Self -respect, self -regard, self-care – these are all different forms of self love. Self love is an overlooked but crucial aspect to our life and well-being.
Consider if you did not have these elements in place? What would you life look like if you did not have self-respect? Self regard or self care?
True self love is the opposite of narcissism. People who love themselves can see their own worth in all situations, even when they are challenged. They do not need to hurt others, plump themselves up or put others down. They can focus on other people because they are affirmed in themselves and are beyond self-absorption. They are not hungry for recognition, popularity, affirmation or saviour because they have already met their emotional needs.
They do not need to prove their worth through their accomplishments, as they achieve by choice (not as a substitute for human worth). People with self love can truly give without strings attached, and when they care for another, it is in equality; help is given because they choose, not in martyrdom or to receive love, recognition or status.
If we do not have self love intact, we can easily mistake people-pleasing for giving/helping. We may unconsciously give with expectation of some thing in return; such as appreciation or recognition. The problem with this model is that we are only in control of the first 50%. You cannot make anyone love you, like you or applaud you. Or reciprocate. If you choose to invest in any act, there needs to be joy in the process, the outcome can only be bonus. If it is a difficult dilemma, you can at least choose from self love the option you prefer over the other.
Most of us experience a time when we are very small that we feel amazing just being who we are – it is more than enough. We’re amazing just for being born. Then for many, something changes: one day we perceive that we are not enough. In order to keep receiving love, we need to do a whole lot of things that keep other people happy. This can be family peace-keeping; continuous achievement; putting everyone else first; needing to be right; and many other things. These survival techniques are very entrenched through reinforcement, and become automatic ways of thinking.
While we cannot change what has happened to us, we can take responsibility for ourselves and consciously replace our patterns with those that serve us better.
Some practical ways to do self love
(many of these are inspired by Australian Author Anette Noontil)
- Look after your body. A person who looks after their body (but does not depend on their looks for affirmation in the world) is doing well
- Acknowledge your own beauty, inside and out. Those who love themselves can acknowledge their own good points, accept their limitations, and still feel o.k.
- If you get stuck, ask a friend to list 5 good qualities.
- Observe what you say and think about yourself. Be gentle with your self.
- Look after your time, and set boundaries when you need to.
- Spend time doing what you really want to do for your self. It may be for pleasure, fulfilment or meaning (the pre-requisites for happiness).
- Nurture yourself. Focus on your needs before your wants.
- Be loyal to yourself. Know what you really want so that others cannot make your mind up for you.
- Always have goals for yourself.
- Know what you are gaining from each situation. It may not be your first choice, but it’s your choice. You may self-lovingly choose to do something unpleasant – if it sits with you more than the alternative. Follow through on a project that makes you happy.
- Do for yourself first, especially if others are dependent on you. If you meet your needs, you have infinitely more to give. If your needs are unmet, you cannot help and you may end up burdening someone else.
- Learn to accept compliments, with just ‘thank you’
- Laugh at yourself, but kindly and gently.
- Learn to understand yourself and validate your feelings. Be compassionate to yourself.
- Address your baggage with kindness. Denial is not resilience. Know your own beliefs and how they were formed – are they still serving you?
- Feel your own truth and act on what feels right.
- Set your boundaries clearly, and educate people to respect you.
- Let go of authority figures and stand up for yourself. Mentors and role models are important, but choose those who grow and challenge you respectfully. We are all equal.
- Do affirmations. It can feel silly at first but if you say ‘I love and accept myself exactly as I am’ until you believe it and feel it, you can heal (particularly is this is what you have always needed to hear)
- Take the time to spend with yourself. Meditation allows you to be ‘with’ yourself. This is an energetic way of doing self love, and being your self. In my experience this is very effective and raises awareness of what is going on in my life. Meditation can allow us to feel love and connect with ourselves. This can create the sense of fullness and outflow that allows giving (rather than seeking love), and prevents emptiness that is often filled with unnecessary food, purchases, and indulgence.