The other day a friend asked me about self-love. One of the first questions that popped into my head was how can you tell if you have self-love? I started asking around and searching the internet only to realize that I was going about it all wrong. We don’t actually HAVE self-love. Is it not something that you actively decide on in every waking moment? You can CHOOSE to love yourself. With that said, I know this is definitely not an easy thing to do, all the time. I keep repeating myself, because we should never forget, we’re only human. We all have our off days. This would not even be a topic if we had the discipline and consistency to maintain this, at all time. Yet, with humanity comes the emotional eb and flow. Still, we need to start somewhere. That’s why I encourage people to do a 30-day Self-love Challenge.
Self-esteem vs. Self-love
Before I move on, I want to clarify the difference here because I believe we often use these two interchangeably when there is a notable difference. Self-esteem is a sub-part of self-love. You can have high self-esteem but still rate low on self-love overall. In fact, having too high of a self-esteem can also be negative. This is often associated with narcissistic behavior and in combination with low self-love this can result in individuals who need to constantly feed their egos.
You should aim for a healthy balance where you are not constantly focusing on your own needs only but also thinking of others. Everyone is different, so this should vary from person to person. Experience will tell what works best for you. I guess that is the magic of growing up and self discovery.
Elements of Self-love
There is nothing more frustrating than when someone says you have to work on improving ‘xyz’. Great, but how and where do you begin? The same goes for self-love. How often do you hear people saying, “Oh, she/he doesn’t love themselves enough, they need to work on that”? Or a variation of the sort. With that in mind, I searched for a breakdown of self-love and found this in ‘Madly in Love with Me’ by Christine Arylo. Below is a short overview of how Christine breaks down self-love:
- Self-awareness & Honesty: Knowing who you are and who you are not. As well as, being truthful to yourself about how your feelings/thoughts/actions affect you and those around you.
- Self-acceptance: Liking and acknowledging who you are (now) and not comparing yourself to others or even a previous version of yourself.
- Self-care: You make sure that your body, mind, and soul get what they need without overexerting yourself in the process.
- Self-compassion & Self-forgiveness: Forgiveness is a two-way street that starts with yourself. Can you show yourself genuine compassion without judgement?
- Self-trust: We have all heard it, that inner voice. We have all felt it, that underbelly feeling. When ignored they leave us with that lingering thought of: “If only I had listened to/trusted myself…”.
- Self-esteem: Having a strong belief in yourself and great confidence in your ability to do and be anything.
- Self-expression: Being genuine and not being afraid of putting yourself out there, the good, the bad, AND the ugly.
- Self-empowerment: Unapologetically, taking control of and responsibility for your life. With the intention of manifesting your desires.
- Self-respect & Self-honor: Treating yourself in a dignified manner in all circumstances, especially in relationships.
- Self-pleasure: Ensuring that joy is always a vital element of your life, whether it is created, received or experienced. You always find a way to make time for it and incorporate it into your day.
- Self-worth: Understanding your (added) value based on your internal value system and not one set by society. Also, you understand that your self-worth is not defined or reinforced by your achievements and other external factors such as validation/recognition/affection.
8 Ways to boost it
Now that we’ve established the foundation of self-love, let’s talk growth. How can we build on this foundation? I’ve consolidated my suggestion into 8 steps as shown below.
1.Finding your ‘Why’
It always starts with self-awareness. What does self-love mean to you? How important is it to you? How invested are you to making it an integral part of your life?
2.Act on What You NEED Not What You WANT
We have so many stimuli around us, constantly trying to convince us that our wants are our needs. Still it is up to us, to be self-aware and be able to distinguish between trivial wants and essential needs.
3.Practice Good Self-care
First look to yourself then proceed by looking around you. Start by being your own best friend and treating yoursef the way you would want to be treated. Then continue by surrounding yourself with good people who encourage you to be the best possible version of yourself.
4.Set Healthy Boundaries
Know your limits. If you don’t know already, make it a top priority to find out. Listen to yourself. If something doesn’t feel right, a line might have been crossed. It’s important to know what you will and will not tolerate. Once you do practice consistency when applying it.
Let go of things/people/relationships that do not serve you. This can be a tough one but it is not in your best interest to remain in a toxic situation or to continue with unhealthy habits.
Do not get hung up on the past, instead let go of negative emotions that weigh you down. Acknowledge your wrongdoings and those of others and most importantly learn from them. Use your experiences to move forward and grow into the best possible version of yourself.
Seize the moment. Seize your day. Seize your life. You have the control, do not leave the outcome of your life up to chance. Steer it towards your goals. Do not be content with being a backseat driver. Take back your power instead. Claim your ownership, you need it to drive change in your life.
Be decisive and firm. Once you decide to love yourself, put 100% of your effort into it. If you do something half-heartedly, don’t be surprised when you get half-hearted results. Make your self-love journey your priority and stay the course. Do not let anyone lead you astray from your relationship with yourself.
Self-love is a choice we make everyday. We can choose to be aware of ourselves. We can choose to make decisions that get us closer to what we need, as opposed to what we want. We can choose to take care of ourselves. We can choose to say no when our boundaries are being tested. We can choose to protect and forgive ourselves. We can choose to live in the moment and seize each day. On top of it all, we can choose to give it our all each time we commit to doing something.
In the end, it is all up to us to treat ourselves well, by doing so we show others how we wish to be treated.
“How you love yourself is, how you teach others, to love you”
― Rupi Kaur, ‘Milk and Honey’