“Self-love, self-respect, self-worth: There’s a reason they all start with ‘self.’ You can’t find them in anyone else.”~Unknown
If there is one awfully underrated thing, its ‘self-love’. Because while growing up, this was not something we were taught. We were taught kindness and goodness, yes…but as actions, we were required to do to others. Self-love and compassion are critical for our mental well-being and for keeping depression and anxiety at bay – and many studies attest to this.
But teaching ourselves self-love can sometimes be challenging because, for many of us, self-love could sound like a luxury or even a fad. Sadly, most of us work too hard and are always looking to push the bar. All in the hope of catching the ghostly apparition that is perfection.
Ironically, we need self-love and compassion the most. Only a person who is happy inside can be happy on the outside. And to be satisfied from the inside, we need to accept ourselves. Yet we are hard on ourselves because we’re driven by a desire to excel all the time- a process that involves a lot of criticism.
Most of us also believe that perfectionism is an excellent quality to possess. Not true. Numerous studies show that people who are hard on themselves are at a higher risk of several illnesses, both physical and mental. So this Christmas, let’s take a look at how we can enhance self-care and self-compassion, and be less critical of ourselves. If this resonates with you, then get down to work and just give yourself what you need, instead of waiting for someone else to do so.
What is self-love?
Magda Kay, in her article on self-love, says,
“Many people (as I used to) think they love themselves, but what we feel is rather the liking of self.
When you manage to lose a few kilos, when you do your hair and makeup and look great – you like yourself.
When you achieve something big – you like yourself.
When you help another person – you like yourself.
But what when the opposite happens?
If you put on a few kilos, would you still look in the mirror with love and appreciation? Do you like yourself even when your hair is messy, and you got a few pimples on your face?
Or what when you acted really mean to somebody – do you still like yourself then?
What we often take for self-love is a conditional liking of the person we are.
Instead of pure love, we judge ourselves. If you do something right, we reward ourselves with love. But when we do something bad, we punish ourselves by taking that love away. We become the harshest punisher in our lives.
True love is an unconditional feeling of love, appreciation, and acceptance for yourself. What does unconditional mean? That no matter what you do, you always love yourself with the same strength.”
Self-love is not just about feeling good, but a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth. Far from being static, self-love grows through actions that mature us; when we begin to accept ourselves, with all our weaknesses and strengths. When we have compassion for others like ourselves who are struggling. In other words, like Prof Kristine Neff says, “With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.” With self-compassion, we mindfully accept that moments can be painful, and embrace ourselves with kindness and care. And we remember that imperfection is part of the shared human experience.
Here are some self-care activities that you could try this season
1. Spend time with yourself
The best way to know yourself is to spend time in your own company. To do that, pick up something creative. Read, write, draw, paint, go for a walk, and enjoy your own self. Getting glued to Netflix doesn’t count! Listen to your favorite music, dance, and enjoy! It’s a beautiful feeling to love our own company.
2. Cook something healthy and eat mindfully. Food is bae, treat it with love
With a feeling of joy, cook for yourself. Prepare a healthy snack or meal, play some music in the background, or a tutorial in case you don’t know the recipe! Now, when you sit down to eat, pay attention to details (ATD). Relish each bite and chew properly. Feel the taste rather than gulping it down straight in your tummies.
Well, what if you don’t know how to cook, order something healthy and eat mindfully. Going out to eat is also not a bad idea. Like a date with yourself.
With a healthy body, it is easier to achieve goals and train your mind. Our body needs regular exercise, and who doesn’t like to be fit anyway? The more fit you get, the more energetic you feel. Take up yoga, Zumba, dance, aerobics, gym, or whatever you like, but do exercise. We need to release the excessive energy our body produces. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, and a healthy mind is very productive and creative.
4. Soak in the beauty of nature
Nature has abundant healing properties. Spend time in nature, feeling the cool breeze, appreciating the beauty, the lush green trees, flowers, butterflies, vast sky, birds make us feel blessed and joyous. One should do it often to feel the bliss of nature. Nature accepts everyone. Initially, it might feel tedious. Still, gradually you will love to spend time with nature – Mother Nature will make you love your own company.
Meditation is one of the most effective ways to read our minds. We start to read our thoughts and the patterns they originate in. Once we begin to read them, dropping thoughts become easier. Eventually, our thoughts don’t affect us as much as they do now, and we tend to know ourselves better. It makes us aware and mindful. Read ‘A Million Thoughts‘ a book by Om Swami to know about meditation. Practice meditation using the app, Black Lotus.
6. Play with animals
Animals know how to love unconditionally. When you play with them, fill yourself with joy, love, and happiness. It uplifts your mood. Touch between a human and a dog can have therapeutic benefits for both species, triggering the release of the bonding hormone oxytocin in humans.
7. Keep a gratitude journal
Everyone in their life has something or the other to feel blessed about. When you feel gratitude for what you have in your life, life will look beautiful, in all ups and downs. The sense of gratefulness makes us realize that it is ok to be not ok sometimes. Life is a roller coaster ride, and that’s the beauty of it. Gratitude introduces us to a new perspective on life.
8. Take up a cause
Last but not least, take up a purpose bigger than yourself. When you do that, life will introduce you to the least known side of yours.
When you know that your existence and efforts are making some difference in the lives of others, no matter how small, a sense of fulfillment fills you up. Happiness lies in making someone happy, who is not even expecting it from you.
Enjoy your Christmas, and kick off the journey of self-love.
Black Lotus is a global initiative to spread goodness and peace through meditation and Random Acts of Kindness (Raks). This grand movement is inspired and led by Om Swami.