The way we treat ourselves is crucial to every aspect of our lives. Our sense of self frames our potential to grow, to feel fulfilled and to live the life we deserve.
However, many of us are guilty of critical self-talk and self-judgement. We struggle to accept ourselves and rarely show the care and compassion we so readily share with others. This can stand in the way of our true happiness and wellbeing.
Self-love is one of the most important cornerstones of my work as a therapist and coach. It is often misunderstood and I am passionate about women understanding it, and themselves, better.
WHAT IS SELF-LOVE?
In essence, self-love is learning to be loving, compassionate, and mindful of ourselves – physically and emotionally.
It is a lifelong commitment to accepting ourselves and acknowledging where we are in our lives. After all, if we do not understand and respect ourselves, then personal growth is hard, as is true enjoyment.
Here are five steps to help you begin to build a loving, healthy and powerful sense of self:
1.GET TO KNOW YOURSELF
You do not need to love everything about yourself to develop self-love; instead, think about it in terms of acceptance and appreciation of what makes you, YOU. Celebrate your strengths, your achievements and your talents. And accept, with loving kindness, those parts of you that you see as flaws or weaknesses and give yourself permission to be human. By building our self-worth we can learn to stop looking for external validation through ‘people pleasing’. We can nurture independent self-esteem and begin to feel validation from ourselves.
2. PRACTICE SELF-CARE
Self-love and self-care are often presented as interchangeable. And while they are most certainly linked, there are distinct differences. Self-care is understanding what we need to do to nurture our physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and mental health. When practiced regularly, it enables us to create healthy boundaries, enjoy loving connections, and build resilience to cope with challenges. Give yourself time to really think about what makes you happy and how you can sustainably do these things regularly as part of your self-care practice. For example, you may commit to getting regular exercise, going to bed at a decent time, booking in a catch up with a close friend, or signing up to an online course. By believing we are worth prioritising; we are taking action towards showing ourselves self-love.
3. ACCEPT YOUR UPS AND DOWNS!
A big step towards self-love is accepting that some days will be better than others. It is not possible to be happy all the time, and it is damaging and unrealistic to expect ourselves to give 100% every day. It is entirely normal to have times in your life where you feel ‘off’. Get in the habit of regularly checking in with your feelings and your real emotions – and please do not fall into the trap of trying to carry on as if everything is fine, when it’s not. Accepting the ebb and flow of our emotional state is a huge step towards self-love.
4. TALK TO YOURSELF COMPASSIONATELY
Self-talk shapes our subconscious thoughts and feelings and many of us are guilty of having a negative inner critic. This can lead to self-doubt and low self-esteem, creating limiting beliefs about ourselves and our potential. I find that we can be particularly harsh when we make mistakes. We may have missed out on a job opportunity, forgotten a loved one’s birthday – be it a big or small, no one is to blame. Let it go and choose to be loving and forgiving when things don’t go well. Train your brain to be positively biased by nurturing a sense of gratitude and, as one of my lovely clients described it, learn to ‘gently shepherd’ your thoughts down the pathways that are more life enhancing for you.
5. DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHER PEOPLE
Nothing good can come from judging our lives against the achievements of others. Whether it is your closest friend or a celebrity on Instagram, it’s all too easy to feel like a ‘failure’. It is an unhealthy drain on our emotional energy. Instead, accept that you are your own story, and it is AMAZING! Trust the timing of your life. Accept where you are now. And by knowing what you want to achieve for the future, the shape of the life YOU want to lead, you can turn your aspirations into daily practice.
Please do not feel you have to achieve everything all at once. Self-love is a lifelong commitment to effectively adjusting long established behaviours and thought patterns. It cannot happen overnight. We need to listen and get to ‘know’ ourselves to be able to change our habits, our unconscious thoughts, and our actions.
Be realistic. The very opposite of self-love is to be hard on yourself and ask for help if you need to. Be it from a close friend or a professional, being supported to make these changes is not a weakness but a sign of determination for things to be better.
Kate, Phil, Helen and Jude
For more support, get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org