“I know I have to love myself first before I can be in a healthy relationship, but how do you do this?” This is what my friend mustered, sobbing as she explained how broken she felt after her breakup. Like her—a feeling of shame for not being in a place where you “love yourself” is something I’ve found common amongst single women.
“Love yourself!” is advice dished by many self-help books and easily quoted on pretty Instagram pictures. But here’s the problem with this advice. Too often we think of loving ourselves as a final destination, as if you flip a switch and suddenly you’re transported to some magical island of enlightenment and relationship bliss. The alternative is feeling ashamed—as if you’re not strong enough, or working hard enough, to get there. This mentality does more damage than it does good.
Loving yourself is not a destination. Loving yourself is a muscle you build.
Loving yourself is not a destination. Loving yourself is a muscle you build. It’s a choice you make, every single day, in the same way you must choose to love another person through the good times and the bad. You also get better at it the more you practice, which is really good news! When we approach self-love as a way of living, rather than some elevated state of being, we can choose at this exact moment to start.
The more you choose acts of self-love, the more it becomes habitual, and it all adds up, like putting coins in a piggy bank. Soon, your days are filled with more acts of self-love than negative habits. The more you build on that internal stability, the less your self-worth will be influenced by other people and external triggers.
Here’s some practical advice on how you can choose to act with self-love starting now.
1. Separate fact from fiction
“Do not pre-suffer.” This is a great quote (found) that sums up how often create our own suffering; making up hypothetical scenarios of what may or may not happen.
Stop waiting for the other shoe to drop – it is the root cause of much unnecessary anxiety. The stress and negative energy you are creating does nothing for your situation or the world around you. If things fail or fall apart, deal with it then. Give yourself the credit you deserve that in the case of an emergency, you will have the ability, tenacity and strength to deal with the situation at hand – at that moment. So for now, give yourself permission to enjoy the present, and train yourself to separate fact from fiction.
Remember, it’s nobody’s responsibility to manage your neurosis. If you make assumptions rooted in your own insecurities and ego, you are causing your own suffering. There are facts, and there are stories you attach to those facts. If you are unclear, ask someone to clarify before you jump to a negative conclusion.
2. Remove negative energy
You can love your friends and family all you want, but this does not mean you should spend time with them. People who are constantly complaining, who create drama, who make a big deal out of everything, who use guilt to manipulate you – when people are making more withdrawals of energy versus deposits, it’s time to reassess the dynamic. Give yourself permission to take time away from people whose energy makes a negative impact on you. Love unconditionally, but do not spend your time unconditionally.
3. Choose to communicate your needs like an adult
If you’re a giver, this is likely something you can identify with. You give and give, and when it’s not appreciated, you feel resentment. But instead of voicing anything and expressing how you need to be treated, you silently fume and withdraw or punish. You become a victim without even giving someone a chance to be aware that how they are being is affecting you. You are an adult, ask yourself if you are communicating like one. Do you stonewall like a hurt five-year-old? Do you throw a tantrum? Do you punish? Most of the time, people have good intentions and are not setting out to try and hurt you. Give someone the benefit of the doubt that they just don’t know how they are affecting you, and communicate clearly what you need.
4. Start a daily practice that feeds your spirit
Find something that helps you get grounded, and take the time every day to practice this. Try meditation, keeping a gratitude journal or doing guided visualization practices. We are all energy, and these sorts of practices helps you create positive energy. In the theory of the law of attraction, you become a magnet of that which you already feel. You can think thoughts to trick your feelings, which in turn create certain chemical reactions in your body. You change your energy, your frequency and attract more of that same frequency.
5. Take time to celebrate your wins
Create a list of things that bring you joy and treat yourself when you have a win or need to get grounded. Celebrate your wins and make a ritual out of treating yourself to something on the list. This list will be different for everyone. Perhaps its reading a book at a café, going to get a massage, taking yourself out for a date at a nice restaurant… list the things that you can do to make yourself feel good, and every so often choose something from the list.
6. Stop reliving hurtful events from the past.
If you are rerunning the painful breakup when your boyfriend cheated on you, or that terrible fight you had with your best friend – your body cannot decipher if the event is happening now or in the past (or in the future). It creates the corresponding chemicals and this affects your emotional state. When your monkey mind is taking over and you’re about to go on a rabbit hole of traumatic events from your past, try to change your state by doing something physical. Do jumping jacks, go for a run… it’s a lot easier to change your mind from spiraling down when you change your physical state.
7. Approach your health holistically
Nurture your mind. Nurture your body. Nurture your heart. Nurture your soul. We often are better at one part over the other, but it’s important to have balance in how we treat the different parts of ourselves that make up our overall mental, physical and emotional health. Is your body getting the nourishment it needs or are you treating it like a garbage can, eating whatever you want? Is the person you’re having sex with someone that makes you feel good about yourself or are you sharing your body with people who don’t treat you with respect? All these things add up and have a domino affect on each other.
8. Do something that makes you grow
When you grow, you feel good about yourself, if you’re stagnant, you feel bad about yourself. Take a class, listen to an audio book, do something, anything on a regular basis that makes you grow. You can grow your skills, your intelligence, your awareness – whatever it is, just make it a habit to make evolving an intention, not just a byproduct of life.
Remember, the very act of reading this list is an act of self-love. You’re clearly curious to learn, grow and be happier, and that’s a fine start. Don’t beat yourself up if you forget to meditate or if you fall back into old patterns, the whole point is to try your best and be gentle with yourself along the way. Here’s to choosing self love, on a regular basis.