How do we learn to love ourselves enough not to sacrifice our health and happiness for everyone and everything around us?
Love. One of my very favorite topics, and as a psychotherapist specializing in relationships and sex therapy, love is something that I work with on a daily basis. The beautiful thing about love is how many different forms in which it can manifest; baby and mother, siblings, boyfriend and girlfriend, best friends, lovers, etc. No two loves ever look the same.
Unfortunately, as a specialist, something I encounter on a daily basis is a lack of self-love. Women and men throwing themselves full force into a passionate relationship, showering their partner with love and kindness, but unable to muster up the self-love to continue with personal self-care and boundaries. Parents becoming so codependent on their children, ravished with guilt and worry- ending in sleepless nights and panic attacks. Women and men that I work with, verbally berating themselves during our sessions. Young women who cannot look themselves in the mirror. Men who cannot find one positive thing to say about themselves. Unfortunately, this list of examples goes on and on.
Self-love is a lifelong journey that has to be approached from many different angles. So How does one improve their capacity for self-love? I thought you would never ask!
1. Stand up for yourself.
As I was perusing Instagram the other day, I came across the following inspirational, albeit cheesy, quote: “Surround yourself with people who lift you up. Part of Self-Love is having a higher standard for your inner circle”. It made me stop and think for a second. So often, with the clients that I see, and in my own life, we make excuses for other people. We are so incredibly hard on ourselves and yet we let friends and loved ones get away with pretty serious stuff. What would happen if we didn’t do this anymore?
I firmly believe that people are treated the way they allow others to treat them. If a boundary is set with someone they tend to stay in the parameters. If the boundary becomes more flexible some people will take advantage. This doesn’t mean that we can only have friends or lovers that treat us perfectly- that is not possible. It means that we are aware of people’s intentions and what we can expect from them, giving us space to set necessary boundaries to protect ourselves.
2. Implement self-esteemable acts into your life.
Between work/school, a social life, Netflix and Chill, kids, furbabies, etc. it is hard to imagine adding anything else to your schedule. But one of the most effective ways to improve self-esteem is to do things that make you proud of yourself. Very often when I ask clients what their hobbies are or what they do when they have free time, I hear: “I watch TV”, or “I play on my phone”. And while there is a time and a place for screens in your life, it is not meant to be a hobby or interest. Additionally, these activities are isolating and as humans, we are meant to be social beings (yes, even us introverts!) So, get out there and volunteer at a local organization (women helping women is a great one!) Try joining a book club or a recreational softball team. Look for something that is fun, gets you around other people and maybe even outdoors.
3. Connect with your inner child.
Life can be tough. As we get older the amount of responsibilities that belong to us increase. But we do not have to be adults all of the time. Tapping into our childlike curiosities, exploring and engaging in silly activities is truly rewarding. This doesn’t have to be a new and crazy experience (although playing around at a trampoline park like a 6-year-old will do the trick!), the goal is to look at things with fresh eyes. Allow yourself to be amazed and mesmerized by the small things that surround us every day: snowflakes landing on our tongues, the tastes and textures of the foods we eat, or pausing to watch the entire sunset. Appreciating tiny moments with eagerness and appreciation is sure to boost endorphins and self-esteem.
4. Pamper yourself (Or allow someone else to pamper you!)
This one is pretty self-explanatory but seems to be very challenging for many of my clients. The women that I work with are overwhelmed, overworked and underappreciated. Often, I ask them “Why don’t you treat yourself to a massage or a mani/pedi?”. They respond with, “I feel too guilty spending the money on me”. It’s not about the money. It’s about realizing that you are worthy of some pampering on a regular basis. It will make you feel good, look good and value yourself.
If you don’t take care of you, chances are no one will. It’s like the safety message during take-off in the airplane; put the oxygen mask on yourself and then help the person next to you. Because if you are passed out from lack of oxygen how are you going to be of service to anyone around you. Being loved and cared for, pampered and feeling fresh allows you to be the best you possible for your loved ones, and most importantly for yourself!