We know art can be beautiful, in fact many spend hours creating or admiring it. But we also know it can be messy and time consuming. This is why I feel that loving yourself is not only a journey but an art form. It can get messy, it can take time, but the results are beautiful.
Unfortunately, in a world where ‘self-love’ has become somewhat of a buzzword, the true sense of the concept has somehow started to disappear. So, what is self-love? And how do you achieve it? Self-love can take on many forms but I find a good way to define it would be: accepting, respecting and embracing all parts of yourself & your experiences, including the imperfect and difficult ones.
The reality is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ for learning to love yourself. You have to do the work and find out what it means for you, but there are ways to figure this out.
First off, reflect on whether you’re even making yourself a priority. Who are you surrounding yourself by? Are they helping to get where you want to be in life or holding you back? It might be challenging to let go of some relationships, but setting boundaries for yourself can be a good starting point to show that you love yourself enough to walk away from what’s no longer serving you.
Be compassionate with yourself. Loving yourself does not mean eliminating negative thoughts about yourself and always thinking positively and optimistically! It is quite actually the opposite. Loving yourself means finding time to sit with your flaws, your painful experiences, your hardships, and learning to accept them for what they are without letting them define you as a whole. In fact, US based therapist, Jeniffer Rolin, states that “having unhelpful thoughts is a normal part of life”, adding that “what matters is that we learn how to respond to those thinking patterns and to recognize that we do not have to believe everything that we think.” When negative thoughts come up, try to talk to yourself as you would a loved one; be gentle, caring and forgiving with your inner dialogue.
It’s important not to judge yourself for your feelings or to numb them with drugs and alcohol. Instead, learn to own your emotions. Allow yourself space to be angry and to cry and take the time to learn what your emotions are trying to tell you. Similar to physical pain, feelings are often trying to tell us something and the more open we are to these feelings, the easier it gets to decode their underlying messages.
And yes, in addition to all of the above, it is important to embrace the ‘physical’ aspect of self-care. Check if you’re getting enough rest, exercise and nutrition. Look around your home and your workplace and see how you can make the physical surroundings calmer and less cluttered. Don’t spend above what you can afford in order to try and create an image of success. When these basic needs are met, a positive message is sent to your mind, unconsciously reassuring yourself that everything is working out okay.
I do believe that there is no greater love than self-love. And no matter how distant you feel from loving yourself, don’t deny yourself the chance to start now.
Michaela Pace is a Psychology graduate from the University of Malta. She has worked with children and adolescents within the social sector and currently works as a Triage Officer and Chat Bar Coordinator within Willingness Team. Michaela aims to further her studies locally by pursuing a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy in the near future.