Lately, it seems as though you can’t escape the terms self-love and self-care. Self-love and self-care have become big buzzwords in the blogosphere and beyond, and are being used to sell you everything from beauty products to junk food. These terms have lost their original spirit, which is one of patience, compassion, and personal growth, and have been co-opted by businesses and online culture to become synonymous with indulgence and even irresponsibility.
What comes to your mind when you think of authentic self-love? What does loving yourself actually look like to you? Are you using self-care as an excuse to overspend? Are you using self-love as an excuse not to grow as a person?
What real self-love and self-care look like
Actual, transformative, radical self love means getting real with yourself. Sometimes it means that you need to do the things you don’t want to do, like moving on from relationships that don’t feel good, leaving comfortable but unfulfilling jobs, or even doing your taxes on time.
Often, meaningful self-care actually requires a great deal of discomfort. You need to love yourself in the way that you show love to those for whom you are responsible. Real self-love is essentially parenting yourself -- getting yourself to bed on time, making sure you’re spending time in nature, making sure to feed yourself fresh fruits and vegetables, and making sure you’re moving your body.
Self-care should nurture your body, mind, heart, and spirit
Self-love needs to be a holistic venture. It needs to encompass body, mind, heart, and spirit. When you are able to tap into a reserve of self-love, your stress is lowered, oxytocin is released, and your immune system gets a huge boost. Your body and mind are not two separate entities, and the health of one affects the health of the other. Yoga is a one-two punch for body-mind connection, and is one of the most powerful ways to take care of yourself. Loving and accepting your body as it is is only the first part of the equation. Take that hard-won acceptance and turn it into action. If you love your body by moving, stretching, and strengthening it, it will love you back.
Learn to treat yourself and others with kindness and patience
Another important aspect of authentic self-love is self-forgiveness. As uncomfortable as it is, sometimes this means actually sitting down and writing out all the things you need to forgive yourself for, all the things that are holding you back and keeping you up at night. Even just getting it out of your head and into the real world on paper can help you realize that the thoughts, guilts, and regrets that torture you are probably not as big of a deal as you originally thought.
Every time you catch yourself talking down to yourself, try to replace that with a positive thought that you believe to be true, or look for an opportunity to learn and grow. For instance, if you find yourself frustrated with a task at work, and it’s devolving into negative self-talk like “I’m not smart enough for this,” reroute that thought to something more like “What can I learn from these roadblocks? Where can I grow?”. Similarly, when inevitable negative thoughts about others come up, no matter how they arise, try interrupting those thoughts with more gentle, positive perspectives. Showing love, patience, and understanding to others will help you do the same to yourself.
You are love
As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “The path of spirituality has always inspired you; it has always said, ‘You are great, you are part of the Divinity, you are love, you are beauty, you are truth!’”
You are a vessel of the divine. You carry just as much magic and meaning in yourself as anyone else in the world. You are just as valuable as those who you admire. You have purpose and meaning. You aren’t just loved, you are love. You have the responsibility and privilege of taking care of this vessel that you inhabit, and that involves more than just indulging in everything you crave. Reclaim the true meaning of self-care and self-love, and watch your life bloom.
You were born to be happy! Happiness is the first mantra of self love!
Paige Leigh Reist is a lifestyle writer and the blogger behind thewholesomehandbook.com.