Self love is not something we’re taught at school. Instead we’re taught to multi-task, to compare ourselves to others and to be the best. Self love is about having unconditional friendship with yourself. Just like your friendship with your best friend, self love is about being compassionate, caring, dependable and gentle… with yourself! For various reasons, by the time we become adults many of us don’t like who we are. Perhaps our lives don’t look like what they think they should look like or we still don’t seem to have our life “together” or we just can’t seem to say the right thing! So how can you move from a place of self-hatred or disappointment, to a place of self-love?
Step 1: Make a decision. Repeat after me: I will love myself. No matter what, I’ll put my needs first. I’ll have my back, no matter what I’ve done. I’ll love myself despite what I look like.
Step 2: Practice. Remind yourself every day ‘no matter what, I love myself‘. Remind yourself multiple times a day. Look in the mirror and say ‘I love you [name]’. It’s hard. Maybe you’ll feel silly. You might cry. You may just need to start just by looking yourself in the eye.
Step 3: Treat yourself like you treat your closest friends. Forgive yourself when you stuff something up. Laugh it off when you say the wrong thing. Be kind to yourself when someone says something that hurts your feelings. Try to find the positives when you think you’ve made a mistake. Do things to make life easier for you.
Step 4: Practice self-care. Look after yourself the way you look after someone else you love. Buy yourself gifts. Give yourself time. Let yourself do things imperfectly. Take care of you! This can take the form of buying good quality food, spending time in nature or having a hot bath – do whatever you enjoy and spend time relaxing. Even if you have only 5 minutes for self-care then that is enough.
Step 5: Listen to what you need. When you’re feeling fed up with yourself, when you’ve lost patience or you’re feeling down ask, “what do I need?“. Whatever it is, give it to yourself. You cannot give to others what you don’t give to yourself, and you can’t meet anyone else’s needs if you’re not even meeting your own.
Step 6: Be assertive. You are valuable, remember that. As in step 5, your needs count! Telling others what you need, or how they can meet your needs, or even how you’re going to meet your own needs is not bitchy or aggressive, it’s looking after yourself. Sometimes that means saying no, sometimes it means reaching out for help.
Step 7: Reframe your thoughts. How do you speak to yourself? Would you speak to a child the same way? Be gentle, be kind, be patient and be loving. When you hear that voice that tells you you aren’t worthy, you’re not enough, or you’re not a good person acknowledge the thought with “I notice I’m telling myself I’m not good enough because [eg.I am too fat]” and reframe it with a non-judgmental response, such as “my value is not dependent on [my weight]. I am a better person when I’m happy, [not when I’m thin]“.
Step 8: Ask your friends. Finding it hard to even see anything good about yourself? Ask your three favourite people the top 5 best things about you. This is a really rewarding exercise. You will be nicely surprised and may find the perspective helps you see what you otherwise may not.
Step 9: Ask someone else. If you practice and you practice but can’t seem to get there, maybe you need some assistance. Enlist the help of a professional. The Australian Psychological Association will provide a list of psychologists in your area (for readers in Australia).
Step 10: Deal with your emotions without food. When you eat to deal with emotions you’re masking your ability to see reality. If your current situation is only bearable because of the packet of Tim Tams and half tub of ice cream you have each night after work, your current situation will stay the same – because you’re allowing it to be by eating instead of dealing with what’s really making you unhappy. If you can only get through your day with chocolate bars and lollies, then you won’t have an opportunity to experience the boredom of your current job, and so you’ll never change it. Allowing yourself to stay in unhappy situations by eating to deal with the emotion instead of coping in other ways or changing the situation in the first place, is not being respectful or loving to yourself.
Step 11: Get rid of mirrors and scales. Each time you analyse your body in the mirror or step on the scale, you’re reinforcing the value that what you look like or how much you weigh matters. If this is the case, you’ll never be enough. Self love is saying I am enough no matter what I look like or how much I weigh. I choose to love myself no matter what. Weighing yourself or criticising your body says I’m not good enough until I lose Xkgs or get rid of the cellulite. Just as you don’t love others because of what they look like, you will never love yourself just because of what you look like. Losing weight does not increase your ability to love yourself. Send yourself the most powerful message of all by getting rid of the scales and refusing to do body checks every time you see your reflection!
Just remember, self-love is possible and most of all, it’s worth it. Start small, be gentle with yourself, and most of all be kind. If you try this, tell me what you think in the comments below!