Let’s start this article on Loving Yourself with two quotes that say it all: “Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”, from Lucille Ball and “How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.”, from Rupi Kaur. Many articles on self-love (Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, Very Well Mind and Heart of Leadership), indicate that caring about you is key to staying well, both mentally and physically.
Self-love, self-caring and self-compassion, call it what you will, cannot be underestimated. It is not some silly way of talking about how you feel about yourself and it is not being conceited. It should be a constant reminder that we are fallible, but valuable. We may never be perfect, but that does not, at all, diminish our potential and our ability to influence others.
The antithesis of self-care is probably self-criticism, also known as negative self-talk. This happens most often when we miss the mark of perfection in our relationships, in our work efforts, and in our daily goals. Everyone reading this has probably participated in some denial of positive self-value at one time or another; and some of us find that our inner voice often denigrates us more than lifts us.
Finding ways to reduce negative thoughts about you and your worth to family, friends, and workplace is important in many ways. Thinking that perfection is the only acceptable route for you is stressful, because it is not achievable. Stress alone is linked to digestive conditions, pain-related syndromes, depression, anxiety, and devastating disorders like heart disease and cancer. Combine a consistent barrage of self-hating thoughts and behaviors and you have the perfect storm for illness of all kinds.
So quit it! Quit feeling and thinking in such negative tones about you. Oh, if it were only that easy! This is definitely one of those baby-steps situations. Some of us have such a negative view of ourselves and have “spoken” badly to ourselves for so long that it will be a difficult (but not impossible) habit to break. You deserve to feel comfortable in your own skin with a positive outlook and acceptance of mistakes that humans can make. Basically, you deserve to be happy just being you. Get it? That is the essence of self-love, self-care and self-compassion.
There are 5 skillsets that people who have self-love work hard to cultivate. These skills can change the course of negative self-worth when utilized overtime (David Fletcher, Kelly McGonigal and Susan B. Kemp). These resilience-based skills are:
- Problem solving: Key self-love strategists do not have to solve every problem. In fact, the best solutions are those that have multiple views and options available. That can only happen when perfectionism is set aside and others are invited to share in a task and many opinions become viable. Sharing problems with others also creates relationships and relationships are number 2 on this list!
- Social competence and relationships: Developing solid friendships, family connections, and work engagements lead to self-love as you model to others how you want to be treated. Being kind, being patient and being sincere leads to successful interactions and good feelings about your capability in terms of both giving and caring.
- Sense of Future: People who experience self-love are those who look forward to the next adventure. Depression and anxiety, the feelings that take away our sense of wonder, are often kept to a minimum when we have a good sense of our self and of our potential future.
- Sense of Humor: Self-compassion means that we forgive ourselves for things not done well and look to make changes the next go-round. Being able to laugh at our foibles; being aware of our weaknesses and not always taking ourselves too seriously is like a valve releasing pressure. Humor and an ability to step back and enjoy the moment is a real healer of our mental and physical selves. Find jokes, comedians, books and people that are fun and make you laugh. A smile alerts your mind and body to positivity. Some researchers even say that you should walk straight to a mirror and smile when you are having a bad moment in your day. Change the way you are thinking and feeling by seeing yourself in a different light.
- Find a mentor: Who do you admire? Who just by being near, makes you feel relaxed? Who can you be with and just be you? Who is honest with you in a kind and genuine manner? Find this person, let them know that you feel they can teach you about yourself and can influence and impact you in a positive way. Rely on this person to help you stay positive about you and to help you find self-love.
Overall, just pay attention to achieve self-love. Listen to what you are thinking and feeling and watch how you behave with others. Seek kindness. Be caring. Help others.
You will find that baby steps toward learning to think lovingly of you and paying attention to the messages you give others will go a long way to finding the happiness you deserve. Loving yourself really does improve mental health.
If you are in need of additional support, please contact Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital for a no cost, confidential assessment. We are here for you 24 hours a day, every day, at (844) 580-5000.