Self care involves the many different types of activities and choices that maintain, benefit and improve our health. These are things like exercising, eating a healthy diet and connecting with our loved ones. It is also things like participating in a favorite hobby, volunteering, reading a good book or taking a walk in nature. While we might not always make time for it, self care is easy and straight forward. It is all about doing the things that rejuvenate us; things we enjoy and feel deeply passionate about.
Self love on the other hand, is the pursuit of and intention for the complete acceptance of oneself; an unconditional love for every little piece of our story, our body, our choices, our triumphs and our faults. While this may sound simple in theory, it is quite difficult in practice. We are accustomed to offering kindness and compassion to others. We often gain immense pleasure in it. But when it comes time to offer that to ourselves? Forget about it! For most of us, our inner voice occupies much of its time as a critic and a bully.
How then, can we practice self-care without the foundation of self-love? If we are taking the time to meditate or have tea with a friend but we go home berating ourselves for the silly story we told or our inability to stay ‘zen’ for five minutes straight, we are in a sense, negating the energy we just invested.
By far, the most beneficial thing we can do for ourselves is to change the narrative of our inner critic. If we can offer ourselves the same words of encouragement, understanding and acceptance that we would give to a cherished friend, we will start to see profound results in every area of our lives. Mind you, this is not a free pass to negate our responsibilities or complicity in conflict or mistakes. Rather, it is an opportunity to learn and grow through compassion instead of guilt and shame. From this place, we can build a foundation that will keep us grounded in even the strongest of storms.
How do I begin to practice self-love?
- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Studies have shown the simple act of practicing gratitude can dramatically lift our mood, boost our immune system and improve our self esteem. It also improves our relationships with others by increasing our patience and empathy. When our heart is open in this way, we are able to offer ourselves the love we so greatly deserve. Try offering that same gratitude to all of the parts of your body, starting with the most obvious outer features and then moving to the insides, like your beating heart, life giving lungs and the liver, your master cleansing machine.
- Offer yourself radical acceptance. If we don’t accept ourselves, who will? If we know we have a safe place inside to come back to, the world outside doesn’t feel so threatening and we don’t feel the need to constantly protect ourselves. Get rid of any narrative that makes you feel small or unworthy. Treat yourself with the same respect and unconditional love you would give a dear friend or a child in need. Understand and remind yourself that you are a good person, your life matters and no matter what you do, you will always be worthy of love.
When we are able to be patient, kind and compassionate to all of our parts, we are able to show up in the world in a more genuine and fulfilling way. Whats more, is this has a powerful rippling effect, inspiring others to do the same. As we develop our self esteem from this place of self-love, we find that practicing self-care becomes a sacred honoring to the person we are, the person we are becoming and those around us on the same journey.