In the month of February, where love is in the air (or at least in every shopping centre), I thought it quite apt to pick up from my first blog post where I spoke about the importance of self-love. (Thank you for all your amazing feedback, it is really appreciated! If you didn't see it, you can check it out on my Blog or Facebook page). Today I really wanted to touch on some of the ways to enhance your personal self-love practice and encourage you to learn to feel comfortable with putting yourself first.
You may ask why it is important to grow your self-love practice or you may naturally want to rather put your energy into supporting and loving others first. Now let's be brutally honest here, get real with me... Isn't it easier to help and support others and put our focus and attention on them rather than to look inwards at ourselves? Of course it's easier because it means we get to put our little blinkers on and ignore what's really going on with ourselves. It's not always easy spending time reflecting on our thoughts, emotions and intuitions. In fact, it is far easier reflecting on others thoughts and behaviours and pointing them in the right direction. This may make us feel good, it may even give us a sense of fulfilment but it should never replace the time we spend on ourselves.
Being a therapist I find it imperative to always be looking inward at myself, challenging my own growth and self-development as well as nurturing the parts of me which need attention. I cannot pour from an empty cup. I cannot give what I do not have to give and so I need to constantly refill my cup with things that fulfill me, ground me and give me joy.
So what are some of the things essential to building your self-love practice?
1. Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend
This may sound a bit silly to you but all it really means is that you should take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of someone who really loves you. By doing this we can take on a different perspective and view ourselves from a more loving, nurturing standpoint. What would you say to your loved one if they were in your position? What would you do to help and support them? Ask yourself these questions and begin to treat yourself in the same regard. It doesn't only have to be in a time of crisis or discomfort that you do this but it can also be when things are going super well or when you feel you have done something worth being proud of; whether big or small.
2. Spend time doing things that make you feel good
If nothing comes to mind immediately start to think of moments that have sparked joy in your life. Think of what you were doing, feeling and who you were with. These things are different for everyone and you need to figure out for yourself what makes you feel authentically good or happy. Don't worry if you can't think of something immediately but rather start to explore. Start to try new things you've been avoiding, start to be more present in your daily life and start to notice the times which spark joy for you. Write them down, take photos and tell people about them so to make sure you remember them and start to put more of your energy towards these things.
3. Practice the art of giving thanks
It's a simple one folks but one that is often overlooked. We grow up being told to always say 'please' and 'thank you' as a means of being polite and respectful but what is the actual purpose of saying asking please or saying thank you. Let's take a moment to reflect on this. If we put time and energy into what we want, we asking the universe 'please can I receive' and if we give thanks we are acknowledging and appreciating what we have received and therefore putting energy into receiving more of the same. So notice the good stuff, pay attention and always save a moment to close your eyes and whisper, 'thank you'.
4. Set healthy boundaries
In loving ourselves and learning to put ourselves first we need to also sometimes step back and assess whether our relationships are working for us or against us. Are your friendships and relationships: encouraging you to love yourself, treat yourself with respect and aiding in supporting your own growth and development? If not, then we are in serious need of setting boundaries which will allow to grow our self-love practice. This is another topic on it's own (one which I will touch on at a later stage) but for the purpose of today's post, know that it's okay to say 'no' sometimes and that we should try and surround ourselves with positive people who have our best interests at heart.
5. Make healthy lifestyle choices
Start to think of yourself as your own parent. Bear with me here, things are about to get a little weird... Imagine your body and mind as a child; you want this child to grow up being healthy, strong, knowledgeable, feeling safe and happy, right? So what do you do to ensure this child gets the care they need to grow up healthy, strong, knowledgeable, safe and happy? Feed them with nourishing food, exercise them regularly, offer them positive thoughts, comfort them gently and shower them with love and affection.
6. Reassess your self-talk dialog
What is a 'self-talk dialog'? It basically refers to your thought patterns and the way you speak to yourself inside your head (and sometimes out loud too, I know I'm not the only one!). Take a moment to reflect on the way you think to yourself or the way in which you talk to yourself. If you often tend to bring yourself down and be very critical of yourself in your internal dialog it can really generate negative beliefs about yourself and we can start to internalize these messages as part of our identity. Often negative self-talk patterns can come from parents, teachers or peers criticizing us while we were growing up and it becomes a normal way of interacting with ourselves. However, these are not healthy patterns and we need to actively stop and rework them to create new more loving pathways in the brain. This is an entire process on its own but for today just start to recognize and be aware of how you talk to yourself and try to imagine you are talking to a close friend - what would you ask them, tell them, encourage them to see?
If you are struggling with any of the above, don't be discouraged; the journey to self-love is a long and bumpy road with lots of bends and turns. Just start with one thing today and tomorrow you will thank yourself. Please don't hesitate to get in touch and let me know your thoughts.