Self-love became a buzz-word in 2016 and is holding strong in 2017; we’re throwing it around the way shots are thrown back at parties, and yet many of us don’t even know what it means. According to Urban Dictionary, self-love is synonymous with masturbation, and is cited as responsible for “lowering blood pressure, relieving of symptoms of depression, and reducing risk of prostate cancer in males,” and while these health-benefits may in fact be real, this is not the meaning of the phrase which has been seen readily on women’s health and wellness websites like Women’s Health, Self, Shape, Well + Good, and Refinery29.
So if it doesn’t mean masturbation, what exactly does it mean? The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines self-love as “regard for one’s own well-being and happiness (chiefly considered as a desirable rather than narcissistic characteristic)” while yourdictionary.com, defines self-love as “ the belief you hold that you are a valuable and worthy person.” These two definitions comes closer to defining the what as become the cultural practice of loving oneself.
Want to see what all the fuss surrounding self-love is about, but don’t know how to get started? We are too dynamic as humans to have just ONE way to love ourselves, especially given how complex and stressful life is these days. So, I have put together a toolkit of 18 suggestions so that no matter what is going on in your head, you can work on embracing yourself from the inside-out and outside-in.
Check them out:
1. Clean your closet. If you are looking for some inspiration, I recommend investing in the famous book by Marie Kondo “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”. In this #1 New York Times best-selling book you will learn how to declutter your home from the Japanese “cleaning consultant” (dream job, I think yes) Marie Kondo, who takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing. This tidying manifesto is centered around joy, and while the process of cleaning may seem daunting, the end result will leave you feeling incredibly in-touch with your desires.
2. Find a form of movement that you love. There are so many different ways for us to move our bodies, keep trying new and different ways until you find one that you enjoy. This can be CrossFit, dancing in the shower, doing pilates to a blogilates YouTube video, running around your local reservoir, or lifting weights, what is important is that you are moving. Moving will remind you that you are healthy, capable, strong, and even sexy.
3. Cook for yourself. Indulge yourself in your favorite home cooked meal. Hell, set the table and light the candles! When I am practicing self-love I cook homemade chicken soup because while it may 2-3 hours one night, it makes enough servings to last me the whole week. And what’s a better way to come home than to a warm bowl of homemade protein-filled soup? My body has not yet found an answer to that (except a massage, but unfortunately I do not have masseuse for a roommate).
4. Take a moment of silence. While as women we often feel silenced in our working world, it can be empowering to take a moment (10 minutes, or even an hour) to embrace the quiet. Lacey Stone, the fitness trainer featured on Khloe Kardashian’s Revenge Body, told Well + Good that “Everything is about go, go, go these days, and sometimes we need to slow, slow, slow. Every day, I make sure I have at least an hour of silence to myself. My job is about giving, and that alone time is something I cherish giving back to my myself.” Because my job requires that I tap into my inner-extrovert, and engage with athletes and New Yorkers all day long, I make a point to put my phone away and take silence while on the subway.
5. Medidate. If we define meditation as “a practice of focusing attention in order to clear the mind and reduce anxiety”, then meditation is not limited to eyes-closed, lotus-pose, silence. Instead, meditation can occur while running, showering, or walking to work. If you’re like me, you’ve been skeptical about the benefits of meditation. But there’s no denying the research that shows it can reduce stress, ease depression and anxiety, to help people cope with pain, and even to strengthen parts of the brain. These benefits can be seen in as little as 5 minutes per day. Interested in giving it a try? Check out this article by Yoganonymous, “Meditation 101: How to Meditate & Why It Works”.
6. Use social media in a new way. We’ve all been there: laying bed at 8:00pm or 11:00pm or 2:00am after a long, disappointing, or stressful day, scrolling through our Instagram feed when a a quote card like “Your thoughts have the power to change your life” or “Self-care is not an if, it’s a priority” pops up on our screen. Challenges that promote self-love like #30DaysSelfLove and #100HappyDays have taken off in favor for these kind of posts. #100HappyDays started as a way to cultivate it by posting happy-making images for 100 straight days. It has more than 23 million posts associated with it on Instagram. Can Instagram really help us cultivate self-love? Maybe. For those of us who are deeply invested in our social media feeds, this is one way to transform those mediums from places of self doubt into places of self love.
7. Or break up with your social media. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that a day spent scrolling through social media may add up to body insecurities. Not surprising given all of the fitness models, filter-obsessed Instagrammers, and friends with picture-perfect lives. If you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to those you see on your Insta-feed it might be time to give it a break for a week, or a month.
8. Wake up early. After working out between 4:00-7:00pm for over 8 years, began taking a CrossFit class at 6:00am. I find that by working out before work I am more energized during the early hours of the day, I am less likely to skip my workout, and I make better eating choices throughout the day. While I am not necessarily suggesting that you all wake up earlier to take a CrossFit class, I am suggesting that you wake up early to do the thing you typically don’t have enough time to do in the evening. By waking up and accomplishing that thing that makes you feel good, but you often don’t have time for in the evening- whether it’s writing poetry, reading fanfiction online, going for a long walk, reading the newspaper, or a SoulCycle class- you’ll be glad you set that alarm.
9. Or sleep in. Are you someone who has been waking up as early as 4, 5, or 6 in the morning for as long as you can remember? Give yourself permission to sleep in. Let me repeat, it is okay (and healthy) to take pause.
10. Say YES. I’m a nervous-nelly (and that’s an understatement). I’d rather stay in on a Friday night than go out to the club or get drinks at the bar. I’d rather go to my same old gym and do my same old routine than try out a new HIIT or cycle class. But, when I do say YES to nights out in Manhattan or mornings trying a new fitness class, I never regret it. It mixes up routine, introduces me to new people, and helps make NYC feel more manageable.
11. Say NO. Do you keep saying “yes” to shit you hate? Stop! Is there a friend who drains your energy? Stop agreeing to talk to her on the phone every evening. Do you always say “yes” to your boss even when you know you don’t have time? Tell your boss that you simply don’t have time today, and explain your reason (Working on a project? Kids have a dentist appointment? Have a coffee date with a friend you’d rather not reschedule?). Do you always agree to clean the kitchen even tho it was your turn last week and you KNOW your roommate hasn’t done it since like, June? Send a friendly text or tape a note to the fridge. You’ll be surprised how far a little reminder and a subtle refusal can go.
12. Ask for what you want during sex. Women are taught both implicitly and explicitly not to ask for what we want in bed, that our pleasure comes second. But this is not true. Women, your pleasure, and your sexual fulfillment are importation and are not negotiable. If there is something you want in bed, ask for it. Maybe you’re looking to test the waters with a vibrator or handcuffs while getting it on. Or you just want your partner to give you oral more often or you’d like to give anal a whirl. Once you figure out what you’d like to try, talk to your partner about it. Find out whether it (or a variation) is something they’d be down to try… you might be surprised by how much talking about likes and dislikes will turn you both on.
13. Masturbate. Because you don’t need someone else to feel good. A recent infographic released by Adam & Eve, a sex toy retailer, released that 40% of women even prefer solo sex to partnered sex. Yet self-love gets a bad reputation, especially for women, but getting sexy with yourself is actually good for your health. Research, sex therapists, and women who masturbate themselves can attest that self-love should become a regular part of our health and wellness routine. (If you need more convincing, check out my article 10 Reasons To Make Masturbating Part of Your Health & Wellness Routine).
14. Go to a movie alone. I confess, I have never gone to the movies alone. However, after finishing Lisa Sugar’s memoir “ Power Your Happy: Work Hard, Play Nice & Build Your Dream Life” I have added it to my to-do list. Sugar is a huge proponent of doing things that you typically do with others, alone because it helps you realize that you can be your own best company.
15. Buy lingerie… and wear it for yourself. Happy Valentines Day to me! This Valentine’s Day I went to Victoria Secret and purchased myself what can only be described as “a piece of black lace”. While I spent The National Love Holiday alone, I loved how sexy I felt walking around my apartment in said “black lace” and a pair of sweatpants. It helped me realize that I don’t need someone else to feel sexy, I can feel sexy all on my own. If lingerie isn’t your thing, than buy that underwear and bra that you wouldn’t typically wear. Have you had your eye on a strappy Lulu sports bra? Go for it! Have you always worn thongs, but wanted to wear boy briefs? Do it! Have you had your eye on american Eagles men’s underwear? Sweetheart, gender is a social construct… buy those panties!
16. Make your own self-love mantra. The owner of Strong Chicks Rock, Rachel Turner’s go-to mantras are “”I am love” and “I am okay”. My mantras include “embrace transition” and “say yes to adventure”. Find a mantra that targets exactly what you are working to conquer and make a point to say it to yourself at least once a day.
17. Begin a gratitude journal. Begin a notebook where you write lists, summaries, or full-length journal entries about what is and is not working for you. Writing the good and the bad on paper will help you to embrace the positivity in your life and cultivate it as fuel, and acknowledge the negativity in your life and make a plan of action.
18. Create your own self-love ritual. If none of these self-love tips and practices jive with your needs, then find a happy place that works just for you. Think of one place where you feel totally at ease, calm, happy, positive, mellow, or high on life. Go to that place, mentally, at least once a day. Think about what that place smells like. Think about how it feels. Think about what it looks like. The more you visit that place mentally, the easier it will be for you to dream-up that place, and travel there when you need the release.