February 8, 2021

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Caitlin Harper

5 Ways To Practice Self-Love

While advertisements and entertainment try to convince us that this month is the season of romantic love, we’re not buying it. This month we’re focusing on our most important relationship: the one we have with ourselves. There are plenty of ways to practice self-love. We’ve collected just a few you can try to rekindle the fire—with yourself.

While advertisements and entertainment try to convince us that this month is the season of romantic love, we’re not buying it. This month (and every month!), we’re focusing on our most important relationship: the one we have with ourselves.

Self-love isn’t just about flowers and chocolate (although we won’t say no to either!). Your self-love impacts how you set goals, how you react to stress, how you treat yourself, and how you allow others to treat you.

But many of us are taught that self-love equals narcissism or that taking care of ourselves is selfish. Neither are true! If you don’t fill your cup, you won’t be able to take care of anyone, including yourself. If you find yourself cutting back on sleep, succumbing to negative self-talk, keeping toxic people around, or filling your calendar with obligations that you’d rather avoid, you might be struggling a bit in the self-love department.

And if realizing that you are struggling is bringing up feelings of guilt and shame, you are not alone. The ping pong of sidelining self-love and then feeling bad about it is real.

The good news is, there are plenty of ways to practice self-love and you can start today. We’ve collected just a few you can try to rekindle the fire—with yourself.

What is self-love?

Self-love is an appreciation of one's own worth or virtue and attention to one's own happiness or wellbeing. It’s the belief that we are worthy of love, safety, and respect no matter what and the ability to recognize and honor our needs and boundaries.

Self-love is not simply a state of feeling good, it is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth.

It doesn’t mean you think you are better than others or more worthy of love or self-care than others. When we practice self-love, we acknowledge our mistakes and flaws and accept ourselves for who we are. Self-love means that while we don’t always feel positive, we view ourselves as positive. We can be angry with ourselves or disappointed or sad or frustrated, but still love ourselves, just like we can be angry or frustrated with a family member or friend we love and still have compassion for them. When we practice self-love, we extend the same kindness, love, and acceptance to ourselves as we do to others.

What happens when we don’t practice self-love?

The average adult brain creates approximately 70,000 thoughts each day, but the brain is designed to seek out threats, keep you safe from danger, and protect you. As a result, your brain tends to focus on the negative. That’s totally normal! Which means self-love is a practice that we have to cultivate.

People who don’t practice self-love might neglect their wellbeing because they don’t think they “deserve” it. They often make decisions that are self-sabotaging, such as staying in toxic relationships, or might be highly self-critical, perfectionists, or people-pleasers.

While there’s nothing wrong with setting goals or wanting to improve your life, practicing self-love is just as important as checking the next thing off of your to-do list, getting that promotion, or finding the right partner (hint: cultivating a nourishing self-love practice can set you up for success across the board).

How can we practice self-love?

Take care of your basic needs

We often think of self-love as special acts of self-care, but it can be even more basic than that. Many of us feel guilty for taking time for ourselves, but it’s an essential part of life. Nutrition, getting enough sleep, exercise, connecting with others, and taking time for hobbies you enjoy are all part of your self-love practice.

Try things like:

  • Find a new, healthy recipe that’s easy to prepare
  • Take ten minutes and give yourself a foot, hand, or neck massage
  • Make a list of all the things you like about yourself
  • Take ten minutes to perform a relaxing ritual before you sleep (and leave your phone in the other room!)

Practice mindfulness

Self-love isn’t just how you treat yourself but also how you think and feel about yourself. It means listening to yourself, identifying negative thoughts or feelings or ways you may have neglected your needs, and deciding to take positive action while understanding that nobody is perfect and life is all about learning. People who practice self-love are able to connect with themselves and understand the reasons behind their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Eliminating mental clutter, especially in our digital world, is a great act of self-love.

Try things like:

  • Deleting distracting apps from your phone
  • Meditate for ten minutes
  • Take a walk and notice the sights, smells, and sounds around you
  • Practice breathwork for five minutes
  • Set aside an hour to daydream

Set boundaries and distance yourself from toxic relationships

A big part of self-love is letting go of anything that is not serving you: this includes relationships, habits, people, and ideas. Again, this is not selfishness; it’s self-preservation. Eliminating things that seem familiar, especially relationships, can be extra scary now when we might be feeling more isolated and alone, but the good news is that the goal is to replace toxic relationships with healthy, respectful relationships that fill our cup. We don’t have enough time on earth to concern ourselves with people and things that drain us instead of fulfill us.

Try things like:

  • Unfollow social media accounts that don’t bring you joy
  • Say no to something or someone
  • Tell an overbearing friend or family member that you aren’t available to talk for a certain amount of time or let them know a topic is off-limits
  • Identify a social or work obligation that is draining for you and eliminate it

Forgive yourself

Many of us are incredibly hard on ourselves and this can only increase when we begin to become more mindful and aware of how we’re doing in the self-love department. But remember, struggling with self-love is not an excuse to tear yourself down for failing. It’s an opportunity to learn. Part of self-love is accepting that you are not perfect and that you make mistakes and that that’s totally okay.

Self-love also includes not being weighed down by others. Anger and resentment are natural, but they take a toll on us. When we forgive others, we’re not condoning their wrongdoings, we’re simply allowing ourselves to let go of the burden and move on. Only you can decide when to forgive someone, but if you can manage it, it will leave you more space for your own self-love.

Try things like:

  • Forgive yourself for regret you've been hanging on to
  • Focus on your self-talk and change a negative into a positive
  • Forgive yourself for a time you messed up
  • If you’re ready, forgive someone else for something they have done to you (you can choose to tell them or not—the most important thing is how you feel)

Work with a therapist or coach

You don’t have to learn how to practice self-love alone. It can be hard to unlearn harmful practices or retrain our thinking, especially if we didn’t grow up in a household where self-love was practiced or encouraged. But a therapist can help. They’ll work with you to set realistic expectations, challenge yourself, and make healthy choices.

If you’re struggling to get started, you can take this quiz to see if therapy or coaching is right for you, figure out how to create a budget for treatment, and start to make your plan to see a therapist or coach.

The more self-love you have, the better prepared you will be for connecting with others, achieving your goals, and living your values. While loving ourselves can help us attract people and opportunities that contribute to our mental health and wellbeing, the most important outcome is still that relationship that means the most: the one we have with ourselves. And if you need some tips and a fun way to stay accountable, check out our self-love calendar.

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About the author

Caitlin is MyWellbeing's Content Lead, a writer, speaker, communication coach, and the founder of Commcoterie, a communication consultancy. She teaches teams how to use professional coaching communication techniques in their everyday conversations, helps leaders engage their teams with effective and inclusive communication, and partners with service providers to activate their programs and offerings with their own clients through inspiring communication strategies. Find out more, including how to work with her, at www.commcoterie.com.

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