Can you remember the last time you took two seconds out of your day to appreciate yourself? Have you ever given yourself a hug when you needed it, or given yourself a well-deserved compliment? If you haven’t, is it because you don’t believe you’re worthy of recognition? Or is it because you’ve never thought about taking time to do so? I ask that you open your mind, heart, and soul to the possibilities of self-love. This may feel uncomfortable at first because self-love seems to be a foreign concept in our society. As you continue reading, try your best to suspend judgement.
I realized I lacked self-love when I began to notice that I always respond to my own mistakes by blaming myself. There once was a time when my credit card got stuck in a parking machine and panic filled my body. Self-deprecating thoughts ran sporadically through my head; it was as if my rational mind had been washed away by my embarrassment. I kept apologizing to my friend as if this was my fault. I wonder now, was that 20 minutes worth all the anxiety I had caused myself? What was the worst thing that could have happened? Was this really my fault, or just an unfortunate meeting with a broken parking meter? I regret not asking myself these questions in the moment since it would have eliminated much unnecessary stress. Sometimes our emotions can become so potent that they prohibit us from processing things in our rational mind. In these moments, it’s important to breathe and check the facts––you could create a list in your head to help distinguish the objectives from your feelings. It never hurts to organize your thoughts!
My habit of blaming myself begs me to ask: why is it so hard to forgive ourselves when life does not go our way? Unfortunately in our society, it is instinctive for us to look down on ourselves, to feel unworthy, and to stay blind to how incredibly amazing we truly are. Instead of appreciating the positive, we tend to focus on the negative; we even blame ourselves for things that are out of our control. The impulse to dislike ourselves does not only prevent us from being able to receive love from others, but also inhibits our ability to give love to ourselves. We look to others to validate that we are good enough, but we fail to ask ourselves: “Do I like myself?” Our self-worth should come from within, and it should be the love of ourselves that gives us honor.
There are many different ways to strengthen your self-love “muscle”. My favorite being a love letter, but not your ordinary love letter––instead, this one’s to yourself.
Step 1) First, choose a perspective from which you want to write the letter. Are you writing as yourself? Are you writing as a friend? An onlooker?
Step 2) Begin by making a short list of things you love about yourself. From this list, embellish on each characteristic in the note.
Step 3) Think of a moment you felt proud and write about it from the perspective you choose.
Step 4) Keep this note in your wallet, tape it to your mirror, or put it in an easily accessible yet private space for when you’re feeling down and need a little extra love.
And hey, you may be thinking, ‘this does not apply to me’ or ‘self-love is weird,’ but ask yourself: have you ever responded to a compliment with: “No I’m not…but thanks anyways”? Most likely the answer is yes, and this is a common example of how we are naturally uncomfortable with accepting love and appreciation from others. However, everyone is worthy of loving themselves!
You are not at fault for not loving yourself sooner. Discussion around the concept of loving yourself isn’t a norm in our society, which it should be. This could be because of how misleading the definition of self-love is. The definition provides words such as vanity, narcissism, and conceit as self-love’s synonyms, which is where the common misconception of self-love being selfish stems from. In actuality, self-love is a person’s comfortability in their own skin and having the confidence and courage to admire themselves. It is important to note this includes an awareness of all parts of ourselves––not just the parts we admire––so that we can improve and evolve with a genuine acceptance of our whole self.
What society needs to realize is that it’s healthy to be selfish!
Listening to your own needs and taking care of yourself before others is necessary for your own health and happiness. Why else would there be an airplane safety instruction to put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others if self-care wasn’t imperative? Selfishness is essential for one to be at their full potential, and for them to thrive––mentally, socially, and physically. Treat yourself once in awhile to show your self-appreciation. Think about something you would benefit from, and do it for yourself out of love! Make this a priority in your life.
After reading this, you may be asking yourself: “So what? Who cares if I love myself?” The answer is simple. Engaging in self-love paves the way for us to create strong self-compassion and self-esteem for when we face hardships, shame, self-criticism, anxiety, fear, and depression. After learning tools to accept and love yourself, you will be able to face issues with a new positive attitude and self-confident mindset.
Today marks your journey.
Whether you desire to practice self-love or not, this is the day that you have become more aware of the possibilities of loving yourself. The next time you are angered, frightened, or frustrated with yourself, remember that you are human and that we all make mistakes. We are not perfect, and everyday we are constantly evolving and learning from our experiences. Once in awhile, give yourself a break and remember, as a very wise friend once told me:“we are human beings––not machines.”
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com