Everyone’s talking about it. What is it exactly?
Does it mean I only love myself? That nobody else matters and I take care of my own needs above others? Does it mean saying no when I don’t want to do something? Does it mean taking time out for oneself? Buying myself gifts and going to the spa?
Self love is one of those concepts around which there is much confusion. Sure, self love could mean different things to people, we are all unique individuals and different things matter to each of us. However, there is a certain level of self care that is essential to us all, to our wellbeing and it’s not always something that we practice naturally on a daily basis.
So often when we look around, we see people beating themselves up for not being perfect. We get the idea that we have to strive for perfection and that anything less than that is a failure. We compare ourselves to the ‘standard’ – whatever that is. Scrolling through images on social media, where everything is filtered through a rose tinted lens and with the outcome of seeing people less face to face, and more through their online personas, we start to believe that this facade really exists. This often makes us feel like we are not good enough in comparison. Yet how can we possibly live up to something that isn’t even real? ‘Perfect’ doesn’t exist and yet we are always chasing it, and so we are never really present. Our life passes by as we chase this impossible version of ourselves believing we will attain the same level of ‘happiness’ that the smiling faces, we are constantly being bombarded with, have. This can manifest as anxiety for the future and a feeling of low self worth in the present.
We forget to celebrate our uniqueness and accept that uniqueness – the things that make us quintessentially who we are. It’s about embracing the difficult times that carved us into the intricate souls we are.
Our lifestyles mean that we are living faster than before. We are competing for jobs, likes, opportunities, recognition, even love! If we struggle with low self worth already, then being thrown into this competitive world we can come out feeling lower than we did to begin with. Often even if we are happy within ourselves, it has become the norm for people to question the way we live our lives and it can make even a confident person second guess themselves and feel as though they are not enough.
We’ve previously talked about self destruction, and how having low self confidence can often lead a person towards self destructive tendencies. This belief of not being good enough can cause people to sabotage themselves where self acceptance would do the exact opposite. When we accept ourselves, we give ourselves permission to be who we are, imperfect if you like, and love ourselves anyway. We also allow ourselves to be happy, for we invite happiness into our lives by being loving towards ourselves first and believing that we are worthy of the love, peace, and opportunities that come our way. We are better equipped to handle life’s up and downs, endure the difficult times, and to even thrive.
Self love equals self belief. When we believe in ourselves and the value we have to offer others as well as ourselves, we can create change by creating positive action and treating ourselves the way we would want others to treat us.
It comes down to being kind to ourselves first and foremost. Most of us don’t have a problem being kind to others, we spread the message of kindness, we pay it forward, and we tell people to take it easy on themselves, to take a break, to not overthink or dwell on negative things. We tell people to be gentle towards themselves.
Do we do the same for ourselves? Do we apply that same gentleness?
We need to become comfortable within ourselves, really know ourselves and become aware of our self talk, and the way we feel about ourselves. We need to understand that self love goes deeper than just pampering ourselves. It starts by allowing ourselves to feel whatever it is we feel, good or bad, and to not beat ourselves up for that either. Perhaps even trying to understand where that feeling came from before we try to heal. Often we feel so bad about having negative feelings that we try to suppress them, numb them, pretend we don’t have them or find a way to ‘fix’ them but when we deny our difficult feelings, they can manifest in our minds and bodies in a detrimental way. It is better to suffer once and heal then suffer again and again when we try to live with unresolved issues.
In loving and accepting ourselves no matter how whole or broken we feel we not only bring peace to ourselves but we influence our reality and relationships.
Mindfulness is a great way to connect to ourselves and be aware of the voice we talk to ourselves in and to cultivate a more compassionate way of speaking to ourselves and to others. Deep breathing exercises and practicing positive visualisation can be helpful ways in which to cultivate more positive feelings towards ourselves and towards difficult past or present experiences that we may need help with such as guilt and shame and compassion focussed therapy (CFT) can help with feelings such as shame and guilt. CFT is centred around compassionate mind training, which teaches people how to develop inner warmth, safeness and soothing, via compassion and self- compassion.
If you could be more loving towards yourself today, what would it feel like?