I talk about self-love a lot. It’s been my main focus for the last decade and it’s something that I’m incredibly passionate about (as you can tell by my published book!). I created the Foundations of Self-Love to describe what most helped me because there was no one thing that made me love myself (maybe your journey is different).
It’s also important to acknowledge that some of us start at different places.
Mental illness changes the self-love journey. Physical illnesses and disabilities change the self-love journey. Child abuse and trauma change the journey. Lack of resources, support, and community change the journey.
Self-love doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s not Point A to Point B. It is such a personal experience. I can’t tell you how to love yourself. No random person on the internet can. I can give you the tools I use. I can point you in the right direction (we’re all trying to get to the same place right?) but I don’t have the magic formula.
Let’s talk about the foundations of self-love.
Self-talk, or your inner voice, is the thing that I focus on first. Think of your inner voice like your internal intercom. When you make a mistake – what’s the first thing that you hear in your head? Are you on the receiving end of a lot of positive/reassuring/compassionate feedback or does that voice tear you down?
One of the most transformative things that you can do is change how you talk to yourself. Think of what it would be like to live with a voice that’s not critical and abusive. Imagine that the voice is comforting and compassionate and gives you grace when you make mistakes and builds you up when you’re feeling down.
That’s magic, and it’s an important foundation of self-love.
Self-Discovery aka knowing what you like.
In my early 20s, my personality was – a blank canvas. There were a few things that were me but the music I liked, my hobbies, most of my interests – they were things that weren’t mine. I tried to please other people and that meant mirroring back to them the things that they liked.
I thought “agreeable” was a wonderful personality trait.
Self-discovery means learning what you like and also want you don’t like. (And then not budging on those things just to keep the people in your life happy.)
It also means developing goals, hobbies, and interests that fulfill you. When I started loving myself I tried everything I’d always wanted to do. I got a tattoo, listened to all types of music, spent hours in the park writing, and went to a yoga class. I started reading different kinds of books and trying new foods. It was so fun and it will always be one of my favorite parts of my journey.
Managing your mental health.
Not everyone has a mental illness but we all have mental health. Another one of the foundations of self-love involves mental health. When it comes to mental health – some people just need to focus on managing their stress and overwhelm. But for many of us, mental health is much more complicated.
If I hadn’t learned how to manage anxiety and depression I do not think my self-love journey would have gone anywhere. My brain was so LOUD. Anxiety was constantly making me question everything and everyone and depression kept me so pushed down with thoughts about how I was useless. I had to fight that battle before I could do anything else.
I will say that all of the things I did in my quest for self-love definitely helped relieve some of the intensity of my anxiety and depression.
Self-Acceptance is key.
You don’t have to be perfect to love yourself. It’s okay that you are flawed and imperfect. A decade ago, I felt like there were so many reasons not to love myself. I was single, I didn’t have a “good” job, and I wasn’t happy with my body.
“I will love myself when I am thin.”
“I will love myself when I find the love of my life.”
There was always a goal post that I was convinced would magically make me love myself. I had no understanding that loving myself would be an intentional act that I had to work at every day.
Boundaries are important.
Cultivating healthy communication and boundaries in your relationships is another thing that heavily influences your ability to love yourself. If our relationships are abusive and tear us down then it’s hard to find love within ourselves. It’s also important to have support systems and safe spaces because it allows us to mirror those things back at ourselves.
Your environment matters. And that’s where boundaries come in. Set them with anyone who tears you down and makes you feel bad about yourself. (Yes, even if they’re well-meaning)
I also learned how to set boundaries with my energy, time, and personal resources. I used to give, give, and give, because I thought it would make people like me. I found myself burnt-out, exhausted, and taken advantage of. I had to set healthy boundaries within myself too.
And finally, self-care.
Self-care is the act of showing love to ourselves. You know how when your favorite person rubs your back, makes coffee for you, brings you flowers, or gives you a super tight hug when you’re having a bad day? Those things make you feel loved.
Self-care is how we feel love from ourselves. It’s any action that makes you feel loved or takes care of your needs. It’s not always fun stuff, sometimes it’s hard things that make us feel better in the long run. Self-care is bubble baths and setting boundaries. It’s facemasks and letting go of toxic relationships. Sometimes it’s snuggling up with a blanket to take a break and it’s also forcing yourself to do something you’ve procrastinated on. It’s a series of choices that make your life better.