Self Love Isn't Selfish
“Practicing self-love means learning how to trust ourselves, treat ourselves with respect, and to be kind and affectionate towards ourselves.”
Brene Brown is a genius and if you have yet to read any of her books, go read one as soon as you finish reading this post. Literally any and all of her books are a good choice! Right now, however, I want to give you some advice on why and how to start loving yourself.
You may be wondering why I am qualified to talk about this; I don’t have a PhD psychology and I'm hardly a therapist. My credentials come solely from the fact that I can honestly say that I love myself, fully and completely. I don't have the training nor the formal education that specialists have, but isn’t that what makes this valid and relatable?
I am a single female, in my 20s living in a society dominated by IG models and the belief that being the busiest is a badge of honor. Loving myself took time and work and then a whole lot of not giving a shit, but I do love myself. I am my own best friend. I have learned that my ability to TRULY love myself is a direct correlation to my capacity to love others.
You can’t pour from an empty cup
Rachel Hollis gives a great metaphor for this and I’m going to paraphrase it for you. I want you to picture a vase that has a constant stream of water flowing into it.
The vase is surrounded by flowers and every time it gets enough water for a plant it tips to the side to dump water on one of the flowers. It is constantly tipping in one of the many directions of the plants.
Eventually we all know that vase is going to tip too far, fall over, and shatter. Now imagine that instead of constantly tipping, the vase just sat still and let the water flow. Eventually that vase will be so full that it is overflowing and spilling constant water to all the plants at once! WE are all that vase, the water flowing is love/care, and the plants are our friends/coworkers/strangers/family.
If we recognize all the love we have pouring in and take the time to set ourselves up to receive love then eventually we won’t be able to control the amount of love naturally pouring out of us.
When we love ourselves and take care of ourselves we are more prepared to care for those around us.
Love is not a limited resource and is unconditional.
The best way to spread love is to cultivate it. When we recognize that there is no finite amount of love then we can put love into everything we do; the best way to do that is make love our core value. It is hard to make love the center of everything if you are not showing it to yourself.
It is the idea of treating yourself the way you treat others. Imagine seeing your best friend, child, or partner and telling them a bunch of disgusting awful things about them. Does that not make your stomach hurt? So why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we use the MOST powerful tool we have, our minds, to tear ourselves down? Lead with love and kindness, and start that with yourself.
As human beings we naturally crave connection. I have found the best way to enter ANY type of relationship (i.e. significant other, friend, work, family) is by being open to love and help but not needing validation. You shouldn’t tell your friend that you will love them as soon as they obtain their new year’s resolutions , so why is that when you will start to love yourself?
To quote Brene Brown again, “Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we will ever do.”
Loving yourself produces self improvement.
Sometimes I think we slip into a belief that loving ourselves will stifle our ability to grow or get better. That is just inherently not true. You see it with children all the time, when they are given love and encouragement they rise up and meet expectations. If you are constantly telling yourself that you are not enough, you will never be enough.
On the other hand if you believe in your bones that you are a badass and crush every goal you have, you will. Try it and see, switching your self talk from being negative to positive makes all the difference.
HOW to practice self love:
There isn’t one right way to practice self love. What is important is that you find what works best for you and then give it the time and merit it deserves. Recognize that loving yourself is the most important thing and make it the priority it should be. Here are a few exercises that I have either used myself or have seen work for loved ones:
Remind yourself of how incredible you are.
Sit down and take time to write a letter to yourself about everything you have ever accomplished, everything you love about yourself, and how incredible you are. Save that letter and read it regularly.
Write love notes on your mirror. Take and expo marker or some lipstick and write “You are beautiful,” “You are kind," “You are funny," “Hey, I love your ass." Let that be the first thing you see while you are brushing your teeth!
Set recurring alarms on your phone that say positive messages. I have a few that go off different times during the week. They are set to vibrate only and instead of “alarm," I changed it to say “You are strong and capable," “Your smile makes people happy," and “Damn girl, you are fire." It may sound silly and I used to be embarrassed of them, but then I realized I don’t care what someone thinks, it is all true and I am happy to share the love.
Develop a self love mantra.
Develop a short sentence or two about positive self talk and utilize it in your meditation. Set aside 3 minutes in the morning to sit and repeat the phrase to yourself on the hard days, or any day really.
Replace your bad habits.
This may be one that requires you to call in some help. I used to be a youth group leader for the 12-14 year old girls at my church, and one rule they knew I had was if they said ANYTHING negative about themselves they in turn would have to say 3 compliments about themselves out loud. After about a month I realized that they rarely tore themselves down anymore. I also noticed they spent so much more time complimenting each other rather than teasing. The habit of being positive spread from treating themselves with kindness to spreading the love to those around them.
Observe and take note of yourself daily.
Turn on all the lights, close your door, get naked, and look in the mirror. Seriously, look at yourself and take note of all your glory. There is so much to love about yourself. It may take you a few tries and I can almost guarantee you will feel awkward at first, but over time you will learn everything you love about yourself and your confidence will grow. If you need a good starting point think about something you are able to do that is honestly neat. It may just be the fact that you can walk. Recognize how many muscles are required to do the basic everyday things we take for granted.
Everyone has heard of a gratitude journal, well this is basically the same thing just with a twist. I had a loved one’s therapist assign this as their "homework," and it worked wonderfully for them. All you do is take a blank notebook and everyday write down 3 physical traits you love about yourself and the 3 character traits you love. I personally think this is an incredible practice to have, especially if you have a tendency to tear yourself down.
These are just a few tips and tricks to get you started, but like I said earlier, find what feels good for you. Tap into everything that makes you perfectly imperfect and embrace and love every bit of it; you deserve it.
I am on our Hair Love Radio podcast this week diving even more into why you should love yourself and a few more of my own practices. Click here to give it a listen if you haven’t already, and if you have any questions or want to chat, follow me on IG (@mazieludlow) and slide into my DMs!
I love me so much and I love you so much! Now go love yourself so much!