Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., ABPP, is a board-certified clinical psychologist, Director of Clinical Training at Bay Path University, and an associate professor in Graduate Psychology. She has a private practice in Suffield, Connecticut, and over 25 years of experience providing psychotherapy, consultation, and supervision to medical and mental health professionals in addressing relationship and major life issues with a specialty in complex trauma and dissociative disorders.
Self-love is a popular concept these days, but it can sometimes be hard to recognize what that really looks like in practice. The term really means something different for each person because we all have many different ways to show that we love ourselves. But figuring out what self-love looks like for you as an individual is so important: I've found that when I feel my lowest, when my body has been the most sick, and when I am bombarded with the most self-deprecating thoughts, the only thing to pull me up and out is drenching myself in self-love.
If you still feel confused or lost on where to start with your own self-love conversation, don't worry: I've put together a list to help you get started:
1. Create a self-love ritual.
Turn off the TV and unplug from social media for 15 minutes to get centered while self-pampering. My favorite way to do this is to moisturize my skin with intention. As I massage my feet, I thank them for getting me to where I need to go; as I moisturize my hands, I love them for all the transactions and introductions they've helped me with throughout my life. I stop taking my body and my life for granted and relish how blessed I am while showering myself with gratitude.
2. Build a precious community.
As much as we would like to think we can, we can't do everything ourselves. You need the support and love from people around you to stay motivated and on track. Research shows positive energy is contagious, so whether you're building a network or planning to go to a fun event, it's always important to have a community you value around you regularly.
3. Make a "What's Working for Me" list.
Loving yourself comes from self-acceptance. And one helpful step toward getting to that point of self-acceptance is recognizing what you already have that's great. One of the practices I do when I'm feeling down is to go within and acknowledge what's really working, then make a "What's Working for Me" list. Once you see it on paper and accept all of the positivity in your life, it will make it that much easier to love yourself.
4. Know that your body is a loving vessel.
Treating your body like a loving vessel will boost not only your self-love but also your energy. Be intentional about what you put into your body, not because you want to look good but because you want to feel good. Feeding your body nutrient-rich foods will have you oozing love out of every pore.
5. Clean out your closet.
This may be more therapeutic than you initially think. Cleaning out your closet will help you not only clean your room up a bit but will positively affect your mind. Getting rid of old things will make room for new things to come into your life! Cleansing your mind can sometimes work in the form of letting go of clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc., that remind you of a certain time in your life that links to a negative vibration. Don't chase what's already happened; love yourself enough to know the best is yet to come.
6. No more comparisons.
We've all done it. Browsed through social media only to see our favorite media personalities in the middle of a photoshoot for their new books, just after they had awesome shopping sprees and right before the post about their engagements. WHAT?! I know it's hard to look at so many positive pics on the Internet or even in your own life and know that everyone has bad days. The next time you want to browse the web for reasons to feel bad about yourself, remember that you are perfect just the way you are; being in a pattern of compare and despair only makes you focus on the negative, when there's SO much to be grateful for.
7. Explore your spirituality.
Faith is the foundation for self-love, no matter what you believe. Believing in something opens up your soul to the beauty of belief and trust. It will build your intuition and help you make decisions based on your gut. When you explore your spirituality, it will also take you on a journey to learning things about yourself, and those new thoughts, feelings, passions, and raw emotions will make you appreciate yourself for being authentically you.
8. Do something you're good at.
If this isn’t the ultimate self-esteem booster, I don’t know what is! Self-esteem and self-love often go hand in hand, and participating in a hobby you're good at will not only boost your endorphins but will bring out the best version of you. If you love to cook, then cook! If you love to run, then grab those sneakers, head outside, and run for your life.
9. Find your happy place.
Think of a place that makes it simple to just be. That means being able to sit quietly and embrace the here and now. Not thinking about what's due at work or what bills need to be paid, you owe this happy place to yourself. Self-love is all about connecting with yourself, and one of the easiest places to do that is your happy place.
10. Build your letting-go muscle.
We're constantly holding on to things in our past, and it can tend to weigh heavy on our souls and even give us low self-esteem. The more blocks we clear, the more we can really live big in the area of self-love. Although we may do this as a way to protect ourselves from hurting, it's really only holding us back from moving forward to reaching optimal self-acceptance and loving who we are.
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