Bless Emma Watson for her a recent interview with British Vogue! In it, the actor said one thing she’s made peace with as she nears her 30th birthday is her current relationship status. “It took me a long time, but I’m very happy [being single]. I call it being self-partnered,” she said.
Single women all over the world breathed a sigh of relief, as there was even less pressure on them to partner up. Psychologist Carla Marie Manly sees merit the notion, and describes ‘self-partnering’ as focusing on the idea of being happy and complete as a solo individual. “A self-partnered person would feel whole and fulfilled within the self, and does not feel compelled to seek fulfillment through having another person as a partner,” she says.
That doesn’t mean someone who is currently describing themselves as ‘self partnered’ wouldn’t like to get married one day; it’s just that currently, they’re very happy spending time with themselves. In short, it seems Watson, and those like her, are experts at practicing self love.
Self love is a popular concept these days, but what does it really mean? It seems rather subjective, as it certainly means different things to different people, since we all have different ways of defining ‘loving ourselves.’ But there can be little doubt that self love requires some sustained effort. Our culture doesn’t really emphasize self-care – there’s more of a focus on participating in work, family and social life. But how can you do those things well if you’re not taking care of yourself?
Deciding to accept self-love in your life has positive repercussions in all areas of your existence, as well as in the lives of others. Isn’t it exciting to know that by doing good things for ourselves, we do good for others at the same time? So let’s get to work!
Here are ten steps to self love you can practice any time.
1. Slow down
The world we live in is anything but slow. Yet we must decide to slow down and understand that life can only be enjoyed if we do things slower. It’s like eating and tasting rather than just gulping down your food.
One good way to slow down is to use cell phones and social media a lot less – or even give them up completely for a day or two a week! These take us out of the moment with real life and real people, and put our headspace in an unreal, digital realm, leaving us with less time for ‘real life’.
Alternatively, take a walk instead of driving, give yourself a few minutes a day to do absolutely nothing and enjoy it, watch those you love a little more often and take the time to connect with those people you forget because they don’t “fit” into your busy schedule and lifestyle.
Slowing down brings the magic that surrounds us into clearer focus. We allow ourselves to feel things such as how precious, even grand, life is. Slowing down eventually plunges us into a state of gratitude. When we slow down, we become moved by the fragility of life, we say thank you more, and we see life with eyes full of love and wonder at every moment.
It also allows us to increase our state of consciousness – for example, to realize that the path we have taken so far is no longer suitable and that we should think of other avenues to regain the joy we have lost.
2. Take more responsibility
This may seem counter-intuitive. After all, didn’t I just say we should slow down more? Doesn’t taking more responsibility imply a busier life? The answer is no. I don’t mean take more responsibilities, I mean act more responsibly. For example? Deciding to shop responsibly means buying fresh, local, organic food and cooking it with ease. It makes all the difference to our health and well-being. The same goes for personal care products, household products and clothing. Choosing not to buy from stores whose practices are irresponsible and dangerous to humans and the environment is not always easy.
You may think choosing more responsible goods and products will be more expensive. Yet that’s not always the case: buying second hand is cheaper than new; growing your own veggies and herbs is practically free, and you can do it from any window box. From experience, I can say that it is possible to be more responsible on a budget. Buy less, buy quality, buy the essentials, exchange, make your own.
But it’s not just about shopping – it’s about people and the planet, too. If you see plastic rubbish on the street, pick it up. If not you, who else will? If you witness animal or child abuse, step in or report it. If you see someone in distress, help them – even if it means giving up your seat on a bus to an elderly or injured person. We are all one on this planet, and if we all take some responsibility for each other, not only will the world be a better place, but you’ll feel better about yourself as a person, too. That’s an easy step to self-love.
3. Practice rituals
This is somewhat related to point 1. Our society doesn’t allow us much time for self care rituals, but these can have a huge impact on how you feel about yourself. It could be something as simple as looking at yourself in the mirror every day and making an affirmation, like: ‘You’re beautiful’. Or ‘You’re a good person.’ Alternatively, it could take more time, such as keeping a journal every day, writing down what you are grateful for today, or jotting your feelings down.
Taking the time to burn some incense or scented candles, setting the table with selected objects at dinner time, or spending some time to water and nurture house plants invites a daily celebration of life. Taking a few minutes every morning to pamper your skin with beautiful natural products, or making tea in the afternoon and enjoying it in front of your window without doing anything else but watching the trees and people passing by are all rituals linked to self care and self-love.
4. Take care of your body
Your body which is the vehicle of your soul. Celebrate it! A healthy body is directly related to healthy mental wellbeing. A sustained effort is once again important, but definitely worth it. This is something you will need to do regularly, and you’ll need to find what’s right for you. Training in a gym is not for everyone – but there are many ways to take care of your body without having to put on your running shoes! Think: yoga, stretching, walking, playing a sport, dancing…whatever makes you feel good! Personally, I’m one of those people who don’t believe that intense training and cardio are necessary for good physical health. I love walking and I do yoga daily. For those who don’t like to exercise, you can find a good yoga video on your computer and follow it. Just a few minutes a day can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing, and how you feel about your body!
But of course, food is related here, too. Cleaner, fresher, living foods (as opposed to processed, packaged and microwaved foods) are packed with nutrients from Mother Earth. She knows what your body needs and provides it naturally. There’s very little doubt that those who eat whole foods have more energy, get sick less and feel better about themselves overall. Make whole foods the majority of your diet.
5. Monitor your thoughts
It seems the news and social media have one objective: to make us feel bad. Their articles and stories are full of fury, negativity and fear. Keeping a serene mind means leaving these feeders of negative energy behind. In no way does the media help to celebrate life, the planet and those who inhabit it. Instead of spending time listening to outlets that feed off your fear and worry, why not get involved in the community through volunteering? Or simply spend more time with friends, family and neighbours who make you feel good?
Meditation is another great way to do ourselves a service and build self love. Again, it is an effort, but it costs nothing and is extremely rewarding. Listening to videos about positive thinking, the power of thought, the expansion of consciousness is stimulating and encouraging. It is important to encourage yourself every day to not to be hard on yourself, and to repeat certain phrases like mantras: I am enough, I am worth it, I am loved, I am safe etc.
If you still find yourself feeling down, asking for help from mental health professionals is also possible, and I would encourage you to do so. Over the years, I have done art therapy, therapeutic sessions with psychologists, hypnosis, personal growth classes and even sound therapy. What I learned is that we can all be hard on ourselves sometimes; it’s natural. But you need to give yourself a break from time to time. No one is perfect, and you can’t expect yourself to be so, either.
6. Accept whatever comes your way
One of my favourite Taoist parables is that of the man with the horse. It goes something like this:
Once upon a time, there was a Chinese farmer who lost a horse. It ran away. And all the neighbors came ‘round that evening and said, “That’s too bad.”
And he said, “Maybe.”
The next day, the horse came back and brought seven wild horses with it. And all the neighbors came around and said, “That’s great, isn’t it?”
And he said, “Maybe.”
The next day, one of the wild horses kicked his son, who was trying to tame it, and broke his leg.
“That’s terrible!” said the neighbours.
“Maybe,” said the man.
The next day, the army came to the man’s village and recruited all the healthy young men. His son was spared.
The point is to try to live in such a way that nothing is either an advantage or a disadvantage. Neither positive nor negative. It just is. The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad, because we can never know what will be the consequences of good fortune or misfortune.
It may not be one of the easiest steps to self-love, but keeping yourself in this frame of mind maintains mental balance and acceptance of whatever life throws at you. It also helps you keep events in perspective, no matter what may happen to you, be it a divorce, an accident, a lottery win, or a job promotion.
7. Pursue new things
Anyone can be stuck in a rut, so it’s always great to change your routine, even if it’s a bit painful at first. This could be anything from going to a party or gathering you really didn’t want to venture out to, or something bigger, like accepting a job in a different city or even country.
Once you stretch the bounds of your daily habits, you’ll be amazed at what you are actually capable of doing!
8. Get creative
A 2012 study concluded that higher self-esteem has a positive relationship with creative processes in students. The better the students felt about themselves, the more creativity they displayed.
However, artist Nicole Dunlap insists it goes the other way around, too: creativity can lead to higher self-esteem. She says: “Creativity is an act of self-love. Letting your deepest desires and your individuality come out to play. Feeding and growing those little seeds inside of you, making you the person you were meant to be.”
Since creativity is essential to many aspects of life, from how you function at work to what you make for dinner, it seems worth boosting your self-love to boost your creativity – or vice versa!
It’s easy to do: try a new recipe, keep a journal, even doodle while you’re in a meeting. Who knows? You may surprise yourself with what you’re capable of doing!
9. Remind yourself what’s really important
Gained a few pounds? Passed over for a promotion? Remind yourself that while it would be nice to have the perfect figure or a better job, you’re still healthy and beautiful, no matter what – and you still have a job. There’s always going to be someone who is better or worse off than you. When Chere was younger, her father gave her a copy of Desiderata, and it made a huge impact on her. One of her favourite lines is:
“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.”
You can read this beautiful, eternally true text here.
10. Remember, it’s never too late to change
This is one of the most important steps to self-love! No matter how old you are, no matter how set in your ways, it’s never too late to learn self-love – or any skill, for that matter!
This article was published on Valentine's day on Eluxe Magazine's website.