The dictionary definition of the word self-love is defined as an appreciation of one's own worth; proper regard for and attention to one's own happiness or well-being. In my professional experience, I have noticed that a lot of individuals worry that loving and having pride in themselves equates to being conceited or narcissistic.
When working on improving your own self-love, that means working on accepting yourself fully, treating yourself with kindness and respect, and helping facilitate your own growth and wellbeing. It not only encompasses how you treat yourself, but also your own thoughts and feelings about yourself. I have to point out that this does not mean having a 24/7 positive view of self, as that may be unrealistic, but we want to get to a place where we can have a majority of positive views and positive treatment of oneself than not.
When we are lacking in our own self-love, we often place everything first (i.e., family, friends, community, even career goals) and this is at the expense of our own needs. If this happens then it can manifest into working too hard which can result in burnout and feeling overloaded. It can also cause individual health and wellness issues. Something I have often heard many clients say is, “If my husband/kids/family are happy, or once I reach this career goal, then I will be happy with myself.” You may have even heard yourself say something like, “when I lose X amount of pounds then I will be able to love myself.” Unfortunately, what can happen is that we work hard to achieve this goal without working at the root of the issue, so when that goal is met, we still are unsatisfied with ourselves because we lack love and compassion for ourselves.
The importance of self-love is that it is the foundation that allows us to be assertive, set boundaries and create healthy relationships with others, practice self-care, pursue our interests and goals, and ultimately feel proud of who we are.
The concept of self-love is simple: it means valuing and caring for your own needs, wants, and desires. It isn’t about being selfish. It is ensuring that you are giving yourself the time and space to recharge, set boundaries and advocate for yourself.
With that said, something I say in just about all my sessions at one point to help a client understand fully, is using this example: When you are on a plane, flight attendants remind us the importance of playing with your own oxygen mask first before helping anyone else. They say this because if you were to skip yourself and help others first, you will likely run out of air. When that happens it becomes harder and potentially impossible to help anyone else, including yourself.
So how do we start to work on and practice self-love? Well we start with baby steps and work from there. Listed below are some ideas of ways to improve the love for yourself.
For starters working on saying at least one (1) nice thing to yourself daily. I typically have my clients work on identifying three (3) things they did well that day. Work on assertiveness skills, as well as boundary setting. This can look something like saying ‘no’ to others or plans. I think this is a great way to work on respecting and loving yourself more. Additionally this allows the opportunity to only take on things we can handle and reduces the frequency of that feeling of burnout or feeling overloaded.
For many, they look at self-love as self-care. To practice self-care we need to go to basics and listen to our body, take breaks, and have alone time when needed. Also reconnecting with hobbies and interests. Work on ways to accept your imperfections and live life in accordance with your own personal values and beliefs. Moreover, acknowledge any progress and efforts you have been making. This goes for all areas (i.e., work goals, personal goals, relationship goals, etc.)
I think a good way to end this post is with a quote. When we struggle to love ourselves we often talk down to ourselves in a degrading manner. When we love someone, yourself included, we never talk to them in a shameful or humiliating way, so work to treat yourself the way you want to be treated by others and the way you treat your loved ones.
If you are interested in counseling, call OakHeart at 630-570-0050 or 779-201-6440 or email us at Contact.OH@OakHeartCenter.com. We have counselors, psychologists, and social workers available to help you at one of our locations in North Aurora, IL, Sycamore, IL, and/or via Telehealth Online Therapy Services serving Kane County, DeKalb County, Dupage County, and beyond.