“Live life fully while you are here. Experience everything. Take care of yourself and your friends. Have fun, be crazy, and be weird. Go out and screw up! You’re going to anyway, so you might as well enjoy the process. Take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes: find the cause of your problem and eliminate it. Don’t try to be perfect; just be an excellent example of being human.”Tony Robbins

Self-Love – you’ve heard the phrase a thousand times, but what does it actually mean in practice, and how do you know you’re doing it?

Loving yourself takes mega courage; after all, most of us suffer from a degree of low self-esteem; we are much more prone to be critical of ourselves, and when we compare ourselves to others, we usually come off worse.  It takes guts to overcome the automaticity of self-deprecation in favour of truly appreciating ourselves for who we are.

So what does it mean to connect with ourselves in a loving way, where we actually feel love towards the one that walks with you 24/7? That’s you by the way!

In my own experience, it’s been a slow lesson to learn, and just because I’ve experienced loving myself does not mean that it lasts, and neither does it mean that I still don’t fall into behaviours that are unloving towards myself.

Perhaps it would help to start there: what is not loving yourself?  For starters, it’s criticizing yourself, telling yourself that who you are is just not enough: not good enough, not clever enough, not rich enough, not attractive enough, not thin enough, not sexy enough, ad infinitum.

When you think those thoughts about yourself, if you’re like me, you’ll do one of two things.  You’ll either indulge in behaviours that may not be good or healthy for you, such as drinking more alcohol or eating more sugar than you might normally do.  You might have more duvet days than you’re comfortable with, lying around on the sofa surfing social media or watching mind-numbing TV.  You might overspend on the credit card to make you feel better.  In themselves these actions are not necessarily bad, but if you’re indulging in them at the cost of spending your precious time doing the things that make your heart sing, that contribute to a healthier you, then you’re not practicing self-love.  On the contrary, you’re pressing the self-destruct button.  

Conversely, you may push yourself hard, demanding yourself to do better, be more successful, fly higher, be healthier, again, this is not self-love, this is whipping yourself into action because invariably underneath those demands is the belief that fundamentally you are not enough.

So what is self-love?  It may seem obvious, but we can easily forget.  When you truly care for yourself, you’re practicing self-love.  Getting enough sleep, eating the right foods, drinking enough water, doing exercise you enjoy are some of the ways you can care for yourself physically, but that also have an impact on your emotional well-being.

Doing the things you love – creative pursuits, walking in nature or dancing wildly to your favourite music, anything that ignites your passion and joy are ways to love yourself.

Being with people who give you energy and letting go of those toxic relationships that drain you is self-love.

Do you care for your partner, your children, your friends more than you care for yourself?  Why?  Aren’t you just as worthy of your love and attention?   If you don’t look after yourself, how can you successfully look after others?  I love listening to the safety briefing when flying: ‘put your own oxygen mask on before helping the person next to you with theirs’.  If you don’t attend to your own needs, then your ability to help others can and often is impaired.

Self-love isn’t a nice to do one-off activity; you’re too important for that.  It needs to be a daily practice.  If you have children, you can’t just take a day off, so why would you have a day off when it comes to looking after you?

Imagine you are a plant – how will you grow and flourish if you don’t water and feed yourself regularly?  Self-love is like Miracle Gro for the soul.  

Fundamentally, it is accepting yourself as you are, with your strengths and your weaknesses.  It is about encouraging yourself rather than being your own worst critic.  It is treating yourself with respect and compassion.  It is about having the courage to connect with you, every day.  Next time you look in the mirror, don’t check out your blemishes, lines and spots, check out you: look into your eyes, breathe, connect.  This is a magical exercise – have the courage to say, “I love you”, and ignore the protests of your ego-mind.  It will soon weaken in the power of true and connected love.

 TRY THIS: 

Make a list now of 2 things you will do each day starting today for the rest of the week that is self-loving in action.  And then do them! Repeat for the following week, until it becomes as habitual as brushing your teeth.  

Make sure to share your ideas in the Comments Section below, or on my ‘Courage to Connect’ Facebook page.  That way you’re accountable to others, not just to yourself.

I’ll leave the last word to Shakespeare:

Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting” William Shakespeare, Henry V.