Self-love is a big buzz word these days, and with good reason! I know it might seem over-used, or like one of those things that are ’nice to have’, or even worse, ’selfish’. Also, I do realize that the concept seems a bit abstract — I mean, how do you actually DO that? So this article is all about why it is so important and how to actually put it into action.
First, the work of Brené Brown has shown us that it’s not option. It’s necessary. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, TED talk speaker, and author of multiple books including Daring Greatly, and The Gifts of Imperfection. Dr. Brown’s research has shown that self-love is not only crucial to living a wholehearted life (and who doesn’t want to live wholeheartedly!?!), but that we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
Let me say that again.
We can only love others as much as we love ourselves. We can only accept others as much as we accept ourselves.
The second major finding she had is that when it comes to helping our children learn self-love, we can’t give our children something we don’t have.
We can’t teach self-love to our children. They get it by us loving ourselves first.
Now that we see the importance of self-love, how do we actually do that? How do we bring this idea, in our head space, down into reality and embody it?
Here are three powerful ways to start to love and accept yourself today!
1. Take loving actions towards yourself.
That’s right! Act like it! Treat yourself with love, acceptance, and compassion. Don’t wait for the emotion of love to take the loving action. Take action now and let the emotion follow.
This is literally about loving yourself! If I were to do something really nice for you (for example, throw a birthday party for you, or say, “Shelly can’t right now — she needs time to have fun!“), you might feel the compassion or love I am showing you, but that wouldn’t make you love yourself more. However if you did the same thing for you, then you are re-enforcing your love for yourself.
Here’s another way of looking at it: In the book The Five Love Languages, author Gary D. Chapman asks us to show love to others by speaking their love language (giving gifts and doing acts of service among them) even if we aren’t necessarily feeling the emotion. The emotions will follow as we give love and get love in return.
I’m going to be honest with you. If this is new to you it might feel strange, awkward, and selfish at first. You might have some serious doubts that you are ‘worth it’ — but that’s just proof of how important this is for you! So step up, put your brave pants on, and do it! I dare you 😉
Do you want some more examples of what this could look like? Check out my article on 40 Ways to Love Yourself!
Action step: read through that list of 40 Ways to Love Yourself and see how many you can check off. Pick one to embody today!
2. Move into heart space and feel compassion for yourself.
I think of this as conjuring up the emotion. If you can at least get to compassion, you are not far away from love. Feel free to develop your own practice for doing this but I’ll share with you mine.
Find a quiet place to be with yourself (you can do this anywhere, but this might be helpful if you are a newbie). Sitting or standing, focus on your heart. Maybe even put your hand over your heart. Visualize a white light glowing in your heart. Breathe in and out through your heart. Now see if you can feel compassion for yourself, even if just a little. If this is difficult, imagine yourself as a child and feel compassion for that child.
Action step: take a few minutes to move into heart space and feel compassion for yourself.
3. Recognize that your self-worth does not have anything to do with external measures and has everything to do with your soul gifts and attributes.
Often in our world, we mistakenly believe that our self-worth is tied to external measures, such as our income, the degrees we have, our social status, our weight, how fit we are, or how smart we are, when in fact our self-worth is not about any of that.
Our self-worth is really tied to our soul gifts and attributes. These are the gifts that make you, you. This is what makes you unique and irreplaceable. These are the gifts we bring into this world to share with others.
We know this is true, because if you asked any of your really good friends why they hang out with you they are not going to say, “Because you have a PhD” or “Because you are a size 6.” But they are going to say something like, “Because you are a really nurturing caring person.” Or, “Because you always have such a great perspective on things.” They are going to list a soul attribute.
Action step: create an I am amazing/worthy proof list. This is a list of compliments you’ve received, strengths you have, and amazing things you’ve done. Keep adding to the list as new things come up!
I created my own list when I was struggling with binge eating in graduate school, and I have it still. This has been so helpful for me that I now offer Soul Gifts and Challenges Readings – to help you recognize your own gifts and uniqueness, and celebrate how amazing you really are!
Self-love is not something you do once and are done with it. It is a practice.
Tell us in the comments below: how do you practice self-love? Which of these makes the most sense to you?