The art of being kind to yourself
Self-love, self-worth, self-respect: There’s a reason they all start with ‘self’. You can’t find them in anyone else. ~ Unknown
So many people I have worked with recently have the same thing in common. They’re givers. But they forget to give to themselves. Constantly giving of themselves to care and help for others until guess what? They finally break as they have nothing left for themselves. This ‘break’ may come in the form of a physical or an emotional illness or just feeling out of sorts and irritated but very few people get away unscathed. You may think of self-love as being selfish and self-indulgent, a luxury rather than a necessity, but it is essential for good mental health. Maybe the self-indulgent judgement comes from when we have thought that showing ourselves love was by having that slice of cake, buying ourselves those shoes, by giving ourselves gifts but then we have realised that they have never led to long-term fulfilment. They often leave us empty. So what’s the solution? The key is finding and giving yourself something which uplifts you, not just for the moment but in the long-term.
When you love yourself more, you start to realise that your wants and needs are important too. As you learn to love and accept yourself more, your need for approval reduces and you find the courage to get rid of things that don’t help you and make space for things that will help you grow as a person. You probably focus a lot of energy on loving other people – friends, partners, children – but where does your love come from? If you expect it to come from the people in your life you care about, you may end up disappointed as you can’t control these people and they can let you down. It’s worth investing some time to fill your life with love you need rather than having to rely on other people. The love and attention that you want from someone else is the kind of love and attention to give to yourself first.
So how do we do this? It’s a phrase that’s bandied around but how practically do we love ourselves? If at first, this word ‘love’ seems too difficult a concept to consider, perhaps try the phrase ‘being kind to yourself’. And try just doing one of these things for one day, then build it to two and notice how you feel. There is no, one size fits all, approach. Different folks, different strokes so the saying goes, but here are a few ideas:
Sometimes the simplest things can bring you great and deep happiness.
Those of you with pets may find cuddling and stroking them can fill you with calm and peace and love. Give yourself permission to do that for a few minutes every day. Both of you will benefit!
For others, it may be connecting with your ‘happy’ place. That may mean a trip to an actual location, for me it would be the sea and listening to those soothing sounds the waves make or the crashing of them when it’s wild, or remembering a happy memory connected with a place. Just taking a few minutes to think about what made that place special, why it makes you feel good, can be enough to connect with yourself. I personally find a walk in the countryside, feeling the breeze on my skin and taking time to smell the earthy scents and really looking at the colours and scenes around me, watching them change with the seasons, is incredibly uplifting.
Riding a bike, pushing yourself to the limit in an exercise class, painting a picture, listening to music are other ways to connect to what really makes you, you and lift your spirit.
Doing something you are good at is a great self-esteem booster and brings out the best version of you every time. Sometimes taking quality time for yourself is the greatest act of love you can give. Just giving yourself half an hour doing something for you in a mindful way can be the start of a loving relationship with yourself.
Loving yourself can mean making sure you value yourself enough to eat good nutritious food and get enough sleep where you can. How often do we try and survive on a few hours sleep and grabbing something quick, but not particularly healthy, from the cupboard and wondering why our energy levels are low and we don’t feel tickety boo?
It also means forgiving yourself and accepting yourself when you make mistakes and giving yourself the love and compassion, you would show a loved one or friend. We so often punish ourselves and beat ourselves up for not being perfect, when we don’t expect it in others.
There are many other ways of showing self-love and I’d love to hear how you do this, if you find the time to reply. Your examples might just be the very thing that helps someone else. If showing love to yourself feels a too uncomfortable a phrase to use, try using the words, how can I be kind to myself? By being kind to yourself, you are showing yourself compassion and love. Have a go and choose just one or two things from here that you can start to do today. It will help you start the process of loving and accepting yourself. The old quote, ‘you can’t pour from an empty vessel’ is so true. Loving yourself helps keep your ‘vessel’ full and gives you a strong foundation so when the going gets tough, you don’t ‘break’ and have more to draw on.
If you'd like any help with this, please get in touch.