I love you.
Three little words we tell our parents, our spouses, our children – we even tell our possessions.
“I LOVE these shoes,” we declare out loud. However, to say “I love myself,” well that’s tougher.
But I’m trying. I’m trying to love myself more. Because I noticed recently, that with the stress of life, I wasn’t making it a priority. And as I make a point to do more activities that remind my body, mind, and soul that they are loved, I am starting to feel self-love grow within me.
I remember an incident in my early twenties, I was changing in front of a group of strangers for a fashion show, and I heard the following words come from behind me: “You’re just so perfect. You must love looking in the mirror!” It felt as though a pot of scalding hot water was being poured all over my back. The words washed over me, stinging.
She was someone I worked with and was genuinely saying, “go you!” in a positive way.
But my stomach turned just like so many other times before when someone gave me that kind of compliment. One that was meant to be kind, but cut like a knife because of my lack of self-love.
No I’m not perfect, I thought to myself, and I don’t love myself.
Fast forward to my early-thirty-something self, drinking coffee across from a long time friend discussing how we were both just so darn hard on ourselves when we were younger. How we had awesome bodies, and yet we still thought we could be skinnier, fitter, tanner…whatever-er.
Why! And why do we let outward appearance rule?
What about present day? We were tough on ourselves then and a decade later, I’m not sure I’ve advanced as far as I would have liked in the department of self-love. What would early-forty-something-self want me to know today? I sure would love to have been able to tell a young Emily, “Girl, you go ahead and love yourself, you’re perfect. Just as you are.”
Why is self-love so hard? Why can’t we just say, “I love you, Self.” And be done with it.
We’re surrounded by media that tells us we’re not good enough. We were exposed since birth to standard ideals of beauty, as well as unrealistic, unachievable ideals of beauty. We’ve been marketed to in a way that makes us contemplate if our self-worth relies only on external factors; the shape of our bodies, the clothing we wear, and how perfect our eyebrows are.
As someone who has worked in the fashion industry for the better part of her life, I’ve always been an advocate in whichever way I could for diversity and for seeing more real among all the glossy pages and on the glamorous runways. Mostly, because I always felt I couldn’t relate to what I saw in the magazines. Not the clothing and the makeup, but rather, the repetitive image of flawlessness.
I adore fashion and beauty in of themselves, as a form of expression and enjoyment. Buying a new dress, that makes me feel fabulous and shows off how I feel inside on the outside, is an amazing feeling. However, the industries have been long tainted by unattainable ideals which we’ve digested for our lifetimes which often leave so many of us with a pang of inadequacy…even when we’re putting on that beautiful new dress that we look incredible in.
Here’s the thing about self-love, which seems rather self explanatory and straightforward, yet I wager many of us including myself, aren’t actively doing anything about it.
There isn’t anybody but yourself that can give it to you.
You’ve got a bucket inside that needs filling. The fuller it is, the easier it is to let go of ideals of perfection and negative thoughts of our own lacking of perfection. The more we practice self-love, the more we are complete and the more we can receive love from others.
How many times has someone told you how beautiful you are? How many times did you shrug them off because of how you were feeling inside? What I’m presently learning, before it takes me another decade, is to truly love myself.
True love, with myself.
The added bonus? Love from others actually goes deeper and farther within me, the fuller my personal bucket is.
So what is self-love?
You might be thinking, Emily, you’ve just gone on about it this whole time – well, yes and no. I haven’t talked about how to give yourself love. It’s not just affirmations and bubble baths that do the trick. If only.
Firstly, how do you show love to those around you? Your parents, your spouse, your children, your friends…etc. What actions do you take to give love? Often times, there are hints in the way we show love as to how we would like to receive it. Give love to yourself freely as you give it to others.
Secondly, what are some of the things you do for yourself, whether often or not, that bring you joy?
Self-love is anything that you do or give to yourself that makes you feel more whole and happy. It’s similar to self-care, where you’re taking care of yourself. The two overlap. But with self-love, it really is about what makes you feel more acceptance for who you are.
Here are some of the ways I am practicing self-love:
- Exercising and eating healthy each day. Even if some days that means enjoying a treat, or having a shorter workout. Taking the time to give myself these two things makes me feel loved, by me.
- More time with my family doing meaningful activities. Whether we’re doing a fun craft, baking something or going on a mini-adventure, being an engaged wife and mother makes me feel amazing inside.
- Keep my living and working spaces clean and organized. I feel so much more cared for and calm when things are clean.
- I have a post-it on my computer that says “I am enough.” I read it several times throughout the day, close my eyes and let it sink into my soul.
- Taking my vitamins. This one’s kind of a boring thing, but it makes a huge difference on how I feel.
- Journaling. I’ve always journaled off and on. When I do, I always feel better about myself and my life. I let go of stress, negativity and anger. I discover more gratitude, joy and contentment.
- I’ve made sleep a priority. After years of sleepless nights with two night owl babies, I’m finally able to have full night’s of sleep. Even though sometimes I want to work into the night, sleep comes first.
- Taking the time to do my hair and makeup. As you know, I like beauty and wearing my favourite products, so it makes me feel good when I take the time for myself.
- Evening stretches and prayer. I do a nightly routine of stretching and spend time praying before I go to bed. It takes a lot of the stress from the day away.
- Pause when someone compliments me, and receive it.
- Going for long walks without a purpose. Often a walk is a workout, or to run an errand, but just walking for the pleasure is something I’m reconnecting with.
- Buying nutritious food I love, even if my family doesn’t. I felt selfish doing this before…like, nobody is going to eat this but me. Now, I’m giving myself permission to do this, because it nourishes me and makes my body happy.
- Writing letters. This is one of my favourite things to do, and I’m making time for it.
- Social media breaks. Taking a day or two off from social media a week is having a very positive impact. I’d like to be able to manage to take even more days away. Just like anything, too much intake isn’t healthy and I’m finding my balance here.
Even more ways to practice self-love:
- Buy yourself flowers
- Cut out foods that affect your mood
- Get a haircut
- Take a trip for yourself
- Spend the afternoon at a coffee shop
- Go shopping for a new outfit for your body, just as you are, and allow yourself to feel good in the skin you’re in!
- Random act of kindness
- Try a new healthy recipe
- Read a book
- Catch up with a friend
Self-love, like any relationship, needs your attention. When life is as busy as it is – and I know, it is – we need to make it a priority. In the same way you spend time with friends, go on dates with your partner, and have cuddle sessions with your kiddos – you (and I) need to plan time for ourselves and include self-love in our every day.
From our actions to our words – how we treat ourselves shapes our self-love and self-acceptance. Just as we give love, patience, grace, and kindness to those around us, so should we give it to ourselves.
Love yourself, just as you are.