When we think about the month of Feb, we picture heart-shaped helium balloons, red roses and chocolates. We spend money on expensive wine, pink cards and teddy bears that’ll probably be shoved to the back of the wardrobe in a few weeks time. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with doing these things, but from a wellbeing standpoint, are we actually in touch with how we love not only our partners and loved ones, but ourselves?
What if we used this Valentine’s Day to consider our relationships with partners, soulmates, even friends and family, and reflect on how we treat ourselves.
Now, we hear about self-care and self-love all the time in recent years. It’s rife on social media, tips on how to love yourself, journey’s of becoming self-aware and taking care of yourself. But what does this actually mean? Well, we hate to break it to you, but it’s definitely not just a glass of red in a bubble bath after a long day at work. Sure, this might relieve some stress which technically comes under the ‘self-care’ umbrella, but things like avoiding tasks that will positively impact our wellbeing in the long run, has quite the opposite effect.
Believe it or not, many of us don’t know how to love ourselves. And unfortunately, there’s not a local master class on it (well, not in Sheffield anyway…). Society in fact teaches us to do the exact opposite - because loving the way we look naturally doesn’t help the beauty industry grow, and being content with how our lives are without the latest gadget doesn’t produce sales for tech companies.
We are taught to be unhappy with our lives so we spend time, money and effort trying to be something else. No wonder mental health concerns are on such an incline!
So, what can we do to actually take better care of ourselves, mentally, physically and emotionally? And how can we learn how to love ourselves?
Self-love will always look different for each individual, but here are some top tips that might help you find your way to whatever self-love looks like for you.
Now this might seem strange, but stick with us! Taking the time to pamper ourselves, taking ourselves out to our favourite places and spending time on our own does help us to get to know ourselves better. That doesn’t mean that putting on a facemask and laying in the bath is going to solve the problems in our lives, but spending time alone doing things we enjoy will subconsciously show ourselves that we deserve and are worthy of feeling loved.
Less perfectionism, more fun
Remember, you don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it! Get messy baking your favourite cake in the kitchen, start learning how to knit or join a dance class. Spend less time stressing about the result and more time enjoying the process. We focus so much on being perfect at something that we forget to take time to just enjoy it. We’re allowed to do that, and it encourages us to have fun - an important part of mental self care.
Do those tasks you’ve been avoiding
Even if you’ve made a list of all those things you need to do (not want, need) and you keep telling yourself you’ll get round to them, then you know you’re not doing the right thing here! Whether it’s going for the blood test you meant to have last month, tidying your office space or meal prepping to make the week easier - take a tip from Nike and Just Do It. You’ll feel so much better for it, and then you don’t have that guilt niggling away at the back of your mind. We put these things off because it’s ‘easier’ that way, but that’s neglecting what we need to do to feel better! If it’s going to make things better in the long run, just get it done.
Identify negative self-talk
Ideally, we would all cut out any form of negative self-talk and we’d all be on the road to self-love. But unfortunately it’s not as simple as that. We have to unlearn behaviours and adopt new ones - ones that don’t involve speaking down to ourselves. Try nipping it in the bud as soon as you hear that voice being negative about yourself. Stop yourself and think about it, question it: Do I really think that? Why am I speaking to myself this way? Our self-talk is powerful, it’s the one voice we’ll never get rid of - so it’s crucial for our wellbeing to acquire a voice that makes us feel good. Try saying something nice about yourself every morning, or if that’s not your style, write down something you like about yourself! These practises will teach our minds to be nicer towards ourselves and find positivity in more situations.
Your body wants you to move
As much as our minds might not want us to, both the brain and body need movement. It does wonders for our wellbeing and you’ll be glad you did it when those endorphins are released post-workout. It doesn’t have to be a 5-mile run or lifting weights if that’s something you hate. Find something you love doing (that’s fun in itself!) and stick to it. Yoga, tap dancing, dog walking, car washing, gardening or rock climbing - find something that makes you want to move and allow your body to enjoy it. Small changes like this will subconsciously tell yourself that you deserve to feel good - a step towards loving yourself.
A final note: Although we don’t need to rely on others to feel loved or worthy, it is important to note that as human beings, we do not exist in isolation. Therefore you do not need to isolate yourself in order to learn love towards you. We thrive in situations where we feel emotionally connected to other humans, and this is an important part of the process of self-love. And it is that exactly - a process. You won’t just wake up one day feeling in love with yourself - you will have better and worse days, but it won’t be achieved overnight.
“Loving ourselves doesn’t have to be a radically individualistic pursuit. It’s about letting others love us even when we feel unlovable, because their version of us is often kinder than our own.” - Chance Marshall