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

photo-1500395235658-f87dff62cbf3

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:

———————————–

“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”

———————————–

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!

How, When & Why to Be More Assertive

1_HC3Xmabww1BZBMeZrdQmgA

Be more assertive: seems like a simple enough concept, right? But how do we do it without being aggressive or pushy? What happens if someone takes our assertiveness the wrong way? What if it changes our relationships? What if it makes us uncomfortable?And WHY is it so difficult for us to be direct, say no, set boundaries and ask for what we need without feeling guilty or bad about it? I have spent much of my life asking these questions and convincing myself that people pleasing and putting other peoples’ needs before my own was the easier/better route. But here’s why it’s not:

  1. Resentment – We falsely believe that avoiding assertive communication protects our relationships when in fact, it hurts them. Avoiding confrontation or direct/honest communication results in an unmet need in us, which overtime will only breed resentment. And no relationship can thrive on this.
  2. Burnout – Those who lack assertiveness tend to put too much on their plate out of fear of saying ‘no’ in order to please others. Without boundaries & directness about what we realistically can/cannot do, we end up dispensing a lot of time and energy toward other peoples’ needs and goals instead of our own, which often results in burnout. Burnout can result in poorer work performance and can prevent us from showing up as our best selves in our relationships with others.
  3. Mental Health Issues – When we’re not honoring our authentic thoughts, feelings, needs & values through assertive & truthful communication, we can begin to feel anxious and/or depressed. By attempting to appease others or by avoiding conversations out of fear, we lose a sense of connection to ourselves and our mental/emotional health often suffers as a result.

So now that we’ve recognized why passivity does much more harm than good to ourselves & our relationships, here’s some tips on figuring out when you need to be assertive and how to put it into practice.

Get Honest With Yourself – It can be hard, especially in the beginning, to identify our needs/values and know what areas of our lives require more assertiveness. Start by doing an inventory of your relationships. Make a list of the people you interact with on a consistent basis and make note of how each of them make you feel. Your instincts/gut reactions will cue you in to which dynamics may be resulting in an unmet need, feeling taken advantage of, requiring better boundaries or needing more direct/honest communication. Tuning into your emotions more regularly is also a good way to identify where something isn’t aligning. Feeling anxious, frustrated, dreadful, irritated, angry or like you “should” do something are all cues that let you know where your boundaries are and are a good indicator that you need to speak up about them.

Choose Your Battles – While it’s almost always more helpful to honestly express your needs, thoughts and feelings than it is to suppress them, there are some situations that are just not worth it. The mistake we make, though, is convincing ourselves that it’s never worth it as a means of perceived self-protection and to avoid the discomfort that comes with a difficult conversation. If someone is being aggressive toward you, has not been receptive to your assertive communication in the past or is otherwise not a particularly important or crucial person in your life, consider processing the situation/relationship elsewhere and figuring out an exit strategy so you don’t have to continue being in a dynamic that isn’t satisfying to you or fulfilling your needs.

Practice – Once you’ve identified a need/value that you’ve deemed worthy of addressing and feel that the person/situation is important enough, brainstorm your approach. Not only can writing it out be a cathartic process, but it can also help you to untangle your thoughts/feelings about the situation and figure out how to best articulate it in real time. It can also help to practice assertive communication with someone you feel safe with, like a friend or therapist, who can provide you some insight/feedback before approaching it and help you see that it isn’t as intimidating as it may seem in your mind. For situations that require assertiveness on the spot, know that the more you do it, the more comfortable it will become over time.

Propose a Compromise – The mistake people sometimes make when beginning to be more assertive is thinking that in order to achieve this we must swing the pendulum entirely the other way – to the point that it can become aggressive. The goal in being more assertive isn’t to replace the other person’s needs with your own, but rather to find a middle ground that results in both parties being satisfied with the outcome. That being said, situations where one person’s needs haven’t been considered or met for a long time may require less of a compromise/middle ground in order to regain a sense balance in the relationship.

Don’t Apologize or Explain Yourself – It’s common that those who lack security in being assertive will apologize or over-explain themselves as an attempt to soften the message/make the other person & themselves more comfortable. Sometimes, depending on the situation, a brief explanation is suitable, however it’s unnecessary to apologize for your needs and/or feelings. Apologizing or over-explaining takes away from the directness of your message and leaves it vulnerable to being manipulated or misunderstood.

Stand Your Ground Afterward – Know that when you start to communicate more assertively and begin to set clearer boundaries, there may be some push back from people who aren’t used to that from you. They may become hurt, angry, confused and/or take it personally. This reaction doesn’t mean that you’ve done anything wrong or should change your approach. You may even be able to help them in there relationships by modeling direct/assertive communication more frequently in yours. Remember: People who care about you want you to respect yourself and will adjust to this new dynamic over time.

So what does this look/sound like? Here are some examples/key phrases to use when putting this into use:

“Thank you so much for the invite! I’d really love to spend time with you this weekend, but I’m feeling burned out and need some time to myself. I’ll have to take a rain check.”

“I’m really committed to doing a great job on this project, but that timeline doesn’t feel realistic given everything else on my plate right now. How about I get this to you by COB on Friday instead? If the deadline is inflexible, is there someone that I can delegate some of my other tasks to?”

“Hey, I realize it might not have been intentional, but the comment you made earlier made me feel uncomfortable. I’d appreciate if you could be more mindful of that moving forward.”

“Unfortunately I’m not able to stay late this evening.” 

And my favorite… “No”. Just plain ole NO. Remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology. You are allowed to simply decline anything that is in misalignment with your needs, goals, priorities or values.

It takes consistent practice to become more comfortable with being assertive, but the result of ensuring that your needs are also being met in your relationships will lead to them being all-around healthier, more fulfilling and more trusting.

I’d love to hear about your own personal challenges with assertiveness and/or how you’ve overcome them in the comments below!

Finding Time for Self-Care in a Busy Schedule

michal-grosicki-366027

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.