Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. When we think about this holiday, we typically think of romance and love. For some, this is a fun day, but for others it may be a sad day because they don’t have a relationship or they don’t have the relationship they want. Seldom do we think about our relationship with ourselves as a love relationship, but it is. Self-love is an important part of being authentic. When we love and value ourselves, we can worry less about what others think of us. We can simply be who we are. Working on our self-worth, self-compassion, and self-care are all a part of self-love.
Here are a couple of other excellent descriptions of self-love:
Self-love is not simply a state of feeling good. It is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth.
“Self-love means having a high regard for your own happiness and well-being,” says Brian Wind, PhD. “Self-love can influence how you handle the challenges you face in different aspects of your life, your overall happiness, and your mental and physical health.”
Cultivating self-love has many benefits. Self-compassion and self-care increase when we develop self-love, this helps us with managing the anxiety. When we are more loving to ourselves, it’s easier to care for our physical and emotion health. We care more about what we put into our bodies, resulting in healthy eating and less addiction. This is also true with getting enough exercise, sleep, and staying hydrated. We also pay more attention to what we put into our mind and who we allow into our life. When we care for and value ourselves, we don’t allow things or people into our lives that harm us.
While the idea of self-love and its benefits are great, the real question is, how do we practice it? This is something I’ve worked on a lot in my life. An important point to recognize when figuring this out is to look at how others have damaged our ability to value and love ourselves. It’s important to recognize the roots of our lack of self-love. For me, this took a lot of therapy and years of self-examination. As an abused child, the message I received was that I was not important or valuable. The trauma and abuse powerfully reenforced this message. As an adult, it has been hard for me to truly love and value myself. It was only by looking at the roots of how my lack of self-worth was formed that I could let go of it so I could believe something different.
Understanding that we are valuable just the way we are is the foundation of building self-love. Other components in the building process recognize we are enough and that we don’t need to compare ourselves to others. It’s also important to take risks and overcome our fears. This is hard for me, because it means I might fail at something. Failure was often used to shame me as a child. But the new reality I’m building for myself is that when something doesn’t work, there is a lesson I can learn. Also, I don’t have to stick with something that’s not working in my life. It’s okay to move on to the next thing.
We may also need to forgive ourselves for things we did or didn’t do. This is also a hard thing. It’s important to recognize that our mistakes don’t define us. We are not the mistake; we simply made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. But if we have been told in the past that we are the mistake, it's hard to overcome this shame. Be compassionate with yourself. Learn to let go of the things that make you feel less than. Sometimes this may mean letting go of the person and the relationship.
Find your voice. This may be difficult when you’re used to allowing others to tell you what to think and feel. A practice I currently use to help with this is to pause, breathe deeply, and ask myself, “What do I need right now?” The next thing is to trust whatever comes up. Learning to trust our internal voice is an important part of loving ourselves. And when we trust that voice, we can tell the world what it is we want and need. This is the way to find and use our voice.
Take back our power. Too often, especially as women, we have given our power away. We allow the needs and desires of others to control our life rather than prioritizing our own needs and wants. But we should consider our needs as at least 50% as important when compared to what others in our life need. We consider their needs as 50% and our as 50%. It’s great to do more than 50% for us, but I tell my clients that this is at least a starting point. It is when we find our voice and value our own needs and desires that we can take our power back. This includes other practices like saying no, setting boundaries, and protecting ourselves.
There are many good practices to help us learn to love and value ourselves. Here are just a few:
Gratitude is big. We can be grateful for the things we have in our life, but we can also be grateful for who we are and what we do. The more we practice gratitude, the happier we are likely to be. And practicing gratitude is easy. You could write a gratitude journal, make gratitude lists, share your gratitude with others, or even write a gratitude letter to someone you never properly thanked.
Journaling is another great way to understand what we are feeling and figuring out ways to work with our emotions. Journaling helps our brain process information. When we journal, it helps us see things in a new way. It helps us process negative emotions and release intense feelings.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation are also good. These are ways for us to take a break from life for a moment. We can pause and calm our minds. These techniques can also help us look at things more objectively by calming down our fear response. Mindfulness and meditation have great physical and emotional health benefits as well.
Enjoy Your Life
Lastly, just remember that it’s okay to be happy and have fun in life. I firmly believe that when we are at the end of our life, one regret we probably won’t have is that we enjoyed life too much or that we just had too much fun while we were on this earth. It’s likely we will feel the opposite, that we didn’t celebrate enough. So now is the time – enjoy your life!
Self-love is a hard thing for many of us to achieve. But every journey starts with that first step. Be gentle with yourself. Focus on the positive things you are doing, rather than shaming yourself for what you think you should have done in the past or should be doing now. Accept that you won’t always get it right and that’s okay too. All of this is part of the process. I hope this blog helps and encourages you on your own journey of self-love.
I’d also love to hear how you practice self-love and how it affects your life. Please leave a comment about your journey of loving, valuing, and caring for yourself.
For more ideas about how to love and value ourselves, check-out these blogs: