Nowadays, it’s all about self-love and I am all for it!
We’re reminded over and over again of the importance of loving ourselves but have you ever wondered what it actually means? What does loving ourselves even look like? And what happens when we don’t love ourselves? (Spoiler alert: a lot of awful shit!)
When we think of self-love, we see images of bath bombs, perfectly staged baths, and social media posts reminding us to be ourselves unapologetically. But how does it make us love ourselves more?
Self-love is about making yourself a priority. You are #1 in your life. Your needs, priorities, and goals come before others. If you’re a people-pleaser like me, you already want to rip your skin off at the thought of how you’re going to do that… How does one prioritize themselves after a lifetime of putting others’ needs before their own? (!!!)
Let’s start off with a friendly reminder – it’s ok if you don’t know how to love yourself.
Most of us were never taught how to love ourselves. We were told to take care of others. Treat them how you want to be treated and (hope) they will do the same in return. It’s unfortunate to say not everyone is as kind, compassionate, and as loving as we would like them to be… (They’re dealing with their own ish but that also doesn’t mean it’s a free pass to be mean or hurtful.)
Now, the cultural focus is to put ourselves first and love ourselves unconditionally!
We were told to do it and received a million, often vaguely and contradictory, messages on how to do it. Common ones include brands pushing their own products, motivational videos screaming at you to love yourself (why are they always yelling?), and happy images of people traveling (which is a luxury not everyone can afford). What does it say about self-love? Is it something you can buy? Is it something someone else beats into you (seriously, why are they always yelling? Love the passion but my goodness, can we do it compassionately and at a decent volume?)
What is self-love?
Self-love is developing our relationship with our sense of self. It is reflected in our self-worth, identity, and how we treat ourselves. This, in turn, heavily influences our relationships with others, our work, and the likelihood of success, growth, and achieving our purpose.
Self-love is a continuous practice and a relationship, much like others, we must maintain. It’s easy for us to fall into old patterns and neglect ourselves. We make excuses like we’re too busy to make time for ourselves, it’s just easier to give in to their request, and that’s just how they are. Before you know it, you’re drowning in work and social obligations you didn’t need to take on, feeling extremely anxious all the time, and wondering how did you get here…
When we fall out of our self-love practice, we open ourselves up to accepting behaviors, people, and perceived obligations we wouldn’t otherwise tolerate if we had a strong sense of self, priorities, and worth. This can detrimentally impact us, resulting in unhealthy relationships (e.g. divorce, draining relationships with partners, family, and friends, and passing trauma onto others, such as partners, friends, kids, etc), physical pain (e.g. burnt out, exhaustion, and retriggering our physical illness), and psychological suffering (constant triggering our trauma wounds, projecting our pain onto others, and potentially developing mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, and others).
Failure to implement self-loving practices can result in temporary dissatisfaction to heavily affecting your health (mental, physical, and spiritual) to derailing your personal development journey and the impact you can make in your life and the world.
A few ways to practice self-love today!
There are a number of ways we can combat this by reinforcing our self-love practices and advocating for ourselves on an ongoing basis. Examples of this include:
Whenever others make us uncomfortable, we need to communicate it to them. If we’re not having our needs met, we need to communicate that to them. People are not mind-readers (neither are you) and we need to be able to advocate for ourselves, our needs, and priorities. To clarify, there’s a difference between a social invitation, comment/conversation, or whatever it is that may push you out of your comfort zone for personal growth and ones that are purely for their comfort and personal gain. Either way, you know yourself best and you can communicate your boundaries whenever you need them. It’s for you, not for them.
Say “no” when we want to say no
This includes activities, social invitations, and additional responsibilities that don’t align with our priorities and/or energy levels. Saying no is a great way to exercise boundary setting, energy management, discipline, and prioritizing your needs. Feel free to say no as much as you need! If they really care for you, they will respect it. As long as you do it respectfully and compassionately, you are not responsible for their reaction, including disappointment, anger, or temper tantrums so don’t feel guilty!
Not to take it personally
We often take way too many things personally – rejection, people making decisions (many of which have nothing to do with us), people changing their minds, etc. We especially take it personally when a relationship (friendship, romantic, and yes, even family members) isn’t we want it to (loving, caring, and healthy, which is how every relationship should be!). We feel like if we just did what they say/ask that things will be fine. No! Things will not be fine. This will only get worst as they will continue with harmful behavior and we will simply tolerate it.
Book recommendation: The Four Agreements by Don Juan Miguel
Failure to recognize there is a problem, the other person might be a part of the problem, and/or the two of you together creates a toxic dynamic that prohibits you from acknowledging the unhealthy patterns and educating yourself on what to do about it. Toxic relationships are not ones we need to fight for and keep. It is in their nature to not last and by holding on, taking it personally that it didn’t work out or didn’t amount to what you wanted it to be will cause you more pain, suffering, and take up space and energy from relationships that are good and healthy for you.
The hardest thing, especially in the beginning, is learning when to walk away from someone you care deeply about, whether temporarily or permanently. Again, this applies not only to romantic relationships but also extends to friends, family, colleagues, etc. If they’re hurtful, controlling, or manipulative, it’s not good for your mental (eventually physical and spiritual) health to continue with the relationship the way it is. It’s ok to take some time away, establish your boundaries, and communicate your needs. If they can respect it, great, they can remain in your life! If not, you are more than welcome to limit or cut off access to you, your time, and your space.
Learning how to love yourself is hard. It looks a bit different for everyone as our relationship with our sense of self is all different. We have our individual priorities, healing needs, and trauma wounds so there’s no clear manual on how to do it, just principles, philosophies, and mindset guides.
This will be an ongoing series on self-love and how to practice it! I am more than happy to share with you the different ways I’m learning to love myself. One of the most helpful but sometimes hardest lessons I had to learn was how to practice self-compassion with myself. Whether it’s in hard times or on a day-to-day basis, learning to be compassionate, whenever I make a mistake, feel frustrated or afraid, or even when my Inner Critic is activated, has allowed me to build a much more loving relationship with myself.
What is your favorite way to practice self-love? What has been most challenging for you? What myths have you had to debunk when it comes to self-love? Share it with us in the comments!
Inspired by BM, MG, & all the people who told me I was unloveable. Sorry to say but you’re wrong 🙂