable and sustained; and honestly, it just feels good. Every day is the perfect day to practice Self Love, beginning now ;)… So, go give yourself a smile and a hug. You won’t regret it.
All my love to you, Brandi