When it comes to self-love, most of us are work in progress. It might be empathy urging us to put others' needs before our own, or a social obligation to earn a place within a community by helping someone else before we take care of ourselves. This is very noble behavior, hats off to us all. However, if we genuinely wish to positively impact the reality around us, we need to take care of ourselves first.
To set the record straight, self-love is not eating a box of chocolates at 11 PM or counting away the hours in front of a TV screen, even though there’s nothing wrong with that. Self-love is prioritizing your happiness and well-being in a healthy and self-compassionate manner while consciously working towards maximizing your potential to live out your dreams and lead the life of purpose. Only with this self-awareness can we help others love themselves, too. How, you ask? Read on.
A Sound Mind In A Strong Body
Physical health is treasure. If you're healthy, you're rich, truly. Our physical form provides a home for the mind and soul and, thankfully, we hold much control over whether our essence lives in a palace or a shack. Self-love is treating your body with respect it deserves and prolonging its ability to serve you.
While eating well, sleeping well, exercising and getting regular medical check-ups are all routes to physical health, there is still more you can do. After eating your fifth portion of veggies for the day and mastering the downward dog pose, take a deep breath and thank your body for doing such a great job. There is no you without your physique. Self-love is gratitude towards your body.
We accept the love we think we deserve. ― Stephen Chbosky
Brick By Brick: The Walls of Mental Health
Self-love is born in the mind, and mental health is a castle of its own. It has to be built with solid bricks, laid carefully and with intention. In this fortress lives your self-love. In order for it to be properly protected, you need to put in effort into strengthening the castle walls regularly.
If you don't know where to start, set these matters in order first:
Accept Your Past
We all come with our share of experiences, maybe traumas and most likely a number of mistakes, too (nobody's perfect and how else would we learn?). Self-love is accepting your past and who you were once upon a time. Everything that happens carries a lesson in its pocket. Try to keep an open mind, whatever happened in your life made you who you are today, and that is something to be grateful for. Make peace with your past to create a brighter future.
Forgive Yourself (And Those Who Made Your Skin Thicker)
Self-love is forgiveness, no regrets. As Maya Angelou once said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." Life is about constant learning (sometimes the hard way). Forgive yourself for not knowing better. Now you do and that's what matters. Try to also forgive those who stood in your way with folded arms and blocked the sunlight. They didn't know better either.
Invite People In And Out
We are the sum total of the five people we spend the most time with. In this case, self-love is choosing the strongest support system. Build your life with friends, build with mentors, don't be afraid to let anyone with less than honorable intentions go. You are the ruler of your castle, it is entirely up to you who will be invited in, choose wisely. Your mental health deserves nothing but love, kindness and appreciation from those closest to you.
It is the only constant in life. Your first gray hair is a sign of wisdom and smile lines are proof of happiness. Even your scars tell a story of how brave and resilient you have been. Life is a series of adjustments and alterations and self-love means accepting the inevitable change, welcoming it with open arms. Think of it as an upgrade ― you're reaching a higher level of your existence.
Give Yourself Permission To Be...
Whoever you are, want and need to be in order to be happy. Self-love is being your truest, most authentic self (as long as you don’t hold others back). Grant your heart the freedom to be entirely and unapologetically you. Like Salvador Dali or David Bowie did, like Billie Eilish and Missy Elliot do. Stop comparing yourself to others, set your own trends because when you do, you free others to do the same.
Give Yourself Permission to Feel Everything
Emotions make us human. Self-love is allowing your heart to feel it all, both light and shadow. Let it all in to process it, select what to keep and move on. As Glennon Doyle writes in her book Untamed, in order to heal, we have the responsibility to digest all of our emotions, even if, for a moment, it makes us less efficient, convenient or pleasant. “There is no glory except straight through your story”, she adds.
The most powerful words in the universe are the words you say to yourself. — Marie Forleo
How To Practice Self-Love
Accepting your past and allowing your heart to be free is the introductory chapter to your self-love journey. Next, there are self-care practices you can incorporate into your daily or weekly routine to enhance progress. For example:
Carve Out Some Alone Time
During the day we are usually busy and surrounded by people, be it coworkers, customers, partners or children at home. However, from time to time we need to recharge our batteries in solitude. Let go of your guilt and remember that self-care is NOT selfish, it's crucial for your mental health and overall well-being.
Write A Love Letter To Yourself
"Dear me, I love you. I see you, I appreciate you and I am incredibly grateful for you. You are my best friend, you know me well, we can go through hard things together". Inner integrity is incredibly important. Communicate with yourself, make sure your inner voice is heard. Address it in a note to yourself, express your gratitude out loud or simply make a list of five of your qualities you like the most. Then, put it in The Five Minute Journal as a reminder that self-love should be a regular practice.
Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable. ― Mary Oliver
Dreaming Out Loud: Planning Your Happiness
To those of us for whom good enough is never good enough, we say: keep dreaming. Self-love is permission to let your imagination soar, the sky's the limit. You may start small, yet never fear to run wild. Be grandiose, be free. Define your vision, set your goals and design your best life. Self-love is creating a reality you won't need an escape from.
How you love yourself shows us how to love you. Self-love is also the beginning of your love towards others. It's a ripple that can activate waves felt around the world. Self-love is freedom, self-love is catharsis. Once it starts within you, it spreads all around you.