The Practice of Self-Love
If you’ve been paying attention – even a little - you know that self-love is all the rage. We’re supposed to practice it, they say, because it’s a vital component of our health and happiness. But for the longest time, we associated self-love with negative characteristics: selfish, egotistical, self-absorbed. That way of thinking was ill-advised and a remnant from the past when women having it all really meant we were doing positively everything for absolutely everyone and leaving no time whatsoever for ourselves and certainly not for self-love. Of course, the result was some seriously unacceptable consequences like sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue - and the list goes on. Sadly, the aftermath lingers to this day. Some of us are still struggling with the concept of loving ourselves.
Interesting that Oxford felt the need to explain that self-love is not a narcissistic characteristic. Hmmm. I thought it would go without saying, at this point.
Love Thy Self
Advice on what we can do to promote self-love is plentiful. Lists are everywhere full of tips and tricks ranging from exploring our spirituality to being kind to ourselves to letting go of toxic people. All worthy endeavors for sure. But does the road to self-love enlightenment really start with the simple act of loving ourselves? Is that enough? Yes, according to one sage woman.
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.”
- Lucille Ball
Sounds simple enough, right? Yet it remains a struggle for so many. I believe that most of us are in the same boat rowing toward that place where we accept, love and nurture ourselves and prioritize our own needs. In this instance, the journey is the point.
Let There Be Lists
As mentioned, there are many resources on the subject of self-love. I looked to the experts for inspiration when I compiled this list to get us on the road to loving ourselves.
- Be kind to yourself. You know, like you are to other people most of the time. This sounds simple and maybe you've mastered the skill. But, if you refer to yourself in negative terms or use negative words to describe yourself, please stop immediately.
- Prioritize you. Period. Definitely a case of no one is going to do this for you.
Stop with the self-judging already, because nothing good comes from it. Set yourself free of this awful habit.
- Set healthy boundaries. This is different for different people. Invest some time thinking about your current boundaries. Are they working for you? Are they getting you closer to what you need?
- Own it. Maybe I'm the only one who has struggled with this one from time to time. But it's empowering to own all of it. I didn't say blame, shame or judgement. Owning it means it's mine - part of the intricate tapestry that is me.
- Forgive yourself. At your earliest possible convenience. Seriously.
- Allow yourself to make mistakes. Spoiler alert: you're going to make mistakes. It’s best to own them, learn from them and move on.
- Stop measuring your value with your mirror (or your scale). This is a tall order for many of us, because we’ve been using the wrong yardstick for so long. But to say this shift in attitude is worth the effort is a serious understatement.
Take care of yourself. Self-care is a huge part of loving ourselves. Of course what we eat and how we move, but also how we care for the mental, emotional, sexual and spiritual parts of ourselves.
If you're on a learning curve when it comes to self-love, you certainly aren't alone. For many of us, it doesn't come naturally and will require focused effort to achieve. For help, I turned to another sage woman: Oprah. As we might have guessed, she has some excellent advice on the subject.
The next time you look in the mirror, try to see yourself through the lens of self-love. You are beautiful, after all. And maybe it's time for all of us to start treating the person in the mirror looking back the same way we treat a treasured friend.
Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Blog, Self-Love and What It Means, Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., February 12, 2020
Psychology Today, A Seven-Step Prescription for Self-Love, Deborah Khoshaba, Psy.D., March 27 2012
Healthline, 13 Steps to Achieving Total Self-Love, Alison Rachel Stewart, September 18, 2018
Mbg mindfulness, 10 Tangible & Thought-Provoking Ways to Practice Self-Love, Nitika Chopra, expert review by Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., ABPP, February 13, 2020
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