It’s more than normal in life to want to love and be loved. Love, after all, is around us — it exists with our family, friends, neighbors, communities, in movies and on TV, and, arguably, most importantly with ourselves. But, figuring out how to practice self-love can be more difficult than learning how to love others — it means breaking down constructs, looking inward, facing difficult emotions, and using self-awareness to form new practices. Everyone is worthy of a self-love journey and this journey looks different for everyone — and, it’s never too late to start.
Constructs That Impact Self-Perception
Before we learn some of the do’s and don’ts of finding self-love, it is important to understand the constructs that impact our self-perception on a daily basis. Everyone has a unique experience in how they see and know themselves, but here are three prevalent constructs that may influence you:
Toxic positivity is the concept that, throughout all situations, good and bad, an individual should have a positive mindset and attitude. While having an optimistic outlook can benefit our mental health, rejecting all emotions that are “negative” and replacing them with positive emotions is an ineffective shortcut. By ignoring these emotions, we invalidate them. This can cause emotions to build up leading to a more reactive attitude. It is important to honor all emotions, even the difficult ones. We have to experience our emotions, guilt-free. Remember that it is okay if you don’t get a good grade on an exam or are having trouble handling the loss of a loved one — you will persevere.
It is common to experience a problematic perception of our bodies because of unrealistic societal standards. While we don’t have to always love our bodies (hi, toxic positivity!), we should accept them. Body neutrality means respecting our bodies in all shapes and sizes. Our body is wonderful, as it works to keep us healthy, moving, and breathing. Honoring our body is an important component of self-love, and as hard as it may be to reach a place of body neutrality, it’s worth it.
Mental health, wellbeing, and self-love are widely discussed topics on social media platforms. While this can be resourceful and inspiring, it can also be disheartening. It’s easy to compare our physical and emotional lives to people on the other side of a screen. You may ask yourself questions like: “Why is it easier for them to practice self-love than it is for me?” or “Why am I struggling when it seems like no one else is?” This has a negative impact on our mental health and our individual experience. Everyone is unique and we all navigate life at different paces. Be mindful of what you are consuming, set boundaries when needed, and have faith in your individual timeline.
Now that we have a better understanding of why we may view ourselves the way we do, we can talk about tips for improving how we practice self-love. Here are our do’s and don’t of self-love:
- Accept your whole self.
- Set boundaries with people, online or not, who negatively affect your self-image.
- Repeat affirmations that support you in feeling loved.
- Be mindful of how you speak about and to yourself.
- Be open to all emotions, even negative ones, and trust that you overcome them.
- Feel guilty for having difficult emotions.
- Allow the media to negatively impact your perception of yourself.
- Internalize negative emotions.
- Give up on yourself.
- Compare your self-love journey to others.
Whether you realize it or not, you are deserving of self-love. It might not come easily or happen overnight, but it is an experience you owe to yourself. Be mindful of how you treat your mind and body, adopt confidence-building habits, and strategize about how to practice self-love in small ways every day.
Note from Active Minds: We recognize that on the day of publication, Feb. 14, 2023, we are also mourning the tragic mass shooting at Michigan State University that occurred during the evening of Feb. 13, 2023, as well as remembering the mass shooting that occurred five years ago today at Parkland High School. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families, and everyone impacted. If you need to talk to somebody, please reach out for help. Crisis resources are available here.