The Art of Self-Love

Posted December 1, 2020

What is Self-Love as It Relates to Mental Health?

Self-love, sometimes referred to as self-care, is the concept of accepting and appreciating who you are. Part of that self-acceptance is learning to acknowledge and appreciate your emotions to support your physical wellness, psychological growth, and spiritual health. When you practice self-love, you make your well-being a priority, and you unapologetically take care of your own needs. Each individual may see self-care differently, but you should never feel that you must sacrifice yourself to please others.

Why is Self-Love Important to Your Well Being?

Understanding how to practice self-love is an essential part of your mental health. The regular practice of self-love motivates you to make better choices in the long term.

  • People who take care of themselves may be more likely to make healthy eating choices, exercise regularly, and maintain healthy relationships. They are less susceptible to pressure from others to make unhealthy choices.
  • Those who practice self-care regularly may be better able to differentiate between wants and needs, avoiding automatic negative behaviors. Acting on real needs after careful consideration brings you healthy results, whereas reacting to others’ demands is more likely to lead to unhealthy decision-making.
  • Individuals with a consistent self-love routine may handle daily challenges with less stress and find ways to inject joy and passion into their days. The greater self-confidence that results from regular self-care allows you to make decisions without less worry and second-guessing.
  • People who know how to be kind and compassionate to themselves may have greater resilience when responding to life challenges. Everyone makes mistakes, and greater self-love lets you forgive them and move forward.

 

What are Some Ways to Practice Self-Care?

While practicing self-care is not always easy, the good news is that it is possible to learn to do it well, and it doesn’t have to look the same for everyone. The practice of taking care of yourself takes many forms. Here are a few mental health tasks you can do to show self-love.

  • Speak kindly to yourself and make a conscious effort to squelch the voice, your own or someone else’s, that says you aren’t good enough. Often we speak to ourselves much more harshly than we would ever talk to another person. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to another person you love, using gentle words rather than harsh criticism.
  • Make yourself a priority by setting aside time to exercise, meditate, pray, or practice other activities that are good for you. Push away any feelings of guilt that may emerge when you take time for yourself.
  • Avoid judging yourself too harshly. Perfectionism is a dangerous and stress-inducing standard that no one can ever meet.
    Set healthy boundaries with yourself and with others. Remember that the word “no” is a complete sentence. You don’t have to make excuses or explanations for doing what is right for your mental health.
  • When you falter in loving yourself well, forgive yourself. Beating yourself up for being too hard on yourself is a vicious circle.
  • Be true to who you are, and don’t feel like you have to change your personality to suit someone else. Trying to make everyone happy with you is exhausting, and can never succeed.

Here are some physical steps you can take to practice self-care.

  • Notice your body’s signals that tell you it’s time for self-love. Tense muscles, increasing blood pressure, and stress headaches are just a few of the signs that you need to take a break.
  • When you feel those signals, get up and walk around or stretch.
  • Take time away from your phone and other electronic devices. Spend time with people who lift your mood or take on a creative project. Connecting with positive people and activities boosts your confidence.
  • Eat and drink healthy things most of the time, but don’t deny yourself an occasional treat. Avoid self-criticism when you do enjoy a break from the healthy menu.
  • Make a list of things you don’t want to do, activities you don’t want to participate in, and people with whom you no longer wish to associate. Permit yourself to remove those things or people from your life, even if it’s only temporary; until you are better able to deal with them healthily.

 

What are Some of the Barriers to Self Care?

Making a conscious effort to take better care of your mental health through self-love is the first step, but it’s not the only one. Many people find that self-care is not an easy thing to incorporate into daily routines. Barriers seem to pop up internally and externally to keep us from doing what we need to do for ourselves.

  • Busy schedules are the enemy of self-love. Please make an appointment with yourself and don’t reschedule it to satisfy someone else. Letting others constantly usurp your self-care routine sends a message that it’s not essential, and that is not true.
  • Perfectionist tendencies interfere with self-love by making you believe that you can never be perfect and, therefore, should give up. Perfectionism says to you that only the big victories are worth celebrating, while self-care is a series of small triumphs throughout each day. Research in both the physical and mental health arenas has found that seeking perfection is detrimental to both, with people who describe themselves as perfectionists suffering from more diagnosable conditions such as eating disorders, suicidal ideation, and depression. When perfectionists do get sick, it is harder for them to recover.
  • Failing to admit that you have essential emotional and spiritual needs makes meeting those critical needs impossible. Be honest with yourself and acknowledge what you need to be mentally healthy.

 

Where Can I Learn More About Practicing Self-Love?

Learning to take care of yourself takes time. Self-care is a practice that evolves through daily decision making, and it’s not always easy. A qualified mental health professional can help you get better at achieving those daily victories. If you need some help along the way, MHS is here to help. We offer an array of counseling and mental health services for adults and adolescents to help you or your family members find their way back to happy, healthy functioning. Contact us today to get started with an assessment. You can always reach out by phone by calling (952) 835-2002.

 

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Image Credit: Shutterstock/ marekuliasz