As women we often find ourselves in situations where we take care of others. We take care of children, our partners, our parents. Also of friends and colleagues, customers and clients, patients, neighbours, pets, home and garden, etc. Either we follow the classical stereotype of what women should do, we over-express our motherly instincts, or we are driven to please by some inner voice.
What we are not taught is that only by taking care of ourselves first it does allow us to sustainably take care of others. If we don’t do things for ourselves, if we don’t take time to rest and replenish, if we don’t nurture our bodies and souls, then we’ll get so burned out and depleted that we won’t be able to take care of anyone or anything anymore.
Now you might ask, taking care of myself, what does that mean?
Basically, it’s about loving yourself.
What does self-love mean?
Huh, loving myself. That sounds pretty selfish, only interested in my own happiness, focused on my advantage. That’s not how I want to become or how I want to be seen by others. You’re right, self-love has often been equalled with vanity, selfishness, conceit, egotism, or narcissism. Dictionary.com and the Merriam-Webster dictionary describe it as “the instinct by which one’s actions are directed to the promotion of one’s own welfare or well-being, especially an excessive regard for one’s own advantage.”
However, over the centuries, self-love has gained a more positive connotation. Aristotle already differentiated between two kinds of self-love and said “those who love themselves to achieve virtuous principles are the best sort of good”. In 1956, psychologist Erich Fromm argued “that in order to be able to truly love another person, a person first needs to love oneself in the way of respecting oneself and knowing oneself (e.g. being realistic and honest about one’s strengths and weaknesses).” Other psychologists such as Erik Erikson and Carl Rogers supported this re-evaluation of self-love. Rogers even regarded regaining a quiet sense of pleasure in being one’s own self as one result of successful therapy. Read more on the history of self-love in this Wikipedia article.
What does it take to practice self-love?
Practising self-love is about connecting with ourselves, our well-being and our happiness. That still sounds quite abstract. So let’s look at concrete things you can do. I’ve sorted them into several areas, because you might have already covered some of them but still lack re-connection with others.
Inspiration on what you can do
- Be kind to yourself
- Make a list of all the things you like about yourself
- Be clear about your needs and boundaries
- Let go of comparing yourself with others
- Get enough sleep
- Nourish your body with healthy food
- Eat while focusing only on your food
- Do breathing exercises to connect with your body
- Clean your house or apartment
- Organise your workspace and files
- Clean out your closet and keep the clothes you need and like
- Find your happy place, a place that makes it simple to just be
- Compliment someone today
- Invite your friends over for a girls’ night
- Surround yourself with people who empower, support, and love you
- Practice the art of saying “no”
- Start the day with a few minutes of meditation or exercise
- Each night before bed write in your gratitude journal
- Repeat the following mantra “I love and accept myself”
- Have regular self-care days
What will I gain by loving myself?
Why should I do all these things? Not sure if I’m ready for this, you might think now. Consider again what you’ll gain:
- feeling connected with yourself
- knowing who you are – strengths, flaws and all
- feeling at peace with yourself
- experiencing ownership of your emotions, thoughts, and actions
- possessing power and energy to deal with the small and big challenges every day
- experiencing independence from what others say and do or don’t say and do
- being clear on what you need and enjoy
- having power, energy and serenity to take care of others
Isn’t that worth it? What do you think?
Ok, please help me to learn self-love!
Yes, let’s get into action. I want to share two exercises with you:
- My self-love practices: With the help of this worksheet you’ll work out your one or two focus areas needing the most enhancement in terms of self-love. You’ll set up a plan with the self-love practices helping you the most. And you commit to practice by making appointments with yourself.
- Let love flow: This exercise helps you reconnect with the feeling of love for yourself – to not only give love to others but to receive love and feel loved.
And as I believe in visual reminders, I’ve also added a poster to remind you of your daily self-love practice. Use it as wallpaper or print it and attach it somewhere. I’m sure you’ll find a great place where you can see it daily.
Love yourself and care of others!
Dagmar Hopf. Azkua