Loving oneself isn’t as easy or as automatic as it may sound and there are many different ways of succeeding at doing so. There are fundamental aspects of loving oneself that can enrich our lives, but even more in the details that bring us love, joy, and peace. Most people consider providing the basic things in life such as a job, home, food, clothing, etc. as self-love, and to some degree, it is because it is self-care, but there are other equally (if not more) important areas that make us feel loved and valued. The areas I am talking about include the more specific things and ways we take care of our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls that fill us with a sense of self-love. Providing what we need in these areas gives us a feeling of truly being valued and cared for, especially on a day to day basis where we are acting on the details that define what is special to our individual needs.
A common misconception is when people tend to confuse self-care with self-indulgence. Often we act compulsively out of fear or the unknown, this is the time to stop and think. It does take practice and deliberate action but ANYONE can do it. Granted it helps tremendously if you can reach out and ask for help but many people fear to do even that. The key is to find what works for you and act on it. Breaking bad habits and patterns can be tricky but it can be done, and the rewards of a less stressful and more controlled life are worth it. What may appear as small choices are in actuality huge! At any time on any day, we can stop and ask ourselves what choices can we make that will make our lives better? It’s actually an amazing power we have and can control in a positive manner if we try to learn and understand it and utilize it appropriately.
Another important area that gets taken for granted is boundaries. More people than we’d care to believe don’t even know what they are, and others either do not have them or do not know how to use them correctly. Boundaries give us a sense of control over our own bodies and lives, a sense of self-respect and self-protection. Without these we feel more controlled by the circumstances and people outside ourselves. Without personal boundaries we can be easily manipulated, overpowered and undervalued. Setting boundaries for ourselves give us a sense of autonomy, confidence, and self-worth. I see boundaries incredibly undervalued in our society, except for the personal growth crowd. Boundaries give us the psychological awareness that we are uniquely separate from the world and others, which is healthy and necessary. Those who are not taught or allowed to use boundaries growing up feeling enmeshed with all outside sources. They have no real sense of autonomy, individuality. They have never had the opportunity to know how to be self-contained as the individual they are or know how to protect themselves even in the smallest ways. This lack of education in such a crucial area can actually be potentially dangerous. When they come across situations that require them to protect themselves physically, emotionally or psychologically, often even spiritually, they are at a loss. This, unfortunately, leads to unhealthy relationships in many areas, including and especially with themselves.
This brings me to the understanding of the fundamental concept that you can’t have a healthy relationship with someone else UNTIL you have a healthy one with yourself. I think if more people really understood this perhaps they would stop trying to find that fulfillment outside themselves that is meant to be found inside. I have found that this concept is difficult for many to understand but to put it simply, a healthy relationship with oneself is treating yourself with care, sensitivity, respect, and generosity, and self-care is not synonymous with self-indulgence. Self-care is making sure that you make healthy choices for your mind, body, heart, and soul, whereas self-indulgence can be giving in to desire even if it is unhealthy. Self-care is taking the time out to consider what you want, need or feel. It’s making sure that you use the necessary boundaries to make yourself feel safe and respected. It’s eating the right food, getting the right amount of rest and exercise and bringing people into your personal and professional world whenever possible that enhance your life not hinder it. It’s utilizing as much conscious choice as humanly and practically possible.
We all need help in life, and loving yourself would be recognizing that and asking for help as needed from trusted people. We enjoy a feeling of self-love and self-respect when we stand up for our rights and opinions, as well as when we are honest with ourselves and others. There is nothing like a satisfied conscience and living in truth to make us feel at peace. Trusting oneself is an important aspect to self-love as well, and if you realize you don’t know how to do that then seeking the help necessary to learn it would be equal to self-love. These, of course, are merely guidelines, the details vary per individual, but the important fact is to work with what you have and make it as positive and productive as humanly possible; and whatever you don’t know make the effort to learn. If there is one thing our society has made readily available, it’s information, more now than ever with access to the internet; and if you are one of those people who would rather learn it from another person, ask someone you trust or seek an outside source of help.
At this point in time, we can’t exactly say that self-love is always easy, especially with so much going on to keep our lives intact, but it is always worth the effort, for it will give you something you can’t get from anyone else-an inward sense of stability and peace. As humans, we will always have weaknesses but acknowledging them and trying to improve them is an enormous act of self-love.