What does it mean to love yourself?
Self-love is often used as a buzzword. We always hear quotes like "You can't truly love someone else unless you love yourself first." It's a concept that seems pretty big picture, its hard to understand how it fits into our everyday lives so we chalk it up to making time for bubble baths or making time for outward self-care, but its so much deeper than that. It's easy to understand why,
Self love is f*cking hard.
And it's not totally our fault, we live in a society where a message of "you're not enough" is projected more loudly and frequently than any voice that might whisper to tell us we're enough or absolutely worthy of love. No, I'm not a socially critical hippie, its an actual phenomenon.
Need some proof that we live in the opposite of a culture of self-love? Did you know about only 4% of women would call themselves beautiful?(1) That young girls are more afraid of being fat than getting cancer or loosing both their parents?(2) Or that self-esteem based on external sources is linked to major mental health consequences? (3)
Those studies are devastating. It's not that we are naturally this way, society trains us into this kinds of thinking through ads, entertainment and messaging. This doesn't mean we should stop buying beauty products or boycott Netflix (thats cray).
All it means is that we absolutely have to be intentional about self-love.
Let's walk through 4 essential steps to self-love and explore some of the ways you can become better at genuinely loving yourself.
1. Be mindful
Mindfulness means understanding what you think and feel. Mindfulness takes a little self-assessment to get to know why you do the things you do or why you have certain tendencies or thought patterns. Becoming mindful means examining your own thoughts and taking negative thoughts captive. P.S. You can also check out these 20 questions for self-honesty to help you get started on some quality self-reflection.
When you have a negative thought about yourself whether it's self-doubt, embarrassment, or un-satisfaction with who you are, analyze that thought for a moment. Can you identify a specific source? Like an ad, someone's IG post you saw, or something someone said to you? Take a second to find 3 reasons that this thought or comment is not true. Then think of a couple reasons that the opposite or the positive side of this thought is true.
2. Act on your needs rather than wants
Ok this one is hard. True self-love means being able to do what is best for yourself even when it doesn't sound good (or taste good). Acting on your needs means making choices that will keep you strong, centered and positive rather than acting on impulses that leave you feeling bad and may lead to a vicious cycle of being unsatisfied with yourself.
This doesn't mean saying no to cupcakes or binge-watching. At some point you need to let yourself indulge in those sorts of pleasures.
The trick is checking in with yourself and making intentional choices about what you truly need - and not just what you need right now, but discovering ways you can make meaningful choices that benefit your long term wellbeing.
Assessing and acting on your needs will allow you to move away from different patterns or habits that aren't good for you and will help you not to fall back into making those same types of choices over and over that don't truly benefit you. All this is way easier said than done so the two tricks are first to be intentional and mindful and second to be gracious with yourself and understand its ok not to be perfect. Breaking old patterns to form new ones is hard work.
3. Practice good self-care
While that bubble bath isn't all there is to self-love, it still plays a part. You can't expect yourself to love a body and mind that you aren't taking great care of. Self-care means taking care of more than just your basic needs.
It's way easier to love a body and mind that is cared for, so being intentional about this is a key way to jumpstart your self-love growth. Get comfortable putting yourself at the top of your to-do list everyday, and you'll find that the other things fall into place more easily.
Try to identify self-care practices that truly make you feel confident and give you the space you need to love yourself. For some, this could be as simple as making sure you get enough sleep at night so that you can de-stress and feel well rested. For others, this might mean taking the time to put on makeup if it makes you feel beautiful, confident and ready to take on your day.
Make a list of some of the areas you see you could really improve in when it comes to truly taking care of your body, mind, and soul. Some of the topics you might want to explore are proper sleep, nutrition, fitness, intimacy, skin care, and social interactions that are positive and healthy.
4. Forgive yourself
You're your own worst critic, and that's a good thing because it means you have an innate desire to grow and become better than you currently are. Forgiving yourself means making sure that this "inner critic" is there only for a little motivation, but that you don't let it infringe on your confidence, happiness, or strength.
Don't let this inner voice punish you for your mistakes. It's there to point them out, to help you think through them, but try to avoid and emotional response.
This means when you hear something like "You should have done ___ better," You acknowledge that it wasn't your best effort, then turn the thought pattern in a positive direction, for example by listing a few improvements that you can wait to try next time. Learning to truly forgive yourself is a journey of learning to accept your humanness, and more than that to love yourself because of it not in spite of it.
Channel all those aspirational failure quotes here. You know, the ones like, "Without failure, there is no growth," or "If you don't fail sometimes, you didn't aim high enough." They might be most often found on a cheesy cat poster, but that doesn't mean they're not true. Try to think of actual steps you can take to apply these thoughts and principles into your life instead of just getting inspired by an aspirational slogan.