The love that you have for yourself is important to your overall well being and the health of your interpersonal relationships. Think of yourself as the center of your emotional world (your "Loveverse".) You are in control of the love that you radiate outward and what you wish to receive. Take the time to check-in with yourself each day. What space are you occupying?
There are no set rules for practicing self-love but it is important to establish some markers for how you continue to nurture your relationship with self. Here are a few to get you started:
• Practice Forgiveness
Are you holding a grudge against yourself? Forgiveness is an important tool for mental and emotional health. It is important to look at ways in which you have not forgiven yourself. Lack of forgiveness can foster criticism and judgment of self which can lead to formation and maintenance of symptoms.
Exercise: Make a list of the areas in which you have not forgiven yourself. Next to each item, write what barriers you have to exercising forgiveness. Write yourself an apology letter. In the letter, include what your life will look and feel like if you forgave yourself in each area.
• Honor Your Mind, Body and Spirit
Being able to honor each part of your whole being in some small way each day is a good way to keep focus on self. The three components are connected and influence one another. Developing spiritual practices and exercising are natural ways to promote a healthy mind. Even if it’s parking a few steps further away when running errands, this increasing your level of physical activity.
• Be Compassionate
How do you speak to yourself each day? Would you say these words to a loved one? Compassion involves an awareness of the distress of another combined with the desire to alleviate it. Turn that inward. Be conscious and kind to your own distress and work to alleviate it. Negative self talk is seldom a true motivator and has ways of impacting your overall well being.
Exercises: (1) Write yourself a love note. Include the characteristic that you appreciate about yourself no matter how small they may seem. (2) Think about what you would say to a friend or loved one and say this to yourself out loud.
• Find Your Joy
What brings you joy? Being aware of what brings you delight and joy is important.
Exercise: Make a note of when you catch yourself smiling or feeling joyful. What were you doing? How were you being?
• Set Boundaries
Is this how you want to interact with this person? For some, boundaries have a negative connotation and seem to feel as if you are “putting” another person on punishment. However, boundaries are a way to give yourself space and room for who you want in your life and how you will interact with them. The ability to set healthy boundaries is an act of self-love as you are able to express your needs in a way that is meaningful to you while respecting the space of others. Healthy boundaries are to relationships what water is for human beings.
Exercises: (1) Say “no” to activities when you know they are not the best place for you. (2) respond to texts, voice messages and/or emails when you are in a space to communicate (3) have the “uncomfortable” conversation to establish new boundaries. The use of “I” statements and sharing your experience are ways to convey your intent without the conversation being blaming. (ex. I feel ________ because ____________. I would like _______________.)
The relationship you have with yourself, like other relationships, takes work. If you are open to it, you have the capacity to continue to grow throughout the lifespan. I encourage you to find at least 5 minutes each day to add to your tool box.