A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO SELF-LOVE: NURTURING A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH YOURSELF
In a world that often emphasizes external validation and perfection, cultivating self-love is a powerful act of self-care and personal growth. Loving yourself unconditionally, embracing your flaws, and prioritizing your well-being are essential ingredients for a fulfilled and balanced life. This beginner's guide to self-love will provide you with practical steps to embark on a journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and empowerment.
But before we start, I want to mention and highlight that ‘self-love’ is not something we should just have, it's something we must cultivate and there's a plethora of different ways of how to do that. Your self-love journey is unique to you, and dependent upon your past experiences, your upbringing or prior relationships may determine how easy or challenging this journey is. So don’t let social media make you think that self-love is something that you’ll get automatically once you’ve put a face-mask on and taken yourself for a walk, unfortunately, it’s a lot more vigorous than that!
Work on Self-Acceptance
A huge myth when it comes to self-love is the notion that we need to love ourselves regardless and accept every flaw and who we are right in that present moment, which whilst it’s some or that, it’s not the full picture. For me, self-acceptance comes before self-love, but self acceptance to me also means, accepting the fact there are things that we need to change in order to love ourselves more. There might be things you can identify very quickly, or through journaling or upon reflection that you can say that if you changed those things, self-love may be something that feels in closer proximity. I’ll tell you a little story about what this meant for me.
So back in the infancy of my self development journey, I had to ask myself uncomfortable questions like “why do I attract people like xyz” or “why am I having challenges amongst my relationships/friendships” as well as “am I comfortable in the way I present myself” and a lot of answers came up, I had to realise that perhaps I was too stubborn in my relationship and that was causing friction, perhaps I was looking for the wrong things in people that meant I attracted the wrong people for me, perhaps the problem to some degree was my own behaviours (that shit is really hard to face and realise!) trust me, it wasn’t a one page of a journal kind of realisation, it happened over time, after each challenge or difficulty I had to stop blaming others and take a good hard look at myself and have the courage to say “Ok let me work on those things”. Changing those things about myself allowed me to love myself, it allowed me to have a life I was so proud of filled with people that are right for me. I have so much compassion towards that prior version of me who knew less than I know now because she had the courage to change.
Check out this episode on Self Acceptance and Self Love - Episode 33
Self-compassion is the foundation of self-love. Treat yourself with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness, just as you would a close friend, family member or your children. Acknowledge that you are human and prone to mistakes and setbacks. Replace self-criticism with self-compassion, offering support and encouragement in challenging times. One of the things I started to do when I became a mother was telling myself “If I wouldn’t say it to my daughter, then I don’t say it about myself” and that was such a great way at me to reprogram my negative self-talk into self-compassion. I truly believe self-compassion is the key to setting us free and allowing us to let go of the shackles of the past.
We see #selfcare all the time on social media, and you might think “and when on earth do I have time for that” - Don’t worry, self-care doesn’t have to always be an hour of soaking in the tub. It can be small, and simple rituals like ensuring that you take your vitamins and drink your water, having a nap or sleeping in, simply turning your phone on do not disturb mode, not skipping meals, or saying no and protecting your time and peace instead of always saying yes and pleasing everyone else but yourself. Self-love thrives when self-care becomes a priority. Take the time to nurture your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Engage in activities that bring you joy and recharge your energy. This could include practicing mindfulness, engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and indulging in hobbies and passions.
Cultivate Positive Self-Talk:
Now this might be one of the hardest steps in a self-love journey, and often people think it’s one of the only steps. We’re not born talking poorly to ourselves, it happens because of something someone has said to us along the way, how we were talked to by our parents when we made mistakes when we were younger, or simply not being taught how to soothe yourself during difficult times when you do make a mistake for example (we all make mistakes, its part of being a human!). The way I like to recommend my clients to start with improving their self talk is by firstly being mindful of your inner dialogue. If you catch yourself saying something out loud or in your head that is negative, write it down in the notes on your phone and then ask yourself “Would I say that to my best friend, loved one, child?”. That process alone can be really emotional, because it often takes us by surprise. Another way I stopped my negative self-talk was physically saying out loud whenever I thought something negative about myself was “No, we do not do that anymore ''. That’s your inner cheerleader telling your inner critic who’s boss. Once you’re aware of your inner critic, you can start looking to replace the negative self-talk with positive affirmations and empowering statements that remind you of your strengths, accomplishments and unique qualities. These statements generally start with “I Am”. Initially it might feel strange for you to say them (and no you don’t have to say them in the mirror for them to work) you can say them silently in your own mind and they still have the power to rewire your subconscious mind. I use positive affirmations all the time, and not just for self-love, but for comfort. If I’m going through a stressful time I love to remind myself “I am protected, I am safe, I am on the right path”. They truly are powerful, I’m a big believer in making them unique to you rather than copied and pasted off the internet. It’s more authentic. Treat yourself with kindness and encouragement, building a foundation of self-belief and self-confidence.
Set Healthy Boundaries:
Setting boundaries is an act of self-respect and self-love. Understand your limits and communicate them effectively to others. Learn to say "no" when necessary, prioritizing your needs and well-being. Surround yourself with people who respect and support your boundaries, nurturing healthy relationships.
Setting boundaries, initially can feel extremely daunting but they are incredibly beneficial for protecting your peace and strengthening the relationship you have with yourself. Each time you say no to everyone else's demands or requests you say yes to yourself. Setting boundaries isn’t about saying no to absolutely everything, it’s about knowing when you want to say no, and listening to what need. For example, you’ve had a crazy busy week at work and your friends asking you to go out but you really wanted to stay home and have a restful weekend so you feel recharged for the week, a beautiful way of setting a boundary would be “Thank you for the invite, I’ve had a really busy week so I’m going to take it easy. Could we grab a coffee instead next week. Would love to see you” - this way you are providing a more convenient option for you. But if you really don’t want to see that friend, just omit the follow up suggestion!
Check out this episode all about People Pleasing and Setting Boundaries - Episode 47
Let Go of Perfectionism:
Perfectionism can be a roadblock to self-love. Release the pressure to be flawless and embrace the beauty of being perfectly imperfect. Accept that making mistakes is a natural part of growth and learning. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small, and focus on progress rather than perfection.
Practice Mindfulness and Self-Reflection:
Cultivate mindfulness by being fully present in the moment. Take time to reflect on your thoughts, emotions, and experiences without judgement. Mindfulness enhances self-awareness and helps you identify patterns and triggers that may hinder self-love. Journaling or meditation can be powerful tools to foster self-reflection and self-discovery.
Check out this episode on “Everything You Need To Know About Journaling” - Episode 28
Surround Yourself with Positivity:
Evaluate the influence of your environment on your self-perception. Surround yourself with positive influences, supportive friends, and inspirational role models. Minimize exposure to negativity, including toxic relationships, social media comparison, and self-deprecating content. Curate a positive and empowering space that uplifts and encourages you. You may need to detach from certain people or remove them from your life entirely. I love the quote “Some people are in our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime”. Sometimes we have to remove people and their access to us, so that we can live a more authentic life.
Check out this episode on “How To Break Up With Your Friends” - Episode 23
Discover your hobbies, passions, interests, and creative outlets. Engage in activities that allow you to express your true identity, whether through art, music, writing, or any other form of self-expression. Celebrate your uniqueness and let your light shine. By doing this you will feel closer to your authentic self. You can find out more about your true passions and hobbies through journaling about the things you used to find enjoyable as a child or young adult and revisiting them, trial and error with new hobbies to see where you find enjoyment.
Seek Support and Connection:
Self-love is not a solitary journey. Reach out to trusted friends, family, or professionals such as a life coach who can offer guidance and support during this journey. Find online or in person communities and surround yourself with people that share your values and provide encouragement along the way. Not only will you feel more supported but you will feel a greater sense of life satisfaction when you are surrounded by like minded uplifting individuals.
I hope this blog has allowed you to see self-love beyond the Instagram posts or the surface level references we see online. Embracing self-love is a transformative journey that requires patience, practice, and self-compassion. By prioritizing self-care, cultivating positive self-talk, setting boundaries, practicing mindfulness, embracing imperfections.
If you’d like to join a community of like minded women, you can stay up to date with my latest events by subscribing to the Real & Raw newsletter, and ensuring you’re following the Real & Raw Instagram Channel @thisisrealandraw