There were so many lessons this past year that it’d be redundant to review them again. One thing did hold true for most of us; we can’t control what goes on around us, but we can control ourselves. Taking responsibility for your self is a way to start the radical act of self-love. Not only does learning to take care of and love yourself build your confidence and your ability to cope with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, substance abuse, ADHD, body image issues and more; it can actually reduce your depression and anxiety symptoms.
Though self-care and self-love may seem interchangeable, self-care is only one piece of self-love. This doesn’t mean that you add one more thing to your to-do list to finish or accomplish. It is accepting that self-love will last a lifetime.
This is you. This is your life. You have the power to make it as great as you want. There will be trying circumstances, situations, and injustices. You still have the option to love yourself through that. It is not what goes on around you; it’s what goes on inside of you.
Here are 5 truths about starting and continuing your journey of self-love:
It starts with you.
As an adult, you are in charge of your own life. The first step in self-love is to acknowledge and take responsibility for your actions that brought you to this point. This doesn’t mean you have to belittle, interrogate, or criticize yourself. But taking time to reflect on how you got to where you are in your life can help you to empower yourself to choose your next steps.
You are here because you made choices even if some of them may have seemed out of your control or unfair. Honor that for yourself. Then, let go of the resentment surrounding that, so you can take steps to move forward. Self-love is an investment that starts with you.
Build confidence in yourself.
Part of building confidence in yourself is the process of rightsizing. You aren’t too big or too small for the job. You are just right. Even if you have a history of low self-worth, you can take space to change that about yourself.
It takes time to interrupt long-lived patterns, but this is your life. You have permission to live it.
Think about what you are good at even if it is something small like making your bed in the morning. Give yourself kudos or high-fives for the simple things you do that make your life better.
You can applaud yourself for small gestures like; picking up garbage, holding the door for someone else, saying thank you, going to bed at a reasonable hour, or listening to a friend in need. Mental applause may sound like an affirmation and include:
I am a really kind person who is helping to make the world a better place.
I care about myself enough to do kind gestures for others.
I have worth and I am showing that to myself every day.
Affirmations may feel uncomfortable when you first try them. You may feel a little embarrassed, apprehensive, or even closed-off. That’s okay. That is part of the process of learning your comfort level.
Discomfort doesn’t mean that it is not working; It means that you are learning something new and don’t like it yet. A really powerful way to say affirmations is to pause at a mirror, look into your own eyes, and say something kind to yourself, perhaps a statement above or one you create that suits you best.
It may feel vulnerable, but you are telling yourself many things all day. They may as well be kind. If affirmations don’t resonate with you, that’s okay. You can still shift self-talk by becoming aware of when you say something unkind to yourself. Then, simply apologize to yourself, and try to stop yourself the next time. Self-love means consistent, positive self-talk. You have the power to change your mental narrative at any time.
You are a human being who has needs. There are certain acts of care that are non-negotiable, and some that you can tailor to fit your preferences. Eating, movement, and keeping yourself clean are the basics of self-care. The way you approach them is the start of self-love.
Self-care can be as simple as making yourself a favorite meal. As you do so, be mindful about how you are taking care of yourself in that moment. Mindfully put a little more sauce on your favorite pasta just for you. You don’t always have to do that, but you have permission to be tender with who you are as a person. One of the most telling acts of self-care is how you apply lotion to yourself.
Here are a few guiding questions to think about:
Do you apply lotion to yourself?
Do you have a favorite scent that you use regularly?
Do you always get what is on sale or the cheapest?
Do you have a favorite brand?
Do you slather slowly or move quickly to get the job done?
Depending on your answers, you have a window into what your next steps for self-care can be for you. There are no right or wrong answers. If you never apply lotion to yourself, you can add this care to your routine. If you always get the cheapest lotion, you can ask yourself whether you like the scent and the feeling on your skin. You get to take the time to discover your preferences. There is more to life than the basics, and the simplest shifts can be the most fulfilling.
Connect with yourself.
There aren’t many people who love themselves fully and don’t have a connection with something outside of themselves. This doesn’t have to be through prayer or a belief in God. You don’t have to believe in an organized religion to have a connection with something greater than yourself. It can be a power greater than you that is of your own understanding.
Connecting with yourself can also be done through meditation. A meditation practice can help you to see that you are part of something bigger than yourself. Taking a moment of pause each day can help you build a connection to the world, which can be reflected back to the world within yourself. Connections can be made through movement like yoga, tai-chi, and walking meditation. It can be as simple as a pause to connect within.
Gratitude is an act of self-love. It is a way to see the beauty that already exists in your life. Sometimes, it is really hard to see what is going well, especially when things are difficult. You may think that you have nothing to be grateful for right now. It is okay to be in pain; it is challenging to suffer. Even with the worst circumstances, there is still a glimmer of light.
Gratitude doesn’t negate the hard stuff; it helps you to see that there is also good stuff. If nothing else, it helps you to avoid duplicating efforts. You can know that you’ve got something you are pleased with in an area, so you can spend a little more time on something that needs your attention in a different direction. Self-love is wrapped up in gratitude because you are acknowledging that you are on the planet, and that there is goodness in your life.
Learn more about practicing gratitude here: Practicing Gratitude Has Many Benefits. 5 Ways You Can Practice Gratitude
Self-love is a commitment, like any relationship. You are determining that you have enough worth to practice love with yourself. It is okay if you mess up. It is okay if things don’t turn out perfectly. You have an entire lifetime to succeed, and preferences change all the time.
You don’t have to be rigid about the way you love yourself; it’s flexible and adapts to what best matches you. With patience, optimism, and warmth toward yourself; you may begin to see shifts in your life that you didn’t think could happen.
You are worth it.
Denver Metro Counseling is a group of clinicians who provide therapeutic support for teens, adults, parents, and families. We help people learn to love themselves again. We believe in the power of self-love and understand this is often easier said than done. In addition to this guide, we offer supportive evidenced-based therapies to help you get to a place where self-love feels like an option and becomes a reality.
Click on the links below for more information:
Young Adult Counseling
Support for Therapists
Help For Depression
Substance Use and Recovery Support
Trauma Therapy and EMDR