By Maisha R (Love Me Love You)
Self-love has become a buzzword in recent years. Whether it’s about treating yourself to lavish food or the fanciest skincare treatments, we’re all doing it under the guise of loving ourselves.
In reality, self-love is more than that. Showing proper care for ourselves requires deep inner work that can span months, years, and even a lifetime.
It’s all about knowing what you need physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and providing yourself exactly that to feel content and happy.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to self-love. Each human has their own personality and needs that make their journey unique. If you need some pointers, however, this guide can walk you through the steps of starting your quest to self-love.
1. Observe yourself 🔎
There’s a classic Indonesian phrase that means, “If you don’t know who they are, you can’t love them.” The same goes for ourselves – how can we take care of our mind, heart, and body properly when we don’t know what we need?
Observing yourself is all about being mindful of our thoughts and behaviors, especially those in response to things that make us feel strong emotions. Understanding yourself allows you to figure out where to begin with your self-love journey and how to support yourself through it.
Here are some starter questions to help cultivate self-awareness:
- When do you feel happiest?
- What situations do you tend to avoid? What kind of emotion do they trigger?
- What do you want in life? What thinking patterns or behaviors keep holding you back from achieving that?
These questions can be difficult to answer off the top of your head, so take your time to answer them.
The last question is especially important. At times, we unconsciously sabotage ourselves from getting what we desire because we think we don’t deserve it. One of the goals of self-love is to empower ourselves enough to unlearn this line of thought.
2. Minimize contact with things that trigger discomfort ⛔️
At times, we don’t realize how we truly feel about certain objects, situations, or people until we distance ourselves from them. That’s why it’s important to step back and see what roles they play in your life.
Take a look at your inner circle, workplace, home environment, or even your own habits. One of these things may cause discomfort or anxiety, but you may not realize it because they feel familiar.
Note the use of the word ‘minimize’ rather than ‘remove’ because sometimes, these things are unavoidable. The purpose of this step is only to examine why they trigger you in the first place.
Let’s take social media for example. Many people deactivate their Instagram accounts due to the negative effects the platform has on them, like increased anxiety and general stress.
Of course, the issue here isn’t Instagram itself – it was how people use it that’s become the problem. Research has shown that intensive use of social media can lead to low self-esteem, especially when it’s used to seek validation and approval from others.
In such cases, consider deleting these social apps in the meantime. You can always get back to social media – or whatever situation, object, or person affecting you – once you’re ready.
But for now, removing triggers can help clear your emotions and thoughts and figure out what to do next.
3. Learn more about yourself 📚
Now that you’re more aware of how certain situations or objects trigger strong emotions, let’s find out the reasons behind them.
The most recommended way to do this is to work with a therapist, counselor, or coach. Someone professional that is outside of our inner circle can:
- Observe your situation from a much more neutral perspective.
- Help you understand what your inner self needs to feel loved.
If you don’t have access to professional help, however, there are still ways for you to figure out what’s going on. Check out the following books and resources to start:
- The power of vulnerability by Brené Brown. This viral TED Talk has inspired millions in starting their self-love journey. Brown talks about the radical act of accepting and loving oneself for their strengths and shortcomings.
- The Mountain is You by Brianna Wiest. This book will walk you through all the ways you’ve been sabotaging yourself and how to overcome that.
- Body Respect by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor. A recommended read for those struggling with body image. This book criticizes mainstream health beliefs and encourages you to celebrate body diversity.
- The Journey from Abandonment to Healing by Susan Anderson. If you display codependent behaviors – that is giving so much of yourself to others that you neglect your own needs – this book can help explain why.
- Self-compassion exercises and worksheets by Positive Psychology. If you prefer a more hands-on approach, consider doing the practices provided in this resource.
- @lovemeloveyou.co on Instagram. Love Me Love You is a community that advocates for self-love and personal development for women. Follow us for actionable tips and reminders to guide you on your self-love journey.
4. Create an action plan ✍️
At this point, you may have some ideas on what loving yourself means and what you need to do next. So, let’s put everything together into a cohesive plan.
It can be in the form of a mindmap, a journal entry, a digital note, or whatever format suits you best. The most important thing is it should act as a guide that you can refer to on a regular basis or whenever you need a reminder on your bad days.
Here are some prompts you can use to write the plan:
- What does your “higher” or future self look like? What can you do to become them today?
- What are three traits you like about yourself?
- During a bad day, what can you do for yourself to feel loved?
- What words do you need to hear to have your feelings feel validated?
- What new thought processes and behaviors can you start to replace your self-limiting and self-sabotaging tendencies?
- What boundaries do you need to implement in your relationships? That is, what behaviors are you not willing to tolerate in order to feel loved and respected?
- Completing an IKIGAI map is also a great way to create a plan for yourself.
Be as thorough as possible with your answers. Writing these things down is a way for you to manifest the version of yourself that is happiest, most confident, and most loved. One way to get there is by knowing precisely what you need and how to make it come true.
5. Incorporate mindfulness habits 🧘♀️
Mindfulness activities like meditation are often featured in self-love guides – and for good reason.
These habits encourage you to be more aware of your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. They allow you to see yourself through a more detached lens and prevent you from returning to your old habits.
If you’re interested in meditating, start small. Download apps like Riliv, Headspace, or Calm and give their short sessions a try. Or, look for guided meditations on YouTube. Even five minutes of breathing exercise can help you be more attuned to your being.
Journaling is another popular mindfulness activity. Holistic psychologist Nicole LePera has a series of prompts called future-self journaling that you can do every day to cultivate self-awareness.
If these activities don’t sound appealing, consider:
- Going outside for a walk
- Practicing yoga
- Doing arts and crafts
- Cleaning your environment
- Connecting with nature
- Observing your surroundings
6. Keep experimenting 💖
The self-love journey is a long one that may even last a lifetime. In the beginning, you may have to try different things to find out what activities or systems can best support your growth.
Moreover, the self-love journey always evolves, so what works now may not work in the future. So have an open mind and be ready to experiment. Once you’ve peeled one layer of your inner self, you will usually find out that there is more to learn along the way.
Finally, be patient. The results you want won’t probably manifest today, but each small step you take will bring you there. There will be days where you just want to feel down about yourself, and that’s okay. Bad days aren’t a sign that you’re not progressing.
What matters is you stick to the journey and keep going.
In collaboration with Love Me Love You
Love Me Love You is an online community offering inspiring content, events, and products that remind women of the significance of loving themselves and others in every area of life. Their vision is to inspire every woman in Indonesia to love themselves and love others more. Follow them at @lovemeloveyou.co.