Self-love. We all know it, we’ve all been advised to do it. But what does it truly mean?
Is self-love a performative act, something that you must show to the world to prove that you are healthy to yourself, or is it a personal act, capable of being performed even just inside your head?
We must be cautious when we think about self-love, because self-love, when properly performed, can be one of the most transformative long-term journeys you might ever experience.
Self-love requires understanding and engaging with yourself at the most intimate level, and opening up to yourself in a way that might be uncomfortable and unfamiliar for most of us.
At Hack Spirit we believe that self-love is a journey, not a single action. And like any journey, there are wrong ways and right ways to pursue it.
Love yourself the right way, and learn how honest, authentic, and truthful self-love can change you in a way you never could have imagined.
Why Self-Love Is More Important Now Than Ever Before
It seems that everyone is talking about self-love these days. How long can you go without hearing something like, “Love yourself more!”, or “If you loved yourself, you wouldn’t be feeling like this”, or especially, “How can anyone else love you if you don’t love yourself first?”
But why now?
The self-love movement seems to be a distinctly modern movement. There are some who might say we think too much of ourselves, or we are too stuck in our own heads.
But the need for self-love is a reaction to the modern world that we have created around us, and there are a few reasons to explain why we need it now more than ever.
1) We Have More Time Than Ever Before:
It may not seem like it, but the modern world has granted us freedom with the time that our ancestors could have never dreamed of.
Because of technology and innovation, the amount of free time we have is greater than ever before.
We no longer have to spend most of our days farming, hunting, and making sure we have access to the basic necessities of life.
We are more educated, have more job opportunities, and have longer lives than humans have ever had in history.
We finally have the freedom to look inside and understand the self on a massive scale, as we live in a culture that can now allow everyone the freedom to take the time for self-love.
2) We Understand the Universe More Than Ever Before:
When you study literature, you are taught that the narratives and plots that make up the stories we tell each other have changed over history.
– Classical Era: We were most concerned with Man VS Nature and Man VS God. Our understanding of the world and the universe around us was marginal, and our greatest concerns were establishing our place against an unknown natural and supernatural world.
– Modern Era: We wrote about Man VS Society and Man VS a lack of God. Humanity became more centered in our understanding of life, and we started to see ourselves as the captains of own destiny.
– Postmodern Era: We now write about Man VS Technology and Man VS Self. We understand the world around us at a scientific level, and many of us now question our religious and spiritual beliefs; instead, we try to define meaning by looking within, through a conflict with the self.
Thanks to modern science, the world and universe around us are no longer the mysteries they have been for thousands of years.
We question beliefs that humanity has held onto for thousands of years, and are now looking inside ourselves to find meaning, to find hope, and to find happiness.
Self-love is crucial towards this modern journey of introspection.
3) We Are Losing Our Humanity More Than Ever Before
And finally, some would say that we are losing ourselves more than ever before.
While the digital age has brought about a level of connectivity the world has never seen, we are also losing ourselves to our own digital and virtual selves.
We are becoming unattached from the world around us, and we are losing the social bonds that once naturally gave us meaning and purpose.
For many of us, our humanity is ebbing away and trying to make sense of the world and our reason for living in it is becoming more and more difficult.
Self-love is one of the answers that can help us find our footing in this new and strange world we have created.
The Wrong Ways People Act Out Self-Love
The idea of self-love has become so ingrained in modern culture that the most active and common ways it is presented to us is a commercial, idealized form of what self-love is supposed to be.
We see only the material and external products of self-love, from the supposed behavior a person should practice when engaging in self-love, to the supposedly happy and fulfilling results of this behavior.
But we witness very little of the internal – what goes on in the inside, the changes and considerations a person must make to properly use self-love as a transformative tool.
It is in the best interest of any celebrity or group or cultural icon to positively promote self-love, without questioning or refuting any aspect of it at the risk of being accused of trying to “correct” another person’s idea of self-love.
This is because self-love as an idea has conveniently wrapped itself in a way that it cannot be criticized, as criticizing anyone’s understanding of self-love can be considered an attack on another person or group, which is a very unloving thing to do.
But for those who wish to truly get the most out of their self-love, and connect with and understand themselves at the most intimate level, there are crucial mistakes in how culture interprets self-love that you must be aware of and avoid.
The main reason why we often get self-love wrong is that we are trying to overcompensate for not having enough of it. We push the idea of self-love too obnoxiously upon ourselves because we don’t love ourselves enough, and feel the need to do too much, too quickly.
Here are the wrong ways we act out self-love:
1) A Short-Term Break from Long-Term Dissatisfaction
Something you might have said: “That’s tomorrow’s problem – today is all about self-love.”
There isn’t a single soul on earth that would say they live a perfect life, and for the average person, our lives are far from perfect.
For a growing number of people, daily dissatisfaction is becoming the norm – we wake up too early to begin a routine or job we don’t particularly enjoy (and in some cases hate), we engage in activities and interact with people we can barely stand, and we spend too much time doing too many things we care too little about.
And we feel stuck. We feel isolated and trapped in a prison of our own making, despite never having realized when we started making it or how we can ever escape.
Too many of us live tedious lives that disappoint or even depress us if we think about it for too long.
When we add up the minutes and hours we spend in states of long-term dissatisfaction, we feel hopeless, lost.
So we use self-love as a kind of mini-vacation. We think of self-love as an opportunity to temporarily ignore the many things that dissatisfy us in our daily lives, and go no further from there.
We use self-love as an excuse to do things such as:
– Treating yourself spontaneously to a massage, an expensive meal, or a night at a 5-star hotel, under the guise of self-love
– Spending a night letting go of your inhibitions and doing anything and everything you want to do, regardless of the consequences
– Burning bridges and destroying social relationships because they make you feel negative
Now some of you might be asking – “If those things aren’t self-love, then what are they?” While the actions described above can be considered forms of self-love, it is important to realize that they must be a byproduct of a pre-existing internalized self-love, rather than an individual, material event born out of the feeling that you “just need a break.”
True self-love must be a habit, or a continuous chain of mental exercises manifesting in small but growing behaviors in all areas of your life.
If you think of self-love as a short-term mental vacation from a life you dislike, then any mental respite or satisfaction gained from your actions will immediately vanish the moment you return to your normal state.
This means nothing will get better, and you further trap yourself in an unhappy routine simply punctuated by states of short-term happiness which become increasingly ineffective.
Until one day you “wake up” and realize – the things that used to make you happy no longer work. At this point, your dissatisfaction becomes permanent.
Self-love must be a part of you, not another state of mind where you rest. Only by truly internalizing self-love can you experience long-term change.
2) Absolute Rejection of Discomfort and Challenge
Something you might have said: “I’m trying to cut all toxicity and negativity out of my life so goodbye.”
Growth through adversity. One of the most popular ideas not just of the modern era, but from all of human history.
It is a phenomenon that has been studied and proven extensively, and it is common knowledge in all communities.
The most successful stories have always been from people who faced adversity after adversity, living a life filled with challenges and obstacles.
It is a lesson we have all been familiarized with since childhood, but unfortunately, it is one that the loud advocacy of self-love is making many of us forget.
Too many people use self-love as a defense mechanism for anything that brings them discomfort or stress.
We are learning to tell ourselves that we deserve only happiness and love and contentment, and anything or anyone who subtracts from those positive feelings is something that must only be a vessel of toxic energy and must be removed immediately.
This is creating a society of people who are unable to stand up to the obstacles in their life, stunting their growth as people.
Strength comes from adversity, from discomfort, from sweat, and from challenge.
We must realize that it is unrealistic to expect a world that only offers positive vibes, and by trying to force that kind of bubble around yourself, you are only limiting your potential as a person.
Self-love is a treatment for those who are pushing themselves too far, too much, and too hard. Not for those who have yet to leave their nest and see the world for what it is.
3) Relying on the Validation of Others to Confirm It
Something you might have said: “What’s the point if nobody knows about what I did?”
The advent of social media has helped the world in many ways, but in some ways, it has also created more than a few trends of self-destructive behaviors.
One of those behaviors is teaching people that everything they do must be validated and approved by those around them, including self-love.
You need to learn to be comfortable without an audience. With self-love, you should be focusing primarily on the self. If you find yourself even thinking about posting to get likes, hearts, or whatever else, then your motivations for your behaviors of self-love are misguided, and won’t help you in the long run.
There are also times when you do things for other people, not because you want to help or make someone else’s life better, but because you don’t want them to believe you are a bad person.
While the end result might be the same – you helped the person, regardless of what your intentions were – self-growth is the opposite.
Instead of growing as a person, you end up regressing and limiting yourself, because you are trapping yourself in the views of other people.
The same goes for seeking validation for every act of self-love you perform: once you start training your mind to rely on the number of likes and hearts and followers approving of your behavior, it becomes a game of numbers rather than a transformative experience for the self.
The point is to cut yourself away from the noise and find happiness within yourself.
Love yourself, not the validation.
4) Believing It’s All About You
Something you might have said: “There is nothing wrong with putting yourself first.”
And on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are some who take the idea of self-love too personally.
While self-love is a journey that is primarily focused on the self, it doesn’t mean that you must become obnoxiously selfish, thinking of no one but yourself.
You must find that authentic balance between loving yourself, and loving the role or part you play in the lives of those around you.
When you think about you and nobody else, self-love can negatively impact the lives of the people who love you, while also making it more stressful of a journey for you to take.
Every time you don’t get exactly what you want, you might become frustrated or annoyed, leading to a mental state that is the opposite of what self-love is supposed to achieve.
Remember that happiness can come to you in many ways. While obvious happiness comes in the form of direct benefits – of your goals and wishes becoming fulfilled as clearly and quickly as possible – there are many other ways you can be happy and satisfied with yourself.
Being less centered and concerned about your own desires and thinking about other people can make the journey of self-love more pleasant and rewarding, giving you greater happiness than you could have achieved otherwise.
Self-Love Is Not in Your Actions, But in Your Reasons
So how can you practice self-love, and what can you actively do to make sure you are engaging in truly transformative self-love?
The truth is, there is no easy answer. We all have our own things that make us happy.
Some people think of staying at home and reading a book all day as self-love; others thing of buying yourself a nice dress every week as self-love.
To ensure that your actions are a manifestation of self-love, you just have to remember: your actions are a result of internal self-love, not a forced attempt at creating self-love.
Whatever you do is up to you – it’s the reason why you are doing it that classifies whether it is the right kind of authentic, honest self-love.
(To dive deep into eastern philosophy wisdom and how it help you live a better life, check out my most popular eBook: The No-Nonsense Guide to Using Buddhism and Eastern Philosophy for a Better Life)
Here are our 5 tips to help you live with self-love:
1) Live with Intent:
Live mindfully, truthfully, and intentionally. Do not lose yourself in your moments, and if you do, find out why you lost yourself and what you can do to stay present.
Your life is limited – time is your most important currency – and the more you show yourself that you value your time, the more you prove to yourself that you love your life.
2) Live with Care:
Treat yourself well; physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Listen to your body and your mind at the most basic level – if something doesn’t make you feel good, then it is probably bad for you. Protect yourself, from the dangers of both greasy food and toxic friends.
Your mind is your window into the world; keep it clean, keep it strong, and your world will stay equally positive.
Practice a proper diet, exercise regularly, sleep enough hours, and engage in healthy social behavior that secures your personal growth.
And make sure to live with boundaries. Don’t limit yourself, but don’t confuse self-love with hedonism. Moderation is good for the soul.
3) Live with Forgiveness:
You will make mistakes. You’ve most certainly already made a ton, filling you with various bouts of guilt and regret trapped in the back of your head.
You are human, after all, and that’s what makes life worth living: the unexpectedness of your own humanity.
But learn to forgive, yourself and those around you. Every day you wake up is an opportunity to grow away from the person you were the day before.
If that person made a mistake, then try to understand and forgive, as you can work towards being a different person tomorrow.
4) Live with Need:
Your mind is your greatest asset, so trust it. When presented with a situation to overindulge, ask yourself: do I need this or do I want it? In most cases, what you think you need is simply a case of you wanting it.
And while it is more than fine to pleasure yourself with your own desires every now and then, it is important to remember not to fall into self-made destructive habits based on desire and want.
Live according to what your mind, body, and soul need.
Turn away from the pleasures of laziness, of automatic happiness, of destructive behavior, because these are short-term, and they care nothing for the person you could be.
You are the only person who must live with yourself for your entire life, so make your happiness last longer than a day.
5) Live with Yourself:
And finally, it is crucial to learn to live with yourself as if you were someone else.
When faced with the task of self-loving, we think too much in the abstract; we think of it as a mental challenge, a psychological question rather than a task we can actively work towards achieving.
But loving yourself is as simple as loving anyone else, so ask yourself: how would you love yourself, if you were someone else?
Treat yourself with the same respect, kindness, and mindfulness that you would offer the people who matter most to you in your life.
Love yourself with the same patience and tenderness you would give your own child, partner, sibling, or parent.
Be kind but be stern; learn to discipline, but learn to forgive. You are your own greatest fan, your own greatest rival, and your own greatest love.
Learn to see yourself in ways you have never considered.
Self-Love Is Not Easy, And It’s Not About Happiness
Self-love seems so easy in movies and shows. Just let go of the thoughts, problems, and people causing stress in your life, exchange them with sources of joy and happiness, and voila: you are a self-loving king or queen.
But true, transformative, authentic self-love isn’t so easy. While you might feel great for some time, there will be many moments when you want to give up, where you might convince yourself that your attempts at self-love are meaningless and childish and stupid, that the world is hard and cruel and you should just learn to live with it.
But don’t stop. Keep going. Self-love isn’t about happiness. It’s about improving your life as much as you currently can, and accepting it.
And you can only accept your world and the role you play in it if you know that you are doing the best you can, even if it’s not the best others might expect of you.
It’s not about happiness, pleasure, or indulgence. It’s about acceptance, contentment, and peace.
Self-love isn’t easy – it’s a journey that will last a lifetime, which will shape and transform with you as you grow and change.
But here’s one thing for sure: your life will be significantly fuller and richer for your attempt at living with self-love than living without it.
Good luck, and enjoy your journey of self-love.
Specific actions to practice self-love: 5 practical exercises to love yourself more
Life’s hard enough without being hard on yourself about it. It’s tough to get through the day sometimes, but when you decide to love yourself before anything else, life can suddenly become better.
Sometimes it’s not about changing what you see on the outside or the circumstances surrounding your life, it’s about changing what you think and feel on the inside.
Loving yourself provides you the opportunity to learn about yourself and when you know more about yourself, you’ll live a better life.
1) Write it out.
Journaling is one of the best ways to get to know yourself in an intimate way. It provides a private place for you to get all of your thoughts and feelings out in a way that you are able to make sense of them.
Writing is not only therapeutic, but a great opportunity to ask yourself some tough questions so that you can get your mind wrapped around the things that are bothering you.
Sometimes, we turn to the outside world to place blame for our unhappiness, but the truth is that much of what is making us unhappy is within ourselves. Writing allows you to get clear on those thoughts, take control of them, and then change them over time.
When you can master your mind through writing, you’ll be better able to love yourself and let yourself live a better life.
To begin journaling, here are 15 prompts you can use.
Choose a new prompt each day to focus on in your journal. Try and write as much as you can about each prompt.
Let your mind free and just write.
1) What are the three personality traits you love most about yourself?
2) If your body had the ability to talk, what would it say?
3) What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received? Why is it true?
4) What are 5 things you’re great at doing?
5) I feel happiest when I’m ___
6) Between great, good, fine and bad my mental health is ___I believe this is because ____
7) Between great, good, fine and bad my physical health is ___I believe this is because ___
8) Who are you loved by most? Describe them and what you love about them.
9) Make a list of 20 things that make you happy.
10) What are 10 things you can start doing to take better care of yourself?
11) What are the common negative things you say to yourself? What can you say instead?
12) What qualities make you unique?
13) List the favorite parts of your appearance.
14) Where do you feel most safe and loved?
15) If you could back in time to when you were 15, what would you tell yourself?
2) Do things you like.
If you find that life doesn’t bring you joy, it might be time to take a long, hard look at the things you are doing with your time.
Life is short, there’s no doubt about that, but sometimes we don’t really understand how short it is until it is too late.
Rather than wait for lightning to strike, commit to doing things that you like and that bring joy to your life.
You shouldn’t put off until tomorrow what could be done today. It’s vital that you are in tune with what you like because how silly does it sound when you hear about people who do things they don’t want to do?
We all declare, “I would never do that” yet, here we are, doing things we don’t’ want to do all the time.
So write down a list of activities that give you joy. Then make a plan to do them each week.
3) Do things differently.
If what you are doing isn’t working for you and you are having a hard time letting go of the past, try to do things differently from the way you usually do them.
We all know people who do the same things over and over again and expect different results.
Don’t be one of those people.
Do things in a new way on purpose and see how that feels. When you try on different ways of doing things, not only do you discover things about yourself, but you also figure out what you like, what you don’t like, and who you really are inside.
There’s nothing more telling than fear and if you put yourself in enough situations that you’ll feel fear on a regular basis, you’ll find that you were able to create a new life for yourself just by doing things…differently.
Here are 10 ideas to do things differently:
1) Try a different exercise routine.
2) Brush your teeth with a different hand.
3) Sleep more than you usually would.
4) Take a different path to work.
5) Spend time with friends you haven’t seen in a while.
6) Get outside more.
7) Make an effort to help others more than usually would.
8) Practice smiling more.
9) Plan a trip…to somewhere you’ve never been.
10) Start meditation if you haven’t already.
4) Be fair but firm with yourself.
When it comes to loving yourself all the way to a better life, you need to be careful not to let yourself off the hook when the going gets tough.
Look, we get it. It’s easy to throw in the towel when you are feeling like things are getting difficult, but those are the moments when you change and grow the most.
So if you are trying to love yourself into a new role, new life, or new relationship, you need to be firm, but fair with yourself.
When things really are too much – and you aren’t just trying to escape the hard stuff – it’s okay to change directions.
Ask yourself at every turn, is this going to make me a better version of myself? If the answer is yes, proceed.
5) Get to know yourself.
Easier said than done, right? But it’s not impossible. After all, if you don’t know who you are, how can you expect someone else to know who you are?
It’s a tough spot to be in when you don’t like yourself or your life, but it’s one worth getting out of.
Working on getting to know yourself puts you in a place of control.
When you don’t know anything about yourself or you refuse to face the demons, you end up in a place where you lose control and that’s when things feel like they aren’t as good as they could be.
Take back control and learn to love yourself into a better life by turning the lens inward, instead of looking to others to make things better for yourself.
The best way to get to know yourself is through VITALS. This is an acronym for the 6 building blocks of self.
Here’s what the letters stand for and how to find it in yourself:
V = Values
What are your values? This can include “helping others” or “health” or “being creative”. Think about it and write down 10 important values that describe you.
To figure out your interests, ask yourself these questions: What do you pay attention to? What are you most concerned about? What gets your mind really curious?
Answer these questions to figure out your temperament: Do you restore your energy by being alone or with other people? Do you prefer to plan or be spontaneous? Do you make decisions based on facts or feelings? Do you prefer big ideas or details?
A= Around-the-Clock Activities
When do you like to do things? Are you a morning or evening person? What time of day does your energy peak?
L = Life Mission and Meaningful Goals
What is your purpose in life? What have been the most meaningful events of your life? What’s your main motivation for getting up in the morning?
What are your strongest abilities? Skills? Talents? What are your greatest character strengths?
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