nemo dat quod non habet
No one gives what they do not have
. Before you can love anybody or have them love you, you have to love yourself first.
We’ve all heard this so many times it’s become a cliche, but it’s true. So what does it mean to love yourself? Why is it so important? And how do you actually love yourself?
I know how easy it is to dwell on your own perceived inadequacies. Sometimes it even seems easier to love others than it does to love yourself but if there’s something I learnt this year, it’s that you’re the most important person in your universe, you can’t give from an empty well and when you try, it becomes unhealthy for you and the recipient of said love, no matter how pure your intentions are.
Being in love with yourself provides you with self-confidence, an improved sense of self-worth and it will generally help you feel more positive. You may also find that it is easier for you to fall in love once you have learned to love yourself first.
It’s so easy to tell someone “Love yourself” and much more difficult to describe how to do it
But our entire lives are lived through our own eyes, so do you really want to go through life without loving the vessel you’re in? NO. So I’ll try.
Self-love entails actual self-improvement and not just performative solo dates and verbal self-hype.
With that being said, the first thing I think we need to know when on a journey to loving oneself is:
DON’T EXPECT PERFECTION
Having self-love doesn’t mean you’ll be perfect and never have any negative thoughts or emotions. What it means is that those negatives don’t control you and you don’t embody them. When you’re faced with moments when your instinct is to beat yourself up, accept that inclination, but think about how you’d treat a loved one in the same situation. That’s how I was able to show a little more compassion to myself when things got tough this year. Nothing beats self-therapy.
Work on forgiving yourself. Forgiveness is a process, and it can take time. You might even have to do it ten times in one day for the same thing. You just have to keep working on it because the alternative is not an option. It’s not about managing your emotions, it’s about managing your reaction to your emotions.
When you know not to expect perfection, you have to remember to:
It’s impossible to love yourself if you don’t even know who you are. Invest in discovering what you believe, value, and like.
Boundaries are an essential form of self-care because they let others know how you deserve and expect to be treated and that you won’t settle for less.
Others aren’t better or worse, more or less than you; they’re just different. You are valuable just as you are and accepting yourself means there’s no need for comparisons.
Our lives are full of distractions. Many of the things we engage in are fun and worthwhile, but they can be draining and keep us from truly knowing and being ourselves. Set time aside to just be with yourself.
Know and use your strengths
We all have tremendous gifts, but many of them go unnoticed. When you’re busy and distracted, it’s hard to access these great qualities. Focusing on your strengths will increase your positive feelings for yourself.
Give yourself plenty of healthy treats
A treat is something special that you just give yourself. Unlike a reward, it doesn’t have to be earned. Be good to yourself by giving yourself treats “just because”.
Be honest with yourself
This one can be harder than it seems. Some of us are so good at self-deception that we don’t even know we’re doing it. Honesty is key in all relationships and your relationship with yourself is no different. Clearly, you can’t love your entire messy self if you’re lying, minimizing, or making excuses. True self-love means taking responsibility and accountability.
Let yourself off the hook for your mistakes and imperfections
You’re hard on yourself. You’re probably harder on yourself than anybody else. Cut yourself some slack and embrace your humanness. Mistakes are normal. Imperfections are part of what makes you you.
Work on forgiving yourself for the bigger stuff
Sometimes we’re holding onto bigger regrets or transgressions. Self-forgiveness is a process of bit by bit believing you truly did the best you could. Today you could do better, of course. Hindsight really is 20/20, which is why it’s completely unfair to judge your past self with the knowledge you have now. Remember: “When we know better we do better.”
Accept that some people won’t like you
That’s right, some people don’t like you and that’s O.K. Don’t waste your time trying to please people who are impossible to please or people who just aren’t that important to you. Being yourself means you have to give up your people-pleasing ways and embrace your authentic self.
Make fun a priority
Put something fun on your agenda every week. Don’t neglect it or cancel because you have too much work to do or something else needs your attention. Just like rest, we all need fun in order to feel good. Don’t skimp on this important need.
Gratitude is one of the simplest ways to focus on the good in yourself and in your life. Try identifying 3 things you’re grateful for when you wake up every morning. This works wonders, believe me.
Write down your successes
I love this self-love activity because it creates a record of your accomplishments (big and small) that you can re-read whenever you’re feeling low. Add to it and read your list on a daily basis for maximum benefit.
Feel your feelings
Our feelings are an integral part of who we are. You can’t be an authentic person without acknowledging and feeling all of your feelings. Don’t shy away from uncomfortable feelings like anger and sadness. If you deny them, you deny a part of yourself. Allow yourself to express them in a healthy, respectful way.
Take good care of your body
Good health is truly priceless. Give yourself the gift of feeling physically well – exercise regularly, eat healthfully, drink water, get 7-8 hours of sleep most nights, and limit alcohol or other drugs.
Pursue a hobby
Hobbies can be fun, relaxing, challenging, creative, athletic, social, or educational. As you can see, different hobbies meet different needs for us. Find something that meets your needs.
Stand up for yourself
Like boundaries, being assertive is a way of showing others that your opinions and needs matter. Loving yourself means you know your value and can communicate it to others.
Write yourself a love letter
I know this is a hard assignment, but it really challenges you to identify the things you like about yourself.
Ask for help when you need it
Another part of taking care of yourself is recognizing when you need help. Help isn’t weak. It’s human. We all need help at times. Ultra independence is not self-love. Don’t let yourself suffer.
Speak kindly to yourself
Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a loved one. Don’t cut yourself down, call yourself names, or criticize yourself.
Surround yourself with people who treat you with kindness and respect
Who you spend time with reflects how you feel about yourself. People who feel worthy surround themselves with positive people. Sometimes loving yourself means you have to end relationships with abusive or unkind people.
If you can challenge yourself, you will also be getting to know yourself and what you are capable of. Take that leap and challenge yourself, you will feel much more confident. Just go for it, and see what happens.
A great way to show yourself self-love is to trust yourself and your own instincts.
You are most likely going to know what is best for you, and self-trust is a step to self-love.
You need to trust yourself before you can trust others, so listen to your gut and trust how you feel.
Allow yourself some downtime
Are you busy, busy, busy? It’s time to slow down and allow your body and mind to rest. You don’t have to do it all. Prioritize what matters most and let go of any guilt in saying no. Rest is rejuvenating and a basic form of self-care.
After you’ve done the hard work of learning to love yourself, you’ll rise to all kinds of challenges. With self-love, you’ll walk into the room with confidence. You’ll acknowledge your emotions and be gentle with yourself if you’re feeling nervous. You may take more calculated risks in what you present, because you’ll be less afraid of rejection. You’ll feel secure setting boundaries, like saying “I can’t work on that right now” when someone asks you to do something when you should be doing something else. Then, if something doesn’t go well, you’ll feel disappointed, of course, but people who love themselves don’t let that outcome change their view of themselves as valuable.
Hannah Elise Rose, LCPC, a therapist in private practice in Baltimore, puts it this way: “Imagine that after (an) ill-fated presentation, you get a knock on the door from some unwanted guests — shame, doubt, fear and self-hate. Instead of letting them inside to make you feel terrible, self-love allows you to open the door, see the guests, make a decision to say ‘No, thank you’ and close the door,” she says. “If that’s not empowering, I don’t know what is.”
You are the only person you’ll always be with; the person who will be there through thick and thin; the person who knows you best. Your relationship with yourself is the most important and longest relationship you’ll ever have. I hope you’ll spend some more time learning to love yourself more in the new year.
Until next time,
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