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To Care For Yourself is To Love Yourself

<br><br><br>To Care For Yourself is To Love Yourself
Self-love may sound like a new concept, but it’s not.  The ancient Greeks wrote about it over 2,000 years ago.  In fact, they considered philautia to be one of the seven main types of love - right up there with eros (romantic love) and agape (universal love).  The Latin philosophers; the Persian poet, Rumi; Harriet Tubman; Walt Whitman; Langston Hughes and Toni Morrison all wrote about self-love, not to mention many others, including Maya Angelou, who had this to say on the subject:

“I must undertake to love myself and respect myself and to respect myself as though my very life depends upon self-love and self-respect.”

Although it may be a different story in practice, self-love as a concept is simple.  It’s about the way we treat, talk to, and think about ourselves.  It’s about how we feel and what we project to the world.  But we can’t have a meaningful discussion about loving ourselves without also addressing the way we care for ourselves. 

"One of the best ways to recognize if we are not giving ourselves love and respect is how we are treating our body, our mind, our heart, and our time.”

--Arianna Smith, LPC, EMDR is a psychotherapist who practices in Denver.  This quote comes from an article written by Annakeara Stinson for Bustle.

Perfectly Imperfect
Loving ourselves has nothing to do with being flawless and self-care is not about chasing perfection.  That’s why we should not be thinking things like . . .

Self-love is for people who have earned it through
hard work and dedication.

I’ll love myself after I lose however many pounds.

I’m going to start doing what she does so I can look like her.

I love myself, because he or she loves me.

I’ll allow myself to eat my favorite foods once I get back
down to my high school weight.

Plastic surgery is a great way to achieve perfection and
that will help me love myself.

I love the good parts of me.

If any of this sounds familiar, you’re in good company, because the fact is that many of us struggle with the reality of self-love and the balance between loving ourselves and the way we take care of our bodies, minds and spirits.

Self-love, is not contingent on anything.  It just is.  It’s not about loving the parts of ourselves that we’ve perfected or that other people admire.  Self-love is loving all of ourselves as we are right now – today.  Sharon Martin, an LCSW who writes for Psych Central said it this way:

“Self-love means that you accept yourself fully, treat yourself with kindness and respect, and nurture your growth and wellbeing.

“Self-love encompasses not only how you treat yourself but also your thoughts and feelings about yourself. So, when you conceptualize self-love, you can try to imagine what you would do for yourself, how you’d talk to yourself, and how you’d feel about yourself that reflects love and concern.”

Loving ourselves can be a tall order when we’re constantly fending off the notion that self-care involves working to achieve someone else’s idea of perfection.  And our disproportionate focus on and obsession with the physical certainly doesn’t help.  No body fat, no lines and wrinkles, no perceptible flaws - it’s the constant drumbeat playing in the background.  That is, until we learn to turn it off.

When our minds are quiet, it’s easier to see that self-love and self-care are really two sides of the same coin.  Self-care is the way we take care of ourselves and one of the ways that we love ourselves.  So, yes to healthy food.  Yes to fitness.  Yes to our best selves at every age.  But that’s not to say that there’s one road to and one measure of healthy food, fitness and looking our best.  On the contrary.  Each of us is unique and there’s a broad range of normal in all things.  So, instead of focusing on what she’s doing, let’s be single-minded about our own path to true self-love and its balance with self-care.

If we’re open to the possibility of loving ourselves, we can approach our self-care with an attitude that’s healthy and nurturing and we can celebrate it as an integral part of the love we have for ourselves.

More About Loving Ourselves
Self-love is something that can be developed, according to Jade Wu, Ph.D. (Jade is the saavy psychologist and writes for Psychology Today.)  She details five ways to get started in her article, “5 Ways to Develop Self-Love and Why You Need To.”  Here are the key points.

  • Listen to your body and give it exactly what it needs, including rest and nourishment.
  • Allow yourself to really experience your emotions, even difficult ones.
  • Express yourself creatively and spend time on the activities you care about.
  • Be patient and forgiving to yourself and set boundaries where you need them.
  • Set boundaries and be your own best advocate.

Click here to read more.

More About Taking Care of Ourselves
There are some basics when it comes to self-care.  Some are obvious and others not so much.  Here are five building blocks for a solid self-care foundation.

Nourish:  Eating is about getting the right stuff from the foods we eat.  It’s also about taste, smell, satisfaction and pleasure.  The key words here are nourishment and balance.

Move:  Stretching, walking, dancing, hiking, hopping, reaching, running, bending, twisting, lifting, jumping.  Keep it moving for higher energy, elevated mood and better balance between what you eat and what your body needs to run efficiently.

Sleep:  Let’s not pretend that we haven’t heard the news about sleep.  Seven hour minimum, ladies.  Every single night.

Sex:  The importance of sex cannot be overstated, when it comes to self-care.  Whether you’re part of a couple, between relationships or decidedly single, regular orgasms are important for maintaining the health of your pelvic floor and your sexual organs.  Not to mention our old friend, oxytocin – the feel good chemical - is released during sex, along with endorphins.

Social:  Healthy social interaction is important for all of us.  No matter how you choose to engage, make sure it’s with people who are positive and make you happy. 

Here's more from the experts at Psychology Today.  Read about 12 ways to practice self-care from Tchiki Davis, Ph.D. 

Psychology Today, A Seven-Step Prescription for Self-Love, Deborah Khoshaba, Psy.D., March 27, 2012
Lifehack, 30 Ways To Practice Self-Love and Be Good To Yourself, Jessie Hays
Psych Central, What is Self-Love and Why Is It So Important?, Sharon Martin, LCSW, May 31, 2019
Bustle, Self-Love Isn't Easy, But Here Are Some Small Ways To Incorporate It Into Your Day-To-Day, Annakeara Stinson, August 3, 2019
Psych2Go, 10 Signs You Lack Self-Love, Sidney, June 20, 2020

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