Be gentle with yourself, learn to love yourself, to forgive yourself, for only as we have the right attitude toward ourselves can we have the right attitude toward others.

-Wilfred Peterson

It’s February, and that means our social media feeds are inundated with Valentine’s Day gift ideas, quotes about love, and sweet relationship posts. While you’re scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or any of the other social media channels, it’s easy to miss the most important relationship—the relationship you have with yourself.

Self-love isn’t just facials and bubble baths. Although taking time to relax is important, self-care shouldn’t be defined by luxurious experiences healthcare professionals likely don’t have time for. This commercialized version of self-care can make taking care of yourself feel inaccessible and overwhelming.

Self-love is described as “a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth” (Khoshaba, 2012). The relationship you have with yourself can dictate the other parts of your life. For example, when you make a mistake, having a more gentle and kind response toward yourself rather than an aggressive one can drastically change your mood and sense of self-worth. Many studies support the claim that loving yourself is massively beneficial for mental health and overall wellness.

Self-love is not only treating yourself with kindness and compassion, but also something that builds over time. Although closely related to self-confidence and self-assurance, self-love is a bit different. Chance Marshall, co-founder of Self Space, describes the difference between self-love and self-reliance in the article How to (Really) Practice Self Love: 4 Things to Remember when he writes “It can be great to have alone time, to have a bath, to cook ourselves a nice meal for one, but this isn’t self-love, it’s more self-reliance and self-sufficiency. Self-love, on the other hand, is inextricably linked to self-esteem, it being our ability to see ourselves as a flawed, imperfect individuals and still hold ourselves in high regard.”

Ways to Practice Self-Love

Start with Compassion.

The best way to start practicing self-love is by being compassionate towards yourself. We are all flawed human beings, meaning we make mistakes. Many of us are perfectionists, especially in the healthcare profession, but sometimes being a perfectionist can cause us to be overly critical of ourselves, which leads to the next practice.

Change your internal self-talk.

Listen to how you talk to yourself. Does your internal monologue tend to be more negative or positive? Would you speak to a friend the same way you speak to yourself? Try to soften the tone you use towards yourself when you make a mistake; be more kind and understanding of yourself, as you would a loved one.

Some therapists suggest naming your inner critic to differentiate it from your usual thoughts. This process creative cognitive defusion– a process that allows you to separate yourself from your thoughts. This is a great way to recognize the criticism and stop it in its tracks.

Get to know your emotions.

Do your shoulders tense when you’re stressed? Does your stomach tighten when faced with sadness? Emotions don’t come to us in clear, nicely labeled boxes, sometimes it can be difficult to decipher what you’re feeling in the moment. Sitting with your emotions and figuring out exactly what you’re feeling is a powerful step in your self-love journey. Journal prompts can be a powerful tool for understanding how you’re feeling at a certain time or the ways in which your body expresses an emotion.

Try meditation and mindfulness.

When you meditate, you are taking time for yourself, whether that’s 10 minutes or an hour. Meditation and mindfulness are both associated with increased positive self-esteem.

Medito is a forever-free meditation app that offers a variety of meditations. Next time you have 10 minutes to yourself, give it a try! Headspace is also a great resource for meditation with a huge variety of different exercises for everyone.

Talk to Someone.

Of course, all these exercises are great ways to practice and establish self-love within your relationship with yourself, but if you’re still struggling SafeHaven is here to help! Our therapists would be happy to help you on your self-care journey.