“Love is the great miracle cure. Loving ourselves works miracles in our lives.” – Louise Hay
Research has shown for years that extending love, acceptance, and compassion towards ourselves can bring amazing improvements in health and well-being.
Should that really surprise us? Plants, animals, children, adults…every living thing thrives on kindness and acceptance received from others. It’s only natural that we would benefit from our own kindness as well.
But earlier experiences in life can condition us to believe that we are unlovable, that there is something wrong with us. Those harmful messages can have an equally negative affect on our well-being.
Those patterns have been programmed, but we’re in charge of that programming, and self compassion is a powerful tool for change.
You are worthy of everything good in this world including love and kindness. You can make a commitment today that you will choose to love yourself like you deserve to be loved.
“Love yourself first and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” – Lucille Ball
What is self love?
Self love is showing yourself the same kindness and compassion that you would show to a dear friend or family member.
Self love is not selfish because it doesn’t seek to have something at the expense of someone else. Instead, it can actually help us to be able to give more to others because we can’t pour from an empty cup.
Self love is authentic, kind, and compassionate, accepting everything about ourselves without judgment, comparisons, shame, or guilt. It is believing we are inherently worthy and deserving of all that is good for us and treating ourselves as if we believe that.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” – Carl Rogers
Why is self love so good for us?
Allows us to make better choices
Self compassion breaks the downward spiral of negative thinking. By pausing to change our thoughts at those moments, it allows us to become calm and centered. We can then proactively choose what to do based on what is healthy for us rather than reacting out of fear.
It can change our perspective and open us to the possibility that our situation can change, bringing optimism and hope. The direction of our lives is always determined by which way we go each time we make a choice. If those choices can be consciously steered in the direction of that which is good and healthy for us, how different will things be a month or a year from now?
Helps us relate to ourselves better
We hear about the importance of self esteem, but pursuing high self esteem can mean evaluating oneself positively and feeling a need to be special and above average. Self love involves less self-evaluation, ego-defensiveness, and self-enhancement than self-esteem.
It is a kind, accepting way of relating to ourselves even in instances of failure, perceived inadequacy, and imperfection. By realizing that those are a shared experience of all humanity, we can give ourselves a break and alleviate much stress.
We can have greater emotional resilience and stability. Research has shown that self love can lead to less depression and anxiety, and that people who practice it are happier.
Encourages self care
Because self love is a conscious choice to do what is good for us, it changes our habits – eating healthier, going to bed earlier, exercising, etc. all become more natural. For the same reasons that we wouldn’t let our children eat a gallon of ice cream and stay up until midnight playing video games, we don’t allow ourselves to, either.
It also allows us to take time to unwind and relax and do things to promote less stress and better well-being. It allows us to enjoy the things that bring us pleasure and happiness.
Giving ourselves permission to fail and make mistakes also sets us free to explore new hobbies, make new friends, create, laugh, and have fun, all of which are very good for our health and well being.
Promotes healthy relationships
An 80 year Harvard study showed that the secret to living longer and being healthier and happier was healthy relationships.
A good measure of the health of our self love is the quality of people we have around us because they reflect what is going on inside of us. Are they angry, toxic, disrespectful, manipulative, or critical? Do they drain your energy?
When we love ourselves, we aren’t shackled to a need to please others or a fear of disappointing them or being criticized. We can set boundaries and keep out toxic behaviors and experiences without fear or guilt.
The better we feel about ourselves, the more we will want to choose acquaintances and friends who will support us, respect us, be loving and kind to us, accept us as we are, and help us grow to be better.
And the more we engage with these types of people, the better we feel about ourselves and the less we will be willing to put up with disrespectful behavior.
Develops better gut instincts
As we develop the habit of pausing to choose what is good for us, those healthy choices become more instinctive and contribute to better gut instincts. Take time to listen to your intuitive inner voice and honor it.
Do your homework when you have important decisions to make rather than reacting quickly out of fear.
And build a support group of trusted people with wisdom and integrity who also practice self love whose advice you can rely on to help steer you in the right direction.
“Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” – Brene Brown
How do we begin practicing self love?
Begin with resolve
Place your hand over your heart or give yourself a hug and say, “I love myself.” Pause throughout the day to assess how you’re doing and come back to this as often as you need.
Develop a habit of planning rather than reacting
Plan your week of healthy meals and snacks. Develop an evening routine that sets you up for a good morning. Have a strategy for excusing yourself from a toxic situation. Look for other areas where you can set yourself up for success by planning ahead.
Control the messages you receive
Music, television, radio, and social media are filled with negative messages. Examine carefully what you are taking in. Look for music, podcasts, or audio books that are inspirational and uplifting.
Be mindful of your thoughts
The messages we hear the most are the ones that go around and around in our minds. Find some positive affirmations you can memorize and say to yourself to break those cycles when it’s happening. Change the programming. It may take time and work, but you can retrain your brain to believe you are lovable and worthy. You can even try music with subliminal messages which repeat positive phrases over and over in a way where you can’t hear them but your brain can.
Be responsible for getting your needs met
Many of us have a helpless child locked inside of us, unable to identify or express our needs, feelings, desires, preferences, and interests. Learn to assert yourself. Make your own decisions. Choose what is good for you. Becoming an adult includes taking conscious control of our lives through actions such as expressing our needs and finding solutions. Self love is claiming your power and not feeling helpless.
Make time for you
Give yourself a break. Go for a walk, take a hot bath, watch your favorite movie, cook a special meal, get reflexology (my personal favorite), but the important thing is set aside uninterrupted quality time for yourself. And believe that you are worth it, that you are important enough to do that for yourself.
Make peace with old wounds and traumas
Although these will be with you for life, self love can help you heal by changing your perception of them. Much of what makes them so painful is the shame and guilt and feelings of unworthiness we carry around because of them. Those stories may have their share of weakness, faults, sufferings, and fear, but they are also filled with strengths, perseverance, joy, and courage. Your story will be a powerful inspiration for others going through the same thing.
Meditation is a great way to let go of stress, clear your mind, and get centered and grounded each day. It trains our brains to let go of the thoughts and worries and to just be calm and still.
Use some flower power
Plants are powerful allies in our journey to self love. Herbs, teas, flower essences, and essential oils can all help bring better physical and emotional health and balance. Plant a garden and really immerse yourself in them! Love them, and they will return the favor!
Take a moment this Valentine’s Day to assess your self compassion and kindness. Then make a list of all the many ways you are already doing a great job at it and some of the areas you’d like to begin changing.
Much love to you and blessings on your journey!
“Embrace the Glorious mess that you are.” – Elizabeth Gilbert