Okay, I know Valentine's Day is meant for romantic love. I know it was created for date nights and proposals and flowers and chocolates and "The One". But what if, for just one day, we actually talked about self love? There's no day for self-love! I spent my entire tween/teen life watching rom-coms, dreaming about the perfect boyfriend, and reading way too much Twilight (yes, I'm embarrassed by that, but it was unfortunately a significant part of my high school life). Frankly, I don't think self-love gets enough love!
For me, learning and practicing self-love has been a slow process. I had a severe case of no-self-confidence for most of my adolescence but have truly found that the older I get, the more I learn to understand, accept, and love myself - flaws and all. My experience with self-love is definitely still a work in progress, one that I'm sure will last a lifetime, but in the last 5 years, I've found a couple of small steps that I have helped me immensely - so I thought I'd share those today! Buckle up, friends, this one's a long one :)
Allow yourself to make mistakes (and truly be okay with it!). One of the biggest barriers to self-love is expecting yourself to be perfect! You're human and you're allowed to make mistakes. Where I find this the hardest is in workplace or academic situations. When someone else is telling you that you've made a mistake, it can be the hardest pill to swallow! In reality, however, you are always your own harshest critic. If you make a mistake, correct it, aim to do better next time, and let it go. You know the thing about mistakes? Everyone makes them and it's okay!
Indulge in the things you already love but also try new things! The things you love and the activities you enjoy are huge parts of your identity. I'm a homebody so I love cozying up on the couch, decorating my apartment, and lighting candles. Every time I do one of those things, I feel a little closer to myself and love the happiness that those activities bring to my day! It doesn't matter what it might be - if there's an activity or even an item that you love, take a moment to indulge in things that make you, you! Part two of this, however, is to try new things! As humans, we are creatures of habit so we like to stick to things we know. Experimenting with new things may be a little uncomfortable at first, but it helps you along in the process of self-discovery and self-love!
Seek understanding & acceptance. I began by titling this one as just "acceptance" but self-understanding and acceptance are so closely tied that it's hard to mention one without the other. The negative self talk I used to hear in my head day in and day out always went something like this: "Why am I like this?" or "Why can't I be like that instead?". I struggled with self-acceptance because these questions were always accompanied by frustration. Instead, these questions should have been approached with genuine curiosity. When I started to seek out books (Quiet, by Susan Cain), podcasts (Highly Sensitive Person Podcast), blogs (INFJ blog), and whatever else I could find to try to understand myself - rather than change myself - my whole view changed. You are you. There are a lot of things about you that are probably never going to change. The best way to work towards self-acceptance is to commit to increasing your self-understanding through learning.
Embrace the things you like about yourself. It's true. You're not going to like everything about yourself - but there are always things that you do like about yourself. So, why not embrace them?! Whether that's a facial feature that you like to highlight with make-up or a skill you love to utilize, don't be afraid to love those little bits of yourself - no matter how small. A goofy little example of this one in my life? I type super fast. And it's the best skill ever because I don't have to wait for my fingers to type out my thoughts! Very useful for blogging :)
Work towards constant self-improvement. This one might seem like it contradicts the idea of loving yourself as you are - but hear me out! Before every yoga session, my yoga teacher always asks us to set a dedication. Without fail, I always dedicate each yoga session to myself: the person that I am in that moment, and the person that I want to become. In a way, taking those steps towards self-improvementis a reflection of the way you see yourself. Working towards self-improvement comes with knowing that you are capable, knowing that you can achieve the goals you set for yourself, and having faith in your own abilities.
Celebrate self-love when you discover it in your life! One of the biggest self-love moments for me was the day I realized I no longer apologize for not wanting to drink or go out late at night! I've never been good at staying up late nor do I handle alcohol well, yet for years I tried to keep up with everyone else, despite how miserable I was on the inside. Eventually, I gave up, accepted that it wasn't ever going to be a part of my life, and learned to love the fact that I prefer breakfast dates over happy hours. You don't need to make excuses for who you are. If you've tried something and it hasn't worked for you, don't let your peers, your family, or your own self pressure you into doing or being someone you are not. Celebrate who you are and celebrate the moments where you've achieved those little bits of self-love.
I hope these help you in your journey towards practicing self-love! If you have any suggestions for more ways to practice self-love, I would love to hear from you! Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day! Now, go out there and give yourself some love :) ♥