Just because Valentine’s Day has passed doesn’t mean the time for showing love and affection has — and among all the people you should be striving to show a bit of love for, you should make sure to include yourself. Practicing self-love in small and large ways every day is so important, both for maintaining your own physical and mental health and for modeling those behaviors for the young people in your life.
So what is self-love, exactly? And what are some of the ways you can embrace it on the reg? Let’s take a look.
What is self-love, anyway?
Self-love requires two things — self-understanding and self-acceptance, Kellie Klinck, therapist at My Modern Therapy, tells SheKnows. “How can we love ourselves if we don’t really know ourselves?” she queries. “For self-love to exist, it has to be anchored in what we know to be true about ourselves, not what others told us about ourselves. Self-love is also equally about acceptance. There is something liberating about accepting ourselves as human (and therefore imperfect) and still worthy of love and happiness.”
Klinck also explains that self-love is aligned with compassion toward ourselves, which is not always easy to do. “Softening and being kind with ourselves is really helpful for practicing self-love,” she says.
Registered psychologist Rachel Tomlinson also shares that self-love is about learning to put yourself first. “This is not selfish,” she tells SheKnows. “Instead, this is about self-preservation.” She says learning to love yourself might entail reflection, practicing self-care, identifying positives about yourself, pursuing your interests, hobbies and activities that fill you up and recognizing that this is for your benefit alone — and that is perfectly OK.
What are some ways to practice self-love?
There are myriad ways to practice self-love, and it can definitely go beyond taking a long bath (although that totally counts too!). Here are some of our favorite ways you can use to take care of yourself and embrace self-love — because you totally deserve it.
Dr. Dawn M. Raffa, a licensed clinical psychologist and certified cognitive therapist, tells SheKnows it’s not selfish at all to set boundaries, even though it may feel that way. “Do not overcommit to too many tasks at once,” she suggests. “Say maybe — rather than a quick yes out of obligation — and schedule some self-care or me time. If you cannot take care of yourself, then you will not be in a place to take care of anyone else.”
Go on a date — with yourself
There’s no need to wait for another person to accompany you to make an outing worthwhile. Dr. Alisa Ruby Bash, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells SheKnows that one way to embrace self-love is to take yourself out to somewhere you really want to go.
Lisa Concepcion, a certified professional love life coach and founder of LoveQuest Coaching, says that journaling is an excellent way to practice self-love. “One great exercise is to write down negative thoughts and self-talk,” she tells SheKnows. “Then cross it out in red pen and write out the new thing you will choose to say instead.”
Connect with nature
Psychotherapist Emily Roberts says getting outside may be key to embracing your sense of self. “Take in the sky, the trees, the flowers, the birds,” she tells SheKnows. “Mindfulness and awareness of nature help you feel connected to the universe and feel loving energy from the earth.”
Clean up your inbox
This can apply to your text backlog or anything else with a big notification number on your phone, which can increase anxiety, says Roberts. “Delete everything that you are not currently using/working on, and archive the others for future reference,” she explains.
Take a class or workshop
If something piques your interest, consider learning more, Roberts suggests. “Are you eager to try a new technique in something you’re interested in?” she asks. “Find what calls you and seek out a mentor, group or workshop where you can immerse yourself.”
Engage in positive self-talk
It’s easy, unfortunately, to disparage yourself or talk down to yourself, says Sara Ralph, a licensed professional counselor. “We all have running commentaries going through our head, and rarely are the commentaries all positive,” she tells SheKnows. “Most commentaries are not, ‘Wow, I’m such a good friend,’ or ‘What a great mom I am!’ or ‘I’m really excelling at my job.’ This takes time to relearn and requires practice but can be done. If we learn to think better, we can learn to feel better.”
Self-love is about you
While self-love is about taking care of yourself, it doesn’t mean you’re selfish for making time for yourself, and it’s important to keep your own tank full so you can give love and care to others. “Self-love does not mean being narcissistic or thinking you are better than others,” says Bash. “It means recognizing the divine within and honoring your life.”