Treating yourself with compassion and care isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but we’re here to make a compelling case as to why – and how – you should embrace the self-love revolution today
I know at least a handful of people who would roll their eyes towards the sky at the mere mention of self-love. To be fair, it’s not a completely concrete concept – perhaps because of the emphasis on the ‘self’, which means it’s a deeply personal practise.
So, I’ll start the ball rolling with my own definition. For me, self-love is practical. It’s acknowledging that I need – and deserve – care and attention as much as anyone else in my life, and as an adult I also need to be responsible for giving myself that.
Some days my form of self-love might look like getting up early for a swim, because I know that my body will feel better for it. It might also be carving out time for a 30-minute soak in the bath at the end of the day, and allowing myself to quietly daydream when I feel myself becoming overwhelmed.
At other times, self-love is about actively working with my critical inner voice. The one that whispers derogatory comments about my body as I pass the changing room mirror on my way to the pool, or screams at me that “Rest is lazy!” as I run the bath, telling me over and over that there’s still so much work to be done, and I should just crack on.
It’s at these moments I imagine self-love as a huge dollop of soothing lotion, that I smooth on top of the criticism. I hear what the inner voice has to say, and I apply self-love and compassion to the situation. “Yes,” I tell myself. “I know you think that about your body sometimes, but look at how strong you are, and how much you enjoy the feeling of being in the water. There’s no need to be hateful.”
The absence of self-love
My approach to self-love may be different to other people’s, just as my life circumstances will be. Not everyone will have the time or the household support to be able to incorporate a head-clearing swim of a morning, or regular time out in the evening, and I know many parents for whom self-love is a perceived luxury, and one their already jam-packed schedules can’t seem to accommodate.
This is where flipping the conversation could be helpful. Whether it’s an hour doing your favourite activity, or literally one minute to yourself, we may all incorporate self-love in different ways, but there are universal commonalities when we talk about the absence of self-love – which is why the subject is so important (and not at all ‘fluffy’ or ‘indulgent’).
The common traits around the absence of self-love could include heightened internal criticism, punishing routines around work, appearance, parenting, food consumption and exercise, abandoning rest or sleep, and perfectionism.
The absence of self-love could also see us constantly putting other people’s needs before our own, not asking for or taking help when it’s available, and becoming resentful, detached, and burnt out as a result. All these behaviours and emotions, in extreme, are detrimental to our long-term mental health.
The good news is that there are many ways to begin implementing your own strategies around self-love, and it’s never too late to start. However, you do need to be open to the idea that self-love is also self-work and you’ll need to carve out the time for it – but the benefits can be immense.
Three reasons to start practising self-love today – from the professionals
Self-love attracts more love
“Self-love underpins everything that we do, how we show up in the world, and how we present ourselves to others,” health and wellbeing coach Claudine Thornhill explains. “When we have a good level of self-love, we’re better able to attract and accept more love into our lives.”
Embracing a self-love mindset changes your story
“We are all stories we tell ourselves, so the way we speak to ourselves, that inner voice that tells us who we are and what we can and can’t do, really matters,” cognitive hypnotherapist Sophie Parker says.
“When you embrace a self-love mindset, you tell yourself that you are enough, you are worthy of happiness and love, and you silence your inner critic. Affirmations are a fantastic way to cultivate self-love and curb negative talk, simply by changing the words you use when you speak to yourself.
“Three of my favourite affirmations that I recommend you say daily are: ‘I believe in myself,’ ‘I am enough,’ and ‘I am loved.’ Say these out loud in front of a mirror, and notice how these phrases make you feel.”
You’ll realise your best is good enough
“Self-love is quite simply being kind, compassionate and non-judgemental towards yourself,” Bibi Jamieson, counsellor and couples therapist explains.“When you begin to feel that your own true authentic self is not good enough, please be kind to yourself – each one of us is unique, and we’re not all meant to be the same. And if you’re feeling that you’re not getting self-love ‘right’, be gentle, keep trying. Your best is good enough.”
How to incorporate self-love into every day
• Listen to, understand, and act upon your needs
Whether that’s more sleep, rest, or fresh air, listen to and meet your own needs. Talk to friends, family and colleagues, and ask for help in creating small, regular pockets of time for yourself. If you live with other people, do this for each other, so everyone benefits.
• Keep the promises you’ve made to yourself!
Be as accountable to yourself as you would be to a loved one you’d made a commitment to. You matter as much as they do.
• Do things that make you feel good
Dancing, singing, masturbation, bubble baths, whatever it is – if it makes you feel good – make space for it! Even if you just try setting your phone to silent, or move it out of reach for the first last hour of the day, you’ll be surprised at the extra time you find for you.
One important caveat
There’s so much we can do for ourselves by implementing self-love, but not all life and mental health challenges are equal.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, you could contact your GP in the first instance, or Samaritans are available 24/7 on 116 123. You can also email [email protected], and remember that you do not have to be at crisis point to reach out.
By downloading the free Happiful app, you’ll also be able to find local support groups, and search for mental health and wellbeing professionals who work online, over the phone, and face-to-face at a time, place, and cost that’s right for you.
Rise up with self-love!
Our partners at The Body Shop believe that any act of self-love is a direct act of rebellion against a culture that wants us to feel self-doubt – and we couldn’t agree more!
The Body Shop is now on a mission to share one million acts of self-love across the globe in one year, as part of it’s Self Love Uprising campaign. The size of these acts of self-love doesn’t matter, as even small acts can lead to big change.
Share your own self-love story on social media with the hashtag #SelfLoveUprising and tag @happiful_magazine too. These acts can start your journey to self-love, and inspire others to rise up with you. We can’t wait to see what you share!
If you think you would benefit from reaching out to a counsellor, you can do so by visiting counselling-directory.org.uk