The twenty-first century is often seen as the age of self. This comes with both positive and negative connotations. On the one hand, we talk about “finding yourself”, “loving yourself”, or “being truly, unapologetically yourself” more than ever. At the same time, this journey of self-discovery can become tied up with consumerism culture, indifference, and selfishness.
Can we have one without the other? Can we work on ourselves without becoming self-absorbed? Here at Intelligent Change, we believe we can. So let’s explore the pillars of self-love in modern times to help you learn how.
The self in the modern age
In the past centuries, people have mainly relied on their communities to get a sense of belonging, connection, and identity. Even today, communities give us a sense of familiarity and security. However, as technology has progressed, we have gradually become more capable of living independently.
The freedom-driven economy provides us with many options when it comes to choosing what’s best for us. At the same time, the job market, as well as our social and romantic lives, provide us with a lot of opportunities for making genuine personal choices.
The world seems to invite us to discover the lives we want to live. But it also tempts us to compare ourselves to others on social media or conform to imposed ideals instead of following our intuition. This paradox can make us feel fragile and insecure, leading us to question our self-worth. And what is the best antidote for a fragile self?
Love, of course.
What does self-love mean?
Specific acts of self-love may differ from one person to another, but the core reason for practicing self-love remains the same. It helps us feel more fulfilled, balanced, and in line with our values.
As children, we depend on our caregivers to provide us with love, comfort, support, and boundaries. As we grow up, we begin developing a greater consciousness and start tending to our own needs, especially when it comes to self-love.
We often imagine adulthood as the ultimate stage of development, when we’ve “figured things out” and learned how to balance our feelings even in the face of adversity. What often remains untold is that adulthood can also be challenging and confusing, because we never really stop growing up.
Life is all about experiencing novel situations that challenge our worldviews and emotional endurance, no matter how old we are. Sometimes, we become stronger from experiences, while, at other times, we are left with scars that require healing and nurturing. In other words: self-love.
Self-love has numerous definitions and benefits. Maintaining mental and physical health, building confidence and courage for taking risks, and developing healthy and loving relationships with ourselves and others all become possible with self-love.
Building the self-love pillars
Loving yourself means being able to rely on yourself and, thus, it requires trust and belief in yourself. From this stems self-determination and self-empathy, which gear us towards self-improvement and self-compassion. All these qualities give us a good nurturing base for tackling obstacles and adversities.
How do we learn to love ourselves better? How do we build these self-love pillars?
Philosophers, psychologists, life coaches, and gurus have preached the importance of self-love for decades. Now, it’s time to put that knowledge into practice and start giving ourselves the love, kindness, and attention that we deserve.
Taking responsibility for our emotions and well-being is probably the smartest and healthiest thing we can do for ourselves. And there are various ways to start practicing self-love––from going to therapy and changing the way our cognition shapes our emotions, to finding a fulfilling hobby that unleashes our creativity and joy.
Here are some of our suggestions on how to build the pillars of self-love.
1. Positive self-talk
Self-talk is the inner dialogue we have with ourselves. Self-talk tells us a lot about our thoughts and inner processes because it’s mostly run by our subconscious. Most of the time, we don’t even realize we are doing it; it’s almost an automatic process.
However, it is possible to take conscious control of our self-talk and transform a distressing and negative voice into an encouraging and positive one.
Negative self-talk is mostly colored by thoughts that fit some of these four trends:
Catastrophizing: expecting the worst to happen, no matter how illogical.
Polarizing: everything is either good or bad. Nuances and dualisms are lost.
Personalizing: everything is your fault.
Magnifying: you focus on the problems in any situation, and their positive aspects remain invisible.
You may not even realize your self-talk revolves around these lines. But once you start paying attention to your inner monologue, they become easier to identify and refocus. With the intentional effort, you can challenge these views and replace them with compassionate, kind, empowering self-talk. Here are some examples:
I have failed and ashamed myself.
I am courageous and proud of myself for trying.
Why should I bother with exercising when I’m not in perfect shape. It’s too much effort.
I am capable, and I can do this. I want to be healthier for myself.
There’s no way I will perform well in this; I’ve never done it before.
I am grateful that I have an opportunity to learn new things and expand my skill set.
This will never work.
I will do my best to make this work.
If I change my mind now, everyone will be disappointed.
It is in my power to change my mind. The other people will understand my needs.
2. Mindful affirmations
Life is what you make it. If you recognize the power of affirmations as a self-care and self-love tool, and as a force that can build you and your reality up, you might become unstoppable.
To help you get started, we recently created Mindful Affirmations, a deck of 54 cards that can help you alter your thought patterns and bring your attention to what you can have rather than what you lack. This self-care ritual will redefine any harmful beliefs you may still hold on to by rewriting the narrative in your mind and refocusing it on positive messages, open doors, and possibilities.
3. Be in tune with yourself
Being in tune is all about self-awareness and getting to know yourself better. Self-love is a journey of self-discovery. That means learning how to put a name to your emotions, figuring out the values that make you happy, and drawing a line between what you do and who you are, in order to pursue your true, authentic nature.
Acceptance goes hand-in-hand with self-awareness. Being authentic and pursuing our true nature becomes possible when we let ourselves try new things and explore our limits. No one is perfect. We are all work in progress. Learning how to love and how to be loved is a lifelong process, and self-acceptance helps us move forward in this journey.
5. Being kind
Being kind to other people helps us become kinder towards ourselves. We also like ourselves better when we perceive ourselves as kind, open, and helpful human beings, and that makes it easier to exercise self-love.
6. Building self-esteem
In plain English, this means respecting and valuing every part of yourself––from your self-image to your personal and professional accomplishments. It goes a lot deeper than simply liking what you see in the mirror. High self-esteem also means believing that your opinions are worthy, that you are capable of being successful, and that you aren’t always worried about how others perceive you.
Building self-esteem becomes possible when we do the inner work. It all starts with digging into your inner world, and consciously trying to uncover the fears, past mistakes, or limiting beliefs that are casting a shadow over your relationship with yourself and your self-esteem.
We’re all living complicated lives, full of new experiences that may challenge our feelings of self-worth. Practicing self-love helps us find balance and navigate our unique paths into the future. You can use daily mindfulness practices to weave self-acceptance and self-compassion into your life. Making a conscious effort to understand and address fears from a place of love is the first step toward self-love.