When I first heard of the concept of Self Love, I laughed out loud. I was sure it was the most pretentious and ridiculous idea I’d ever heard. I ridiculed the concept for a good long minute and gave it hell. Then I went back to despising myself (that was so much more “humble” and “honorable”).
Fifteen to 20 years later, I’ve finally figured out what the book was getting at.
It’s insane for us to not like ourselves. Hello! We are these “selves!” We get to decide what we want to believe and choose to stand for. We make the call on how we want to act and the kind of person we want to be. All of these things are up to us. We’ve got some power!
Of course, the catch here is that most people use this power to put themselves down. Instead of being a constant source of support and encouragement, the voices in our head are criticizing everything we do and looking for all the ways we fall short. And so we don't want to try anything new and we’re afraid of just about everything. Which is really a ridiculous way for someone to live their life. Yet, somehow, the insanity of Self Hate evaded me for two decades.
Now I’m older and wiser. And thanks to a library card (for Self-Help books and DVDs), and journals and wine (for seriously deep contemplation), I’ve happened upon a few realizations in the Self Love arena. If I could go back and give myself advice 20 years ago, this is what I would have to say...
There’s an old saying attributed to the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Thoth, “As within, so without.” When it comes to caring for our bodies, we should seriously consider eating with this in mind. The physical body we have will always mirror the effort we put into (or don’t put into) ourselves. Weight is one obvious effect of physical care, but let’s not forget about energy levels, skin complexion, flexibility, strength, and endurance (all of which have a direct impact on mood, self-esteem, and productivity).
Without a doubt, giving our absolute best comes through feeling our absolute best. So, if you want to succeed in anything ever, self care should be a non-negotiable daily requirement. And you should always find ways to budget for your happiness. Even if (and especially if) the mere thought of another obligatory task causes an anxiety attack.
- Get Physical
Society has a pill to address every possible ache and ailment. They also have pills to counter the health problems caused by pills. That’s because of a little thing known as cause-and-effect. Take the common back pain as an example. This isn’t something that suddenly kicks in by turning 40 or getting pregnant. Back problems may suddenly flare up at such times, but you can guarantee there are other contributing factors like weak muscles, nutritional deficiencies, overexertion, damaged tissues, or poor circulation (or, most likely, all of the above).
A pill may cover-up a back ache, but it won’t do squat for the issues that are actually causing the pain. That takes physical TLC with something like massage, herbal salves, piping-hot epsom soaks, living-room yoga sessions, cozy shoes, or a few chiropractic adjustments. Yes, we will have to commit ourselves to taking the time, or effort, or money to do it -- but is there a better person for you to invest it in? Really now.
- Love The Body From The Inside-Out (With Food!!!)
“You get what you give.” Well, that saying pretty much sums up the relationship between diet and the body. Many of us eat so we can get the business of eating over and get back to cranking out the “important stuff.” However, we fail to recognize that this causes a midday carb-induced mental coma. A comatose state we remedy with a venti mocha, which sparks a midday IBS flare-up. Even those of us with fiery metabolisms and ADHD-like energy can’t bypass this, because while our diet may not show itself on our butt or through our apparent “productivity,” it will be expressed in our flesh and bones.
Showing love through diet doesn’t mean we need to jump into a Nazi-esque paleo diet or give half our monthly income to Whole Foods. We can pull off a fulfilling diet simply by enjoying what we eat and how our diet makes us feel. Go all out by making bone broth and coconut kefir, or satisfy a meager time budget by snacking on almonds and apples.
And by all means, feel free to show yourself some love with a chocolate cake (and save a piece for breakfast the next morning). It’s not about following a celebrity meal plan or being a part of a rigid diet community. It’s about doing what works for us, our lives, and our bodies. That’s it.
Of all the ways we can show ourselves love, this one stands to be the most important. Emotions are the ultimate. They’re the ultimate-ultimate! Emotions are the fuel that drives all we think and do. Positive or “negative,” emotions serve as messages. They’re clues that tell us how a situation does or doesn’t align with our needs and wants. With everything they have to tell us and everything they can inspire, they stand to be the ultimate tool for creating happiness and success.
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- Ease Emotions With Essential Oils
I take a lot of pride in steering away from mainstream trends, but I have to make an exception for essential oils. Their use goes back hundreds of years and spans all across the globe. Essential oils were deeply revered in times past for their many “supposed” benefits, and now lab studies are discovering that they have the potential to promote relaxation and attention, enhance healing and circulation, and even kill cancer cells. They have powerful potential with emotions because of the relationship between the olfactory system and the limbic system.
The olfactory system (the part of the brain involving the sense of smell) works along with and/or causes a response in the brain’s limbic system (which is tied into things like blood pressure, heart rate, hormones, memory, and stress levels). Because of this powerful connection between smell and well-being, they could offer an incredible form of emotional support. Read up on the best essential oils for emotional support and how to use them, then try it out for yourself.
- Fulfillment (The Gift Of All Gifts)
What’s your idea of “a good life?” Our society implies that a good life means getting a job with decent pay and benefits, getting married (and also getting divorced - because this is how an independent individual fixes problems), having a shiny car and a nice house, having kids (who spend more time with their caregivers than their parents), and so on. Yet, despite the greatness of the modern day dream, millions of people are suffering from depression (and the number of depression diagnoses rise by 20% every single year). the great “land of opportunity” we call America.
Our decisions are based on dollar signs and impressing people. But this is our life. If there’s anyone we need to impress, it’s ourselves! Life isn’t about making one single right decision. It’s about making decisions, learning from those decisions, and then using the lessons of those decisions in future decisions.
Life isn’t something we just suddenly have figured out. It’s a constant process of figuring things out. And while our culture loves the idea of certainty, this non-stop learning and experiencing is key to designing a life that we love.
Of all the ways we can love ourselves, this one serves as our foundation. Our brain is a powerhouse. It’s responsible for running all these chemical and physiological processes in our body, and interpreting the millions of bits of data coming in through our senses every single second.
Our brain is a machine! And like any machine, it needs care. Recalibrations, tune-ups, and regular upkeep are a requirement for top performance. When you look at all the ways stress changes the brain, it’s clear that mindset maintenance is just as crucial to our mental productivity as it is to our emotional productivity.
- New Thoughts And Beliefs (The Love That Keeps On Giving)
Of all the ways we can love ourselves, this is the most important by far. We all have nonstop self-talk going 24/7, and the talk ain’t nice. The way we talk to ourselves has a direct result on how we feel and act.
Instead of doling out criticisms and put-downs, we should be showing ourselves a little faith and support. The bad news is that this can be really hard. Like, an “unbearable” and “impossible” kind of hard. But it get’s a little easier, and a little easier (literally, because the brain forms new neural networks and changes).
The easier it gets, the more natural this mindset becomes. This is when amazing things happen. This is when you realize you can only fail in life by not trying.
- Gift The Peace Of Meditation
Remember when I said I avoid mainstream trends like the plague? Well, I make another exception for meditation. Yes, virtually every health-nut swears by it, but it’s the scientific benefits that make it a self-love must-have. It packs various purported benefits like reduced heart rate, lower blood pressure, mindfulness, elevated mood, and so on. Studies being done with meditators are showing that these benefits are a real thing.
Meditation actually changes the brain by strengthening parts of the brain which have important roles in concentration, deep thought, and conscious action. Cool, right? But it gets even better. The amygdala -- the area of the brain responsible for fear and “fight or flight” behavior -- may actually shrink from regular meditation.
If we can gift ourselves anything, it’s hard to find a more functional gift than deeper focus, enhanced concentration, emotional stability, and blissed-out mindfulness. It’s a great gift. It’s also a crucial necessity.
Become Your Own Very Best Friend
Loving yourself may seem impossible, so remember this. You are the one single person in your life who will always be there for you. From birth until death, you are the only person who will be there through it all.
This is the kind of support we all dream of. So, instead of being a critic and enemy, make yourself your very best friend. Provide the kind of unconditional love, encouragement, and support that you’ve always wanted.
You are the only one who knows what your heart and soul hungers for. Stop denying them what they so desperately need, and feed them the very best way you know how. Your life depends on it.
Love it up my friends!
About the Author
Ash Stevens is a writer who doubles as a wannabe nutritionist, philosopher, psychologist, and shaman. When she isn't writing her soul out on the web, she's listening to the great minds (or great comedians) on YouTube, soaking up sunshine, dancing in her living room, or having yet another fascinating conversation with herself (she gives excellent advice, you know). Check out her blog, or find her on Twitter or Facebook and make a new friend!