I know it sounds cliche, but the greatest love you can cultivate in your life is love for yourself. While it may appear to be a straightforward task, the truth is that loving oneself is often the most challenging relationship to develop. We are constantly bombarded with messages and images that suggest we are undesirable, unlovable, and unwanted. Consequently, in our relationships, we prioritize the needs and wants of others over our own. That’s why self-love is so radical because it goes against everything we are expected and taught to believe about ourselves.
So, how do we cultivate self-love? To begin with, let’s define self-love as regards to our own joy, happiness, and fulfillment. It means prioritizing our physical and mental well-being without being egotistic, selfish, or vain.
“All About Love” by bell hooks is one of my favorite books and I recommend you take a read. It revolutionized the way I see and think about love. bell hook’s definition of love is as follows. “Love as ‘the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.’ Love is as love does. Love is an act of will–namely, both an intention and an action.” hooks identifies six love components: care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust.
Using this working definition of love, let’s explore how we can cultivate self-love.
- Talking to and about yourself with care – This is perhaps the biggest way we sabotage ourselves in cultivating love. Are you aware that 95% of our daily thoughts are repetitive and that 80% of those thoughts are negative? Scientists call these automatic negative thoughts and they can lead to anxiety, depression, and other social anxiety disorders. Furthermore, the majority of these negative thoughts and feelings we have about ourselves are ones other people put into our heads. We take other people’s opinions and attitudes about ourselves and make them our own. Thus, our negative self-perception can lead to self-hatred. This is why I incorporate affirmations in my self-care routine. I use affirmations to counter negative thoughts and replace them with love, empowerment, and edification. I am cautious about adopting the opinions of others and I evaluate if they align with my own beliefs. Furthermore, I show myself compassion and extend myself grace. I acknowledge that I am not perfect, that I am flawed, and that I am going to make mistakes. I also accept that some people may not find me favorable. And at the end of the day, that’s ok. What matters is what I believe and think about myself and speaking to myself in a loving way is the key to unlocking self-love. If you’re struggling with deeply rooted negative thoughts, talking to a therapist can be incredibly helpful. But remember to handle yourself with care and talk nice to yourself.
We have so much more to unpack but I want to know is there an affirmation you repeat that reaffirms self-love?