We commit to people all the time. Our partners and families. Our friends; our colleagues. But how often do we really show up for the one person who, for better or worse, we’ll be spending the rest of our lives with?
It’s easy to put ourselves low on our list of priorities when there are children or others to look after, never-ending urgent work matters to attend to, and a social calendar that’s booked up ’til Christmas.
It’s easy, too, to ignore ourselves if, somewhere along the line, we were taught we’re not worthy of love or that to love ourselves is a selfish act.
But to live a truly fulfilling life (and one in which we can give back), we have to learn to accept, love and prioritise ourselves.
There’s no quick-fix; no 140-character solution. But taking the time and effort to nurture and develop the most important relationship you’ll ever have in your life will pay dividends.
Invest in yourself
Perhaps the most important beginning to your self-love journey – particularly if you have past trauma or are going through a trying time – is seeking professional help from a psychologist or life coach.
“Many people never had ‘self-love’ modelled to them,” says director of Youphoria Coaching Ruth Feltham.
“It’s important to get to the root causes of any unhealthy patterns, particularly historical emotional patterns that are inter-generationally perpetuated.
“A professional can help you recognise unhealthy patterns of thought and behaviour you may have received from your parents and environment in childhood, and can help you become self-aware and self-nurturing.”
Taking time for ourselves is also an important investment. Make exercise non-negotiable; enroll in a class you’ve always wanted to try; stay in this weekend to read or watch DVDs. Cook a beautiful meal. Be gentle with yourself.
Change your inner-dialogue
Imagine if we spoke to our loved ones or colleagues the way we sometimes speak to ourselves – it wouldn’t be long before we found ourselves alone and unemployed.
“Our thoughts create our world, and, not only that, they have a physiological reaction in our bodies,” says Ruth.
“It’s important to program healthy patterns of thought and self-talk, in order to release and manage stress chemicals our body produces when we’re unkind to ourselves, and to fully start valuing ourselves.”
The good news is, the more you do it, the less you’ll have to do it.
“Repetition at the conscious level leads to behaviours becoming automatic at the subconscious level,” continues Ruth.
“Consistently and consciously practising positive self-talk will eventually become automatic.”
Try this: imagine you’re a five-year-old. The next time something doesn’t go to plan, will you tell that little person they’re a useless idiot? Or will you tell them they’re doing their best and you still think they’re pretty great?
We humans are flawed creatures, and we all do things that perhaps we wouldn’t if we valued ourselves a little more. It’s okay. Accept the fact that you won’t always get it right. Be kind to yourself anyway.
Spend time with the right people
Inner-work is important, but sometimes we just need to chill with people who really get us; who love us for who we are (and aren’t).
There’s no shame in asking trusted friends for a pick-me-up, and having them remind you why they think you’re a cool dude will be life-affirming on another level.
Plus, it’s such a relief to just be yourself around someone.
A note on self-care
Self-care has become the trend du jour in recent history, but it’s more than manis, pedis, and expensive gifts for yourself. It’s about really honouring your needs.
Founder of the Radical Self-Care Project Kate Clugston says we need to prioritise self-care because without it, we’ll burn out.
“Practising authentic self-care (i.e. ‘know yourself,’ not ‘treat yourself’) deepens our self-love and makes us better able to care for ourselves and others,” says Kate.
“Practice self-care by really tuning in to what you need. Only when we learn to listen deeply to ourselves can we understand with great clarity how to authentically nourish our body, mind, and spirit.”