Self-love has become a significant part of our vocabulary. In an age of pretentiousness and social media, boomers’ comments on just about everything from weight to “Why are you still not married?” and feeling of not always being enough, self love has become a shield to all of those negativity. We have absorbed it like a mantra manifested in the many retweets of self love tweets and shared Instagram quotes.
“We just need to be kinder to ourselves. If we treated ourselves the way we treated our best friend, can you imagine how much better off we would be?”
“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.”
“Be healthy and take care of yourself, but be happy with the beautiful things that make you, you.”
These are just a few of the many quotes we try to live by. But self love is more than just words or a convenient armor when it suits us. The art of loving ourselves is a difficult process of accepting who we are with ups and downs.
More importantly, it’s not just about putting ourselves as a priority over everything else but also comes with being kind to ourselves, holding ourselves accountable, and opening ourselves to become a better version of our past.
And that’s the hard part. We tend to stop at ‘putting ourselves first’ phase because that’s the comfortable part where we shower ourselves with all the good things. And somehow we always skip the part where we take actions to correct ourselves because it seems like a step away from loving who we truly are.
But it’s not. Self love, as far as it goes for me, is a cycle of bringing comfort to myself but at the same time of being aware of how I can continuously improve.
What is self love?
Contrary to popular opinion or should I say the opinion of many boomers, self love is not just some fad that Millennials and Gen-Z created. In fact, it’s a very important concept linked to mental health. (And yes, mental health is just like physical health and equally important as well.)
According to Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, President and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, self love is defined as “a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth.” It’s basically having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness which leads to putting your needs first before others. It means never settling for less of what you deserve.
But with that definition in mind, self love can be mistakenly believed to be the same as narcissism. To differentiate, narcissism is an act of selfishness involving a deep sense of entitlement and lacking empathy. Self love is not having a big ego and thinking you are far more superior than others that is why you deserve to love yourself. It is simply loving yourself in your truest form despite your shortcomings because you know that is part of what makes you who you are.
And when you accept these things that make you “you”, then that would be the time that you get to understand more of yourself and go into a path where you can help better yourself.
The process of self love because it’s not just about bubble baths and chocolates
I have always battled with the idea of not being enough. As an individual, I always compare myself to girls who post their beautiful pictures on Instagram and wonder why I don’t look just even half as beautiful as them. As a middle child, I always struggle with being the next best kid with some attitude problems. As a friend, I always think of what others would feel first before listening to myself to an unhealthy point.
And it took me long years to finally accept who I am and start to love myself. In those years, I’ve read a lot and I’ve wondered a lot on how to achieve an ideal version of myself, comfortable and confident with who I am.
And so I have devised my own 4-step process to get to that goal (which I hope could help you out as well).
1. Identification and Understanding of Self
In any process to improve things like innovating a product or rebranding a company, it’s very important to identify and understand the product and company itself first. It all starts from the ground.
And that goes the same for myself. I reflected a lot on who I am, in compartments, and I asked these questions to myself:
- Who am I as an individual? What is my personality like? How do I look – what parts do I like and what parts do I not like? How do I treat myself?
- Who am I as a child? How was I raised? How do I treat my parents?
- Who am I as a friend? How do I treat my friends?
- What are my achievements, failures, and disappointments?
I identified who I am and I tried to understand the different aspects of myself in relation to others. But of course, there was always space for the unresolved parts because I know that I cannot master myself in just one phase of reflection. I’m a growing human being and I’m changing.
And also emphasizing on the part of understanding that failures and disappointments are part of life. They don’t define me because I can always learn from them and be better.
This is the part that most people (or for a long time for me as well) neglect or skip out on or don’t understand in full. But this is an essential part of the process. Here I try to evaluate what actions I should take to bring myself comfort AND at the same time improve myself.
Because it’s not just bubble baths and chocolates, it’s also effort and hard work. Comfort goes hand-in-hand with improvement.There was one thing I read on tumblr that really resonated with me on this part. It said that “self love is building a life you don’t want to escape from”. And in order to do that, I shouldn’t just be actively doing things that make me comfortable but also things that make me uncomfortable in the direction of being a better version of myself.
Change can be uncomfortable and that’s okay.
Change does not happen with just thinking about it. You need to get up and do it. It’s also about being aware of what’s good and bad for you. Re-strategizing and taking intentional actions to improve the good and cut off the bad.
It may be as simple as making yourself breakfast or lunch when you always just order takeout. It can be sweating out on a run when you would just normally sit on your couch all day. All these little actions add up and you would be amazed at the significant effect these can bring in your well-being.
It could also be the bigger things in life like cutting off a relationship that does not help you become the person you want to be. Choose people who will make a better person out of you and also one that you can help become a better version of themselves. It’s a relationship and it’s a two-way street.
Now that I’ve made improvements, it’s time to ask myself how I feel with these changes: Did it make me feel better and be better?
And after that, I go back again into step 1. I’m changing and re-learning.