It has become somewhat of a buzz word and a term we stumble across a lot. That's a good thing. We could all do with more love in the world but I’m interested to know what self-love means to you and how do you get it?
Doing the things we love and that bring us joy is vitally important to how we live and how we perform. Sometimes we get trapped into thinking of these things as a 'luxury' and that we don't have time for them. Social media can also make it seem quite blase....when you see post after post of impossible yoga poses (for most of us), green smoothies, idyllic white sandy beaches and someone sitting in a perfect crossed-legged position meditating. Although intended to be motivating, seeing these posts 24/7 can have the opposite affect if you're struggling to even know where to start with your own self-care.
Unfortunately isn't easy and is a continual life long practice. But it is worth it and once you start you'll begin to realise that it is essential to performing at your peak - at home and in your career. I work constantly on my own and try to incorporate as much as possible into each day.
So what is self-love to me?
The dictionary quotes it as ‘regard for one's own well-being and happiness’. On the surface, it's doing something for yourself, putting yourself first, treating yourself, saying no to others, doing things that make you happy. Self-love is all of these things but goes much deeper than a single green smoothie for breakfast. It is an intentional practice, a personal dedication, to love and care for yourself, to listen to your own needs - whatever and wherever they may be - and to honour those needs until the end of time! To put those ‘needs’ in your internal tool box and know what to dig out when you need it.
My own self-love journey
I can’t pinpoint when I started prioritising my own self-care. I do remember doing the odd thing for myself over the years but it was always behind the scenes - quietly or in secret, not wanting to tell friends or family about it. I felt a bit of shame that I wanted to spend time on my own or have a nap or even just sit still with my thoughts. Shame and guilt that I was putting myself before others. Or ‘selfish’ that I’d rather do my thing than meet a friend for dinner or stay late at a work event.
Through self-help education, counselling, coaching and interest in self-development, I began to view the activities that I liked doing as something more than just little hobbies that fit into my day when I had time.
These were not ad hoc things I did on occasion which made me feel better, these were fundamental to my well being. They became more than ‘when I have time I’ll do such and such.’ I began to notice that when I didn’t have them in my life, I tipped off balance. Feelings such as mood swings, stress, tired, fidgety, frustration, snappy with family and friends, short tempered, lethargic, slow, heavy, unproductive, lack focus would surface.
By practising regularly, you can undo the sense of guilt and shame and get to the point where you're happy to book in time for you, say no to things that are detrimental to your well being or know won’t serve you. You will find yourself saying ‘Sorry, I can’t make that dinner as I’m having a night in for myself.’ Ten years ago, I would never dare admit that.
I now know the value of self-love; why I need it and what happens if I don’t prioritise myself. When life gets busier, it is easy to put these (what are still seen as) ‘nice to haves’ to one side in place of meeting that deadline, doing the chores or spending time with others. When you do that, you will suffer and just 10 minutes dedicated time can set you back on track and make your work more productive, the chores less chore-like or a higher quality of time with friends and family.
“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have."
If self-love is so beneficial, why aren’t we all doing it all of the time? Good question!
Not everyone is aware of self-love - You may not have discovered this space, or be aware of its importance. It may not even feature in your thinking yet, which is why it is so vital to spread the word and share the message of self-love and the huge benefits it has.
Lack of community - We learn a lot from the people we surround ourselves with and if your friendship circles and the community around you isn’t talking about it or are not interested in it, how would you find out more? Perhaps you haven’t yet accessed the books, reading material, blogs and podcasts because you haven’t yet discovered who to read or what to listen to. Get curious!
Life - Life gets in the way - you may want to practice it and know it would help in other areas of your life. But you don’t have the time with everything else that is going on. If we don’t look after ourselves first and foremost and truly nourish ourselves, we can not look after others or perform at our best. We will burn out. We certainly can’t expect others to know what we need if we don’t understand ourselves. Can you find ten minutes?
You’re prioritising the care of others - Before caring for yourself, you may have others that need your attention here and now - whether that be children, spouses, partners, parents or friends - and therefore your own care falls by the wayside. Again, your energy will drain and you can not expect to give the best of yourself if you are neglecting your own needs.
We’re a nation of people pleasers - we’ve been bred and moulded to please others and to put others first. This is no bad thing and it is a lovely gesture to do things for other people. But when this is at the detriment of your own self-love, we need to stop and re-adjust - especially when it is an ongoing behaviour.
It’s ‘selfish’ - I can assure you that it isn’t selfish to put yourself first. You can feel that doing something for yourself is a selfish trait. You are the most important thing to you and prioritising the things that make you happy, will only make the people around you happier too. You will be able to perform better, give more, and be more present once you have invested in yourself. Try saying it: 'I am the most important person in my life.'
It takes dedication - and discipline and practice. The art of self-love is not easy and therefore takes time and effort for your efforts to pay off. Going for one walk may make you feel better for the next day or so but the beauty of truly accessing the benefits of self-love means you need to invest daily, hourly, on going, week after week. This sounds intense but it is worth it. You are worth it.
What things can we do to give ourselves ‘self-love’?
This is completely personal to you and so the first step if you’re new to self-love is to really tune into your inner wisdom to identify what makes you feel good. You could ask yourself a few questions to give you some clues:
When did you last feel happy? Describe what about this makes you happy? How do you describe your feelings?
What are your favourite things to do as a group / on your own?
Remember the last time you truly felt like yourself?
What is your favourite memory in the last week / month / year? What was it about this memory that makes this memorable to you? Describe your feelings.
If nothing else would get in the way and there were no constraints (work, money, family), what would you do for you right now?
My top six self-love tools
Here are a few things I turn to:
Yoga - being mindful and having time where I can be quiet and focus on myself gives me focus.
Exercise - I like to get the blood pumping so going for a run (again outdoors) or being in the gym lets me let off steam and once I’ve spent 30 minutes in this environment I always feel rebalanced.
Nature - being outside, getting fresh air and space by myself is truly uplifting. It reminds me there is a bigger world out there, that am one small cog and that the world is a wondrous place of nature and living things.
Meditation - time and peace for myself, to quieten my thoughts and to refocus on my inner feelings. This is the hardest one for me to practice and takes real dedication, but when I do, I am rewarded.
A compliment - I like to talk nicely to myself, as I would to others. A compliment to myself feels a bit cheeky but is very uplifting and loving. Such a simple thing to do, costs nothing and takes seconds. It’s the easiest one but often one that means the most.
Time for coffee - I love a coffee, and I treasure the moment. There isn’t always time to sit with a coffee and really enjoy it. Often I’m gulping between getting dressed or meetings so when I do find the time to get my favourite mug, to sit and read or look out the window, it’s a positively gorgeous gesture for myself.
I would love to understand your thoughts towards self-love. Do you practice it? If so, what do you do? When did you first learn about self-love? What works for you?
If you're still not sure, I can work with you to identify how to find more time for you, and what tools you can put in your tool box to enable you to live a life with a touch more self-love! I'd love to hear from you so please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gemma Brown is a certified coach who works with successful women, 1-2-1 and in groups, to identify their strengths and build confidence which enables them to have the self-belief to fearlessly bring their whole being into all areas of life. Gemma is based in Cambridgeshire and carries out face to face coaching in the area as well as 1-2-1 coaching via Skype and Zoom. For more about Gemma, visit her 'About' page.