Loving Yourself

women friendshipsThis blog post was written by RHN’s Leslie Kolb MSW, ASW

So often you hear that it’s important to love yourself before you are fully able to love someone else, but what does it mean to love yourself? And if you struggle with being self-critical, putting everyone else first, or holding yourself to impossible standards, how can you find ways to increase your ability to be kind to yourself and practice good self-care?

Let’s be clear: we’re not talking about narcissism here—we’re talking about showing yourself love. But finding your way to truly loving yourself can be tricky. It is important to first understand what it looks and feels like to be kind. Are you kind to others? Do you show empathy, compassion, and give them reason to trust you? Now imagine doing that for yourself. It might be difficult to realize, but you may not always be as kind to yourself as you are to others. It’s easy to take on so much during any given day that it’s easy to forget to simply allow yourself what you need. The thoughtfulness you might extend to your significant other or friend—try turning that back around on yourself sometimes. Be understanding if you aren’t able to complete every task on your to-do list in the time you gave yourself. Allow yourself the same empathy you might extend to your friends or loved ones.

Next, remember: you’re only human. When you begin choosing to be kind to yourself, you almost automatically begin to change your behaviors to be more loving toward yourself. One example looks like this: instead of criticizing yourself for a decision that did not pan out well, try accepting it and admitting to yourself that you made the best decision you could. Another example might be making time for yourself when you see that you feel too overwhelmed. Instead of fulfilling everyone else’s needs before your own, set time aside for yourself. Meditate, do yoga, watch your favorite television show—whatever you need to do to recharge your metaphorical batteries, do it. Taking time for yourself is one of the best ways to practice self care.

If you still feel lost as to how to cultivate a deep level of self-love, consider this: how might a loving mother or father parent their child? Many people are self-critical because they learn to parent themselves from critical parents who maintained high (and sometimes impossible) standards. Imagine a parent’s unconditional love for their child—you can almost feel the glowing light and warmth when you imagine it. That’s the kind of love you can strive to have for yourself, even if you’ve never felt that kind of love from another person. If you can practice that love, others who love themselves will be attracted to it.

This week, try to be aware of moments when you are unkind to yourself. What negative thoughts did you have? Take the first step and reframe those thoughts to be more loving. Remember—this is a process and it will take time to shift your thought processes. Don’t give up! See how it feels to be kind to yourself, and keep practicing. You might be surprised that you begin to feel love from within.

Elana Clark-Faler
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