The term ‘self-love‘ is something that is becoming more of a topic of conversation. With a decline in positive mental health, the battle of modern-day life pressures, heightened levels of stress because of the fast paced world we live in, the somewhat ‘disposable’ culture that we have found ourselves becoming a part of and, the wonderful world of social media consistently impacting self-esteem and self-image- it starts to take its toll. Though it can make people feel uncomfortable or even embarrassed to talk about self-love, because it feels as though we are being somewhat self-indulgent- the truth of the matter is, learning to truly love yourself is one of the most important things that you can do for yourself- it is powerful. Whilst we commonly associate our hearts with being in love with other people, places or ‘things‘- actually, your own heart is your power, because when you become your own source of love in life, everything starts to change. We glow very differently when we love our own being- we blossom, and it shows.
Remember that in life, you are the only person who knows all of your feelings and thought processes- and because of this, you are your biggest influence. What this should identify is that you are responsible for looking after you. Self-love is simply becoming your biggest fan- this is a role that nobody else can fill, and nor should you expect that somebody else becomes your sole source of happiness. It does not happen over night, and it is something that you actively need to practice, embedding it into your routine until it becomes an automatic way of life. We are all very guilty at times of putting the feelings of others, the needs of others before our own- we think nothing of investing our energy and love into others whilst neglecting our own feelings and needs. But when you begin to practice self-love, you start to nurture a loving relationship with yourself that recognises your needs, and you become the priority.
Self-love can take many different forms, but there are some starting points to consider and they should form the roots of this journey. The four simple steps that I will discuss briefly below will not require too much of your time, but will get you started. The more time taken to practice self-love, the easy it becomes to implement, until it becomes a permanent fixture to your routine and life. Consider the following:
Fuel The Body & Mind: The bare basics of self-love, believe it or not is eating and drinking sufficiently, so be mindful of what you are putting into your body. It can be a very slippery slope to not eat properly, to not include the necessary nutrients within your diet, to skip meals, or to live off coffee and cake for example. Speaking from experience, my emotions impact the way that I eat tremendously. I have been consciously aware of this for many years, coming to the uncomfortable conclusion that it is the way I abuse myself when I am down- the same way that some people abuse alcohol or drugs. Upon finally being able to accept this, I do make conscious efforts to eat- even if I am not hungry, because I realise that it really isn’t my body’s fault- so why starve myself of what I need to function?! If you do nothing else in your day, at least provide your body with good food and fluids. The way that you feed yourself is a direct reflection of how you love yourself- so regardless of what external factors are influencing your feelings, ensure that you fuel your body every single day. It is the foundation of respecting your body enough to provide it with the basics. When we eat well, our brains function better, we feel better inside and out and we have more energy to live life as we should.
Be Active: It may sound like a broken record: “exercise is good for you”– but it genuinely is. I think the mistake that many people make, is that they think that being active means suddenly running 5KM per evening, or going to a gym class everyday, and this is not the case- nobody is expected to become an athlete over night. Being active can be as simple as, getting out of the house for thirty minutes a day to walk…It does not have to be anything strenuous. Find something that you enjoy doing, try different things- be it yoga, swimming, lifting weights, find something that encourages you to be active and embed it in your daily life. The science behind exercise tells us quite clearly, with evidence that supports the claim, that our bodies like it, it positively impacts our mental health and there is a natural release of happy hormones when we exercise, so do make it a priority and get yourself into a routine that incorporates exercise into your daily life.
Use A Well-Being Journal: Keeping a well-being journal is simple but highly effective, because it will encourage you to identify what you are grateful for each day, what was good, what you enjoyed and what has made you feel positive. A well-being journal is not to be mistaken for a diary- it is not a record of events. Commonly, in a diary we might record everything about our lives, including things that are impacting us negatively, things that have hurt us- we might go as far as expressing our deepest and darkest thoughts- of course, if it helps you to write this down, then do it- but this is not the aim of a well-being journal. This method is focusing only on the positives. Having completed my first year of using a journal last year, writing in it was something that did become a part of my routine, I enjoyed it- and it is also really nice to be able to look back at the end of the year at all of the things that were good in life! A well-being journal will provide you with the perfect opportunity to start thinking about gratitude and what it constitutes, which in turn, starts to hold you accountable for demonstrating positive behaviours on a daily basis. It will act as a daily reminder to you that there are always positives in life, with many things to be grateful for!
Set Your Boundaries: Setting healthy boundaries for yourself is fundamental, and essentially what this means is that you are making decisions for yourself, even when you may risk disappointing others. When we set personal boundaries regarding other people, we are taking control of what we will and will not accept- this demonstrates that we are recognising our value and we are not accepting what we do not deserve. In our lifetime we will inevitably come across people who push our buttons, cause us stress and cause us to question ourselves- it may be a friend, a partner, or even a family member, and this is why so many people have trouble setting boundaries and sticking to them- because of the fear of damaging relationships that we somehow feel an obligation to maintain. It can be very conflicting when we love the person, or the person has been in our lives for a long time- but this rule applies to everybody. Healthy relationships is the ultimate goal, and if you feel there is a level of toxicity or negativity being projected onto you, then you are well within your right to feel no guilt in saying no to this behaviour. We are not accountable for the actions of others- we are only accountable for our own, so if there is a relationship in your life that is not reciporating the same positive energy, that is respectful and kind, then be sure to set your boundaries, and if this means removing people from your life then so be it.
Self-love is not selfish. The old saying: ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup‘ is something to keep in mind every single day- you must take care of yourself first.