The concept of self-love may evoke images of cheesy self-help books or igniting patchouli incense, but the truth is that loving yourself is much more than that. Self-care and compassion are crucial for being healthy in body and mind. In the fast-paced, competitive world we live in today, it seems like we are constantly fighting against a silent enemy: perfection. Being too hard on ourselves and constant self-criticism can lead to anxiety, stress, and even digestive problems, like irritable bowel syndrome, among others.
As you can see, having a self-care routine is deeply connected to having mental health and wellbeing. So, if self-love seems like a distant and abstract concept, keep on reading and discover 10 ways to cultivate and practise self-care today.
What is Self-Love?
Self-love is not a ready-made concept. It can mean different things for each person because we have different interests and motivations. An important part of learning how to love yourself is to understand what you like, what you don’t like, and how to enjoy it.
But, no matter how different our interests may be, self-love is universal in one sense: it means a state of appreciation for oneself in every sphere of our lives (physical, psychological, and spiritual). You understand your own needs and you don’t sacrifice your health or well-being for the sake of others.
And remember that loving yourself does not only encompass what you do but also what you think. It’s not realistic to feel good all the time, but having a positive view of yourself overall is crucial to truly practise self-love.
Why Do We Need to Love Ourselves?
Many of us have been raised to believe we should do things to perfection. From the food we cook to the way we work, everything should be shiny and flawless. And while this may seem like a positive personality trait that will help us achieve all our objectives in life, in reality, perfectionism is harmful to our health and wellbeing, leading to self-deprecating thoughts that can even make it harder to achieve our goals.
Plus, being too hard on yourself instead of practising self-love can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, eating disorders, stress and anxiety, and even depression (1). There’s nothing wrong with trying to do your best, but keep in mind that love for yourself always comes first.
Loving yourself is also crucial to building healthy relationships with other people. As RuPaul wisely says, “If you can’t love yourself, how are you gonna love somebody else?”. When you get to know yourself, you start accepting your own limitations and vulnerabilities. This, in turn, will help you understand, accept, and love others (and their faults, too).
How Can You Begin Practising Self-Love?
Self-love seems essential for our mental health and should be something innate, but it often isn’t. How many times have you beaten yourself up over something trivial like a burnt meal? Or have you ever let insidious comments made by others affect you to the point of crying? This is when you should practise self-love and understand you are a human being with errors and limitations. Self-love will not make you invulnerable (criticisms are probably going to affect you anyway), but it will give you enough confidence and self-esteem to navigate even the toughest situations.
The way you perceive yourself has an effect on everything else: the partner you choose, your role models, how you educate your children, how you interact with your friends, and how you cope with stressful situations. If you don’t love yourself enough, you are probably going to have trouble in one or more of these important aspects of life. Cultivate this love by learning self-care techniques to increase your self-esteem and start living a happier, healthier life.
10 Ways to Cultivate and Practise Self-Love
From dropping a fork on the floor to missing an important meeting at work, it may be hard not to chastise yourself all the time. Luckily, self-love is something that can be learned (and it’s easier than it seems!). If you are willing to start pampering yourself a little bit every day, take a look at these 10 effective ways to cultivate and practise self-love.
You Always Go First
Putting yourself first does not mean being selfish or forgetting about other people’s needs and feelings. Instead, it means you understand your boundaries and never do something that can harm yourself only to please others. If you don’t put yourself first, not-so-well-intentioned people can take advantage of your generosity. Helping and caring for others is great; doing so without thinking about yourself first… not so much.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
In most societies, we are raised to be competitive, and this way of thinking makes it natural to compare ourselves to others. But this can be dangerous, because most of the time, we only know one side of the story. The grass always seems greener on your neighbour’s side of the fence, but that’s only because we only see the end result and not all the failures and sacrifices that person had to put in to get what they have. Focus on yourself and not on others: your mental health will thank you for it!
Solo trips can be scary, especially for anxious people. What’s more, you’ll have the opportunity of putting yourself first. You’ll be doing all the things you love and feel like doing instead of compromising or simply following somebody else’s plan. You can also reconnect with hobbies you had forgotten and simply enjoy your own company. Enter that museum you always wanted to visit, indulge in pizza with wine, and visit the most beautiful places in the world—just because you want to.
Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes
We can be really hard on ourselves. Many times, much less patient than we would be with other people. While it’s true we should always take responsibility for our actions and try to make up for our errors, there’s no point in punishing yourself too much for something as natural as making a mistake. To love yourself, first you need to accept you are not perfect and never will be. Also, mistakes are never truly failures if you manage to grow from them. Then, they become lessons learned.
Go on a Date with Yourself
No matter if you are single or married, having a night out with you alone is one of the best ways to nurture yourself. There’s no agenda and nobody will be rushing you to go somewhere. And, again, you won’t have to make concessions for anyone else regarding the plans for the night. Take yourself to the cinema, have dinner in the fanciest restaurant or go for a picnic at the park if you feel like it.
Be Kind to Yourself
It’s important to talk kindly to ourselves, even if you are having one of those days your toast falls on the wrong side, you get late to work, and everything seems to go wrong. Reset your attitude to practise self-love and soon you’ll notice how everything else changes around you. When we are kind to ourselves, we create new habits and change the way we see the world and relate to others, bringing more positivity into our lives. Life is tough enough to become your own worst enemy!
Don’t Be Afraid to Let Go of Toxic People
Bringing the right people into your life (and getting rid of the toxic ones) is an act of self-care, too. There are people who would rather see you fail than succeed, or who simply don’t know how to build healthy relationships. But no matter how many years you have been friends with that person, you should never put that over your mental health. Time is one of the few things you cannot take back or reclaim, so don’t waste it on people who don’t want to see you shine.
Follow Your Intuition
Have you ever met someone who’s perfectly nice and polite but feel that something is off and can’t explain it? That’s your intuition, and you should not ignore that inner voice when it speaks to you. We know it can be hard to trust your intuition when you have been riddled with self-doubt for years or even decades, but the truth is that nobody knows what you need and want better than yourself.
Furthermore, research shows that intuition is a very real process that takes place in your brain where you connect the past with the present and use these experiences to make a split-second decision (2). Learning to listen to yourself is another act of self-love. Tap into your intuition to improve your life and soon you’ll find yourself home.
Confront Your Fears
Whether it’s a shark, a spider, or even a button (yes, this type of phobia exists!), we are always afraid of something. And a little bit of fear is not only normal but healthy, as it will protect us from harm and many times force us to make a safer choice. However, fear can be problematic when it affects us in our daily life. For instance, you may be a teacher who’s afraid of speaking in public and find your daily tasks a nightmare. Don’t simply ignore your fears: understand them, accept them, and soon you’ll gain clarity and strength to alleviate your anxiety.
Being afraid can skew our perception and make things seem bigger than they really are (3). Maybe you have dreamt of going to Egypt since you were a child but your fear of flying is stopping you from fulfilling your dream. Don’t let this happen! Face it, maybe with the help of a professional, and you will ultimately overcome it.
Buying gifts for the people we love feels awesome, but when was the last time you bought something for yourself? The importance of pampering yourself should not be overlooked. And you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a good time. Get a relaxing massage, have your nails done, cook yourself that meal you’ve been craving, and get a bubble bath with candles while you read a good book. Don’t forget to enjoy your guilty pleasures, too. Are you in love with the new soap opera, even if the plot is a bit ridiculous? Watch it and have a good time! You deserve it.
Start Shining Like a Diamond
Everybody seems to be talking about self-love these days. “Abandon your boyfriend, love yourself more”, but what do they even mean? It can be hard to start a journey towards self-care and more confidence, for sure. But you should never overlook the importance of appreciating yourself because self-love is the base of all of our relationships. If we do not love ourselves first, it’s hard to love others. Once you start practising more self-love with all the tips we have shared, you’ll see how your self-esteem increases and how you can enjoy life to the fullest.
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