Through love, all is possible. Love sustains us, it enhances us, it protects us and it pushes us to be more. What we don’t realize is that this love could be of one, for oneself. Can one of life’s greatest mysteries have such a beautifully simple answer? Why not?
Self-love is another one of those words that everybody uses, but only few truly understand. So, let’s dispel the scales from our eyes and take a long hard look at what it is and is not.
What is it not:
It is important to know what self- love is, but it is equally important to know what it is not. Self- love is not
- Narcissism: Spoiler Alert- Acting selfishly and sweeping it under the rug of self-love is NOT self-love! As our elders keep saying, too much of anything is harmful. But self-love is inherently a balance within yourself.
Self- love is not an unhealthy obsession with one’s own need to the absolute ignorance of all else around you! Think Evil Queen from Snow White!
- Other-Hating: CANCEL CANCEL CULTURE! The number of people on this beautiful planet are 1.12 billion times the number of colors in a rainbow which is directly proportional to the numerous paths to life that may be trodden. That’s a lot! No single path is better or worse than another.
Self-love doesn’t mean hating the way others decide to carry themselves or the decisions they make in their lives to feel good about ourselves. Liking red doesn’t mean you have to hate blue!
Alternatively, prioritizing yourself doesn’t mean you’re actively hating the rest of the world. A delicate balance but an important one. So, the next time you want to hang out with your friends against your parents’ wishes, know that you don’t hate them, you just respectfully disagree.
- Treat Yo Self: Unlike what the corporate overlords would have us believe, self-love isn’t about splurging on material things.
Self- love also isn’t an excuse that can be used to behave however one wants. One cannot make dysfunctional behaviors dress as self-love and expect to get away with it! So, doing cocaine and calling it self-love would definitely not convince the judge to baaizzatbari you.
What it is:
Self-love is essentially a balance that one strives to keep between the world and themselves. Knowing when to prioritize yourself, knowing when to express yourself and how to express yourself. Self-love is an integral part of mental health! Self-Love is
- Self-Awareness: Just like in the movies (the realistic ones!), before you fall in love with a person, you get to know them first. Art imitates life, therefore in life, before we can start loving ourselves, we need to understand who we are, what do we like, what do we dislike, what makes us comfortable, how our thought processes function and affect our behaviors etc.
This is a lifelong process.
Therefore knowing why we are crying and eating a bucket of ice-cream can help in deciding which flavor of ice-cream to get beforehand! Self-awareness is therefore a precursor and an integral part of self-love itself.
- Self-Acceptance: Knowing is an important first step, but if we don’t accept what we know, we could end up hurting ourselves instead of being kind to ourselves. For example, an injured runner who is oblivious of their injuries could end up worsening their injury instead of speeding their recovery. Unconditional acceptance of who we are doesn’t mean that we consider ourselves a perfect being. It means that we accept who we are as a person in this moment but we endeavor to improve ourselves slowly and surely!
- Kindness & Compassion: Self-love is being kind and compassionate to yourself as much as possible, specifically under difficult circumstances. Life doesn’t always make it easy for us to be kind to ourselves.
Especially if we’re hungry!
It could range from giving your body the nutrition and exercise it needs to assertively drawing boundaries with your friends and families.
- Responsibility and Accountability: Two words that would send anybody back to their beds hiding under the blanket! Self-love includes taking responsibility for your own self.
No prince charmings are on their way to save us! Taking responsibility for how we behave with ourselves automatically helps us work better with people.
How to Practice Self-Love:
That takes care of the what. Now remains the how.
As we differ from people, so differ our way of practicing self-love. With the right attitude comes the benefits of what follows. It is the marriage of the mind with the body that will make the following suggestions self-love, and not mechanically thoughtless routines that one performs because somebody on the internet said so.
It is a trial-and-error process that can be daunting at first. There is no cheat-code to self-love! We all have to take the same long and winding road to woo ourselves.
- Exercise: Homo Sapiens Apes and Monkeys have evolved from a common species. Consequently, our bodies have evolved for movement. When this movement is denied to it, the brain is also thrown into disarray.
As multiple studies suggest, exercising floods our brains with endorphins and lights them up like Christmas trees. Exercising has multiple benefits from strengthening the muscles and bones to increasing our stamina, from improving our moods to helping us with discipline.
It is a difficult habit to form, but pays heavy dividends once it is seamlessly added into our lifestyles! Exercise doesn’t necessarily need to be in the conventional heavyweight format. Any kind of movement from dancing to running track to boxing counts as exercise. So go out there and find out what excites you and exercise!
- Setting Boundaries with your kin, kith and yourself: Letting people know assertively what you are and aren’t okay with is another way to exercise self-love.
You deserve respect owing to the fact that you live and breathe! Setting private boundaries is imperative for self-love.
For example, you can agree on how you talk to yourself and decide what you are okay with, and what you are not. An individual can therefore indulge or withhold from indulging in casual sex based on the boundaries they set with themselves.
Saying “No” is also important. Knowing when to say it and how to say it. We fail at saying “No” on multiple occasions. For eg- when we visit our relatives and they force us to eat more, we simply can’t refuse. Cue stomach ache!
- Partaking in Positive Self-talk: Imagine you talked to everybody like you talk to yourself. If you’d be dead within the hour, you might want to try inculcating positive talk in your life!
Instead of saying I screwed up, you could say something like, “I made a mistake, I’m human and I’m allowed to make mistakes, I will learn from this mistake and do better from now on!”
Meditating while doing positive self-talk is also a great way of introducing it to our day to day lives.
- Forgive Yourself: We all make mistakes; it is only human to make mistakes. We are allowed to make them. But what we end up doing is that we hold a grudge against ourselves!
This tends to pile up until one day it becomes too much. To avoid this, we need to forgive ourselves.
Easier said than done, but it is possible! Self-love isn’t easy, but it is always worth it.
- Maintaining hygiene: Bathing, maintaining skin care routines and all-around hygiene is also an effective self-love practice. It’s never too late to start!
- Alone Time: Taking time off from your day only to spend it with yourself is a fantastic way of processing your day, all the emotions you felt and just letting your brain decompress.
With the constant stimulation provided to us wherever we go, our brains simply don’t get any time for quiet contemplation anymore!
As a consequence, our brains are constantly bombarded with information. Closing your eyes and breathing can also help decompress.
From what is self-love, what isn’t to a couple ways of practicing self-love, we have come a long way, fellow travelers.
If you are looking for a sign to start, consider this to be it! Self-love isn’t always easy; it has to be learned. It is uncomfortable, difficult and seems downright impossible sometimes; seems being the key word.
It is always worth it!! So, get out there, find your balance, and love yourself like nobody else; because only you can. Godspeed.