I was having a conversation the other day with my support group about the terms self-love and self-care. I was wondering how others defined these words and how they put them into practice. I got answers like I treat myself to a pedicure, get a massage or take myself to lunch. Those were answers that I expected, and I agree that these are ways to care for your physical self BUT then I got to thinking about my clients and how they practice ALL of these, so called, self-love actions but still are unhappy and unfulfilled and it made me really think about what we are all truly missing in terms of self- care and self-love. Why do we have so many unhappy people that are gainfully employed, have enough food to eat, have a roof over their head, physically able bodied and basically have all their needs met? Are their needs really being met? I look back on my own life.
18 years ago, I was in one of the deepest, darkest funks I had ever experienced. I hated myself and tried to commit suicide after a break up. I had given this person all my energy to make them happy and completely neglected my own needs. I didn’t know it then, but it was an addictive and co-dependent relationship. After I left the relationship I started a career in truck driving and completely threw myself into my career so that I wouldn’t have to focus on the painful areas of my life (another co-dependent relationship but this time with work). I would buy myself anything I wanted, eat whatever I wanted and vacation wherever I wanted. Self-care, right? Not so much. I was morbidly obese and in the worst state of health EVER! And did I mention how angry and self-loathing I was? I did not love myself.
So, when I ask the question about practicing self-care and self-love it becomes clear, as I look back over my life, that they are not the same thing. I will go a step further to say that sometimes what you think is self-care is destructive behavior. If you are spending excess amounts of money to make yourself feel better or it gives you a “high” every time you spend and then you feel some level of guilt afterwards then you may have an addiction and not just practicing self-care. Addictive behavior is not exclusive to drugs and alcohol! Addictive behavior shows up in many ways: eating, shopping, sex, gambling and stealing just to name a few. So, what exactly is self-love and why is it so important?
Self-love is not anything you can buy. I found a definition that I quite like that fully encompasses the true meaning: “Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love is dynamic; it grows by actions that mature us. When we act in ways that expand self-love in us, we begin to accept much better our weaknesses as well as our strengths, have less need to explain away our short-comings, have compassion for ourselves as human beings struggling to find personal meaning, are more centered in our life purpose and values, and expect living fulfillment through our own efforts” (Khoshaba, 2012). See we often take care of all those day to day functions to get through life but are you nurturing yourself? Do you appreciate yourself? Have you taken the time to cultivate who you truly are and are you doing what it is that YOU want to do with your life? Self- love is about taking the actions, every day, to cultivate and grow the person you truly are meant to be. Are you taking those actions?
I am finally able to say that I am. It has not been easy, but the work has been well worth it. I grow more into my “true” self every day. It has been painful addressing my issues, but I take it one day at a time and I have slowly but surely learned that I am okay just how I am. It is my hope for you that if you are not practicing self-love that you will begin to do so. I will give you a few ways to get started:
- Forgive yourself- This one was a big for me. Let go of the idea of perfection. None of us are perfect and even if we could be perfect what would we be comparing ourselves? Know that you are unique and so are your experiences in your life. There is no blue print that you were given to get through life so know that you are doing your best and forgive yourself for whatever you hold guilt.
- Live life on your own terms- We have all been sold the same dream. Do well in school, grow up, meet the person of your dreams, marry them, have 2.2 kids and buy the house with the white picket fence. This “cookie cutter” life has killed SO MANY creative souls. Have the courage to be who you feel you should be. Live an authentic life doing what you love, whenever you love! Stop comparing yourself to others. Be bold, be brave, be you!
- Be present- This one is grand! Much of our pain comes from living in the past or worrying about the future. Learn to live in the now and when you wake each morning forget about yesterday and live for the new day only! Resolve to be your best self TODAY! We cannot change the past and the future hasn’t happened so why worry with it?
I know all these things sound familiar to you because you have read it somewhere before. The problem is most of us don’t live it. You must do better than just knowing it. Take the steps you need to make effective change and if you don’t know how to do so then reach out to someone. Another little nugget that I have found is life is so much easier when you are not trying to do it all alone. I challenge you to implement change in your life so that you can begin to live a life that you truly love.
I am a health coach and I help those who struggle with food/sugar addiction and weight loss issues. If you or anyone you know needs help with sugar/food addiction and or weight loss, please schedule an appointment with me at this link Click Here! Or give me a call at 706-394-0916