There are many nourishing and meaningful acts of self-love or appreciation; the simplicity of a walk amongst trees or over hills, perhaps a drink in a favourite café with time to watch the world go by. Arranging a bouquet of flowers we’ve selected, or a specially chosen gift might be an occasional pleasure. But acts that demonstrate an acceptance and commitment of being true to ourselves, are long lasting and can serve to remind us of our capacity to love and to be loved.
Inviting clients to explore how they offer compassion, then take the courageous step to sustain oneself with these same acts of love can be a complex process, it’s one I hold as a cornerstone in therapeutic work.
Taking care of self doesn’t always come easily, especially since in most societies, women have long been expected to make sacrifices for others; for children, spouses or parents.
When a friend feels lost or alone, or faces a crisis, we put an arm around them, empathising and supporting with words of comfort, solidarity and hope. In evaluating our own needs, we might experience an uncomfortable sense of indignation at not being valued, perhaps at having being ignored. Our needs may have gone unmet for some time, we realise we’ve not paid attention.
In a world that values the relentless pursuit toward unrealistic standards of perfection from women, we can find ourselves being led by the critical tone in the voice of ‘not enough’; striving to be ‘better’ in response but never quite hitting the mark.
Asking “what are my needs?” takes practice; listening to parts of ourselves that may at times be hard to hear. Attuning to our body, listening to our thoughts with curiosity and kindness can clear channels that once opened, allow us to trust our instincts and value our own position.
Connection, and the knowledge that we are not isolated or going to be abandoned is crucial to our wellbeing, but we also need to learn to be ‘ok with not being ok’, that is, to accept ourselves, with every colour, shadow or light we embody.
Giving ourselves permission to experience a full range of emotions affords us opportunities to meet the challenges life poses, and develop resilience to bounce back. We humans are pretty good at brushing ourselves off and starting again, we’re pretty practiced at it, we just need to give ourselves the chance.
Disconnecting from an industrious existence, from our social and digital attachments and really spending time getting to know ourselves a little better, may not immediately yield feelings of love, but this enquiry into self can bring about a relationship with the person we most need to be able to depend upon; ourselves.
Acts of self-love and appreciation arise from our…
Awareness – noticing our relationship to others and our attitude toward compassion
Boundaries – making clear decisions about the time we take for ourselves.
Listening – carefully to ourselves asking “what are my needs?”
Attention – not ignoring our internal calls for connection, nourishment, exercise etc.
Permission – to experience ALL types of feelings and explore the full spectrum of our emotions
Acceptance – of our limitations along with our strengths, the gift of welcome change arises from this
Trusting – in ourselves and our own locus of evaluation
Gratitude – for our existence, but starting small, thanking ours heart for beating today…
Your acts of self-love will be those YOU decide upon…
Sometimes we need help to explore the process toward self-love, a therapeutic relationship can allow for a careful unfolding.
Other acts of self-love may include:
Slowing down…and really paying attention.
Reading, wrapped up warm at a window with a view with plenty of time to finish the book.
Connection with nature, walking through hills, woodland, over rocks and to the sea, take time to engage all senses, mindfully attuning.
Digging in a garden, or an allotment, accepting the seasons.
Taking care of feet, hands and teeth; warm socks, comfortable shoes, gloves and an electric toothbrush.
Taking time to caress your own face as you would a beloved, really feel your skins response to your touch.
Swimming, climbing, yoga, cycling; any individual movement that suits your body.
Singing and dancing, alone, together.
Eating, well and slowly.
Sleeping, yoga nidra, buying the most expensive mattress you can afford, soft lighting.
Reading, writing, art, music, poetry…or any other creative abandon.
Watching a classic film with a friend, preferably a long one with an interval where you can share your thoughts and feelings about what you’ve been experiencing.
Learning, something you’ve always wanted to do, but were afraid to…
How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you…Rupi Kaur
Sam McCarthy wrote this article for Four Nine: How to date yourself: 8 things you can do to practice self-love – Four Nine