February always brings with it the red and pink hearts and a reminder to tell an important person in your life how much you care. For me, it’s the reminder that I am turning another year older. Regardless of the reminder this February instead of focusing on showing others you care, think about showing yourself some love instead.
- regard for one’s own well-being and happiness (chiefly considered as a desirable rather than narcissistic characteristic).
Self-love is often misinterpreted and used to promote an agenda that isn’t in line with the definition. Regarding yourself with your own well-being and happiness can be a difficult task to practice.
I know when you look up self-love on Pinterest, you get an array of images that include bubble baths and cutting off “toxic” people from your life. But Self love is so much more than that. Well-being broken down is the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.
I have struggled with the idea of self-love and even more with practicing it. I thought I had to do it a specific way for it to count, and I don’t often take bubble baths. Why is this basic definition so difficult for us to understand? I know we prefer to think we have it all together, and it can feel nice to take a spa day and call it self love. But being comfortable in your skin, feeling “healthy,” and happiness has more to it than lighting a candle or wearing a face mask.
On my journey, I have found that being honest with yourself about areas you could work on and actively taking steps to work on them is a form of self-love. An important step I took was going to therapy.
In those sessions, I worked through years of my past. By the 6th week, I finally realized and admitted how much I hated who I was. I was the meanest person I knew. I preached self-love to others but refused it for myself because I was a perfectionist. I realized perfectionist thinking blocks self-love and is a thief of joy. You can’t be comfortable, healthy, and happy if you believe you have to be perfect to deserve them. It takes away your own ability to accept yourself, and you must accept yourself before you can love yourself. My therapist explained that self-love is allowing yourself to do what you need to do regardless of everyone else’s definition and then recommended I start on the Mindful Self Compassion Workbook.
Through this book, I learned to create a kind voice in my head, one that promoted self-love. I realized the perfectionist in my brain is attempting to help me avoid rejection, in the only way she knows how. When I have perfectionist thoughts now, I acknowledge that part of my brain and her attempt at helping me and try to speak kindly to it instead. It is still something I have to practice often, or I fall back into old routines, but I am actively working on it.
Something that is often missed when you are working on yourself is making sure you are still giving yourself grace for the moment and forgiving yourself for all the things you struggled with before. Since my time in therapy I have struggled with is my past self.
I’m reminded of the song from Relient K “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been” and these lyrics
“I’m sorry for the person I became.
I’m sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I’m ready to be sure I never become that way again
’cause who I am hates who I’ve been.”
When I first listened to this song, I realized that is what I felt. Who I am hated who I had been. I hated who I became to survive my life. There are, of course, amazing parts of my life that I loved, but the person I became for those parts was not who I wanted to be. I recognize that it’s hard to show up for others when you can’t show up for yourself.
Feeling that much hate in my heart for myself has been challenging to work through. For me, it is easier to judge my old self because I have this thought that I should have been this person the whole time. That I should have been this happy, this evolved, and this version of me. But I have to remember I would not have gotten here without my old self taking the steps she did. The old me needs just as much love and grace as the new me. So to change up the lyrics I say “Who I am loves who I have been!”
This year I have been working on self-love, and it looks very different from all the things I’ve been told self-love is. Self-love has been redefined as doing what you need to do for your well-being and happiness. Embracing the idea that self-love is individual means you don’t need to question if you are doing it correctly. Self-love for me looks like decluttering my physical space, journaling daily, giving my old self grace, creating routines that make my day better, not drinking alcohol to relax, intuitive eating, and allowing myself the freedom to do exactly what I need to do.
I share this with you in case you also struggle with self-love or even self-hate. It is not the same for every person, but I encourage you to take a look at the things you actually need to do to practice self-love, whether it is decluttering your home or taking a walk. I hope you can start a self-love practice this month and incorporate it into a routine to do regularly.