What is “self-love”? The term itself sounds a bit touchy-feely in ways, doesn’t it? And perhaps narcissistic. I thought the definition of love had to do with caring for someone or something more than yourself? So isn’t “self-love” an oxymoron? But I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson (often misattributed to Nelson Mandela):
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”
And this one from Shakespeare:
“This above all: to thine own self be true.”
While self-love can mean different things to different people, to me self-love simply means self-care — consciously deciding to be responsible for our own physical, psychological and spiritual growth, and well-being. With this definition in mind, here are a few effective ways to “self-love:”
- Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat well and move — get some kind of exercise every day. Do some stretches, do some yoga, go for a walk, go to the gym. Whatever. Just move.
- Be kind to yourself. Start by being kind, patient, and compassionate to yourself, just like you would with someone that you truly love. We’re often our own worst critics, aren’t we? There is no such thing as “perfect.” It’s a myth. The only thing worse than making mistakes is never making them. We are meant to grow. And do we grow more from our victories or from our defeats? Treat yourself like you would a friend or loved one. Be kind to yourself, especially when you’re suffering fear, anxiety, or pain.
- Become mindful. Mindfulness is simply being present and self-aware. Being mindful of who you are and what you are doing allows you to live authentically and intentionally. You are a one-of-a-kind human being. There has never been nor will there ever be someone exactly like you. And you are here to give the world your own special blend of talents, passions and eccentricities. Allowing yourself to truly be your authentic self is one of the most empowering things you can do, and it can profoundly enrich your relationship with yourself and with others.
- Set boundaries. Practice self-care by setting healthy boundaries for yourself. This can include work/life balance, eliminating or moderating unhealthy habits/behavior, and distancing from toxic people.
- Look for the joy. Laugh. Smile. Find moments to appreciate the wonder and joy and humor in life.
- Practice gratitude. Try this. When you first wake up, take one minute to take slow breaths in and out. With each breath, feel – really feel – deep in your chest and in your heart – gratitude. Picture all of the people and things for which you are grateful and feel it. And feel gratitude that you are so very privileged to have this day that you have been given. Notice how this makes you feel and whether it energizes you. And at night, repeat the exercise to give thanks for having been given this day. Do this with feelings of gentle peace, relaxation and gratitude. See if it helps you fall into a deep and refreshing sleep.