In line with Mental Health Awareness Month, I think it is time we talk about one of the most important aspects of positive mental health; self-love.
Self-love is defined as “regard for one’s own well-being and happiness”. Unfortunately, it is something that a lot of us struggle with, with a lot of negativity stemming from the word. We need to separate self-love from conceit and vanity and learn that it is not just ok to love ourselves, but fundamental to our happiness.
I have struggled with lack of self-love my entire life, but after making the choice to embark on my self-love journey at the tail end of last year, I have noticed a change in myself. It’s a journey that takes time and comes with a lot of challenges, but I know it will be worth it in the end because having endless love for yourself is key to wellness and a happier life.
To help anyone who may need it, I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned on my self-love journey.
Make mental health a priority
Self-love is not solely about loving your body and physical appearance; it is about loving the person you are becoming and realising the potential you hold.
Having your mental health in check is key to feeling good about yourself. If work is taking a toll on you, take time off to focus on yourself. Don’t feel guilty for distancing yourself from people or environments that bring you down. Head on down to the gym, your body will release essential endorphins (happy hormones) and boost your mood for the day.
Certain things I do to work on my mental health include journaling, practising gratitude on a regular basis and seeing a therapist fortnightly.
Put yourself first
A trait that I have always had is putting other people’s feelings, needs and expectations ahead of my own, sometimes to the detriment of myself. I have come to realise that I am the most important person in my life, and my feelings always should come first. It is good to be selfish.
I have stopped trying to live my life according to other people’s expectations (because as my therapist says, that is not my responsibility) and I put myself first, which is very liberating. I take care of myself. As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup, so there’s no point in caring for others when you don’t care for yourself”.
Do esteemable acts
Similar to self-love, self-esteem measures how we value ourselves. When you have a healthy level of self-esteem, it means that you see yourself in a positive way, feel good about life and are able to manage the ups and downs of life.
Raising your self-esteem requires action, so you need to do things that make you feel good. Why not try some of these:
- Volunteering and/or donating to charity.
- Hanging out with a friend or family member or contacting them to check in with them.
- Reciting positive affirmations to yourself.
- Practising gratitude regularly.
- Complimenting others.
- Reading an inspirational book or viewing aspirational content.
- Make a conscious effort to be kind and friendly to everyone you encounter you see day-to-day.
- Pursue creative endeavours.
Self-love is not about seeing the perfect version of yourself in the mirror, it is about seeing the imperfections and loving them anyway. I am slowly learning to accept myself and all my flaws, I am trying to be self-compassionate, I am building up self-respect and I have started to appreciate myself for who I am instead of trying to fix myself to please others.
The actions I took to most drastically change how I viewed myself meant distancing myself from and cutting off toxic people, walking away from situations that no longer serve me, and aiming to cultivate a life full of joy, abundance and peace, because I know what I do and don’t deserve.
What have you learned on your self-love journey?