The 5 Fundamental Aspects of Self-Love & How to Actively Practice Each One

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Self-love is a concept we hear a lot nowadays, but what does it really mean? What does it mean to ‘love yourself’ or to practice self-love? And why is it important?

I asked you to tell me what self-love means to you & here are some of your responses:

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“Fully accepting and being comfortable with your strengths AND your flaws.”

“Knowing you are worthy of all the love, dreams, and desires!! Loving yourself enough that you don’t need to seek validation from other people. Accepting your imperfections!”

“Self love is showing yourself the love that you give to others. Caring enough about yourself to treat yourself as if you were treating someone else. Knowing you’re worth more, knowing you deserve it, knowing you’re good enough for YOU, not anyone else. Gifting/treating yourself to show your own self kindness and love.”

“Doing something just for me, like doing my nails or taking a nice long bubble bath!”

“Feeling confident, happy + inspired”

“Candle, weighted blanket, and some weird Netflix show (and an ample hills pint)”

“To learn not to judge myself or others and approach my days with only kindness”

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While you each touched on different aspects of self-love, I couldn’t agree more with these sentiments as a reflection of what loving ourselves looks like in practice. Self-love is entirely internal. It is not something that can be gained from another person or any other external factor. And despite the simpler ways in which we can practice self-love, there is much work involved in loving ourselves on a fuller, deeper and more authentic level. However, when we do love ourselves and act from a place of self-love, it significantly impacts every aspect of our lives – from the relationships we find ourselves in to our ability to cope with our problems to the energy we give off in the workplace and elsewhere.

Here are what I believe to be the 5 fundamental aspects of self-love & ways that we can actively practice each one:

  1. Self-Acceptance – Self-love means true acceptance of who we’ve been, who we are and who we want to be. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t things we want to change/improve, but it means we embrace those things while simultaneously striving to change them if we desire to. It also means making sure our desire to change/improve isn’t based on someone else’s opinion or belief about who we should be. Self-love means meeting and accepting ourselves wherever we currently are – even if it’s not exactly where we want to be just yet. Self-love means accepting that we’re going to fail and fall short sometimes and embracing ourselves despite it. Try this: Guided Meditation for Self-Acceptance
  2. Self-Awareness – Self-love means acknowledgement of both our strengths and our shortcomings. Self-love is taking an honest look at our lives, giving ourselves credit for where we’re thriving and being real with ourselves about where we’re not. Self- love is the balance between calling ourselves out on where we could be better without criticizing or berating ourselves about it. It’s acknowledging the excuses, thoughts, patterns and habits that may not be serving us, accepting that they exist and taking active, loving steps to change them. Try this: Do a self-inventory of the areas you’re thriving in and the things you’d like to work on (and make sure they’re things that are important to you). Once you’ve established the things you want to change/improve, work with a therapist or share them with a friend you can check in with to stay accountable, focused and committed to this self-growth. 
  3. Self-Forgiveness – Self-love means shedding and forgiving old versions of ourselves. It means looking at our past self with love and respect even if we no longer resonate with his/her choices or behavior. Self-love means knowing that who we once were was just as important a part of our journey as who we are becoming. Self-love means forgiving ourselves and knowing that we are still worthy and enough when we’re imperfect, make a mistake, don’t do our best or fall short of our own expectations. Try this: Write a letter of forgiveness to yourself for anything in your past that you’re holding on to/beating yourself up for. Use this Radical Self Forgiveness Worksheet for guidance. 
  4. Self-Care – Self-love means taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It means asking ourselves in each moment, “What do I need right now?” and taking active steps to give ourselves that. Self-love is recognizing when we need to rest and when we need to push ourselves. It’s putting our own needs first and trusting that it will allow us to show up better in our relationships. Self-love is making and prioritizing time for ourselves amongst our busy lives and our responsibilities to others. It’s believing that we are worth investing time and energy into and making that happen no matter what. Try thisSet aside at least 30-60 minutes a day to focus on your own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self-care. 
  5. Self-Talk – Self-love means speaking kindly to ourselves and communicating with ourselves in a way that helps and serves us. It means acknowledging when our inner dialogue is self-critical, negative and limiting and replacing it with language that is positive, useful and self-affirming. Self-love is making an active choice to speak to ourselves with compassion, patience, respect and gratitude. Try this: Notice any negative/unhelpful thoughts that come up throughout the day & write them down in a notebook or on your phone. Later, go back and challenge them with an alternative/more helpful thought. Bringing these negative thoughts into conscious awareness and actively replacing them will begin to shift your automatic thought processes over time. 

Each of these areas are a crucial piece of the puzzle that makes up self-love. You can practice self-care and still not fully love yourself. You can appear confident to others and still not fully love yourself. You can preach self-love to others and still not fully love yourself. You can tell yourself you love yourself and still not fully love yourself! The work involved in really, truly loving ourselves — not just externally or on a surface level, but internally and on a deeper level, too — can be difficult, uncomfortable and ugly. It isn’t always fun or easy and certainly doesn’t always feel good. Furthermore, it’s a lifelong process. In fact, self-love isn’t a place we arrive to. It’s an ongoing series of decisions and choices that we face each day – and the goal is to make more decisions that reflect our love for ourselves than decisions that do not.

It’s OKAY if you have some work to do in one or all of these areas. We’re all going to have good moments, challenging moments, highs and lows… even when it comes to loving ourselves. And part of loving ourselves is remembering it’s okay if we haven’t been loving ourselves very much lately and figuring out how we can shift that.

Which of these areas of self-love do you find to be most difficult? Did you give one of the exercises a try? How did it go? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

Why We Should Be in More Bad Moods

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Ever feel like you can’t just ‘get over it’? Can’t snap out of your bad mood? Can’t force a smile? Can’t pretend everything’s fine?

Good. That means you’re human.

Society has made us believe that positive emotions are good and negative emotions are bad, thus making us feel even worse when we experience even a hint of an emotion that we perceive to be negative. Not being able to ‘shake it off’ just makes us feel even worse and, sometimes, as though something is inherently wrong with us. The social media highlight reel doesn’t help this false notion.

What would it be like to never experience emotional pain, sadness, frustration, loneliness, anger or jealousy? On a very surface level, you might think it sounds great. But the avoidance or absence of these emotions would actually stunt our positive emotions, too.

While it’s healthy to learn how to regulate our emotions so that they don’t feel overwhelming or out of our control all the time, part of getting there is by accepting them – ALL of them – and allowing ourselves to fully sit in and experience the good, the bad and the ugly.

Imagine if I told you NOT to think about a purple elephant. Chances are you wouldn’t be able to STOP thinking about one. The same goes for telling ourselves to just ‘get over it’, to stop feeling a certain way or to stop thinking about a pressing issue. Instead, we often end up feeling worse or thinking about it more and, as a result, a viscous, counterproductive cycle begins.

Sometimes things just suck — and anger or sadness is an appropriate reaction. Sometimes you might find yourself in a bad mood for no clear reason. Those feelings can be uncomfortable, but they’re also important. When we avoid them, we risk prolonged anxiety, depression, and more severe issues down the road.

So what do we do when these super uncomfortable & seemingly “bad” emotions flare up? What do we do when we just can’t shake our bad mood?

1) Be kind to yourself. You are not a robot. You are not going to feel positive, happy and in control all of the time. Learn that that’s okay. Be your own best friend and remind yourself to let you off the hook. Keep a mantra or affirmation that resonates with you written down somewhere to read, re-write or say out loud as needed.

2) Give yourself space. It’s okay to take a few minutes, an hour or even a day to just feel your feelings. While we all have responsibilities, we also have a responsibility to ourselves, too. Depending on the severity of what you’re experiencing and how you’re feeling, consider taking a mental health day, having a good cry in the shower or finding healthy ways to release your emotions, such as journaling, exercising or speaking with a therapist or friend.

3) Give yourself time. Don’t expect your feelings to dissipate immediately upon giving yourself some space. Don’t set limits on what the right or wrong amount of time to feel something is. Just continue checking in with yourself and reminding yourself that how you’re feeling now is not necessarily how you will feel forever. Rushing the process will only prolong it.

4) Communicate with others. We often fear judgment or feel guilty when we’re in a bad mood, but there’s something powerful about being vulnerable and transparent. When we avoid communicating our feelings with those around us, there’s often misunderstanding which can sometimes make things worse. Don’t be afraid to tell the people around you that you’re dealing with something and need some space. Your feelings are your own and you deserve to give yourself whatever YOU need while experiencing them.

5) Reflect afterwards. Once you’re feeling more neutralized, reflect on what was going on for you. Was there a deeper issue causing your feelings that you can address once you’ve had some time and space? While it will probably feel nice to have some relief, it’s also important to try and gain a deeper understanding of what led to these emotions. This will help you anticipate and cope with similar ones in the future. If you can’t pinpoint it, though, move on. Sometimes there isn’t a deeper issue and other times it won’t come to us right away. Don’t dwell on trying to understand.

I’m curious to hear about what you do when you find yourself in a bad mood. Do you try to force yourself out of it or do you allow yourself to fully experience the emotions that come up? It’s okay if you still feel inclined to avoid negative emotions — it’s a very normal reaction and you are certainly not alone in it, but through awareness and practice you can begin to become more patient and accepting of yourself when a bad mood or uncomfortable feeling strikes. Feel free to comment below or send me a message – I’d love to hear from you.

Finding Time for Self-Care in a Busy Schedule

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Work, chores, errands, and a never-ending to-do list – sometimes it feels impossible to do it all. We run ourselves into the ground while trying to and rarely stop to take a breath. We pile things onto our plate when we have no room left on it because we feel like we can’t say no. We have trouble justifying self-care because we convince ourselves that we just ‘don’t have the time for it’.

What if I told you there was a way that each one of us could add more of it into our lives and that instead of taking time away from us, that it would actually give us MORE time?

Yes, that’s right – taking even as little as 15 minutes a day to practice self-care can, over time, lead to lower stress levels, increased focus and more positive thoughts – thus increasing our productivity levels, which in turn allows us to accomplish our usual tasks in a lesser amount of time.

People often think of self-care as a luxury that only people without kids, without busy jobs or with a lot of down time get to enjoy. The truth is that self-care is an experience available to everyone that is open to prioritizing it, which is where we need to take an honest look at lives.

Many of us don’t prioritize ourselves for a number of reasons. We don’t believe we deserve it, we think we’re being a hero by putting others’ needs before our own, it gives us anxiety to not keep busy or to be alone with ourselves for more than a few seconds, etc. So instead, we keep our plates full with things that help us escape from that and we claim we just ‘don’t have the time’.

If you’ve recognized that you don’t make self-care a priority and have used the excuse that you don’t have the time (and trust me, we’re all guilty of it!), I challenge you to look inward and explore the other reasons that you don’t MAKE the time.

Perhaps you can start by:

  • Setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier & starting the day with a guided meditation
  • Taking some time to sit down & read a book while you enjoy your morning coffee
  • Sitting outside during your lunch break instead of at your desk
  • Listening to an audio book or podcast on your commute to/from work
  • Spending a few extra minutes in the shower doing some deep breathing
  • Jotting down a list of what you’re grateful for
  • Doing a brain-dump when you wake up & before you go to bed to write out your to-do list, daily goals and/or random thoughts
  • Keeping a journal with you throughout the day to write down thoughts/feelings as they arise
  • Taking a walk around the block while listening to music

Are these things you think you could implement once a day? Once a week? Once a month?

Self-care doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It doesn’t have to be a full day at the spa or nothing at all. But we often assume that it does, which is why we usually just throw in the towel on it altogether.

If we can open ourselves up to prioritizing self-care in small ways, it will allow us to see the effects that it can have on our lives and empower us to prioritize it in larger ways, too.

In what ways can you add a little self-care to your life without disrupting your usual routine? What’s holding you back from getting started?

Give yourself permission, start small, and embrace it. And above all else, remember: you deserve to make some time for you.

Using Anxiety to Better Understand Ourselves

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Let’s face it: the symptoms of anxiety are uncomfortable. Tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, shaky hands, sweaty palms, obsessive thoughts, and sometimes even worse. Those symptoms don’t appeal to most of us. But what if I told you that anxiety plays an important and even crucial role in our lives? What if I told you that accepting our anxiety as a helpful part of ourselves would, in some cases, be more useful than trying to find ways to cope with or avoid it?

When we understand the ways that our anxiety can benefit us and when we accept it as a helpful part of ourselves, we in turn have a healthier relationship with it and are better able to manage it and, eventually, experience less of it. On the contrary, when we do everything in our power to avoid, eliminate or disengage with our anxiety symptoms and what’s at the root of them, it is often counter-productive to our emotional growth.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t use techniques and strategies to cope with our anxiety in the moment. These tools can be helpful and sometimes even critical, especially for those with anxiety or panic disorders. But once our anxiety symptoms subside, we should fully acknowledge and explore our triggers and patterns through talk therapy, movement therapy, journaling or cognitive challenging.

I personally believe that underlying most of our anxiety is fear. For example, those of us that get anxiety when running late may have an underlying fear of being perceived as irresponsible or a fear of being judged. While we may be able to practice breathing exercises or other mindfulness strategies to minimize our anxiety symptoms in the moment, we are likely to experience this anxiety again in other situations unless we acknowledge and address our underlying fear of judgement. In some cases, our anxiety may also be the result of some internalized, past trauma and, similarly, it is only after working through and repairing that experience that we can fully begin to heal.

Anxiety, while uncomfortable, alerts us that something is off. It gives us the opportunity to learn something new about ourselves and it is through that learning that we grow, develop, and improve our quality of life.