Okay, so we’ve established that love is the big kahuna of happiness. I’d be remiss if we didn’t turn that focus inward as well. Yes, relationships are where it’s at, but we can’t ignore the importance of loving yourself. Many theorize that this is a necessary precursor to healthy relationships: to first love yourself. Your relationship with yourself is the longest relationship you’ll ever have, so it’s a good idea to actually enjoy the company, don’t you think? This all starts with self-love and self-compassion.
This doesn’t mean engaging in self-pitying parties, taking self-esteem to the precipice of narcissism, or self-indulgence to the point of gluttony. “Self-compassion is treating yourself with the same kindness and care you’d treat a friend,” says Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the field of self-compassion. So how can you practice self-love and compassion?
- Perfectly imperfect. Give up the quest for perfection. You’re glorious in your imperfections. Remember kintsugi—the beauty is in the scars. Love yourself exactly as you are.
- Say no when you need to. Setting boundaries is healthy. Boundaries aren’t meant to divide but rather to preserve. It’s about being true to yourself. Balance being kind and helpful without sacrificing your self-worth.
- Stop the comparison. This destructive tendency has reached epic proportions with social media and its picture-perfect lives. It’s all a carefully curated charade, really—an unhealthy one at that. No one is posting a picture of their ugly cry face or puffy, swollen eyes after fighting with their significant other. Nobody.
- Focus on your strengths. Write out a list of your strengths and accomplishments. Leave nothing out. You’ll be surprised at what a f*cking rock star you really are.
- Give yourself a pardon. View yourself through more compassionate eyes. Forgive yourself and let it go. The past is merely a lesson and not a prison sentence. Learn and move on.
- It’s okay if not everyone likes you. You’re not going to be everyone’s flavor, and that’s okay. Some people like vanilla, some like Cherry Garcia, and some just prefer sherbet. Just try and stay away from rocky road. There’s a flock for everyone.
- Gratitude. Be in it daily, folks. It changes the game each and every time.
- Words matter. Speak kindly about yourself to yourself and others. Silence the inner critic and stop the self-deprecating humor. Self-affirmations really do work.
- Accept the darn compliment already. When someone compliments you, don’t pshaw, deflect, or deny it. Say thank you instead. That positive acceptance eventually takes root in your heart.
- Reward yourself. Do things you love doing. Buy yourself something special. I love rewarding myself after I reach a goal. It’s also awesome to do so for no reason whatsoever. Just because.
- Indulge in self-care rituals. Meditate. Take a bath. Listen to music. Read a book. Get a massage. Go to the salon. Do an at-home facial. Pamper yourself with the love that you deserve.
- Journal. Let it all out. It’s more therapeutic than you realize.
- Reach out and touch someone. Call a friend. Catch up. Connect.
- Take a technology break. Twenty-four hours without being on social media, the internet, or Netflix. Give yourself a breather. Just be.
- Take a walk outside. Hang out with Mother Nature for a while. Research shows that being in nature makes us feel better.
- Take care of yourself physically:
- Exercise. Sweat. Get the endorphins pumping on your behalf.
- Nutrition. We really are a byproduct of what we consume. Make sure you’re eating nutrient-dense meals. They call it nourishment for a reason.
- Prioritize sleep. Zzzzz’s are where it’s at. It sets you up for success. (Naps rock too!)
Self-compassion has been the subject of scientific research in recent years. The results are in line with what you would expect. People who engage in self-compassion and are kinder to themselves are more resilient, happier, have reduced stress, greater life satisfaction, and healthier lifestyles. Do yourself a favor and be good to yourself. Fall in love with yourself. It will transform you and your relationships. And it will help with future relationships too. As author and journalist Neill Stauss observed, “Perhaps the biggest mistake I made in the past was that I believed love was about finding the right person. In reality, love is about becoming the right person. Don’t look for the person you want to spend your life with. Become the person you want to spend your life with.” Be the energy you want to attract.
You want to receive love? Love yourself first.
If you don’t love yourself, nobody else will.– Dr. Wayne Dyer
Not only that—you won’t be good at loving anyone else. Loving starts with the self.