Self-love has been transformed from the cocky, self-absorbed embodiment of a narcissist and into the energy consuming, explicit act of valuing one’s own happiness and well-being. The term has become both popularized and part of the lexicon of therapists, friends, and advice-givers everywhere: “How do you expect anyone to love you if you don’t love yourself first?” “Do you love yourself?” “What does self-love mean to you?”. These are some of the self-love directives and interrogatives heard between friends over coffee, while sitting on the coach of a therapist, and between arguing couples.
So, what is self-love, and where can I buy it? Is it found in a tube of new mascara, in a leather-bound journal and ballpoint pen, by getting a puppy? Can it be acquired by reading more self-help books, by getting into a new relationship, or joining Tindr? The answer to these questions is ‘no’. Self-love cannot be bought nor be found in anything. Self love can only be found within ourselves.
Self-love is a present-tense state of appreciation for oneself, one’s value, and one’s own happiness. Self-love takes constant focus and work. The path towards self-love is continuous and is shaped differently for each of us. Spirit and Human Possibility Expert Dr. Sue Morter offers seven steps towards waking up each morning feeling completely and fully loved:
1. Awaken your true self by learning the language of your body.
2. Discover your true identity, release yourself from the expectations of others.
3. Mend your conscious and unconscious self, create a conscious connection with either a spiritual or religious source of love, wisdom, or comfort.
4. Dream without limitations, find what you enjoy, create a fulfilling live not limited to your current occupation, hobbies, and friends
5. Spend time with loving, positive-energy people.
6. Take care of your body, time, and finances.
7. Practice self-love daily.
These steps will take each of us on a different journey. For me: self love means setting my alarm ten minutes earlier so that I can wake up slowly, means lighting vanilla-scented candles in my room, means writing poetry instead of my essay on colonialism due in two days, means leaving my phone in my room while I go hiking. For me: self love means being here now, writing myself apology note for how long it is taking me to get over my heartbreak, means trusting my intuition every time.
Admittedly, self-love is hard work. It takes constant reminding. Set a phone alarm if you need to, or leave post-it notes around the house. Do what it takes, you deserve this.
Sometimes, when we get into relationships we do the slack work on loving ourselves because we trick ourselves into believing that our partners are doing the work of loving us, for us. However, what happens when that relationship ends? Who is going to love us when the relationship falters, and the person providing our source of love leaves? Self love means not just loving ourselves in the absence of a partner, but also because of the presence of a partner. Remember, love is not a limited quantity.
Self-love forms the foundation to our most important relationship: our relationship with ourselves. Self-love is a prerequisite for loving others and therefore the strength of our relationships reflect the strength of the foundation of our self-love. If we are looking for love in places and people outside ourselves, we are looking for love in all the wrong places.
As you begin to actively and unashamedly love yourself you will become more attractive to others, and will be more attracted to those also practicing self-love. By focusing on your relationship with yourself, relationships with others will come honorably and naturally.