Today is Valentine's Day. Traditionally our focus is on showering those we love with love. While this is beautiful, more often than not we are better at loving others than we are at loving ourselves. Many of us are much more comfortable expressing love to others than we are expressing love to ourselves. But, the truth is - all love starts with self-love. Self-love is the prerequisite to receiving and giving the abundant flow of love around us.
The term self-love is popping up everywhere and is creating quite a buzz in the world of health and wellness. As a culture, we are beginning to recognize the value in loving ourselves and prioritizing our self-care. We have come to learn that without the practice of self-love, we cannot truly feel compassion and love for others. But, how do we cultivate self-love?
Self-love is both an act and an attitude. It takes practice and patience and builds out of our thoughts and actions. The most important thing to remember about your self-love practice is that it is just that - a practice. Some days it may feel easier than others, but eventually, it will start to flow through you.
1. Become Aware Of Your Self Talk
Once you truly start to pay attention and become aware of your self-talk, it may come to surprise you how negative and critical you can be of yourself. You may catch yourself saying things like, 'you're so stupid, why did you do that?'. The problem is, you actually start to believe these things that you may (mindlessly) be saying to yourself. Tune in to your self-talk and when you catch yourself using negative language towards yourself, make the immediate adjustment to something like, 'well, that was a learning experience'.
2. Ease Up On The Self-Criticism
I recently had to shoot a video for Ebb & Flow Cape Cod (you may have seen it). It was SO easy to watch it back and rip myself apart. If I'm being honest, things went through my head like 'my face looks bloated', 'do I really talk with a lisp?', 'I need to make a little more effort with my appearance'. It was so easy to step into a place of self-criticism and a wonderful opportunity for me to practice my self-love. Instead I tried to say things to myself like, 'this isn't easy for you, but you did a great job!' 'You have so much passion for what you're doing - look what you've helped create'.
When you notice the self-criticism starting to flow, take a breath and shift your mindset. There are always simple ways to appreciate yourself. For example - 'I look so old with this gray hair' can become, 'I'm so lucky I have my hair. I know so many people who have lost their hair due to stress of illness.' Try it.
3. Set Boundaries
An important part of respecting and honoring yourself is the ability to say no. As someone who is a natural people pleaser, this one has required some work over the years. One of the best ways to set your boundaries is to know your limits. The ability to know your limits develops over time (and after one too many burnouts) and is constantly shifting. Check in with yourself before making commitments. 'Is that something that will make me happy?' Once you've established your limitations, make sure they are clear to yourself and others. Open, honest communication about your expectations and limitations keeps everyone on the same page and helps eliminate resentment.
4. Practice (simple) Self-Care Techniques
The act of loving and caring for yourself can be quite simple - but recognizing and appreciating even the tiniest acts of self-care can go a long way for our self-esteem and self-love. Some simple self-care examples; lotioning your body after the shower, making a nourishing meal for yourself, taking yourself outside to breathe some fresh air. The truth is, we are all practicing enormous amounts of self-care throughout each day. Recognize those acts. Celebrate even the smallest ones and remind yourself how much you're doing for yourself - always.
5. Follow Your Joy
One of the most profound ways to practice self-love is to live intentionally and follow your joy. Practice making decisions and choose directions that best support YOU. What fills YOU up? What gives you a sense of purpose? What brings you joy? When you are in line with your hearts desire and following your true purpose, you are practicing the ultimate act of self-love.
Beth Madden Warner, is the founder of Therapeutic Bodywork, a fully integrative Wellness Center in Cotuit offering Reflexology, Massage Therapy, Acupuncture & Organic Skin Care.
Having experienced the benefits of integrative medicine her whole life, Beth understands the importance of a holistic and comprehensive perspective in terms of treating the body.
She is the co-editor of Ebb & Flow Cape Cod - a magazine focused on Health, Wellness & Sustainability on the Cape. Beth is passionate about educating others about the importance of integrative therapies and empowering people to take control of their own health.