22 May Putting yourself first – why self-love is not selfish!
Many of us struggle with the concept self-love because it feels self-indulgent, ego-centric and a bit “me me me”! From a very young age we were taught that is it not ok to love yourself. “Uggghhhh, you love yourself!” was an insult thrown generously around the school playground as the ultimate put down. We were encouraged to put others before ourselves and putting ourselves at the front of the queue was often frowned upon.
This has manifested itself into our adult lives. We race around trying to please everyone else and neglecting ourselves in the whole process. DISASTER!!!!! This is no good for anybody!
I am on a very passionate mission to change this. To help you understand why it is sooooooooo flipping important to love yourself for the sake of your health – physical and mental – and for the people around you. I like to consider myself something of a loud and proud self-love cheerleader (but without the pom poms and the ridiculously short skirt)!
Why is self-love so important?
Loving thyself is important for two reasons:
- Self-love is the antidote to stress. Our brains are not evolved to deal with the volume of stressors in today’s society and therefore many of us are operating in completely frazzled states! And frazzled is bad as we are flooding our bodies with cortisol which has devastating effects on our long term health including cardio vascular disease, weight gain, fertility issues, lack of focus, anxiety…the list is epic and scary. To combat this, we have to pro-actively de-stress; activating the parasympathetic nervous system to slow the constant flow of cortisol. By looking inwards every once in a while and listening to the needs of our bodies, we can combat stress, de-frazzle ourselves in the short-term so we are operating more effectively and improve our long term health.
- Self love allows us to better support our loved ones. So, we think self-care means being selfish? WRONG! Taking care of ourselves is the opposite of being selfish. It strengthens us, builds our resilience and enables us to show up as the best version of ourselves for our loved ones. We are no use to anyone if we are exhausted and depleted of energy having given it away to everyone else. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Yes, absolutely support others, but nurture yourself first.
If only as youngsters we were taught to take the, “You love yourself!” insults as a compliment. To have the ability to love yourself is one of life’s gifts. After all, what is the alternative? To hate yourself? So, the message I would give to my 10 year old self is to answer with a smile and say “Thanks, maybe you will grow to love your self too some day.”
How do we incorporate self-love into our lives?
So, now that we understand why self-love is important…how do we bring a little more of it into our lives?
Everyone’s requirements for self love are completely different so I’d encourage you to spend some time thinking about what self-love looks like uniquely for you. There are different ways of looking after yourself and so when constructing your self-love list, consider activities that fall into the following categories:
- Awareness. The first step is always creating this sense of awareness. Becoming more in tune with how you are feeling, what you are thinking and the link between the two. Once you can identify what is bugging you, you can start to work through these challenges and knock down the roadblocks.
- Re-charge. We need to recharge our energy levels before we can start adding in the things that light us up or we will not receive the full benefit of our “lighting up” activities. Resting and recuperating is vital to start bringing down our stress levels by tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Activities that light you up. This is the super fun part of your self-love practice! Understanding what makes your heart sing and raises your energy levels so you are vibrating positivity to everyone around you.
- Brain training. Training your brain towards a more positive bias will help to extinguish the negative self chat that drains you and the people around you. Giving your brain a good workout is an important aspect of looking after yourself.
- Personal development. I believe that as human beings, our purpose in life is to grow. Personal development can take on many guises but to me it means identifying areas of your life that you would like to work on, to help you grow, and making sure that this stuff is prioritised.
- Setting boundaries. Taking care of yourself means setting your boundaries and saying no to things that deplete you of energy as well as saying yes to the things that light you up.
Self-love is so important for us all, but looks very different from person to person. We all have different needs, different preferences and different schedules to work around. Becoming aware – listening to your body and mind – will help you to identify what you need to make you feel more content and fulfilled and then be realistic around what you can fit into your schedule and when.
Below are some of my own personal self-love practices to help you to make a start with constructing your self-love list. I hope it inspires you with ways to take care of yourself:
- Journalling – dumping my thoughts / feelings onto paper is my favourite way to work through what I need and what is holding me back
- 8 hours sleep every night
- More mindful moments and living more in the present
- Eating delicious, whole food every day and avoiding sugar
- Getting outdoors every day – walking my dog / running in the park and breathing in fresh air
- Setting boundaries around technology and social media – no phones in the bedroom, limit time on Instagram etc
- Daily meditation
- Regular yoga
- Connecting one-on-one with my friends and family – building and maintaining deep, meaningful relationships
- Daily gratitude practice – writing down three things I am grateful for every night before bed
- Laughing every day and not taking life too seriously
- Lifting weights and feeling strong
- Spending quality time with my nephew
- Being my own bestie! Being kinder and more compassionate to myself
- Self development – setting and revisiting goals on a regular basis
- Appreciate a quality coffee every day
- Regular baths with oils, candles and music
- Feeling the sun on my skin as often as possible (not as often as I’d like in the UK!)
- Acknowledge my achievements and progress I’ve made
- Accept that things will never be perfect and doing them anyway
- Weekly planning (food, exercise, meetings, activities) to stay focussed and organised
- 15-30 minutes reading a good fictional novel each night before bed to switch off
Ok gang…time to dive in and take some action! What does your self-love practise look like and how can you implement it into your week to ensure that you are the healthiest and happiest version of yourself?