“I had to put the oxygen mask on myself before assisting others” – that’s what Sarah told me about life after a 30-year failed marriage. Essentially, what she was saying is she had to give herself some much-needed self-love before she could be of help to anyone else. I know St. Valentine’s day is coming and it seems the world is pressuring every single out there. If you don’t have a date planned, take the time to treat the most special someone in your life-yourself.
Self-love is at the core of what lifestyle choices we make, what relationships we get into, how successful we can be in our careers and more. This is why the first step of every journey should come from a place of love. In fact, self-love should guide us every step of the way. Here are five robust practices that will help you get started.
If you are not self-aware, you are not in a position to distinguish which are the situations where you show a lack of self-love. As writer Eckhart Tolle has put it: “Be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behaviour.” Through observation of your thought patterns and your self-talk, you will see whether you are kind to yourself or judgemental.
Whatever it is that you come to observe, you have to accept it. Don’t try to fight your negative self-talk with more thoughts that put you down. Instead, recognise that this is how you have been treating yourself up until now but it does not need to be this way anymore. Make a conscious decision to change it. I always like to remind myself that self-love is treating yourself the way you’d treat a dear friend. Would you ever intentionally say something harsh or offensive to a loved one? So why would you say it to yourself?
A big part of acceptance is also being open and honest about your shortcomings. Yes, we all have them and they are completely natural. As strange as it might sound, make a list of your flaws. No judgement, just be an observer. Then, go over your list and try to forgive yourself for each point on it. Accept that you are the way you are but these wrongs do not define you as long as you are making your best effort to work on and improve yourself.
3. Awesomeness jar
Now that you have cleared up your weaknesses, it is time to give yourself some credit for your strong sides. Often times we put much more energy into beating ourselves up for a mistake than into celebrating our daily victories. Here’s an idea I learned from Tim Ferriss that I have recommended to many over the years. Fill a jar, or bowl, or whatever object you fancy, with notes, writing on each of them something amazing you have done, achieved, tried. Let this be “a kind reminder to be kind to yourself”. Whenever you become aware of belittling self-talk, let go and grab a note from your jar of awesomeness. Yes, I am sure you have much more to be proud of than to resent.
4. Prioritise self-care
Self-care is an outward expression of our inner self-love. It is not to be mistaken with keeping up with appearances to prove yourself to others. Honest self-care is done for the self, regardless of how someone else might see it. This can be something as small as taking 15 minutes to yourself, to meditate and collect your mind; or going to bed early so you can wake-up well-rested. Self-care is in the food you pick – whether it is nourishing or full of empty calories. You can dedicate a day to self-care, even if that day happens once a month, or every three months. A day to pamper yourself with a hair mask, a face massage, at-home aromatherapy and music that you enjoy.
5. Follow a passion
Honestly, I think making the time for our passions, or even the time to explore what these are if we think that we don’t have any, is still part of self-care. I’m setting it aside because it does deserve to be highlighted. When we put our drive into something we care about, we are doing ourselves, and the world, a service. It is through our passions that we are able to realise the most of our potential and be the best version of ourselves. The more we do what we love, the happier we are with ourselves. And let me just tell you – violence, arrogance, and bullying can never come from a place of self-love.
Next time someone tries to equate (beware, that someone might be you) self-love to selfishness, think of this fundamental difference: self-love lets us connect to our highest self which is the greatest good we can ever do for others. Give yourself the love you might be longing for from someone else and you will receive it back multiplied. Why? Because what we focus on grows. So focus on self-love.