Show YOURSELF some LOVE this month!
How to Self-Love
As a young girl who struggled with self-esteem issues I was often told to “love myself”. When struggling with public speaking I was told to be brave and that if I loved myself, I would not care about how the audience saw me. After years of being told to love myself I began to realise that I didn’t know how. Everybody would emphasise those same two words, but nobody ever teaches you how.
If you were asked to list 20 things you love about yourself, how long would it take you? Could you do it? Sometimes we cannot even begin to imagine what we love about ourselves. We may get stuck in a vicious cycle of self-loathing, negativity and feeling unlovable, however there are steps we can take to turn this around and break the cycle. But first:
How do you know you lack self-love? A checklist
o You fear people judging you and you care a lot about what others say or think about you
o You mask who you really are in an attempt to gain approval from others
o You fear rejection
o You overthink what you say in conversations or social situations
o You analyse your behaviour and are self-conscious about how you come across to others
o You try to be perfect and believe that everything you do needs to be perfect
o You feel uncomfortable being alone
o You compare yourself to others and feel that others are better than you and you are inferior to everyone else
o You lack confidence or belief in yourself
o You struggle with physical or mental self-care
o You are sensitive to feedback and take things personally
o You have unhealthy coping mechanisms and resort to self-sabotaging behaviours
o You run out of steam when achieving your goals and settle for less than you are capable of
o You criticise yourself harshly; judging and belittling yourself
o “I will be happy when…” You believe that your happiness will come when you achieve a certain goal yet there’s always a new obstacle or milestone in the way of your happiness
o No matter how hard you try, reaching milestones does not improve your self-esteem
o You don’t feel good enough, smart enough, good-looking enough or comfortable in your own skin
It’s a long list indeed but having just three of the above characteristics is a sign that there is some self-love work to be done.
What is self-love?
Self-love is the practice of doing what’s best for you
Yeap, it’s a practice and it involves doing some work – continuous work. Self-love requires taking care of your physical, emotional and mental well-being. It is a process of accepting yourself with all your flaws and working towards flourishing in your potential.
Now, how to do the work:
How to practice self-love
· Accept yourself for who you are and your life for what it is
You may not have been born into the most favourable of conditions or perhaps you are currently at a low point in your life. You may have recently lost your job or ended an important relationship. Maybe you believe yourself to be useless and of no worth. You may have a deficit or condition that holds you back in some way. Self-love means acknowledging your life’s journey, accepting everything that you are and have been through/are going through and moving forward despite it all. This does not mean that you cannot have feelings about your situation, it means that you accept your emotions for what they are and accept yourself for who you are because these are the things that make you a unique individual with something valuable to contribute to this world.
· Be gentle with yourself
In most cases you would never talk to someone else as harshly as you do yourself. You may get stuck in your flaws and dwell on your mistakes, which leads to negative self-talk. Cut it out! It’s okay to make mistakes – they are lessons from the school of life. In the words of Roosevelt: “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor”. Life will have ups and downs but it’s not your fault. Do not let your judgemental voice berate you and blame you. Understand that you are not perfect and do not have to be. This involves separating yourself from the fantasy you have of yourself. You may not be perfect, but you are capable, and you are good enough. Remind yourself of this. Make a list of everything you have accomplished – no item is too small.
· Be relentless in who you are
Are you living by others’ expectations of you or what they believe is best for you? Have you forgotten who you are or never felt that you ever figured it out? You may wonder how you can love yourself when you don’t know who this “yourself” person is, or how you can act in accordance with what’s best for you when you have a confused sense of what this is. Begin to explore/revisit what truly interests you. What drives you? An easy way to do this is to look up a list of values and categorize them in relation to how important they are to you. From there you have a pretty good idea of the principles and morals you live by and can determine how you would like to fulfil these. Believe in your potential and that you can achieve what you set out to. Be your own cheerleader.
· Do things in alignment with your greater good
Act in accordance with your goals. Sometimes self-love involves practical, physical work. Revisit or establish goals for yourself – in all realms: health, financial, career, spiritual, relationships and education/self-development. Are these goals achievable? Perhaps you are berating yourself because of all the things you wish you should’ve, could’ve or would’ve done. Set goals that are realistic and achievable. Part of these goals entails doing things you don’t want to do or that make you uncomfortable. Sometimes it means having a difficult conversation with a friend, ending a tumultuous relationship, resigning from a job or asking for a raise, working on an assignment or project, setting boundaries with family members or choosing to take care of yourself instead spending time with others.
In neglecting to practice self-love we often forget to take care of ourselves. We fall into a slump and realise we have failed to tend to our basic needs. Perhaps you've stopped an important routine or positive pattern of behaviour. Self-care is about making healthy choices that nourish your mind, body and soul. Maybe you've stopped a grooming regimen or spiritual practice. Start off small and make simple commitments in the right direction. This may be in the form of taking a relaxing bath, meditating, reading a page or chapter of a book, taking a walk or doing light exercise, eating healthy, engaging in our creative/spontaneous side – playing, getting proper sleep and doing whatever it is that we enjoy. Self-care asks that you prioritize yourself.
· Self-love is not selfish
Many of us have been raised on the idea that love should always be selfless where one puts the needs of others above their own. For many, self-love is seen as selfish and to love others is seen as virtuous. Sometimes we put all our energy into loving others and taking care of others that we run out of resources for ourselves, or we feel guilty at the thought of loving ourselves in the face of those who may need us more. Imagine yourself as having an internal cup, with a full cup indicating emotional, mental and physical energy and resources. Engaging in self-care practices fills up your cup; it provides you with the resources you need to feel whole and the emotional, physical and mental energy to take care of others. Realise that you can’t pour from an empty cup.
When you are burnt out or emotionally drained, it’s extremely difficult to take care of others. Whilst our lives may be busy, packed with work deadlines, family commitments or other life stresses, it is important to make space for ourselves and find moments of self-care.
· Self-love can unearth trauma
In setting boundaries and laying the groundwork for what is best for yourself, the journey of self-love can dig up trauma. Along the way you may discover that much of what you have believed or felt about yourself stems from deeper causes. You may discover the roots of your belief systems or that some events may have had longer lasting effects than you thought they did. This is okay. Allow yourself to experience and process whatever comes up. You may find that supressing these feelings or experiences have been the source of your angst to begin with. What’s important in this journey though, is that you recognise if this is a burden you can bear alone. Sometimes we may need help in our healing process – reach out to a psychologist or speak to someone you trust to help you figure out a way forward.
· See the light while you’re in the tunnel
Self-loathing can be a dark place. You may be in an environment or situation that makes loving yourself feel impossible. You may feel alone and despondent. In moments like this gratitude is extremely helpful and serves as light beaming in the darkness. It’s easy for us to focus on what we don’t have right now but finding small things to be grateful for helps in steering these thoughts away. Gratitude involves being grateful for what you have now, who you have now and positive past experiences. Identify little things about yourself that you are proud of and write these down. These may be qualities about yourself that you use as an affirmation reminding yourself of the good in you. Embrace positive self-talk.
The way forward
The process of loving yourself can be difficult and that’s okay. Self-love is a choice; we have to wake up every day and decide to invest in our well-being. It’s not always going to be easy or feel like you are making progress, but it’s important that you not judge yourself on the days that you struggle. Remind yourself that you are worthy of love and give yourself permission to accept your love. And remember, the ultimate goal is to do what is best for you!
For any questions or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me on 072 523 4417
Naadiya Shaik Omar, Arts Therapist