As the iconic Ms. RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?!” Listen, she’s not wrong. But you already knew that, right? Before we can commit ourselves to someone else (if that’s something you want to do – I’m not here to tell you how to live your life), we have to go through the grueling process of learning to fall in love with ourselves. I’ll be the first to admit, this is easier said than done.
When it comes to romance, I don’t believe in love because I’m cynical AF. However, after reading this article, I’ve started to think about love (romantic and otherwise) as a commitment to invest in people. The concept of self-love used to strike me as kind of cheesy, but when I started thinking about it in terms of an investment in myself, it changed my perspective.
If you were to ask me if I love myself, truth be told, I’d say, “No, not yet but I’m working on it” (shout out to my therapist for helping in this process). Now, while I haven’t yet mastered ~*~self-love~*~ the biggest thing I’ve learned from talking with friends, listening to podcasts, and reading pieces on the subject is that self-care is the root of self-love. It makes sense, right? We care for the people we love in a number of ways: we say “I love you,” we perform small acts of kindness, we hug, we randomly buy gifts we think they would appreciate, and we commit to spending time with them. If these sounds familiar, they’re what Gary Chapman characterizes as “Love Languages.”
Imagine applying these principals of love (or investment) to ourselves as a way of self-care, especially during these trying times (*points to president-elect*). Like I said, I haven’t fully gotten to a place where I can confidently say that I love myself, but I’ve made some progress. The following list contains the self-care activities that I’ve committed to, explicitly as a means of self-love and self-care. Take what you need from this list and happy journey.
Personally, my love language includes “words of affirmation,” and since no one is currently whispering sweet nothings into my ear, I had to take matters into my own hands. There are several post-it notes around my room with different affirmations that I often turn to. Before I leave the house I force myself to look two in particular: “Today is gonna be a good day. I can and I will,” and “Have you looked at yourself today? You look POPPIN’!”
**Note to potential suitors: the best way to flirt with me is to tell me that I’m funny, that I’m a good dancer, or that you admire my hair.**
Like model and body-positive activist Ashley Graham says, “Speak life into your body.” She’s right, our bodies do so much for us and the least we can do is be nice to it. If you’re curious, her words of affirmation are, “I am bold. I am brilliant. I am beautiful.”
Maybe try this one on for size: “Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing the best you can.”
I’m not gonna tell you something you don’t already know. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husband. Okay I may have gotten carried away for a second there but in all honesty, I highly recommend any form of exercise. Not just because it’s good for your physical health, but mostly because it’s a way to celebrate all that our bodies do for us.
Last semester I was having a pretty rough couple of weeks and I couldn’t shake the negative talk I was giving myself. I went out for a run and as I was finishing up my fifth mile I couldn’t help but reflect on how grateful I felt to have a body that, despite being in pain, took me through the beautiful streets of San Francisco on my own two feet.
The great thing about exercise is that there are so many ways to express love and appreciation for our bodies: yoga, pole fitness, rock climbing, weightlifting, hiking, dancing, golfing, surfing, etc. Find something that genuinely makes you excited each time and everything else will follow.
MAKE YOURSELF A PRIORITY: SAY “NO” ON YOUR OWN TERMS
One great piece of advice I received in college was, “You can do anything, but not everything.” As a self-diagnosed people-pleaser I have a hard time saying no to helping people I care about, sometimes even at my own expense. It’s important to remember that you have every right to say “no” to a task or a situation whenever it becomes too much. People won’t think less of you and they won’t be disappointed. Saying “no” or even “no, not right now” shows that you are focused on giving the responsibilities you currently have your full attention in order to produce the best result.
The same goes for saying “no” to toxic people in your life. People who hurt you in any way have no place in your personal growth so they can GTFO. Self-care means recognizing that there is no room for anything other than the things that are going to help you live your best life.
TREAT YO SELF
In other words, give yourself permission to do things that bring you joy. Life is hard and sometimes you just gotta say, “Fuck it, I’m eating pizza for breakfast” or “Why yes, I will take an Uber X to work today.” On a more serious note, I equate the “treat yo self” mentality with living a life free of regret because at one point it was exactly what you wanted and it made you happy.
Other times you have to celebrate the little victories that come your way by treating yo self. Ate a fairly balanced meal? TREAT YO SELF. Got everything done on your to-do list? TREAT YO SELF. Didn’t sweat through your shirt during the presentation? TREAT YO SELF. Talked to your crush without hyperventilating? TREAT. YO. SELF.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF (AND FIND THAT OTHERS DO TOO)
Honestly, no one knows what they’re doing and everyone is just trying to get by. The best thing you can do for yourself is to believe in your abilities and strengths. This can be hard to do when it looks like the people around you have their shit together, but I guarantee you that they have demons they’re wrestling with too. Trust that you’ve done enough, know that you did your best, and remind yourself that you’re brilliant AF.
Believing in yourself doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a practice that takes time and effort. Start out by reaching out to others who can support you in this journey because sometimes it takes a village, y’all. Let their affirmation about your skills and qualities ring in your ears until you start to believe it too. This isn’t about fishing for compliments – it’s about recognizing that you need to be reminded of all the wonderful things you contribute to this world because you matter. And if all else fails, know that Michelle Obama is rooting for you.
LISTEN TO GREAT MUSIC
Okay, this one is a no brainer, but important to bring up. Listen to music that makes you feel invincible and limitless. May I recommend “Good as Hell” by Lizzo? On the flipside, you’re also justified in listening to music that matches your less-than-perky mood because we can’t always force ourselves to feel better on command. Living with depression taught me that sometimes I just have to give in to my darkness a little so that I can move forward with more important things.
What works for me may not work for you. So, in the spirit of diversity and community support, I asked some friends to share their self-care routines
- I go out for hikes because fresh air and sunshine are so necessary.
- I try to pet as many dogs as I can.
- Meal prepping over the weekend helps keep my nutrition healthy for the energy I need during the week.
- Eating healthy and making my veggie juice is my go-to.
- I seek out friends and social situations. Just being around people and talking about anything can feel really good.
- Cuddling in the morning. It’s nice to be touched and held.
- I take myself out on dates like going to the museum and buying myself a fancy lunch.
- I make time to paint my nails every week. It really calms me down and helps me set what kind of mood I’ll be in with the color I choose.
- I make time to read every single day. Books have been one of the main constants throughout my life and I know it’s a sure fire way to come back into myself after a long day.
- I keep a journal for the exclusive purpose of writing at least three good things I did or that happened that day.
- Sex. Pretty self explanatory.
- Have dreams/goals no matter how ambitious. There’s a little voice in my head likes to tell me I’m stupid and worthless, but I give that voice the middle finger by believing I’m capable.
- Sing/scream Disney songs at the top of my lungs while driving.
- I exercise or at least get outside. No one is ever going to confuse me for someone who does cross fit but I always get a boost of energy after exercising. More often than not exercising for me is playing tennis with friends or and going on a long walk.
- Take up a hobby, which for me means cooking. Something about cooking is therapeutic and learning to cook is also a great life skill to have. I don’t think anyone has ever said they regretted learning how to cook.
- Take time for yourself because saying “yes” to every Facebook invite can be overwhelming. I’ve gotten better at saying “no” to things I know I won’t enjoy and it freed up the few spare moments I do have with activities I do enjoy.