Self-love is a concept we hear a lot nowadays, but what does it really mean? What does it mean to ‘love yourself’ or to practice self-love? And why is it important?
“Fully accepting and being comfortable with your strengths AND your flaws.”
“Knowing you are worthy of all the love, dreams, and desires!! Loving yourself enough that you don’t need to seek validation from other people. Accepting your imperfections!”
“Self love is showing yourself the love that you give to others. Caring enough about yourself to treat yourself as if you were treating someone else. Knowing you’re worth more, knowing you deserve it, knowing you’re good enough for YOU, not anyone else. Gifting/treating yourself to show your own self kindness and love.”
“Doing something just for me, like doing my nails or taking a nice long bubble bath!”
“Feeling confident, happy + inspired”
“Candle, weighted blanket, and some weird Netflix show (and an ample hills pint)”
“To learn not to judge myself or others and approach my days with only kindness”
While you each touched on different aspects of self-love, I couldn’t agree more with these sentiments as a reflection of what loving ourselves looks like in practice. Self-love is entirely internal. It is not something that can be gained from another person or any other external factor. And despite the simpler ways in which we can practice self-love, there is much work involved in loving ourselves on a fuller, deeper and more authentic level. However, when we do love ourselves and act from a place of self-love, it significantly impacts every aspect of our lives – from the relationships we find ourselves in to our ability to cope with our problems to the energy we give off in the workplace and elsewhere.
Here are what I believe to be the 5 fundamental aspects of self-love & ways that we can actively practice each one:
- Self-Acceptance – Self-love means true acceptance of who we’ve been, who we are and who we want to be. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t things we want to change/improve, but it means we embrace those things while simultaneously striving to change them if we desire to. It also means making sure our desire to change/improve isn’t based on someone else’s opinion or belief about who we should be. Self-love means meeting and accepting ourselves wherever we currently are – even if it’s not exactly where we want to be just yet. Self-love means accepting that we’re going to fail and fall short sometimes and embracing ourselves despite it. Try this: Guided Meditation for Self-Acceptance
- Self-Awareness – Self-love means acknowledgement of both our strengths and our shortcomings. Self-love is taking an honest look at our lives, giving ourselves credit for where we’re thriving and being real with ourselves about where we’re not. Self- love is the balance between calling ourselves out on where we could be better without criticizing or berating ourselves about it. It’s acknowledging the excuses, thoughts, patterns and habits that may not be serving us, accepting that they exist and taking active, loving steps to change them. Try this: Do a self-inventory of the areas you’re thriving in and the things you’d like to work on (and make sure they’re things that are important to you). Once you’ve established the things you want to change/improve, work with a therapist or share them with a friend you can check in with to stay accountable, focused and committed to this self-growth.
- Self-Forgiveness – Self-love means shedding and forgiving old versions of ourselves. It means looking at our past self with love and respect even if we no longer resonate with his/her choices or behavior. Self-love means knowing that who we once were was just as important a part of our journey as who we are becoming. Self-love means forgiving ourselves and knowing that we are still worthy and enough when we’re imperfect, make a mistake, don’t do our best or fall short of our own expectations. Try this: Write a letter of forgiveness to yourself for anything in your past that you’re holding on to/beating yourself up for. Use this Radical Self Forgiveness Worksheet for guidance.
- Self-Care – Self-love means taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It means asking ourselves in each moment, “What do I need right now?” and taking active steps to give ourselves that. Self-love is recognizing when we need to rest and when we need to push ourselves. It’s putting our own needs first and trusting that it will allow us to show up better in our relationships. Self-love is making and prioritizing time for ourselves amongst our busy lives and our responsibilities to others. It’s believing that we are worth investing time and energy into and making that happen no matter what. Try this: Set aside at least 30-60 minutes a day to focus on your own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self-care. Check out my recent blog post on self-care if you need some guidance or ideas on how to best use this time.
- Self-Talk – Self-love means speaking kindly to ourselves and communicating with ourselves in a way that helps and serves us. It means acknowledging when our inner dialogue is self-critical, negative and limiting and replacing it with language that is positive, useful and self-affirming. Self-love is making an active choice to speak to ourselves with compassion, patience, respect and gratitude. Try this: Notice any negative/unhelpful thoughts that come up throughout the day & write them down in a notebook or on your phone. Later, go back and challenge them with an alternative/more helpful thought. Bringing these negative thoughts into conscious awareness and actively replacing them will begin to shift your thought processes over time.
Each of these areas are a crucial piece of the puzzle that makes up self-love. You can practice self-care and still not fully love yourself. You can appear confident to others and still not fully love yourself. You can preach self-love to others and still not fully love yourself. You can tell yourself you love yourself and still not fully love yourself! The work involved in really, truly loving ourselves — not just externally or on a surface level, but internally and on a deeper level, too — can be difficult, uncomfortable and ugly. It isn’t always fun or easy and certainly doesn’t always feel good. Furthermore, it’s a lifelong process. In fact, self-love isn’t a place we arrive to. It’s an ongoing series of decisions and choices that we face each day – and the goal is to make more decisions that reflect our love for ourselves than decisions that do not.
It’s OKAY if you have some work to do in one or all of these areas. We’re all going to have good moments, challenging moments, highs and lows… even when it comes to loving ourselves. And part of loving ourselves is remembering it’s okay if we haven’t been loving ourselves very much lately and figuring out how we can shift that.
Which of these areas of self-love do you find to be most difficult? Did you give one of the exercises a try? How did it go? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!