I grew up in an emotionally and, sometimes, physically abusive home. My family was religious and we learned to put others first, above ourselves. It was considered selfish to put our own needs first. This combination created within me a low level of self esteem and confidence. I knew more about what other people wanted and needed than I did myself. I was more aware of what other’s were feeling than knowing what I felt. Many times, after the good feeling of helping others had subsided, I was left exhausted….depressed…and lonely. I felt used and betrayed by some. It wasn’t until my life was overtaken by depression, suicidal doom and gloom, and almost dying after one attempt, that I learned the importance of learning to love myself.
What is Self-Love?
Ask yourself: When was the last time you took time out for just yourself and what you wanted (not what you had to do)? When was the last time you sat down quietly and pampered yourself? How about paying attention to what you were feeling and addressing those emotions, without being negative to yourself? When was the last time you said no to someone when you felt tired, exhausted or had other things you needed to take care of in your own life? You deserve to be put first and your needs to be met.
So, what is self-love? Self-love is about treating ourselves the same as we would a loved one in our lives. We acknowledge their needs, how they are feeling, we talk lovingly and supportive to them, and we give them our time and attention. For many of us, this is a foreign concept. It was to me for a very long time.
Banu Sekendur, in her online article, “What Self-Love Means: 20+ Ways to Be Good To Yourself,” for Tiny Buddha describes more than twenty ways to describe what self-love looks like:
- “Choosing ourselves,” despite the fact that it may upset others or you won’t be popular anymore. The author gives the example of being at a party and choosing to leave because you are feeling tired, overwhelmed, or just feel like leaving.
- Expressing ourselves more honestly instead of diluting how we feel, think or what to do to please others.
- “Giving our body the nurturing, rest, exercise, and comfort it needs to the best of our ability.”
- Choosing and wearing clothes that fit in with our personality and makes us feel good instead of trying to impress others and wearing what is in fashion.
- Living and building our life the way we desire, while we are single, instead of waiting for Mr./Miss Right to come along; Don’t wait to be happy
- Accepting and appreciating ourselves completely, including the “bad, the ugly, the sexy, and the smell-all of it.”
- Setting aside time to do what we love “without worrying about wasting time.”
- Recognizing and complementing our inner and outer beauty, “without feeling guilty, arrogant, or entitled.”
- Forgiving ourselves of past mistakes…not bringing up our past mistakes and rehashing them over and over again. “We can only learn from the past; we can’t change it.”
- Taking time to spend quality time with ourselves; to connect, instead of watching television or “wasting time on the internet.”
- Avoid divulging everything (“your heart, self, and dreams”) to everyone; use discretion.
- “Trusting the path that our soul is on and making a genuine effort to become a conscious co-creator of our destiny.”
- Reach out to a therapist, religious leader, or other trusted professional to heal old wounds and making changes in our dysfunctional patterned behavior instead of blaming our parents for our current situation.
- Trusting your gut instincts over your brain and ego
- Act with integrity when dealing with ourselves and others. Avoid being dishonest, manipulative, withholding, pretending, and engaging in codependent behaviors.
- Permit yourself to dream, and dream big, without judging yourself for it. Encourage yourself as you would someone else.
- Be conscious of how you are spending “your emotional, mental, financial, and physical energy.” Also, question whether what you are doing is bringing, “back joy, connection, nurturing, rest, and creativity to” your life.
- Being responsible for all of what we do, being aware that we have the power to choose what we wish to do and what we prefer not to do.
- Be aware of who you are and avoid identifying with other’s opinions of who you are, while at the same time, being able to do a self examination to see if there may be some truth to it.
- Learn to set good boundaries which protect and nurture your relationships with not only others, but yourself as well.
- Permit yourself to make mistakes and, as you would a loved one, avoid scolding yourself for it. Choose to give yourself credit for recognizing that you made a mistake and that you are willing to learn and grow from it.
- Refuse “to seek permission or approval to be” yourself…”recognizing that we, like everyone else, deserve to take up space on this planet just as who we are right now.”
- “Loving and accepting ourselves even when we fail miserably at some of these self-love goals.”
I love how the author finishes her article. I think it is very important: “no one else can offer these things to us.” It is up to us to take care of, love, and accept us. “Even if we land the best partner on the planet, this person won’t be able to make us happy and feel loved unless we created the space for it inside by practicing self-love. This is why self-love is an inside job.”
I am not perfect and I occasionally still neglect myself and my needs but, self-love is one of the greatest practices that I have learned during my recovery. I used to daily, on a regular basis, berate and put myself down. I had a low opinion of myself and felt undeserving. It upsets me to think about the abuse and neglect I put upon myself all those years and how it contributed to my mental illness; how it prevented me from getting better for a long time.
Gradually, I began to see the importance of loving and accepting all of me, even my “broken parts.” What was, at first, uncomfortable and clumsy began to feel good and I began to feel better about myself. I began to learn about my illness and what was needed for me work on getting better. I began to express myself and my needs. Eventually, and I’m still working on this one, I began to feel less anxious about saying no, and putting my wishes and needs first. If I didn’t, who else would…no one. I became my own parent and began to take care of myself, nourish myself (I often use positive affirmations to do this, especially when I don’t feel like it).
I hope that this blog post is helpful and you find love…for yourself. You deserve it!