I write a lot about Self Love, but hands up… until quite recently I don’t think it’s a concept I fully “got”.
As far as I was concerned Self Love meant being able to look in the mirror and give a Fonzie style “heeeeey” rather than focusing on my faults. And once I had that cracked? Well then Happy Days (pun totally intended); Self Love was mine!
Of course there was some stuff in there about looking after myself along the way but that mirror moment? That was the Holy Grail of loving myself.
My opinion changed over time, but I don’t think I realised how much until I spotted a piece in a magazine suggesting that because the writer “still got pissed off when I didn’t fit in my size 10 jeans”, that means she didn’t love herself.
Honestly? That pissed me off way more than any pair of jeans ever has! It made me think about Self Love with a more analytical pair of eyes than ever before, and think about what it really means to me, and what it involves.
So here are the five things I believe are key to real, true Self Love:
How do you know when someone loves you, like really loves you? Is it because they say it at the end of every phone call and put x’s and heart emojis on their messages? Of course not, because as nice as those things are real love is about the actions and how they treat you.
And so it is with Self Love; it’s about respecting and honouring yourself and your needs in every way. That means eating well, going easy on yourself, stepping away from situations that have a negative effect on you, and listening to what your body has to say.
Often the process of finding and showing love for yourself means making changes to do more of that… and sometimes those changes will need to keep being made (hell, depending on what time of the month it is my needs can change hourly!)
How often have you been absolutely terrified about doing something new, only for a friend, family member or partner to cheer for you so damned loudly that all the fear is cast away in a huge wave of confidence.
A big part of Self Love is in being able to bring that wave about for yourself. It’s about giving yourself the things you need to make yourself feel the best you possibly can, about being able to recognise and share your own awesomeness as much as any other part of you, and it’s about knowing how and when to pick yourself up when the need arises.
Does that mean you shouldn’t call upon the other people who love you to help pick you up when you need it? Or that you might never need an external confidence boost when the going gets especially tough? Gods no… as the old saying goes no person is an island and each of us have a support for a reason. What is means is that amongst that amazing network, you take pride in becoming your own biggest supporter.
3. Showing up
I think the part of all this that I struggled with the most was in showing up for myself. That sounds crazy right, when do you ever show up for yourself? It’s not like you can ever stand yourself up… or is it.
Have you ever been cancelled on at the last minute, been out with someone and had them spend the whole evening looking at their phone (hands up – I have definitely been guilty of that one in the past!)?
Showing up is about putting yourself first. By which I don’t mean ignoring your loved ones – not at all – but taking time amongst all of the things you do for other people to decide what will help develop your own journey and how you make that possible.
It means devoting time – and maybe even other things like money and space – to yourself and your own journey without feeling bad about that, safe in the knowledge that you’re as worthy of your attention and resources as anyone else is.
If there’s one sentence in the world that makes me desperate to work with someone it’s the line “I just can’t stand being on my own.” We are the only ones we can rely upon to be there for every single second of our lives, and yet how many people out there aren’t comfortable, happy or relaxed unless they’re in the company of someone else?!
Of course feeling that way can lead to all manner of problems – addictions, obsessions or jumping from relationship to relationship with no time to heal or consider what’s best for you along the way to name just a few, but we’re not talking here about the problems.
We’re talking about what the opposite means; and here it is… part of true Self Love lies in the ability to be in your own company and just, simply, be – whether you’re walking, meditating or just the meaning of life – without desperately looking for the next job or distraction.
Self Love – as with so many of the huge lessons we have to work on in life – isn’t something that happens overnight, and isn’t a magical fix all that means we’ll never struggle again.
The difference is though that with Self Love, we learn to forgive ourselves… not only for the everyday things like eating ice cream at the cinema when we’re lactose intolerant (check), having a messy house because we decided to watch an extra episode of Poldark rather than tidy (check) and yes, not fitting into those size ten skinny jeans (again, check), but also for the big ones; sticking with a relationship we knew was bad news, not sticking up for ourselves in that godawful work meeting or not going to see a grandparent one last time before they passed (again, check check and check).
Self Love is about recognising that, for all of your awesomeness, you are still human. And that means that you’ll screw up – sometimes monumentally – but forgiving yourself, using it as a lesson of what not to do in future and moving forward rather than dwelling on what’s past.
Does any of this mean that the path to Self Love is super easy? No, not always. After so many years of being told to criticise yourself, ignore your inner wisdom and put yourself last it’s definitely a journey for most of us, and one with wobbles and pitfalls along the way. But it’s a journey that’s more than worthwhile.
And hey, if it’s a journey you’re struggling to make it through on your own then get in touch… I’d love to work with you as you walk the path!