How Do You Love Yourself?
We have all heard the saying, “you have to love yourself before….” The phrase ends often depends on the individual providing their thoughts or the situation the advice pertains to. In truth, self-love and self-compassion are vital aspects of our mental health and overall well-being. But, unfortunately, they are something many fail to give ample consideration to as they go about their day-to-day lives.
You are not alone if you do or have ever struggled to love yourself or exercise self-compassion. Self-love requires allowing yourself to appreciate the value and worth you bring to the table. This is something that many people struggle to do. Self-love means not needing approval or affirmation from others. It means not needing someone else, whether a friend, lover, or even your employer, to tell you are smart enough, good enough or merely, enough. When we exercise self-love, we know inside that we are “enough,” which allows us to have higher levels of confidence, self-esteem, and overall self-worth.
Why is Self-Love Important?
The idea of self-love is a foreign or even fanciful concept for many people. To others, fostering self-love is a luxury we believe we don’t have time for. But, self-love is vital to our physical, psychological, and spiritual health. When we don’t take the time to practice self-love, we are more likely to find ourselves burdened by harmful feelings. These feelings are all too often projected inwards, allowing for self-criticism and negativity.
Self-love is vital because it helps reduce the presence of negative and inevitably harmful emotions. Without it, we are more likely to give into or experience harmful emotions like loneliness, guilt, shame, and inadequacy. It is also common to experience a higher drive, but not for the “right” reasons. Without self-love, we are more likely to feel the intense drive to prove our worth to others because we do not believe we are valued (or should be valued).
Someone struggling with low self-confidence or emotional challenges related to an internal sense of value may also engage in compulsive or potentially addictive behaviors. In the short term, these actions help improve or reduce unpleasant emotions; however, they can be harmful and even dangerous for a long time. For example, you or a loved one may experiment with drugs and alcohol. Or you may engage in risky or addictive behaviors such as gambling, sexual encounters, shopping, or excessive food consumption. Some of these behaviors can evolve into dependencies or addictions. In these cases, seeking help at a treatment center like The Meadowglade may provide the best opportunity to address the roots of your emotional challenges and learn safer, healthier ways to cope with challenges related to self-love, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
Self-Love vs. Perfectionism
While self-love can help improve emotional and even physical health, the pursuit of perfectionism may be harmful to both. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for modern society to drive perfectionism. Whether in appearance, academic or work aspirations, or financial achievements, the strive to attain “the best” often leads us to believe we have failed at many of life’s demands-even when they are not necessary for overall happiness. Because some studies indicate perfectionists are at an increased risk for both physical and mental illness, the idea that choosing to pursue self-love and self-compassion may indeed improve your health in many ways is not that far-fetched.
Without self-love, you are more likely to be hyper-critical of yourself and your accomplishments. When you do not attain the highest levels of success, you may begin engaging in psychologically harmful behaviors such as negative self-talk. This type of behavior can quickly worsen mental health and possibly increase your risk of developing anxiety, depression, and other mental health struggles.
In addition to emotional health challenges, the pursuit of perfectionism can also worsen or hinder recovery from physical ailments. Studies indicate that disordered eating, fibromyalgia, digestive issues (including irritable bowel syndrome), and heart conditions are often linked to perfectionism. Also, recovering from cancers, heart conditions, and other medical challenges is often more challenging for perfectionists than others. Suicidal ideation and self-harm are also widely linked with perfectionism.
Conversely, similar studies suggest that positive emotions such as self-love and self-confidence can increase levels of happiness and contentment. This is not to say that you must put aside the pursuit of happiness to “be happy,” but stepping away from the goal of perfectionism may help you achieve overall satisfaction in a safer, more effective way.
How to Love Yourself
As necessary as self-love may be, it is an elusive goal for many people. Increasing self-esteem by learning to put your emotional health first sounds easy, but all too often, it’s not. However, remember, by shifting focus from attaining perfectionism to improving internal positively, anyone has the power to improve their emotional well-being and self-love.
There is a range of suggestions and tips to improve your ability to love yourself. But remember, change (regardless of what you are trying to change) is never immediate. Also, change is not always easy. If you are someone who generally puts the needs of others before your own, it may seem complicated to begin arranging your needs first. You may feel uncomfortable or awkward initially, but remember, self-love is crucial to lasting holistic health. Below are a few tips and tricks you can try to begin easing yourself into healthier self-love patterns.
Increase your self-compassion
Most people understand the idea of compassion towards others. It is the idea of showing concern and sympathy for the emotions and needs of those other than ourselves, such as friends, family, and co-workers. But what many people do not understand is the high value of self-compassion. Self-compassion is often more difficult than showing compassion for others because it requires taking a step back and giving yourself the same level of care and concern you give others. Self-compassion includes being compassionate and showing mindfulness towards yourself. It also provides self-kindness and awareness of harmful self-talk, leading to destructive emotions.
Be OK with saying no.
One struggle many people face on their journey to improved self-love is learning to say no. This frequently leads to more time spent giving everything to everyone else, over-focusing on our individual needs. You cannot improve self-love if you constantly focus on others’ needs. Allow yourself to practice and get better at saying “no.” Limiting how much you take on will inevitably help you focus on what you “can” accomplish and reduce your anxiety levels.
Make time to exercise and sleep.
A significant number of research studies have suggested that daily exercise leads to many physical and mental health benefits. But it is important to remember that getting the most out of daily routine does not require a high intensity or overly taxing workout. Low impact activities including walking, yoga, Pilates, and similar can be equally effective for your mental health.
Sleep deprivation significantly impacts one’s thoughts, physical health, emotional health, and overall well-being. Although it is likely easier said than done, getting a good night’s sleep is an essential self-care practice that has an overwhelming effect on many other things. While we may struggle to get a solid 8 hours each night, you must do your best to follow a regular sleep schedule. Being well-rested can help you conquer the day with a clear mind.
Learn about meditation
The benefits of meditation are not a new concept. The practice of meditation has been followed for centuries by members of many different cultures for its physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. Additionally, research has proven daily meditation practices lead to long-term improvements in mental and spiritual health. If you are not familiar with meditation, that’s OK! It is easy to learn.
In recent years, mindfulness practices such as mindful meditation have rapidly gained popularity across the nation. Consequently, classes and instructional groups have popped up in many easy-to-access locations designed to help you learn more about the benefits of meditation practice. These can be found online and even in some local studios. Depending on the program, they may even be free to watch and learn from.
Also, meditation does not need to be time-consuming. In many cases, a simple 10-minute retreat to the serenity and peace provided by reflection may be all you need to reset and recharge. If you need a little help, a quick google search can give a comprehensive listing of guided meditations ranging in length from a couple of minutes to more than 30 minutes.
Schedule time for you
Whether you use this valuable private time to read a book, write in a hobby journal or take a warm bath, it is essential to set aside time to focus on just your needs alone. As with exercise or meditation, it doesn’t need to be a long window of time (but can be if you want it to be); however, actively scheduling time away from others to address your inner needs is vital to improving self-love and your emotional health.
We are often resistant to opening up to emotional health struggles, even those we know care about us most. However, if your emotional health is suffering, it is essential to seek help from someone who can help you turn things around. Consider arranging an appointment with your primary care provider or contacting a specialist at a treatment center like The Meadowglade. By seeking help in the form of therapy, a caring and compassionate provider can offer insight into ways you can improve your emotional health and increase your self-esteem, self-compassion, and self-love.