In case you’ve somehow managed to avoid leaving the house in the last few weeks or have perhaps escaped to a desert island (look at you, already practicing self-love!), you know Valentine’s Day is this Thursday. It’s the holiday of love and fancy chocolates and candy hearts.
As commercial as the holiday is (but let’s be real I’ll never be opposed to an excuse for fancy chocolates), I really do appreciate anything that promotes a focus on love and the pretty, sweet, and nice things in our lives in this crazy world where fear and uncertainty dominate the headlines and our lives.
But love can be a tricky thing for many of us. If we don’t have it, we often fear we won’t get it, and this holiday only serves as a reminder of how we don’t have that perfect-for-us person in our lives. Even if we do, we often compare our relationships to others. We fear it won’t last or won’t fulfill us or we won’t fulfill our partner or it’s not as amazing as that insta-perfect couple or any other number of things.
Often we look for our partners to fill a void in our lives, when really we are the only ones who can fill that void for ourselves.
You’ve probably heard this phrase tossed about dozens if not hundreds of times, by myself included. But what does it really mean?
What is self-love?
What is meant by the term self-love is not some narcissistic excuse for self-indulgent vanity. Quite the contrary.
In essence, just like love for another, it’s not something you can easily define or describe – it’s not about logic.
Self-love is a feeling. It’s a mindset. It’s a practice.
Self-love is truly about loving every bit of ourselves, forgiving ourselves for our perceived flaws, and embracing every perceived imperfection.
And I use this word perceived with emphasis – so often we are our own worst critics.
Self-love is not necessarily easy. Its about the relationship you have with yourself. Relationships take work. So does the one you have with yourself. But the results are well worth it.
How to Build your Self-Love Skills
To throw out that most common of cliches, cultivating self-love is like riding a bicycle – at first it’s difficult, but you use training wheels, keep getting back on when you fall off, and you keep trying and trying until one day you finally get it.
And just like riding a bicycle, once you learn how to do the self-love thing, you never forget. Once you get the hang of it, it still takes work to get better and better and more comfortable with this new-found self-love skill. Even when you’re a pro there might still be some days where you feel a bit wobbly or fall off. But you always get back on and never really forget how to do it.
Self-love takes ongoing practice. To get really good at it, you have to get up and practice it every day. Every. Single. Day.
At it’s core, self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself. It develops from taking actions that support our growth and development. As our self-love grows, it helps us mature so that we can embrace our flaws and weaknesses, forgive ourselves for our failures or shortcomings, and have more compassion for ourselves when we fall short of our goals and intentions (like, hi, the fact that I haven’t written a blog post in nearly two months… :/ But I still love myself anyway ;).
Self-love helps us get right back up with confidence and move forward with grace.
And the truth is, if we can’t fully love ourselves, we can’t fully love another. And if we can’t fully love ourselves or another, we can’t fully receive love from another.
So if you want to be a better partner or find your ideal match, self-love is actually a gift to them. Self love helps you show up as the best version of you, grounded and confident and empowered.
Here are some ways to elevate self-love:
- Build awareness around your self-talk. Our inner voices are not always our best friends or biggest champions. Pay attention to what that inner voice is saying particularly when things are not going smoothly. Check yourself first thing in the morning when you go to brush your teeth right after rolling out of bed and look in the mirror – what’s your inner dialogue telling you?
- Tame that inner voice. Once you’ve built up some awareness around your running commentary, check yourself and void those unhelpful beliefs when you catch them sneaking back in. Literally say void, cancel, or anything that negates it – this will send a message to your brain that that thought was invalid. Replace it with a positive, encouraging thought.
- A simple (remember simple and easy are not one in the same!) place to start is with early morning mirror talk. Look yourself in the eye and shower yourself with compliments. Be genuine, and let your gut guide you – what encouragement or sentiments do you need to hear that day? Don’t stop with one thing. See how many you can come up with.
- Imagine yourself as a child. Speak to yourself like you are that child. Because you are. That child is still inside you – – would you speak to a child as harshly as you speak to yourself? Children are vulnerable and just want to be loved. In this regard, we actually never grow up. And that’s quite all right. Fortunately, as adults we are mature enough to actually take a bit more control of our experience. Many of us – most of us – actually did have needs that were never met when we were children, and we carry these with us. Treat your inner child’s needs with the love and affection they deserve. Doing the work to excavate the blocks and outdated beliefs helps us to reconnect us with who really really are at our core. It’s a process of letting go of who we thought we were to help us become more of who we really are.
- Date yourself. Whether or not you’re in a relationship, take yourself on a self-love date. Treat yourself the way you treat your loved ones – buy yourself a gift, treat yourself to your favorite restaurant, spend quality time doing something for yourself. Stop depriving yourself of the things you love – the things that set your soul on fire and fill you with joy; the things that bring you peace and ease.
- Connect with your spirituality. Whatever your beliefs may be, reconnecting with your faith is one way to boost your self-regard.
- Practice self-care. Self-care and self-love are not the same, but self-care sends us the message that we are worthy of the things we desire.
- Set boundaries and say no. If you tolerate things (and people) in your life that do not serve you or your goals, like energy-vampires and time-wasters, it sends a message to others and yourself that your time, energy, and values are less important. Stop allowing other things to take precedence.
Love is both a feeling and a verb – it’s as much about doing as it is about feeling. So go do something loving for yourself. If the idea of going out and eating a meal by yourself sounds terrifying – it’s a sign that it’s exactly what you need to do more of. It’s a sign that no, you don’t quite fully love yourself. Because when you fully love yourself, you love spending time with yourself, on your own.
21 Ideas on how to start doing the self-love thing:
- Cook your favorite dish.
- Bake yourself a cake.
- Listen to your favorite music
- Go out and walk around your favorite neighborhood
- Window Shop
- Do yoga.
- Take yourself out to eat.
- Have a Dance party – out with your friends or go wild by yourself at home
- Buy yourself a new dress, a new kitchen gadget, or a new piece of art.
- Get a massage, facial, or mani-pedi
- Watch a rom com
- Read your favorite book, or the one that’s been sitting on your shelf, unopened, for ages!
- Sit by the ocean
- Go on a hike
- Go to your happy place
- Try something you’ve always wanted to do
- Check off a bucket list item
Bonus – smile at yourself in the mirror first thing in the morning and tell yourself: I love you. 🙂