This week is an exciting time for Promises Behavioral Health! During the second week of February, we celebrate Promise Week. It is a time for us to reflect on what it means to make a promise to others and ourselves.
To paraphrase RuPaul, “If you can’t love yourself, how can you love someone else?” Truer words really have never been spoken. Self-love has been a popular theme in mainstream media for quite some time now. From positive affirmations to face masks to self-care Sundays—all seeming to tout the ability to reinforce self-love. But what is self-love? And how can we practice it?
Today, we’ll take a deeper dive into self-love and offer a few essential practices that may jump-start your self-love journey. (And you are going to need more than just a face mask.)
A Look into Self-Love
What Self-Love Is
The Merriam-Webster dictionary states that self-love is the “proper regard for and attention to one’s own happiness or well-being.” To break this down further, self-love begins with self-awareness. When we are aware of ourselves, our needs and our happiness, we can prioritize certain actions that reinforce taking care of those needs.
It may help to think of self-love in building blocks, with the foundation as your basic needs, such as food and shelter. Then build out what makes you feel happy and taken care of from there.
Here’s an example of the building blocks of self-love:
Self-love takes consideration and practice. Our internal voices would instead tell us what we do wrong rather than what we do right. It is not something that we inherently know, but rather is a skill that we must learn.
What Self-Love Isn’t
Now that we know what self-love is, let’s explore what it isn’t. Self-love is not a selfish or self-indulgent act. People may think that when you take time for yourself, you push others out of your life. But that couldn’t be further from the truth!
When a person practices self-love, they view themselves as important and deserving. Still, there needs to be a note here that self-love does not equal entitlement or provide an excuse to harm others.
Why Does Self-Love Matter?
Have you ever heard the phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup”? This is why self-love matters so much. When we love ourselves, we can better care for and love others.
It is especially important when it comes to addiction and mental health recovery. Those experiencing a disorder are often riddled with guilt and shame over the past. It can make it hard to love oneself when there is the constant, nagging feeling that you’ve done something harmful to someone you care about.
But self-love considers the past and asks you to accept your mistakes to help you move forward. For those in recovery, the act of learning to love yourself can, in turn, help someone else struggling to work through their disorder. Your ability to share your story of recovery and self-love could ultimately change someone else’s life for the better.
Now that we know what self-love is (and isn’t), let’s explore how to express it. There are many, many ways to practice self-love. It all comes down to you and your unique happiness. Some people practice by going for a run, others affirm their love in the mirror and some express it with special treats. Whatever brings you joy can be considered an act of self-love.
Still, it can be hard to get the practice started. That’s why we’re here to help you take the guesswork out. This Promise Week, we invite you to sit down and write yourself a love letter. That’s right! A love letter.
A Love Letter to You
Writing a letter to someone you love requires thought and…you guessed it, awareness! You are aware of how that person makes you feel. You think of all the little things that you appreciate about them. You look back on the precious moments the two of you have shared. So, if you pour this kind of thought into writing for someone else, why not try it for yourself?
Writing a love letter to yourself actually has benefits too. It helps relieve anxiety, increases your creativity and promotes confidence. It can also help you make future plans and goals. If you are still unsure, we can help you get started.
Steps for Writing a Love Letter to Yourself
We recommend writing this letter the old-fashioned way, with paper and pen. But since we live in the digital age, feel free to write this via email or you can use a handy tool. No matter what medium you choose, you will need a quiet, private space.
Now that you have your quiet spot and your writing tool, you will need to reflect on what you like about yourself. If you have a hard time with this, choose something simple, like a physical feature, how you make your friends laugh or how you always wash the dishes after a meal. Those things count too!
Finally, it’s time to write. Begin your letter with kind words of appreciation. Look at how far you’ve come and all you’ve accomplished. Write about how you positively impact the people around you. Express attributes about yourself that you admire and work to cultivate.
Be sure you sign it with love!
Be Gentle—It Takes Practice!
We know. Self-love seems silly. Writing yourself a love letter seems silly. Telling yourself, “I love you,” seems silly. But if loving yourself could help someone else in the end, why not give it a go? This Promise Week, we ask you to take some time to fill your cup—so that you may pour it back into others.
And always remember—be gentle! Self-love takes time, patience and practice.
Written by Chrissy Petrone, Creative Content Director with Promises Behavioral Health