Do you love and care for yourself the way you want to be loved and cared for?
Our relationship with ourselves is our most important relationship, determining how we experience life, and the quality of all our other relationships. Self-love gives us the kindness that we need to receive from within to nourish ourselves and flourish. Without it, we endlessly seek love outside of ourselves, often turning away from ourselves in the process. Good self-care means we are in tune with and meet our needs as best we can. Without it, we neglect ourselves, or may even become self-abusive or destructive.
The subjects of self-love, self-compassion and self-care often raise a lot of questions.
What is self-love? How exactly do I love myself? What do I need to do? What does it mean to be compassionate toward myself? Isn’t self-care about always putting yourself first and being selfish?
Self-love is less about doing and more about a way of being with ourselves. It’s recognising that we are already enough as we are, that we are worthy of love and don’t need to be or achieve something special, or to fix, improve or perfect ourselves, to be loveable. It’s befriending ourselves and seeing ourselves through loving and compassionate eyes. Self-love is allowing ourselves to simply be, as we are, in this moment. Ultimately, it’s coming home to our deepest being and recognising that in essence, love is what we are.
Self-compassion means seeing ourselves through kind and loving eyes, especially in moments of suffering and struggle. It means forgiving ourselves for our faults and imperfections, offering ourselves as much love and understanding as we can when we notice that we’re judging and criticising ourselves.
Self-care is self-love and compassion in action. It means paying close attention to ourselves, listening for what our physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual needs are, and meeting them as best we can, which sometimes means asking others for help and support.
There are numerous examples of ways we can support and take care of ourselves, including eating healthy foods, kind self-talk, taking a break from reading the news when we feel overwhelmed by it, being with loved ones, having healthy boundaries and saying No to others, not eating the chocolate cake, and sometimes allowing ourselves to eat the chocolate cake. It’s not about following rules and a list of things we should do. It’s about listening deeply to ourselves in heart, mind, body and spirit, in the present moment, staying tuned in to our ever-changing needs.
Self-care doesn’t always mean always putting ourselves first. When we recognise that our needs matter as much as everyone else’s, we put ourselves first out of love when it’s appropriate to do so, and we put others first when that’s appropriate (an obvious example being dependent children). We learn to look at the whole picture in a situation, and respond to the needs of everyone in a balanced way, caring for ourselves in a way that cares for others.
Loving and caring for ourselves increases our capacity to love and care for others, and insufficient self-care means we’re not able to care well for others when that’s what’s needed. It’s the reason why we’re advised to put on our own oxygen mask first in an aeroplane emergency before trying to help anyone else – if we don’t have the oxygen we need, we stand no chance of helping others to access theirs.
Self-love and self-care don’t make us an island, completely self-sufficient and not needing anyone or anything. Human beings are interdependent: we need to feel loved and to be cared for by others. However, when we become dependent on others for love and care without having given ourselves these foundations first, we can easily find ourselves in unhealthy relationship dynamics, with codependency or even abuse.
Many of us can struggle at times to give ourselves the essential foundations of self-love, compassion and care. Sometimes we simply don’t know how, because we were never taught how. When we were young, we may even have been taught by our caregivers (often indirectly and unintentionally) to be against ourselves. To love and care for ourselves, we need to be on our own side.
We can commit to self-love and self-compassion, whilst recognising that sometimes we may be unkind toward ourselves. We can commit to self-care, knowing that we might sometimes neglect ourselves or even engage in self-destructive behaviours. We can only do the best we can do, and remember as much as we can that that is good enough, taking care not to make self-love, compassion and care yet another thing we have to get right or perfect!
Different ways to explore each theme
Coaching can support you to make real, lasting changes in your relationship with yourself, others and life. Sessions can be held in person or via Skype.
Workshops can support you to make real, lasting changes in your relationship with yourself, others and life.
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Workshops for self-love & self-care
What is self-care? What gets in the way? Explore what it means to truly and lovingly care or yourself in this workshop.
Explore your own inner world and deepen your connection with yourself in this workshop.
Learn to Say NO Clearly & Kindly
Do sometimes (or often) you struggle to say NO? Would you love to be more honest and authentic in all your relationships?