In the words of RuPaul, “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
I’m just wrapping up my fourth wedding in about as many months.
It’s been a whirlwind of bridesmaid dresses, champagne, dancing, happy tears, ivory colored everything, and, most importantly, celebrating my dear friends’ love.
And, as I take my last dress to the dry cleaners and look through the photos of couples saying their “I dos,” it has me thinking…
Most of us aspire to find true love; to stand before our family and friends and declare our unconditional love for our person. But what about the love we declare for ourselves?
How many of us show the same care, the same attention, the same love towards ourselves?
How many of us treat ourselves with the same love we give freely and unconditionally to someone else?
“Self-love” used to be a term that made me cringe. It was right up there with “find yourself,” most likely because I desperately needed more of both.
Self-love seemed indulgent, conceited, arrogant.
But self-love is not only NOT selfish, it’s good for you (move over kale).
A growing number of studies show self-compassion (self-love), rather than self-esteem, may be the key to unlocking your potential for greatness. Researchers have linked self-love to a whole slew of benefits including greater life satisfaction, increased happiness, greater resilience, optimism, and less anxiety and depression. People with more self-love have been shown to be able to overcome difficult life events with more ease and have improved problem-solving abilities and decreased procrastination (who knew!?). (Read more here.)
You know that frustrating adage we’ve all heard (most often when we’re single and crying into a pint of ice cream), “You need to love yourself first”? Turns out it’s true.
Self-love can also lead to improved relationships. Research has shown that practicing self-love and self-compassion is likely to improve well-being in the context of interpersonal relationships. People with higher levels of self-love report being happier and more authentic in their relationships. (Read more here.)
Self-love influences everything, from who we pick to be in a relationship with, to our career, to how we cope with what life throws at us, and how we show up.
“I want you to throw out everything you think you know about self-esteem. You know those books that say, “I’m ok, you’re ok?” F*** that. You’re not “okay.” You’re SPECTACULAR. You’re a gem in the rough. You’re a shimmering, exploding supernova.” – Garla Darling (Watch Garla Darling’s TED talk on Radical Self-Love.)
The flip side? Lack of self-love holds us back. Dove found that six in ten girls will not do something because they feel they are not good enough. Not loving ourselves extends past our relationships (though, it will keep us settling in those, too) and keeps us playing small. It keeps us from trying new things and from going after what we want, often because we don’t think we can do it or don’t think we deserve it.
Which brings me back to wedding bliss and wedding vows.
WHAT IF WE TOOK THOSE VERY SAME VOWS WE SAVE FOR THE PERSON WE PLAN TO SPEND THE REST OF OUR LIVES WITH AND TURN THEM ON OURSELVES, THE PERSON WE WILL SPEND OUR ENTIRE LIVES WITH? What if we promise to love ourselves for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health?
Want to give yourself some wedding-worthy self-love? Here are 10 ways to love yourself more:
- Up the self-care ante. This means taking care of yourself with love, which includes nourishing your body with healthy food and getting enough sleep.
- Treat yourself the way you would treat a significant other or close friend. We tend to treat those we care about with acceptance, empathy, and compassion. We give them emotional support, support them when they’ve “messed up,” cheerlead them, and believe in them.
- Learn to set healthy boundaries. Say “no” or “I’ll get back to you on that” instead of “yessing” others to please them.
- Stop spending time with toxic and draining people.
- Celebrate your wins, big and small.
- Dress and groom yourself with love. A study showed dressing better can affect your mood in a positive way.
- Take yourself out on a date. The Artist’s Way calls it an “artist date,” but whether or not you consider yourself an artist, put something nice on and take yourself out, solo, on a date.
- Write yourself a love letter, and list all of the things you love about yourself. Tell yourself you’ll love you through the ups and downs. Feel a little silly or having a hard time? Pretend you’re someone close to you, write the letter as if you were them.
- Start writing down all the compliments you receive. This is helpful for two reasons. Our brains have a negativity bias, so negative comments impact us more than positive ones do. And “neuroscience has shown that whatever you focus on shapes your brain… it’s absolutely possible to create neural pathways that favor affirming thoughts,” says researcher Kearney-Cooke. (Read more here.)
- Do something nice for yourself. This is different than taking yourself out on a date. One of the Five Love Languages is receiving gifts. Treat yourself to something you’ve been eying for a while. This bolsters your self-worth.