We are over-saturated with messages about the importance of self love. Honestly this is a nice thing to see, but the most common delivery I see is a list self care ideas like expensive face masks and bath bombs and taking yourself out to dinner. Granted, I like dinner and bath bombs as much as the next person. But has that ever felt a little surface to you? The most profound feelings of self love that I have had have been completely free. Another thing they have all had in common is that they involved reflecting on my life in some way.
Self love is important because it makes you stronger (not a cliche, just keep reading, I promise). What I mean is that when you feel love for yourself like the love you feel for people you admire, you do better. You are more resilient, you enjoy your days more, you get more done, and you are nicer to people. Things fall into place more often, and when they don’t it’s easier for you to work around it because you believe in yourself and your creativity. If you are not seeing the correlation between self love and these amazing and life changing outcomes, then I encourage you to try a different method of cultivating self love than you may have tried before. Just as we fall in love with others for a million different reasons, we fall in love with ourselves in a million different ways. I have three practices for you to try that will, at the very least, make you like yourself more, and at the most could inspire a profound moment of ‘Holy crap I am awesome’.
- Look at childhood photos and videos of yourself.
If you are lucky enough to have any of your childhood recorded, then go ahead and bust out the photo albums and home movies. When you see photos, or even better videos of yourself as a baby or child, it becomes so much easier to realize how lovable you are. These times were before we ever developed the habits we beat ourselves up for, or gained the weight that makes us feel unworthy, or made the decision we will always regret. As a child you were so purely innocent, and at your truest self. You only used the crayon colors you liked, and weren’t afraid to yell or kiss or cry or hug when you wanted to. Our experience growing up is what shapes us in both positive and negative ways, so when you go back to before all that happened you get to see the little person who your family loved so freakin’ much. In this space, you can start to crack away at focusing on your flaws and begin to insert wedges of self love into your brain in their place.
2. Read your old journals.
Similar to looking back at old photos, reading old journals is such a good reminder of our lives thus far. Looking back at my old journals (I’ve been journaling inconsistently since I was 7), I get to see how my 18 year old self felt about starting college and see what kind of emotional drama I was having when I was 21. Not only is this comical by now, it’s so cool to read these now that I know the resolution to the drama. It’s also a good starting point to making a ‘you’ catalog (you don’t have to actually write it down unless you’d like to) of your brightest moments. Without fail, in old journals you’ll find moments where you were confused and upset. But, if you’re reading this then clearly you are alive and made it through the whole ordeal! Think hard about these shining star/breakthrough kind of moments and congratulate yourself. Revel in your determination, strength, humor, whatever it is that you have. Even if you don’t have any journals to look back on, you can still access these memories with some deep thinking and make your ‘you’ catalog. Try picking a starting point, like the beginning of high school or college or your current relationship, and then just go down your timeline until you hit something important. You’re probably going to encounter some uncomfortable memories, but I guarantee that you’ll find some gold in there too.
3. Start a new journal
Disclaimer, this may cost some money. But journals are less than $10, and you can even keep an e-journal on your computer. This is sometimes more effective for people who prefer to type their thoughts quickly instead of write them! Keeping a journal is great for feeling more self love because it’s a solo activity where you’re actively checking in on yourself. It’s the perfect place to toss your angst and confusion and sadness because you’re the only one who’s going to see it. And the act of writing it out like a story, or even doing bullet journaling, will help you figure your life out. Once you’ve worked out your issue and found some clarity, you can move on with your day. Plus, starting a journal means that one day you can go back and read that journal! It’s all one big cycle that you’re going to love reflecting on.
So welcome to my world of self love. I’m not walking around with hearts coming out of my eyes all the time, but the three methods above have helped me see myself in a brighter light. Keeping the idea of your whole self in mind is key, and looking at photos, videos, and old journals helps me do that. You are not just your flaws, or the things in the mirror you don’t like, or the spot in life where you are at right now. You are everything that’s ever happened to you, and every hug you’ve ever given, and every weight you’ve ever lifted, all at once. How about that for something to love?