Self-love is so important. I’m sure we can all agree on that! All the best things grow from self-love. And if you want to do anything for yourself and your health, self-love will always be my first suggestion.
But that doesn’t mean that self-love is a simple thing. In fact, practicing self-love can sometimes be a bit complicated (for everyone).
Whether you’re just starting out on your self-love journey or you’re a self-love superstar, it’s totally normal to struggle. Self-love isn’t easy.
So how can you prepare for the hurdles that come with practicing self-love?
Here are 3 important things that you should know… Let’s dive in!
Why Practicing Self-Love Matters
The Beatles might have been on to something when they first wrote the lyrics to “All you Need is Love.” And it’s even better if there’s a ton of self-love in there. I’ve said this many times but I’m always happy to repeat it: self-love is the true foundation of a healthy lifestyle.
Practicing self-love is more powerful than focusing on creating a killer exercise routine or discovering your ultimate healthy diet. When you love yourself irrevocably, fiercely and wholeheartedly you become inspired to take care of your wonderful self. You have your own back. And you make choices that benefit your own unique needs (including any healthy lifestyle changes you might be interested in.)
A focus on self-love creates a strong foundation. And that’s the best foundation on which to create your healthy lifestyle. Otherwise things kind of fall apart after a while (and really aren’t overly fulfilling).
Plus there are some serious health benefits to be had:
- Makes us better able to cope with stress and negative emotions
- Benefits our immune health
- Supports our cardiovascular health
- Reduces health-related anxiety in chronic illness warriors (woohoo!)
- Helps us keep our own best interest at heart
That’s a whole lot of awesome right there. Ready to get your self-love on?
I feel ya! Practicing self-love is marvelous. But as you begin (or continue) your self-love journey there are a few things that you should know…
3 Things You Need to Know About Practicing Self-Love
1. Practicing Self-Love Isn’t Always Easy
Loving yourself can be hard! And if you’re feeling that way you aren’t alone. It’s totally normal to struggle sometimes.
We aren’t exactly taught how to love and value ourselves. The typical message we receive (at least in my experience) is that being selfish is wrong and we should always put others before ourselves.
And hey – knowing how and when to be selfless is magnificent. Being kind to your fellow man and putting goodness out there is not only admirable, it’s necessary. But that doesn’t mean that self-love can’t play a role in that equation.
If anything, practicing self-love makes us better able to be present for others. It helps to prevent us from feeling stressed, drained or burnt out. Which means that we have a lot more goodness left to spread around. Everyone benefits!
And yet it’s still really hard sometimes to love and accept yourself wholeheartedly.
Firstly because practicing self-love is a commitment. Just like any loving relationship. And that means that it’s absolutely normal to have good days and bad days.
Sometimes you’re going to feel super awesome and love yourself wholeheartedly. Other times your inner mean girl might talk a bit louder than usual, leaving you feeling less than fantastic. But what’s important is that you know that that’s normal. And that you continue to work on practicing self-love, even through the difficult times.
It’s imperative that we recognize that self-love is a continuous journey, not a destination. The most important thing is that you make a choice to work on loving and accepting yourself, as you are. Once you’ve made the commitment to love yourself everything else can start to fall into place.
But there’s another big reason why practicing self-love can be so hard:
You see, practicing self-love means that we work on accepting ourselves as we are. Right now. And I’m talking all of the bits and pieces that come together to make us who we are. The good stuff and the bad stuff. But it can be really difficult to love both our strengths and our weaknesses.
I’ve personally struggled with this one.
When I first set out to create a healthy lifestyle my goal was to reclaim my health. I became good friends with what I once called “rabbit food” (basically most vegetables), completely revamping the way I fed myself. I developed a killer self-care routine. And I worked on things like mindfulness and gratitude. I thought I was headed in the right direction.
But underneath it all I felt broken.
You see, I have an incurable autoimmune disease. And I wanted so desperately to be cured. The driving force behind my actions was this idea that I needed to beat my disease and return to the life I had before.
I had this vision of a mythical better version of myself. One that was whole, healthy and disease free. She was the person who deserved to be loved wholeheartedly. And she was the person that I was striving to become.
And so my self-love practice included loving only the parts of myself that weren’t sick. The very idea that I should love my illness sounded preposterous. How could I ever love a part of me that had caused me so much pain?
When I hit remission for the first time I thought that I was in the clear, no longer unwell. And finally worthy of being loved wholeheartedly.
Boy oh boy did that backfire…
Spoiler alert – my remission didn’t last. I relapsed almost a year later.
(Psst. That’s little ‘ol me, doing a bit of soul searching by the sea shortly after my second relapse. Thankfully we’re on remission take 3 right now and doing well ^^)
I. Was. Devastated.
And not just because I had to once again navigate through a plethora of uncomfortable symptoms. The anguish I felt came with the crushing realization that I really couldn’t defeat this disease. This was something I would have for the rest of my life. And I needed to accept that.
It took a lot of time and effort and a huge shift in my way of thinking. But I realized that I had to learn to love myself, Graves Disease and all.
That doesn’t mean that I see this illness as a gift or that I would wish it upon anyone else. It simply means that I accept it as part of my journey. That I am willing to listen to my body, be extra gentle with myself and respond to my own unique needs. I’ve realized that I am still whole and worthy of love. And I choose to look for the silver lining and make the best of this experience.
We should never deny ourselves the ability to love ourselves wholeheartedly…
Do not deny yourself love and acceptance until you meet certain standards. Whether it be hitting remission, getting a promotion, gaining a six pack or anything else. If you decide that you will not be happy with yourself until you achieve something specific you will continue to be unhappy (even if you do attain those goals).
That choice to put off our own self-acceptance until we fit into certain ideals traps us in a cycle of unhappiness. There will always be something else to strive for and we will always have flaws. But even so we are always worthy of love.
With that in mind, it still won’t always be easy. But making a choice to work on loving and accepting yourself today, as you are, is the right step. Once you’ve made the commitment to love and accept yourself fully things start to fall into place. And the difficult times are easier, because they’re met with love.
Maybe that sounds too good to be true, but Clinical Psychologist Deborah Khoshaba, Psy.D. is on our side:
“When we act in ways that expand self-love in us, we begin to accept much better our weaknesses as well as our strengths, have less need to explain away our short-comings, have compassion for ourselves as human beings struggling to find personal meaning, are more centered in our life purpose and values, and expect living fulfillment through our own efforts.” (source)
Making the choice to love and accept yourself as you are is the first step. It might not be easy, but you can totally do this!
2. Loving Yourself Wholeheartedly Doesn’t Mean You Settle
Practicing self-love works best when you strive to accept yourself as you are right now. But that doesn’t mean that you need to throw self-improvement out the window.
Accepting your beautiful self, flaws and all, doesn’t require that you become complacent, give up on your ambitions or permanently settle in to exactly where you are in your life at this moment. There is nothing wrong with having dreams, ambitions and goals.
We all want and deserve to grow and learn. But we can’t hold our self-love for ransom until we blossom into some mythical better version of ourselves.
You are already full of goodness. And when you realize that and you start to honour what an incredible person you already are, things change. Because any change that you strive for is no longer about fixing a broken and valueless self, it’s about acknowledging that you’re already bursting with goodness and you’re just looking to create more.
Life is tough. You are worthy of your own love. And you deserve to have your own back. No matter where you are in your journey.
3. It’s Ok to Ask for Help
While it may seem a little strange to ask for help practicing self-love (I mean, the whole “self” part kind of makes it seem like a solo activity), it’s totally ok to seek guidance if you’re feeling lost.
There are people in your life who love you wholeheartedly, as you are right now, flaws and all.
And since our goal is to learn to feel the same way about ourselves, seeking their guidance, advice and insight isn’t such a bad idea.
Humans are social creatures. Emotional and social support are necessary for our own mental well-being. And it’s ok to tap into that when you need it.
The people who love you will be more than happy to help you see all of the wonderful things that make you the incredible being you are. And hey, they might even have some personal tips on practicing self-love to share. 😉
But if talking to your loved ones about practicing self-love feels weird, talking to a therapist or counselor is another great option!
Take it from someone who’s been there! I’m so grateful for the help my child psychologist provided. He definitely helped me see that I am incredibly worthy of love at a time when I didn’t exactly feel like I had much value. Therapy can be life changing.
Therapists create a safe space free from judgement. Everything is confidential. And the relationship is unique to your needs. Including any help you might need learning to practice self-love.
They may even help you in ways your loved ones never could…
As Philip J. Rosenbaum, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst and is the Director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Haverford College, puts it:
“The therapist-client relationship is central to helping people learn how to change their problematic behaviors. Therapists engage with their clients’ lives without becoming a daily part of it. Well-defined boundaries allow therapists the perspective from which to observe behaviors that friends who are involved in a client’s life may be too close to see.” (source)
Therapy can be so useful and isn’t something to be afraid of or embarrassed by. When you sit down with a professional, they’re neutral. They have absolutely no agenda in your life and can be completely unbiased.
You never know, it might be one of the best steps in your self-love journey. Sometimes loving yourself means accepting that you need outside help. We all do. And that’s not only ok, it’s awesome!
How amazing is it that we can come together, lift each other up and inspire each other to love ourselves and each other? I think that’s pretty wonderful!
The world can always use more love. Even self-love. Are you ready to get your self-love on?
How do you work on loving yourself? Is there anything else that you think everyone should know about practicing self-love? Share your goodness with us in the comments below. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think.
Health and love,
Thought of the day: You are worthy of your own love and affection.
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