What does it mean to practice self-love?

Love

From the very first day that each of us came into this world, we’ve been repeatedly fed the message, through bedtime stories, books, movies, music and the wisdom of our loved ones, that love is a powerful thing.

So cliché, right? Because it’s obvious. It goes without saying. We’ve all felt the impact that love can have, the difference it can make in our lives, and we’ve seen what it’s done throughout history.

Look at the Chinese couple, Liu Guojiang and the Xu Chaoquing that chose to live in a cave because the world didn’t want them to be together. Or the Prince, Shah Jahan, that spent 22 years building one of the most stunning pieces of architecture, the Taj Mahal, in memory and out of love for his dead wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

These are beautiful stories, though have you ever contemplated why individual stories of self-love are so readily swept under the carpet? Of course, self-love in its concentrated form, narcissism, is far from a desirable quality. But what about the kind of devotion that enables someone to knuckle down in the privacy of their bedroom to push themselves through Medical school? Or the kind that fuels a girl to practice their arabesques day-after-day to give themselves the best chances of passing their ballet exams? These forms are equally as powerful and important, and yet scarcely given acknowledgement.

Investing time, energy and attention in yourself is integral if you want to make personal progress and move further in the world. It’s a way of showing the world that you value who you are and the person you’re becoming.

Unsure about what approaches you can take to take better care of your mind, body and spirit? Perhaps you can start by practising the following.

Saying no.

Whether that no is directed towards the thought of eating the cheesecake in the freezer that you know won’t do you any favours, or to spending time outside of work with colleagues you don’t even like, put your health and your happiness first by only saying yes to the things that you know will be good for you. Don’t let serving your immediate desires or becoming a slave to guilt, throw you into an unhealthy and miserable rut. It’s not worth it.                                                         

Accepting your flaws.

We all have those little things about ourselves, whether it’s concerning our weaknesses or appearance, that we wish we could tweak or change. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with striving to be your best self, which may involve aiming to reduce your weaknesses or enhance your appearance. I’m saying that, in the midst of striving for self-improvement, you should love who you are and where you are now. Simultaneously, appreciate yourself as you are, as well as the process of yourself moving towards the person you want to be.

Ending friendships that prevent you from growing.

Especially if you’re a loyal person, parting ways with old friends can be a hurtful prospect. You’ve invested so much time, energy, love and attention into this person, it’s hardly an appealing thought to swiftly cut your ties. In spite of the high regard it’s given, sometimes loyalty can be problematic as a trait. It can cause us to blindly cling to a deteriorating relationship that’s steadily beginning to poison us. It’ll be hard at first, but walking away from those that are stunting your growth in some way, whether that’s in the form of negativity or failing to provide the encouragement that you need in a support system, will force you to find friends that don’t.

Recognising your gifts, and using them.

Do you have a special talent that you wish you’d nurtured more? Maybe when you were younger everyone used to compliment your knack for words, your ability to draw impressive portraits or the way you could act out a movie scenario so accurately. Whatever it is, stop neglecting it. You know that, later down the line, you’ll be thinking of the progress you could’ve made and the paths you could have pursued, if you’d only just given them a little dedication.

Not deriving your self-worth from your work.

This is one that I’ve particularly struggled with from a young age. Whenever I got a 10/10 on a spelling test, or an A on a piece of coursework that I’d worked really hard on, I couldn’t help but feel myself glow a little on the inside. Continuing through the school system, and as a competitive individual, it’s hardly surprising that I came to value myself and my abilities accordingly with the grades I saw on my transcript. It’s great to aspire for top marks and performance, but don’t beat yourself on the occasions when you fall short. You are more than the force of your daily grind and productivity. Don’t forget that.

Educating yourself.

Finally, what field do you want to excel in? Journalism? Teaching? Law? Go out of your way to gain additional subject knowledge, meet people in, and participate in related activities, your field, to give yourself an edge that’ll make you stand out from other candidates. Educating yourself goes far beyond doing so in the blatant subject sense. It also means pushing yourself, training yourself, to be the best you can be, whether that’s in a physical or intellectual sense. A desire to strengthen your abilities is a loving investment, in that it will benefit your career and your health further down the line.

 

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