Where do I begin my self-love journey?
Not sure what self-love looks like, or how you can put it into practice?
You’re not alone. We know self-love is a personal experience and different for everyone. So we wanted to share our insights, process and learnings, we’ve gathered along the way while exploring our own journey with self-love, self-care, and everything that comes with it. We hope you find it supportive. We’d love to know what you want to see more of!
Self-love is a deeply political act. Our world conditions us to find flaws and fixate on them, leading us to believe we’re not worthy unless we conform to unrealistic standards. And if we do find the courage to love who we are? We’re told we’re arrogant or obnoxious. You literally can’t win. Which means, cultivating self-love, in the face of this, is an act of resistance necessary for survival.
Why is self-love so vital?
The dominating systems of oppression - White supremacy and the patriarchy - as well as other interconnecting forms of oppression and discrimination, like ableism, homophobia and fatphobia, all cultivate, capitalise off, and benefit from, self-hatred and feelings of unworthiness. It’s part of our conditioning.
Shedding this and learning to love yourself can be an incredible act of resistance against these forms of oppression, and help you step into your power.
What can self-love look like?
It might feel easy to love yourself when you’re already feeling good, but what about in other moments? When you think of all the things you love about yourself, it might include your drive or motivation, charisma, or ability to find joy in small things. These characteristics can often be easy to find when you’re feeling great, but can you still find them when you’re not feeling at your best? This might be a harder question to answer – and your answer might change depending on lots of factors, but we think it’s something worth considering. Is your sense of self-love dependent on mood, context and environment, and if so, how might you shift that, to become something that’s a little more grounded in you and your very existence?
Self-love can look like:
- Having patience with yourself.
- Reaching out for help when you need.
- Knowing that challenging feelings and situations will pass.
- Being kind to yourself when you make a mistake.
- Letting yourself play and have fun.
- Seeking out opportunities for growth.
- Allowing yourself to feel difficult feelings.
- Trusting yourself.
- Making your own decisions.
- Setting boundaries that protect your energy.
- Carving out space in your week to do things that bring you true joy.
- Giving yourself grace when you don’t handle something as well as you’d hoped.
- Asking for your needs to be met.
- Remembering that you don’t have to strive for worthiness – you already are worthy.
- Sharing your thoughts, feelings, and passions with others.
- Banishing mean thoughts about yourself.
- Knowing what brings you joy, peaks your curiosity, and calms you.
- Allowing room for learning and growth.
- Being honest with yourself, even if it’s hard.
- Working towards your dreams.
- Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
- Simply being there for yourself, as you would a friend.
How can I cultivate self-love?
The journey to self-love is not linear and there’s no ‘end point’. It’s a continuous process of reaffirming your love for yourself and it will be different for everyone. So, keeping in mind that there really is no ‘rule book’, here are some things that might support you in that process. We’d love to know what else you’ve found helpful? Tell us @theequalityinstitute
Treat yourself like you would a friend
Are you the kind of person who loves and supports their friends no matter what, offering advice, kind words, and grace when they make mistakes? Try treating yourself the way you’d treat one of your closest friends and see how it feels! That means reflecting on your self-talk too…
Maintain a self-care practice
Self-care is not the same as self-love, but practising self-care can support your self-love journey. Your self-care practice can take any form that’s right for you – ultimately, it’s about prioritising your needs and looking after yourself.
Learn more about what self-care can look like.
Take note of the things you like about yourself
If one of your love languages is words of affirmation – this one’s for you! Keep a physical or digital record of all the things you like about yourself. Include all the positive feedback you’ve received at work, all the lovely cards people have gifted you, and all the compliments you’ve received. When you’re finding it hard to feel love for yourself, use this record to remind yourself of all your wonderful qualities and the amazing things others see in you.
Remember that you are not your thoughts
Your thoughts do not define you. Apply principles of meditation and try observing emotions and thoughts, allowing them to come and go as they please, without judging them or letting them define you.
Re-parent your inner child
We all have an inner child, but not all of us received the love, support and attention that we needed when we were children. Re-parenting your inner child involves envisioning yourself as a child and either imagining, or doing, all the things you missed out on as a child and felt you needed. This can feel incredibly healing and empowering.
Get curious about yourself
Do you know what you like, what brings you joy, and what you’re interested in? If you’re not sure, it might be time to get curious about yourself. Spend time experimenting with new things, and regularly checking in with yourself. How does it feel? Take yourself on dates and get to really know yourself! The beauty of this is that we’re all constantly evolving, so stay curious and feel excited about the possibility and potential of change.
Remember that all things pass
Sometimes, when you’re in the moment, or deep in a particular emotion or experience, it can be hard to remember that things, including feelings and situations, really do pass. Those big feelings will get smaller, or you’ll grow bigger around them, and you’ll take what you learn with you as you move through the world.
Set, and strive for, goals
It’s a beautiful act of trust and self-love to allow yourself to dream about the future. Dream big. Set goals. And strive for them. It’s absolutely possible for you to achieve them and when you do, it feels pretty great knowing that you had your own back all along.
Get some perspective: we’re all human
We all make mistakes. We all have moments where we act in ways that don’t feel aligned with who we are and what we value. We’re all human and no one, not a single person, is perfect, because there’s no such thing as perfection. Hold onto this.
Find your community
We all want to belong, and finding ‘your’ community can support this. Perhaps it’s people who challenge you, inspire you, or make you feel safe. All these things are important – go forth and seek them out!
Remember: self-love is something that will look different for everyone. There will be days where you feel as though you’ve ‘made it’, and days where you’ll feel far from it. It’s all part of the journey.
We hope these tips are useful and offer support, guidance, and perhaps a different way of thinking about these topics. Keep the conversation going and join us online @theequalityinstitute