What does it mean to love yourself? Self love is touted by experts as necessary for our emotional and psychological wellbeing. It is something we want for our children. Self love may also be something we feel uncomfortable about…after all, we don’t want to be one of those people who are so self-involved that they are difficult to be around. As much as we talk about it, most people don’t really know what self love is.
Simply put: Self love is the act of caring for yourself in a compassionate and responsible manner.
Self love is not narcissism, which is built on the deep wounds of feeling worthless and ashamed. Narcissists may appear to love themselves, but underneath there is self-loathing. This self-loathing inhibits the ability to really love others in a healthy way. Self love involves allowing yourself to be imperfect and at the same time understanding your intrinsic value in the world. The beauty of self love is that the more we love the beautiful, messy, imperfect us, the more love we have spilling out of us for all that surrounds us. Those who truly love themselves are kind to others.
If you would like to get better at loving yourself, listed below are a few suggestions that will help if you practice them:
- Be responsible for what you say to yourself. Notice all the times you speak unkindly to yourself, the criticism, the impatience and judgment. Don’t talk to yourself in any way that you would not talk to someone you really love.
- Pay attention to your inner world. Notice what you like and what brings you joy. Do more of it. Notice how it feels to be joyful. Be present for it.
- Break free of automatic behavior. So much of how we go through our day and how we interact with others is automatic. We are not conscious about so much of what we do. It is like being on autopilot. Wake up. Pay attention to what you do and say. Make intentional choices that are healthy for you and your relationships.
- Treat your body with care. Be mindful of the choices you make in terms of nutrition, environmental toxins, movement, and sleep. If you take care of your body as you would someone else you love, the biochemical changes that effect mood, energy, and sense of wellbeing will be reward in and of themselves.
- Set healthy boundaries and hold them. By saying no to people, activities and things that drain you, you create a space that pulls in the people, activities and things that fill you up. While it is important that we each do as much good in the world as we can, not everything that needs doing is yours to take on. Listen to your inner voice and the way you feel when you are with people or engaging in activities. Do those things, and be with those people, that make your heart sing.
- Practice forgiveness. When you practice forgiving others, you are set free of the negativity of bitterness and resentment. Forgiveness is for you and not for the other person. Forgiveness does not mean you stay in a position to be hurt on an ongoing basis, but it does mean letting go and moving on to the big and beautiful life you are creating for yourself. This one can be complex, but it is well worth figuring out.
It is a fact that you can only truly love another person as much as you love yourself. No other person, no matter how hard they try, can make you feel loved if you do not do the work inside yourself. No matter how much love you offer another, if they do not love themselves, they can never really feel the depth of the love you want to share. To have the healthiest of relationships with those that matter most to you, learning to love yourself is the not only the compassionate path to take, but also the most responsible.
Laurie Patrice, LPC, BCPC, CPCS