Let’s plant a seed today that will grow within you until it flourishes into a full self-love tree. In the spirit of full disclosure- I am a work in progress. Some days are better than others and there are some lessons I have had to relearn on my journey to loving myself. I call it a journey because like many of life’s lessons, practicing self-love is a long-term process where you continually learn about yourself along the way. Unconditionally loving yourself means that you 100% love and accept yourself. You accept who you are and can strive for change without negatively judging yourself in the process. One of the first steps to self-love is reflection. Reflect on things like what you think you deserve in life and how your life would look if you loved yourself unconditionally.
From our awkward adolescent years through adulthood we are pressured to conform to societal standards of beauty and success. These pressures are so heavy that many people will withhold self-love until they achieve status based on these standards. That is a very conditional type of love not self-love. A true test of self-love is how we feel about ourselves when things are not going our way. If we base our sense of self-worth on external accomplishments we run the risk of not knowing who were are without those things.
Part of learning how to practice self-love is reclaiming our worth and happiness. We have to let go of the things we learned in the past that told us we were only as good as our accomplishments. Since these standards are set by society we can feel like if we do not meet these ideals others will not like us. The need to fit in started in childhood trying to make friends on the playground- but we no longer need that to survive. Of course we want connection but we need to rethink how we go about it. When we love ourselves we attract people who appreciate us for who we are instead of what we have.
When we open ourselves up and actively avoid basing our sense of worth on the standards of others we are free to grow into our authentic selves. Below are ways to start practicing self-love and notice areas of growth.
- Watch the way you talk to yourself:What is your internal dialogue telling you during low points? Without a strong sense of self-love we start to neglect ourselves. We blame ourselves for not trying harder- for not being better. We talk down to ourselves and convince ourselves that this harsh self-talk is a motivator. We think if we berate ourselves enough, we will do better next time. However, this sets our minds into thinking we are incapable and reinforces those negative thoughts. Self-love is about holding yourself accountable without beating yourself up over mistakes. Shift into talking to yourself with kindness.
- Stop comparing yourself to others: You are on your own path and do not need to judge your progress against another person’s measuring stick. It is normal to notice differences between our life and someone else’s but if this leads you to becoming negative, distract yourself from those thoughts. Remember that you do not need to prove your worth to others.
- Take care of yourself: Stay consistent with your self-care routine. Find activities that you enjoy to participate in regularly some of my favorites include: exercising, reading, watching comedy, staying connected with friends and listening to music. Self-care allows us to protect our energy and reduce stress.
- Practice Gratitude: Remind yourself of the things you are grateful for. Practicing gratitude means that we call our attention to the things we appreciate. In relation to self-love we can make a list of the things we are grateful for about ourselves. Tell yourself why you are glad to be yourself- and thank yourself too.
When you truly love yourself, you know you’ve got it going on! No outsider input is needed to convince you of this fact. Self-love is moving through the world unfazed by the pressures to conform.
Alyssia Cruz, ASW aka Therapist Aly