What does “self-love” really mean and how to start loving yourself
If you had asked me before if I loved myself, I’d say yes. I liked myself, I thought I’m quite pretty, smart and interesting.
But when I lied in my bed in a severe depression continuously tormenting myself with thoughts like “I’m not good enough”, “I don’t deserve it” or “I hate myself” – I realized that I was far from truly loving myself.
So what is "self-love"? It took me a few months to fully understand it. Self-love is one of these concepts that you just get. You don’t logically understand it. You feel it.
In my case I read about it, I practiced what was suggested in books and articles, and then one day I just got it. My mindset shifted, and I started loving myself.
How Do You Get There
Learn. Read. Discover. Keep searching, and one day you will just get it. It’s like yoga. You practice for a long time trying to get into that one pose. It seems very tough. And then one day you do. And you realize how easy it is once you get it. You’re in perfect balance. And from that moment, you remember how to do this pose. Occasionally you might lose your balance, but you know what it feels like to be in the pose – and you can go back.
What is NOT self-love
Many people (as I used to) think they love themselves, but what we feel is rather the liking of one's self. When you manage to lose a few kilos, when you do your hair and makeup and look great – you like yourself. When you achieve something big – you like yourself. When you help another person – you like yourself.
But what when the opposite happens?
If you put on a few kilos, would you still look in the mirror with love and appreciation? Do you like yourself even when your hair is messy and you got a few pimples on your face? Or what about if you acted really mean to somebody – do you still like yourself then? What we often take for self-love is a conditional liking of the person we are.
Instead of pure love, we judge ourselves. If you do something right, we reward ourselves with love. But when we do something bad, we punish ourselves by taking that love away. We become the harshest punisher in our lives.
So what is true self-love?
True love is an unconditional feeling of love, appreciation, and acceptance for yourself. What does unconditional mean? That no matter what you do, you always love yourself with the same strength.
Now I know it might make sense when you read it, but you might be wondering – how do you get to that point? How can you “get” it?
I found these steps to be helpful in my journey towards self-love:
1. Become aware of your inner voice
The first thing you need to do is be aware of how you treat yourself. We all talk to ourselves in our minds, but we are not always fully conscious of that voice.
So first step – become conscious of your inner voice. Pay attention to what it’s saying.
Notice what you tend to tell yourself most often. What do you say when you do something amazing, and what when you fail.
Here are a few situations in which you should keep aware of your inner voice:
When you wake up and look in the mirror
When you get scolded by your boss
When somebody is mean to you
When you are mean to someone
When you act on your anger
When you see a person in need but you keep walking without helping them
When you put on weight
When you make a mistake at work
When you eat some unhealthy food
When you skip your work-out session
When you lie to somebody
When you make someone cry
When you feel lazy
When you rest
Are you still loving and caring towards yourself in all these moments?
2. Take control of your inner voice
The things you hear in your head now have been there your entire life. You might have not paid attention to it before – in which case you might be shocked to hear some of the things you say to yourself.
But the truth is, that you’ve been feeding yourself these messages for years. And the more we hear something, the more we believe in it. This means that all those negative things you say to yourself have become your strongly held beliefs.
But you can change them right now. Step by step.
Now that you are aware of your inner voice, next time you catch yourself saying something nasty to yourself, pause, and say “cancel, cancel”. A little trick, but it actually sends a message to your subconscious mind to ignore what you just thought.
After canceling, say a new thing to yourself – this time a supportive, loving, and caring message. And just keep doing it.
I know that at first, it will seem a little weird. You won’t believe that new nice message. That’s ok.
Keep doing it and over time, you’ll become neutral to the message, and finally – you will believe it at all.
3. Love Yourself Emotionally and Physically
This is my favorite part of the whole process. What do you do when you love someone? Think of your parents, siblings, a lover, or a best friend. Do you get them gifts? Do you take them out on a date? Do you pay for them? Do you spend quality time together?
Love is a feeling, and love is a verb. Love is just as much about feeling as it is about doing!
So now is the time to do something loving for yourself. Think of all the things you enjoy, that bring you pleasure. And simply do them with yourself.
If you’ve never tried it before the idea of doing something alone might scare you a bit – I know that’s how I felt.
My healer at the time suggested I took myself out on a date once a week. And she suggested going for a nice dinner. Dinner alone? I felt like the biggest loser sitting at the table all by myself! But you know what – if you do, it’s a clear sign you don’t yet love yourself. Because once you do, you’ll start enjoying spending time yourself. And the whole point of this exercise. It’s to befriend yourself and feel completely happy and whole even when there is nobody else next to you.
We need to stop depriving ourselves of things that we like and that make us happy.
From now on, give yourself permission to do things you enjoy. You don’t always need to do things that make sense or that build your career. Spending time doing things just because you like them should be just as important. Here are a few ideas on how to start “doing” self-love:
Take yourself out for a nice dinner
Paint (or do any other type of art that you enjoy and that allows you to express creatively)
Write (you can write poems, a book, or a keep a daily journal)
Cook something healthy
Drink a green smoothie
Read your favourite book (and yes, it can be that love story you love)
Watch a romantic comedy
Buy yourself a nice dress
Get a manicure
Go to SPA (massages are my favourite things for self-love!)
Go for a yoga class
Dance (and you can perfectly go crazy in your house)
Listen to your favourite music
Play with animals
Stay in nature
Go for a walk
Do nothing (yep – just sit, or lie down and do absolutely nothing)
The more you practice acts of self-love, the stronger the message you send to yourself: “You deserve it”. It’s essential, and a fun way to practice self-love.
So just start. Follow these 3 steps. And know that if you do – one day you’ll just get. You’ll wake up and you’ll feel different. You’ll be in love. With yourself.
Loving yourself is the first step to living your Ageless Adventure
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