It’s all About You: 5 Ways to Grow in Your Self-love Journey
A simple, yet impactful line from J. Cole’s 2013 hit “Crooked Smile” had to be one of the most quoted lines from a song that year. Why?
“Love yourself, girl, or nobody will” in a single line advocated for self-love and self-acceptance through hip-hop that historically has perpetuated the expectation of perfectionism and subjected women to limited standards of beauty. Although the creation of the song is rooted in a man accepting a “flaw” in his appearance and proclaiming his success in spite of it; unintentionally that line reinforced the idea that a focus on self-love is a single woman’s practice that is required to prepare herself for a relationship. As a counselor who specializes in self esteem concerns, anxiety, depression, and trauma in teens and young adults, I’m here to share self-love is critical for everyone at any stage in life. No matter the gender, relationship or marital status, age, or general life stage, we all need it for ourselves.
Self-love is essentially complete acceptance and respect for oneself which fuels high self-esteem and self-worth. Although it’s all about “self” there are several things that influence and impact the mental messages we send to ourselves. Cultivating self-love can be challenging when we don’t allow a space for understanding that we are individuals with unique experiences/backgrounds who are constantly bombarded with images of who we “should” aspire to be in the media. Fostering self-love takes work. Some days will be easy-peasy and others will make you want to throw the whole day away and start over.
It’s OK. Here are 5 ways you can grow no matter where you are in your journey of self-love:
No matter the life stage, it’s important to know who you are, what your interests are, what you enjoy, and what you value. Tell me about yourself? Is easily one of the hardest questions for individuals to answer because we have been trained to identify and put value in what we do and not who we are. Be in tune with what makes you the unique individual you are aside from the many hats you wear. More importantly, as the different roles change throughout life (entering a relationship, getting married, becoming a parent, owning a business, becoming a care giver, etc) don’t get lost in the shuffle. Continue to engage in the practices below to stay connected with your inner self.
Spend time alone
Starting from childhood through adulthood, we are socialized to find contentment being with others. If not, we’re negatively labeled as being “weird” or a “loner”. However, sometimes the distractions of other’s opinions can cloud and influence our personal perspective. Plan to do something alone and disconnect electronically at least weekly. You can plan to do something you already enjoy or you can mix it up and try something new. In this time, practice self-awareness and reflection. If it’s something you already enjoy, what about this activity is enjoyable for you? How does it make you feel? Are there other avenues in your life where you experience this feeling? If it’s a new activity, what made you gravitate to this and give it a try? What did you notice about yourself before, during and after the new activity? Each time you’ll learn something new about yourself and look forward to your personal time in your schedule.
Daily positive affirmations
I mentioned above the idea that we send mental messages to ourselves throughout the day. Sometimes those messages can be positive, but often times they are wrapped in judgement and delivered in self-criticism. What we think, affects how we feel, which determines what we do (Classic Cognitive Behavioral Theory at its core). Just imagine the greatness you could achieve and the amount of self-love you could foster if you spoke positivity about yourself every day? Saying or writing affirmations such as I am enough, I am capable, I am lovable, I am worthy, I am unique, I am valuable… will mess around and have you believing the greatness you have within while refusing to settle for less.
Often times, we wait for big milestones to be complete (graduation, new job, buying a home) before we celebrate our successes. However, there are so many small victories along the way that need to be acknowledged and celebrated to further encourage and motivate yourself to keep going. You earned an A in that impossible grad school class? Earned a linear promotion on your job? Improved your credit score and reduced debt significantly? Those are all great progressions that get you one step closer to your larger goal. It reinforces to you that you are skilled, persistent, and determined to live your best life and you are doing it! Take yourself to dinner, treat yourself to that massage, or spontaneously plan that night out with your friends to remind yourself “Job well done”.
Don’t hide in plain sight
Lastly, when you know yourself and value who you are, you don’t shrink for others and no one else defines you. Speak up in that business meeting, communicate clear boundaries that teach others how to treat you, protect your energy by being selective with who shares your space, and be bold and authentic with your image. Change your hair as much as you’d like, wear what makes you feel good, and stop comparing yourself to others. Does comparison subconsciously happen? Absolutely, but be kind to yourself and reminded that you are the only “You” this Earth was graced with it. The mere thought of that level of uniqueness is pretty dope if you ask me.
Any given day can be your day one to improve upon the day before. You don’t have to wait for Monday, a new month, or a new year. Try making small changes each week to reach your desired level of self-love and happiness that purely comes from within and isn’t dependent on others. For some, every step I shared can feel overwhelming/ or trigger anxiety and depression symptoms. When individuals have experienced huge disappointments, a traumatic event, or haven’t had a safe space to explore who they are due to verbal, emotional, or physical abuse, this is where individual counseling can be extremely beneficial. Having someone who is neutral, non-judgmental, and trained to guide and support through a healing process can make a bug difference. Everyone deserves and have the right to feel their very best about themselves and I truly hope these tips help to propel you forward on your journey.
I can be reached through my website at www.goaldrivencounseling.com
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