Okay … I can’t write that without immediately thinking of Justin Bieber’s song by the same title. Anyone else find it seriously catchy? It’s probably my favorite song of his, other than his Christmas tracks. But the significance ends there as the lyrics have absolutely nothing to do with today’s post. So let’s get to it.
With Valentine’s Day just passed, there has likely been a lot of focus lately on the loves in your life. Be that romantic partners, friends, children, pets … however it fits for you. But the holiday typically overlooks loving numero uno.
I think self-love is one of those cliche things that often gets thrown around liberally in the same way that self-care does. Really easy to pay lip service to. Not always so easy to do in earnest.
We’re always more critical of ourselves than others. It’s pretty much a universal trait. We focus on the things we don’t love or would like to change far more than the characteristics we do like or are proud of.
And if we can already barely remember to be grateful for the things we do like, how much harder is it to grow fond of the things we don’t?
Cultivating a genuine love and appreciation for ourselves (I mean truly ALL aspects of ourselves) takes work and it takes practice.
But as women especially I feel we owe it to the next generation of girls (and boys for that matter) to set a good example. To demonstrate acceptance of ourselves, the good the bad and the “ugly”.
So, great. Good. We should practice self-love. Got it.
Realistically though, what does that look like?
How do we start?
The first thing I’d recommend, and I’ve talked about this before, is to start paying attention to the way you talk to yourself. When you look in the mirror, what are the thoughts that typically go through your head? What self-criticisms come up time and again, so automatically you often don’t even realize you’re thinking them.
Catch your brain in self-deprecating action.
That’s step one.
Now take those exact thoughts and ask yourself if you would say those things to your best friend. Your child. A beloved colleague. I’m guessing the answer is a big, fat NO.
So why do we think it’s okay to hate on ourselves in this way?
Fake it till you make it – with a mantra.
One of the most commonly cited ways to practice self-love is with mantras. A mantra is simply a word or phrase that gets repeated often, either aloud, or silently to yourself, with the intention of engraining its contents into the mind or subconscious.
Now – some people love mantras and find them really powerful and effective. Others don’t jive with the concept at all and are about as likely to repeat a phrase to themselves in front of the mirror as they are to take up meditating. If this is you, skip to the next section.
If you’re not completely opposed however, it might be worth a try. Don’t fret too much about the phrase you choose. Keep it simple.
You can either pick something that’s the direct opposite of your self-critical thought. Or, if that doesn’t feel genuine to you, choose something more general, like the following examples.
“I am worthy of love, from myself and others, just as I am.”
“My imperfections make me uniquely me, and I love myself for them.”
To help engrain the habit, try bringing your attention to it frequently by writing it on a Post-it and sticking it to your mirror, or setting it as the background on your phone.
While it may feel silly at first, we internalize what we see and hear often. And if you’ve got years of self-criticism stowed away in your brain it’s very difficult to just shut that off without a more positive thought to replace it.
Thank your body for what it’s capable of.
If mantras don’t resonate with you, you can probably at least get behind this latter suggestion.
Even if you don’t like your legs, the reality is they have walked thousands and thousands of steps for you. Your squishy belly has maybe grown a tiny human. Your sticks-out-too-much nose allows you to smell fresh coffee or your favorite perfume.
Even if you don’t necessarily love how a part of you looks, can you love what it’s done and continues to do for you?
It’s all about changing your mindset.
I know I’ve focused a lot here on body image, as that’s one area where we often lack in the self-love department. However, I’m not talking just about physical characteristics but also personality traits and emotions.
For example, I’m a crier. Happy tears, sad tears, tears in the card aisle. You name it, I’ve got it covered. I know this about myself.
I also know that I inherited the trait from a long line of familial criers (my grandma, mum, sister – God bless ’em!). So chances are my daughter is likely to share this trait.
And if she does, I want her to know that not only is it okay to let her emotion show in this way, it’s part of what makes her uniquely HER.
My niece has a book that I love and fully intend on purchasing for my own little girl. It’s called I Love All of Me and it’s so so cute. The pages read like this: “I love my blinky eyes. I love my brain so wise. I love my tummy bump. I love my waggle rump.” etc.
Such a positive self-love message, no?
Maybe, just maybe, if we can instill this message from early on and set a good example, we can make it a little easier for our kiddos to practice self-love too.
So whenever you’re reading this, give yourself a little love today.