A silly, commercial holiday like Valentine’s Day made me think about what my clients need. Flowers or chocolates from their partner or friends? Their one true soulmate to show up at their door or on their dating app? There’s no doubt - these external expressions of love make us feel wonderful. The problem however is this: the feeling is not always lasting. Relationships change, and flowers wilt.
So how about taking this V-day to focus on a love that is truly life-changing - a love that can never be taken away from you - self-love.
What is self-love? I found the best definition in the urban dictionary (misspelling and all): “Too unconditionally spoil, value yourself and accept your self-worth. Putting yourself first so you can grow externally and internally for YOU. It’s a value that shows and symbolizes how much you appreciate and accept who you are and not who you’re told to be.”
Your relationship with yourself is arguably the most important one you’ll ever have. At the beginning of the day, all throughout, and at the end of the day it’s always you. No matter how hard you try, you just cannot escape it – that voice in your head. That voice that can build you up or break you down. It can squash your dreams or push you to keep going.
Self-love softens that voice to be supportive, accepting, and encouraging – which actually leads to more success, peace, and joy. Ultimately, you’ll be more likely to show up as your best self and have the strength to live your life on your terms. And self-love is a prerequisite to loving your body.
After living most of my life with subtle self-contempt, learning to love myself was the most radical shift in my life. I started to honor myself and my body. I had more confidence and courage. I was free to be my authentic self – flaws, quirks, and all. I started caring less about what others thought, no longer looking for external sources to define my worth. I recognized my worth and no one could take that away.
Learning self-love is a process - one that takes time and commitment - but it is SO worth it.
1) Notice How You Treat Yourself – Be mindful of the way you talk to, talk about, and treat yourself. Listen and notice – how am I talking to myself? How am I treating myself? What standards am I holding myself to? Likely they are much higher than those you hold for others. That’s okay because awareness is the first step to change.
2) Change Your Language – Stop putting yourself down and minimizing your strengths or achievements. Our words are powerful, they create our reality. The more you declare something about yourself, the more you will feel and become it. You can easily reframe your words to be more positive and supportive. For example, replace “I am fat or I am a binge eater”, with “my body is finding its rightful weight or I am learning how to nourish myself.”
3) Self-Compassion – Practice treating yourself as you would a friend or a child. When talking to yourself, think – is this something that I would say to my best friend? If not, then change it to be more supportive and encouraging. Self-compassion releases self-hatred that keeps us stuck in our heads and beating ourselves up. This is one of the most critical steps to self-love. If you can’t have compassion for yourself, it’s going to be very difficult to take the next steps: forgiveness and acceptance.
4) Forgive Yourself – We all make mistakes – every single one of us. Just as you forgive your loved ones for their mistakes, you can forgive yourself. Forgiveness is a powerful act of self-love. It allows us to release all the negative energy, thoughts, and rumination that simmers when we denounce ourselves.
5) Know Yourself – Take the time to objectively learn and understand who you really are, not who you think you should be. Explore all your strengths, weaknesses, and limits without judgement. Self-knowledge is key to being able to set boundaries and limits to respect and honor yourself. Choosing to honor yourself is one step closer to self-love.
6) Self-Acceptance – Use self-compassion to start accepting all of you – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Just as you do with your partner, friends, and family. Do you love every single thing about them? Probably not, but you accept them for all they are because no one is perfect and there is no reason to hold yourself to a higher, impossible standard. Our level of self-acceptance determines our happiness. The more self-acceptance you have, the more happiness you will permit yourself to have.
7) Invest in Yourself – Make a commitment to invest the time for this. Start small and be patient with yourself. You need to take each step to get there but just 5-10 minutes a day can be enough. Mindfulness practice will redirect and reframe your thoughts and inner critic to be more kind. Journaling (forgiveness and positive prompts) and gratitude exercises can help you release negative thoughts and refocus on all the things you appreciate and like about yourself.
The more you practice and focus on all the good about you, the easier these steps will be. Find a ritual that works best for you and know that every little step is getting you closer to loving yourself.
It’s truly magical to feel such a sense of peace, love, and trust within yourself. Now I ask… why would you choose to live life any other way?
Ready to commit to start loving yourself and body? Let’s talk.