Self love is the foundation for mental and physical happiness and healthy. It is easy to stay focused on helping others, putting them first, and people pleasing at the expense of one's own livelihood. Self love sets the stage for recovery from any mental or physical hardship one may face. No situation is made better by condemning, judging, or punishing one's self. I often find in my work with those overcoming self harm, be it through addiction to drugs or alcohol, eating disorders, OCD, and even anxiety and depression, an underlying issue is a lack of self love. If one has self love no forms of self harm would be present. When bringing this to their attention they can recognize the issue and then comment "I have no idea how to love myself".
Here are some ways to cultivate self love:
1. Mindfulness and Acceptance- One cannot change until there is recognition of a problematic condition or behavior as causing pain. You cannot change until you recognize change is needed. The next part is to accept that there is a problem and pain. Until you can accept the circumstance you will have suffering. Suffering is pain without acceptance.
2. Be your own best friend- Treat yourself as you would your best friend. What would you do for them? What would you say? How would you treat them ? Would you spend time with them? Then spend time with yourself. Imagine what advice you would give them and take it for yourself.
3. Acknowledge that we are all human- No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. Look for examples of imperfection in well respected people. See how they handle them and bounce back. You can do the same. Mistakes are how we learn and grow.
4. Forgive yourself- Spending energy putting yourself down is useless. It definitely does not correct the mistakes and only keeps you in a cycle of self abuse. Look in the mirror and verbally forgive yourself.
5. Imagine yourself in a better place- Visualize the fruitful life you deserve. What are you doing? Who are you spending time with? Where are you? Allow yourself to connect with the positive feelings, don't run from them!
6. Connect to your values- You often feel good about yourself , and love yourself, when you are living a life based on your values and what is important to you. This involves putting yourself first. Define your values, identify goals connected to those values, and follow through with specific steps of action.
7. Spend time with yourself- To love yourself you must give yourself the time and energy you would give others. You must be able to be with yourself. Take time at the beginning and end of each day (that is uninterrupted!) to do something you find calming and enjoy.
8. Write a letter to yourself- Take the initiative to write a personal handwritten letter to yourself reminding yourself of all your positive qualities and things you have accomplished in the past and are working towards presently. Fill the lines with kind words and encouraging statements. Even have fun and purchase a journal with a covering design that reflects you and use it as a place to regularly write letters. These handwritten letters can provide a deeper personal connection to your self.
I know these things sound simple, but are very hard. Throughout the process acknowledge areas of self love that need improvement, and give yourself a hug for all the steps you did take. I know you can do this! Give yourself the love you know you deserve and need!!