Understanding yourself deeply can help you to create relationships, careers, and lives that feel enjoyable, fulfilling, and purposeful. Self-love helps you unleash that understanding.
What is self-love? What do we truly understand about self-love?
Is it getting that spa treatment? Treating yourself to your favorite meal? Eating that whole tub of ice cream? Watching a movie? Shopping for yourself? Is that it? Is it that simple? Yes and No.
Self-love is understanding what you truly need at the moment. It does include pampering, but sometimes pampering isn’t the solution, or it isn’t enough; it might also be counterproductive.
How do we know what exactly we need?
Now that is indeed simple if you dare to pause and look at yourself. I'll get back to that in a moment.
First, let’s understand why self-love is being talked about on every platform, and why it pops up in every mental health and self-improvement session.
What if I told you that self-love is the most crucial element of not only your self-empowerment journey but also success in every aspect of your life. And why is that?
Because if you are truly able to love yourself for who you were in the past, who you are in the present, and who you are destined to be, you will be unstoppable, you will be a force to be reckoned with. In that case, nothing can deter you. Nobody can break you. No obstacle is too big.
Do you know why? Because at that moment you will know what exactly you need to move ahead. When you can be kind and compassionate towards your past self, when you can forgive that person for their shortcomings, you will know what you need to change your story and rewrite it.
When you can accept and embrace yourself for who you are right at this moment; nobody can shame you for what you haven’t achieved yet, and once you integrate both these aspects, your future self will be easy to admire, cherish, and even idolize.
I mentioned earlier that self-love isn’t just about pampering yourself. For the majority of people, self-love sounds like a luxury rather than a necessity, or a new-age fad for people with too much time on their hands.
Ironically, self-care and Self-compassion might be needed the most by those of us who work too hard, are constantly striving to surpass our achievements, and those who push themselves too hard in the name of perfection.
Most of the time, when we’re being too hard on ourselves, we do it because we’re driven by a desire for perfectionism and excellence.
This entails a lot of self-criticism and that harsh inner-critic that constantly tells us how we could’ve done things better. This means such people are at a higher risk of mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual burnout.
On the other end of the spectrum are people who are procrastinators or those who struggle with setting and achieving their goals. This too leads to self-criticism and self-loathing. Both groups are at high risk for mental illnesses like depression and anxiety disorders.
This is how you can understand how you need self-love and self-compassion. When you figure out which group you belong to, you will also begin to understand how you need to be loved by yourself.
If you are too hard on yourself, whether it comes to your work or even your diets, pampering yourself now and then, some time-outs, that meal you have been craving for but denying yourself forever is self-love. It shows you that you can enjoy yourself and still achieve whatever you want.
If you are a procrastinator who has managed to self-sabotage your goals and targets, self-compassion means forgiving yourself for falling short, and self-love means making and keeping promises to yourself to achieve your goals. It means delaying short-term instant gratification for long-term happiness and satisfaction.
How do we practice self-compassion?
First off, acknowledge that perfectionism, workaholism as well as procrastination are bad for you; beating yourself up over every little error, or not meeting your targets, piling up workload gradually chips away at your sense of self-worth and makes you less happy. And you deserve better than this.
In the words of Kristin Neff — a professor of human development at the University of Texas at Austin — “Love, connection, and acceptance are your birthright.”
In other words, happiness is something that you’re entitled to, not something that you need to earn. Even the United Nations adopted a resolution recognizing that the “pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal.”
Also, you should try to resist the temptation to beat yourself up for beating yourself up. Paul Hewitt — a clinical psychologist in Vancouver, Canada, and author of the book Perfectionism: A Relational Approach to Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatment — likens the inner critic harbored by perfectionists to “a nasty adult beating the crap out of a tiny child.”
When you’ve spent years listening to this inner critic, you develop an unconscious reflex to berate yourself for even minor things, no matter how ridiculous or absurd they are. Missing a deadline, dropping a teaspoon on the floor, piling work on when you are unable to find the motivation to complete it, people constantly give themselves a hard time over the most unexpected things- so criticizing yourself for self-criticism isn’t uncommon.
You can start cultivating some much-needed self-compassion. You might think that self-love is a case of “you either have it or you don’t,” but luckily, psychologists believe it is something that can be learned over time.
Self-compassion and self-love are largely used interchangeably. Studies show that having more self-compassion builds resilience in the face of adversity, helping people to recover more quickly from emotional trauma and heartbreaks. It also helps us to better cope with failure or embarrassment.
What is self-compassion?
Drawing on the work of Prof. Neff, Sbarra, and colleagues define self-compassion as a construct that encompasses three components:
1. self-kindness (i.e., treating oneself with understanding and forgiveness)
2. recognition of ones place in a shared humanity (i.e., an acknowledgment that people are not perfect and that personal experiences are part of the larger human experience)
3. and mindfulness (i.e., emotional equanimity and avoidance of over-identification with painful emotions; i.e. projecting each and every experience of others towards ourselves.)
Below are some ways in which you can practice self-love:
1. Stop taking things too seriously. It’s okay to have fun now and then. It’s refreshing.
2.Find a self-love role model. Or better, become that person.
3.Stop watering every flower, and stop reacting to every thought. Many times they are just a result of overthinking and far from reality, but can be hurtful. This is where journaling and mindfulness are useful.
4.Celebrate small things, every little victory. It greatly improves self-worth.
5.Cut the negative self-talk. We all have inner critics, just don’t listen to those thoughts, tell yourself that it’s okay to feel this way, but it doesn’t reflect on your work and capabilities.
6.Acknowledge your feelings. Allow yourself to feel so that you can let go after understanding their origin and addressing your fears so that you can self-soothe.
7.Cut off toxic people. That’s the biggest act of self-love you can do and greatly rewarding too.
How you love yourself and show up for yourself teaches you about your value, and your self-worth, and in turn teaches people how to love you and show up for you. It’s high time you start the practice and achieved all the happiness, contentment, and success that you deserve.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” —Buddha
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