What does self-love mean to me & how do I practice it.
The term self-love can be seen around a lot lately. Everybody wants to be more self-loving & everybody wants us to be more self-loving. I think it’s great, because I truly believe that people who are self-loving and value themselves are better human beings. They don’t bring others down, they are kind, have healthy boundaries & inspire others to become better people. But I also think it is easier said than done. Being self-unloving results from years of conditioning by the family. By the society. It’s a habit. A habit deeply engraved into our subconscious minds. A habit that keeps being reinforced by the society, big companies and those closest to us. We are judged by taking care of our needs, we are frown upon for saying no, we are criticised by putting ourselves first, and we are berated for liking the body we live in. Our inner critic is on their side. That little voice in your head which was created to protect you, harms you instead. You do not need it anymore. It has done it’s job. Now, it should take a back sit and let you enjoy your life. But remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup, so take care of yourself.
I grew up with an un-loving, narcissistic, abusive addict mother & step-mother, you see, and being self-abusive, self-negligent and self-sabotaging comes naturally. Once I became a mother I promised to myself I will not pass on this pain and dysfunction onto my daughter. She deserves better. I managed. Being loving, respectful, caring, gentle, involved, interested, kind and protective towards her comes easy. My mama wolf instinct is strong. However, I still need to remind myself daily to be all those things I am to my daughter, to myself.
When discussing this with my psychotherapist, she suggested two things:
1) To treat myself the way I would treat Sofia, my daughter, if she was in my situation.
2) To treat myself in a way I would like my ideal mother to treat me.
This worked. It provoked one of the most powerful shifts I have experienced in the relationship with I have with myself. I still have to work on remembering this daily and sometimes I still manage to go into a self-abusive spiral, but I am stronger, more understanding, less critical and much more determined.
I practice & cultivate self-love daily. When I am not in the right mindset and am heading towards the darkness I hold on to the things mentioned below like my life depended on it. Well, it kinda does. Self-love to me is taking care of myself in a way that gives me strength, motivates & inspires me, supports my body, makes me feel good physically & emotionally, and challenges me to become a better person. Here is my list of the things I do to habituate self-love:
- Making sure my basic needs are met. 1) Eating foods that support my body and avoiding foods that make me feel worse. 2) Going to bed by 10pm on most days and sleeping as much as I need or can. 3) Making sure that I get dressed every morning into something comfortable and nice. 4) Making sure I shower or bath every night. That are the basics that I stick to, in varied complexity, even when I am heading towards the darker times. These are non-negotiable, they are a priority.
- Resting when I am tired. I put all the wants & shoulds aside until I am stronger. My wellbeing comes before social gatherings, work, expectations etc. I can go into a very dark place when I am burned out, so avoiding exhaustion is of utmost priority. Listening to my body’s needs changed my life for the better. I cannot recommend it enough. It has much to tell to those who listen.
- Setting boundaries that support my health, wellbeing & relationships – no work after 6.30pm; going to bed before 10pm; not saying ‘yes’, when I actually need to say ‘no’; not carrying my daughter, when my body is in pain; not going out, if I need to stay in; not seeing people, if I need to be alone. It is extremely important to support yourself and your needs.
- Build a multifaceted support network. I must say I have done a very good job. I have chosen my new family & friends well and I feel honored to be loved by them, just the way I am. Thank you guys, you know who you are! Seeing a psychotherapist, a massage therapist, a nutritionist, an acupuncturist and a hairdresser regularly is a must for me. Those people are more than my guides, healers and strength givers. They inspire, teach and take care of me in the most wonderful of ways. There is no place for toxic people in your support network. If someone makes you feel less than, no matter what they say to justify it, they don’t deserve you.
- I work on figuring out who I am and practice respect towards that person. Finding out what do I want my life to look like, what kind of life will support me, what kind of life will fulfill me. What kind of life will give me what I need in order to grow and to become a better human being. What kind of life will make me happy. To understand what is important to me, what makes my heart skp a beat, what do I need in order to thrive. Discovering my triggers, my patterns, my projections, but also my passions, my nature and my flow. Unearthing the real me, that has been buried for years under the expectations, criticisms and projections of other people. You are not who they told you you are. Live your life according to how you want to, and not according to what other people think you should. Everybody needs different things, everybody sees life through their own experiences and projections. You do you. I am sure you’re amazing.
Self-love is respecting and listening to your inner child. Treat yourself, like you would to a child, who depends on you for survival. Take care of yourself like you would take care of a child you love. You need attention, respect, rest & love. Be the grown up you needed when you were little. Don’t give up on yourself. You are worthy of being loved and are totally lovable. No matter who you are and how horrible you think you might be, remember that you are seeing yourself through other peoples eyes. Stand up for yourself.