Practicing self-love doesn’t come easily to many people, especially women. From a young age, we’re taught that taking care of others is extremely important. In relationships, we know that it’s essential to express your love for each other in words and deeds.
But when is that last time you told yourself: “I love you. You are amazing. I think you are wonderful”?
Did it make you feel weird to even read that? If so – you’re totally normal. And like many people, you’ve probably confused self-love with selfishness.
What is Self-Love?
Loving yourself means that you value your well-being and happiness. You talk to yourself with compassion and recognize that your needs are just as important as everyone else’s. You feel worthy.
Self-love isn’t selfishness. Selfishness is refusing to care for your elderly father. Self-love is taking regular breaks from his care to nourish your spirit.
Self-love is unconditional. You love yourself equally whether you ate healthy all day or just gobbled down half of box of Girl Scout cookies. Like God’s grace, it cannot be earned or lost. God loves Mother Teresa and a murderer equally. Atheist? Then try to love yourself like your dog loves you.
Why Self-Love Is So Hard for Women
Females are raised in many ways to put other people’s needs first, and we are praised highly when we do. We are taught that a good mother will always put their children’s needs before her own. We try to “earn” our feeling of worth from exterior sources, drawing our value from good deeds that we have done: straight As, home-baked pies, well-behaved children. We are judged – and praised – for taking care of our appearance, our children, our families. Very rarely are we praised for doing the same for ourselves.
How to Practice Self-Love Starting Today
- Before you get out of bed each morning, think of ten things that you like about yourself. They can be big: “I’m creative” or small: “I brush my teeth very well.” Try to make them different every day. Expect this to feel weird at first. Keep doing it every morning.
- Throughout the day, if you catch yourself saying something negative about yourself in your head, immediately stop and say three positive things about yourself. “I’m such a klutz... but my legs are strong, my shirt looks cute today, and I can hoola hoop for a long time.” Have fun with it!
- Grab a sheet of paper and brainstorm a list of experiences that make you feel taken care of: painting your nails, reading a travel magazine on your patio, getting a massage, sipping a cup of hot chocolate, taking a long bath, hitting the treadmill, etc. Pick one to do in the next week and schedule it on your calendar.
- Practice this phrase: “I need…” What do you need from your friends, your family, your kids, your partner? They are not going to hate you if you express your needs – in fact, mutual give-and-take makes relationships stronger. Practice expressing your needs and it will become easier to do.
- Schedule a daily check-in with yourself. It’s hard to tell people what you need if you don’t even know. Choose a time of day to lie down and assess your current emotional status. How are you feeling? Are you in pain? Stressed? Anxious? Burned out? Don’t dwell on your emotions; just take a survey of your body, mind, and spirit. Jot down your findings on a calendar page each day and soon you will start to see patterns.
- Celebrate victories. Keep a list of accomplishments and victories – and keep it updated with achievements great and small. No cavities at the dentist! Filed my taxes! Cleaned the pantry! Saw a shooting star! Stop waiting for someone to be your cheerleader and do it for yourself. Review this list once a month.
- Write down compliments that people give you, from strangers to friends. Start a list today. At the top, write down your favorite compliment that you have ever received. We tend to forget the words of praise that we receive while remembering put-downs for decades. Reading through the list is a guaranteed way to lift your spirits when feeling down.
- Nourish yourself with whole foods, enough sleep, and the exercise that your body craves. How you treat your body is a good indicator of how much love you feel for yourself.
- Having problems feeling worthy enough to do any of these ideas? Does this whole idea of self-love make you feel icky? Consider seeing a professional therapist who can help – it might be the best decision you’ve ever made. You deserve to love yourself.
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