The following is adapted from Your Real Life.
When you love yourself, you liberate yourself. Loving yourself allows you to truly live your best life so that you can do what you need to fill your tank of well-being and breathe life into your purpose.
Loving yourself also means putting yourself first. You don’t want to be selfish, but you can be self-ish. What’s the difference? Selfish is lacking consideration for others in favor of your own benefit, and I define self-ish as being concerned with and involved in managing your own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in order to unlock the best version of yourself.
Who is better qualified to do that than you? No one.
No one else is going to do it for you—and no one else can—so you have to make time to practice what I call, the Trifecta of Self Love: self-compassion, self-care, and self-advocacy to move toward loving yourself in an authentic way.
Treating yourself with compassion is not only one of the best things you can do for yourself, but also one of the most important things you can do for others. When you take care of yourself, you remove the burden of your care from the people who love you. Practicing self-compassion is doing a great service for yourself and the people you care about.
The first step on your journey to self-love is building self-awareness. Recognizing and connecting to your values allows you to exist as your authentic self in the world because when you know your values, you see them every day. Spending time getting to know yourself in this way improves your relationship with yourself, which enables you to find compassion for yourself in those adverse or stressful times when you need it most.
One way to show yourself compassion is to be kind to yourself. Think about how you would talk to a new friend in various situations. If they made a mistake, the behaviors and words you use in response would be kind, right? You probably wouldn’t use negative harsh words or beat them up over a simple mistake. You have to treat yourself with the same care you would give to that new friend.
Another form of self-compassion is practicing forgiveness toward yourself. When you forgive yourself and embrace your own perceived shortcomings, it leads you to recognize that you are actually stronger. It also allows you to let go of the past and release any feelings of guilt and shame you carry. Freeing yourself from these burdens is one of the most compassionate things you can do.
These days, “self-care” is a buzzword that’s often used to sell people items and services such as beauty products and spa packages. While those can be acts of self-care, they are not the definition. Self-care is more than that.
Just like self-compassion, self-care is an ongoing state. It’s a practice. It lives in the daily reinforcement of choices that serve you. Good nutrition, regular exercise, and regular sleep are all examples of self-care.
Self-care is about taking care of yourself so that you can provide better care for others. Also, often self-care is the explicit management of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energies. It’s good to look after your immune system and brain function so that you can connect to your energies and ensure you’re making time to charge your batteries.
Activities such as taking a vacation or getting a massage can help jump-start a cycle of self-care, but they should not be taken as a one-and-done activity that allows you to check self-care off your to-do list. Self-care is about how you manage yourself in the long term; doing so enables you to generate love for yourself over time.
In addition to taking care of your physical needs, self-care also happens when you act in service of yourself. Being aware of your emotional energy and setting emotional boundaries is self-care. Keeping promises to yourself about breaks, plans, and commitments is self-care. Mindfulness and meditation practices are good ways to practice self-care around your mental and spiritual energy too.
Self-advocacy is the third component rounding out what I call the trifecta of self-love.
It starts with getting connected to your energy and understanding where you are in each area of your well-being. Self-advocacy is pushing back against that inner critic and outwardly fighting for yourself. It’s also being super clear about the times you need help or support—and then asking for it!
We often are afraid to ask for support or help. Or to have hard truthful conversations about our suffering. But vulnerability is powerful; it builds your authentic resilience. If you can’t ask for help, you won’t be able to push through adversity either. Building resilience isn’t something you’re meant to do alone.
Advocating for your authentic self and your values by standing up for what you believe in (including yourself) is the driving force behind your self-love and your authentic resilience. I’ve seen it, and there is research that shows it.
Ingrid Handlovsky, a scientist in Vancouver, conducted an investigation into how middle-aged gay men developed resilience over the course of their lives after facing systemic discrimination, homophobia, and living in a heteronormative healthcare system that couldn’t handle HIV and other illnesses related to gay men. Her research found that support, both from a community and on an individual level, is a key factor in boosting resilience and wellness. Asking for help and connecting with others for support are proven ways to build resilience. Advocating for yourself in the way that people in the LGBTQ+ community have done for decades will boost your self-love, and your resilience.
The Ongoing Journey of Self-Love
Being kind to yourself doesn’t mean you have to shower yourself with compliments or positive affirmations like the comedy-sketch character Stuart Smalley did on Saturday Night Live (though you absolutely can and should if you want to).
The thoughts you have while ruminating create pathways in your brain, and the more you flip negative self-talk into positive or understanding self-talk, the more you train your brain to be kind to yourself. It takes practice, but after a while you will strengthen that inner nurturer and be able to hear its voice more clearly than ever.
Being self-ish isn’t an act of self-love; it’s a journey. Self-love is an ongoing, disciplined state of mind. The practices and beliefs associated with self-love take time to develop because you can’t outsource them. It must come from within you, and it’s not optional.
For more advice about the Trifecta of Self Love or on how to practice self-care, self-compassion and self-advocacy, you can find Your Real Life on Amazon. Also checkout my blog on my website, NathanAndres.com