Let’s face it: loving yourself can feel like an uphill battle. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “you are your own biggest critic”, and self-care can feel like a luxury only others get to experience. I am writing here to tell you that you can and DESERVE to love yourself, and treat yourself with the care you would give to a loved one. As a counselor, I’ve worked with many walks of life about how to find that spark for yourself again, and engage in that self-care you need.
Here are 5 tips I have recommended that my clients have found helpful:
- Self-Care vs. Exhaustion
Oftentimes, self-care is seen as something reactive. I want you to think of self-care as maintenance. It is not a luxury, but a necessity. If you are only engaging in self-care when you are exhausted and at your limit, you can’t truly enjoy it. Self-care is a proactive practice. Think of your car: you don’t just change the oil when something is wrong, you change it regularly to prevent damage!
- One Thing a Day
This is a quick activity you can do to reminisce on what you are grateful for. This can be about the day itself, about your life, or something you are looking forward to in your future. Taking the time to recognize one thing that you are grateful for can help reframe your mind onto the positive. I recommend a gratitude journal. Here’s a link to one that I use for parents: Gratitude Journal
3. Mirror Activity
This is something I recommend doing in the morning as you get ready for the day. This activity will help boost your self-esteem over time. Look at yourself in the mirror, and tell yourself one thing you like about yourself. This can be your appearance, your qualities, or something you’ve done. You can even say a positive mantra to yourself if you’re finding it hard to motivate yourself to start your day. MRI (magnetic-resonance imaging) studies show that neural pathways are increased when one engages in daily positive affirmations.
- Sleep! (Yes, it’s an activity.)
At times, you may find yourself stuck between “do I sleep, or do I take time for myself to do this activity I enjoy?”. Especially for parents, you may find the only “free” time you have is after the kids have gone to bed, and it’s late at night. Remember that sleeping IS an activity. Instead of considering it an option that takes away from any free time you have, think of it as an activity you’re choosing to do that is great for your brain. Lack of sleep amplifies those big feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, nervousness. Those emotions make it hard to amplify that self-esteem, thus can decrease your self-confidence.
- Explore Your Interests
What are the things that make you, you? This can mean trying a new hobby you’ve never done before, or revisiting the activities that make you feel joy. Maybe you want to take up knitting for the first time, or ask an old friend out to dinner to enjoy their company. Making time for the things you enjoy reduces stress, lifts your mood overall, and can even expand your circle of friends.
These five steps are just five of many ways you can learn to love yourself again. Like I tell my clients: treat yourself the way you would treat a loved one (or even your beloved animals at home). Talk to yourself in a way you would talk to your best friend if they were having a hard time. Give yourself the grace you give to others, and remember that you deserve to feel like the best version of yourself.