As it's the end of February & all we've see around us in the shops for the past few weeks has been chocolates & flowers, for those of us who aren't in a romantic relationship or those who aren't into the whole commercialisation of Valentine's Day, it can be a bit of a painful reminder of what we don't have or may increase our feelings of not fitting in.
I've noticed recently that several of my students have a real hard time seeing themselves as good at anything. (Not that I'm super confident in how I look, feel or interact with others but I have worked hard at combatting feelings of inadequacy & a general lack of confidence.)
Even though it's quite apparent to me & others around them that they have gifts, talents and personal attributes that are admirable & positive, they just can't see it themselves.
This all begs the question - how do we start to repair this damage in terms of how we see ourselves??? For my art group over the past week or so, I thought working on a project around the topic of self love would be a good start.
So what is self love? And how should we manifest it in our lives?
A quick look on Wikipedia gives us an easy, understandable definition:
Self-love, defined as "love of self" or "regard for one's own happiness or advantage", has been conceptualized both as a basic human necessity and as a moral flaw, akin to vanity and selfishness, synonymous with amour propre, conceitedness, egotism, narcissism, et al.
It seems that different societies & philosophers over thousands of year have had very differing theories about this. Ranging from seeing the individual as important to saying that society as a collective is more important than the individual.
In terms of western society, speaking from my own experience here in the UK, I wonder at how the legacy of 2 World Wars in the past century may have set in motion an increased need for this idea of sacrifice, community and 'Keeping Calm & Carrying On'.
Not that these traits are necessarily bad or negative but I think perhaps we didn't balance this with our own personal needs.
This was definitely the case when it came to my own family. Having a grandfather that was war blinded & a grandmother who struggled with her mental health having lived through the bombings of the blitz, there has always been a sense of pulling together to ensure everyone was looked after.
Sometimes that came at the detriment of ones own personal needs & wants, resulting in more health issues through subsequent generations of the family.
Whilst I will NEVER regret the time I spent with my much loved grandparents, it took me many years to find my own identity & concentrate on some much needed self love & care.
Here are some of the ways I have tried to manifest self love in my life over the past 20 year or so. I hope you find them useful.
Stop comparing myself to others. It's so important to remember that EVERYONE has times when they feel down & negative about themselves. Just because someone is good at hiding insecurities doesnt mean they don't have them!! How we look, feel or act will be different from others AND THAT'S MORE THAN OK!!
I don't need other peoples approval/opinions or to explain myself to anyone. This is something I had a LOT of trouble with in years gone by. I came to realise that whilst others may have valid opinions, I am the person who knows myself & my circumstances best. They obviously don't have all the facts regarding any of the personal decisions I need to make. Also, following others made me very lazy when it came to standing up for myself. I'm quite a placid natured person so it was easy to just accept the status quo, rather than making my own decisions. In the long run it was a really bad habit to form.
Cut toxicity from my life. Whether it's in the form of thoughts or actions from ourselves or other peoples' lack of boundaries/responsibility for their own actions, toxicity is one of the worst things to suck the life out of you. I'm a very loving & giving person which means I on occasion get myself into situations where others can take advantage of my good nature. It's definitely something I have to work against all the time but the peace of mind that comes from cutting this out of your life is well worth the effort.
Enjoy the little things in life. We're so used to rushing through our day, often oblivious to what is going on around us. I don't know about you but I find that very soul sapping. Taking time to enjoy those little moments of joy throughout the day really helps, I find. Whether it be something as simple as noticing the flowers from your bus on the way to work, watching the birds from your window or making a fuss of the dogs you may pass on your walk, there are always little things that can make your day all that more enjoyable.
Give myself a break! We ALL make mistakes from time to time. NOBODY is perfect. We live in a society where attaining perfection is seen as somehow, well, attainable. This is something that really grinds my gears, NO ONE is perfect or ever will be. We're human beings, full of flaws & the best we can do in life is try to learn from the mistakes we make. In fact, the lessons we learn from our mistakes are usually the ways in which we grow & evolve. So please, cut yourself some slack.
Embrace Change. There aren't that many things in life that we can be certain of but change is one of them. Just as you get used to something, things change - again! Instead of stubbornly refusing to accept this & insisting on this is 'the way things used to be' or 'this is the way I am', learning to accept change & rolling with it will make your life so much easier, enjoyable & full of new potential.
Trust Your Gut. This is something I took a long time to learn. If something doesn't feel right, it usually isn't. As a kid there were on occasion situations that made me a little uncomfortable but I just put that down to me being young & inexperienced so accepted the things adults said & did at face value. But learning to trust my intuition really helped me to move forward in a positive & healthy way.
And here are some useful exercises you can try to start you on your journey of self love:
One exercise we've done in art class before is writing down things you like about yourself or things you are good at. This proved too much for a couple of my students and in the end we reversed it & got them to say things they liked about each other. Isn't it weird that we can be so complementary about others attributes but when it comes to ourselves we can be so harsh?!! So why not team up with a friend or group of friends to have a mutual admiration session! Finding out the things that others love about you is one way of starting on that road to appreciating yourself.
Why not think about writing yourself a letter, as if you were writing to a friend? Again, writing about yourself in the 3rd person can be one way of looking at yourself from a more objective point of view. This example from Inspirational Blogger Iva at Amazing Me Movement is definitely one that kicks you into gear!!
A self love version of a Happiness / Memory Jar might be a nice way to document how you see yourself. Every day, write down one thing you've liked about yourself on a scrap of paper & place in a jar. Then at regular intervals you can go back & reflect on what you've written.
Self Love Journalling Prompts are another way to reflect on things. There are so many different journal prompts available online, asking such a huge range of questions from points of view that you may never have considered. Pick one or two prompt questions to reflect on over the week & journal/draw down your thoughts.
Here's the one I was working on last week in our Self Love art session. Entitled 'Things I Love About Me' I listed some of the positive qualities & talents that I possess.
And here are some of my students artworks from Self Love week.
I hope you've found this information useful for your own self love journey? Remember this is a personal journey, not a 'one size fits all' exercise. Find ways that work for you, make you feel good & challenge you to grow as a person.
I've added some interesting prompts & articles to the Pinterest folder for you to browse through. And please feel free to post your tips & ideas of how you deal with looking after yourself.