As a sober woman and clinical therapist working in the field of recovery, a question I get asked often is “how do I love myself?”
The truth is that I don’t only work with people who have lost their self-esteem and sense of self to the disease of addiction. I was one of them.
We hear the words “love yourself” thrown around left and right, but what does that actually mean? I am encouraging you to define this for yourself. What does it mean for you to love yourself? What would it feel like for you to love yourself? What would life look like if you were just a bit more self loving?
Let’s be realistic here, even people who love themselves struggle sometimes, too, right? This is not a tool to beat yourself up with. I repeat these are not tools to beat yourself up with. Notice how I used the word “practice” in the title of this article? We are not aiming for perfection here. We are on a journey, which inherently has it’s ebbs and flows. Be gentle with yourself and never stop showing up.
The odds are that you probably feel better about yourself when you are honest. If you want to begin loving yourself, start engaging in behaviors that make you feel proud of who you are. How do you feel when you lay your head on your pillow at night? What behaviors did you engage in today and how did they make you feel about yourself? Notice the behaviors that don’t make you want to cringe at yourself when you look in the mirror and do more of these.
How did you feel the last time you did something kind for someone else? According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, altruism is described by behaviors that are motivated by a desire to benefit someone other than oneself for that person’s sake. Studies show that altruistic people reported a greater sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. Umm, I’ll take it.
Let’s be real here, how much of our day is spent thinking about ourselves? What if we took the time to stop thinking about ourselves and started thinking about others? What if we take it to the next level and showed up for others, whether we feel like it or not. Service does not need to be extravagant and it does not even need to be for someone that you know. Smile at a stranger, say hi to the person who looks like they are having a rough day, call someone else and ask them how they are doing, send a gratitude text to someone and let them know you are thinking about them, be kind to others.
What if we stopped asking what the world can do for us and asked what we can do for the world?
Mmm, another saying that gets thrown around but remains somewhat mysterious. What is self-care and how do you engage in it? When we engage in self-care, we are literally engaging in a behavior that tells our inner most being that we are worth it. Do not expect this to feel comfortable at first. It probably won’t. It may even feel foreign, especially if self loving behaviors are not your norm. That’s okay. Keep engaging in self loving behaviors until they start to feel less awkward. Self loving behaviors can be external and internal. For instance, self care can be speaking less judgmentally and more compassionately to yourself. When you notice you aren’t so kind to yourself- challenge this with a more positive thought.
Self-care can be a bubble bath, taking yourself out to eat, going to the gym and eating healthy even when you would rather eat an ice cream sundae because you are worth treating yourself with love and kindness. Sometimes it means eating the ice cream sundae because it’s your favorite and who gives a fuck? You get to choose. I repeat, you get to choose what self-care means to you. Pay attention to how each behavior feels. What makes you feel proud of yourself? Do more of these.
Spend time with people who add value to your life, who treat you with respect. Let’s learn how to say nay to those who suck our energy and yay to those who make us more of who we are and what we have to offer the world. Now with that being said, I get to show up as a kind hearted woman of integrity in recovery but that doesn’t mean that I have to be everyone’s best friend. How do you feel when you say yes and you really mean no? Vice versa. Can we stop doing this? Can we understand that when we speak our truth and set boundaries, we are watering the seed of self-love?
I am going to get personal for a second. The only thing that has helped me grow into the woman I am proud to be today is being a woman of integrity. Now, being a person of integrity does not mean being holier than thou, it means getting to know what your morals and values are and doing your best to live in line with them.
What has helped you fall in love with yourself? Comment in the section below.