By Leo Babauta
Many of us are (rightfully) focused on taking care of our health, eating nourishing whole foods and trying to be active … while meditating and flossing and taking some time of disconnection, away from devices.
These are wonderful acts of self-care, and they are necessary and important.
But there’s one act of self-care that is very often neglected, and it might be even more important than all the others: the practice of loving yourself.
In fact, this is so often neglected that when I mention “loving yourself,” many people don’t know what that means. Many of us have never consciously done it. If we have, it’s so rare as to be a forgotten memory.
But it’s my belief that we should do it throughout the day, like trying to drink 8 glasses of water. We should give ourselves at least 8 doses of loving ourselves every day.
What is this “self-love” (not in the sexual sense)? Imagine pouring out love in your heart to someone you love dearly – what would that feel like? Now try doing the same thing for yourself. That’s self-love, and it’s a completely foreign concept for the vast majority of people.
Why It’s So Important
I coach a number of people, 1-on-1 and in small and large groups – and pretty much everyone I meet is hard on themselves in some way. In some kind of stress and pain. Disappointed in themselves, angry at themselves, constantly feeling inadequate.
Do you relate to this? I think most of us can find a good chunk of this in ourselves.
This is the basic problem that most of us face, every single day. We don’t love big portions of ourselves. We beat ourselves up, all day long. We stress out about uncertainty because we don’t think we’re good enough to deal with it. We don’t trust ourselves to stick to something, because we’ve formed a really bad picture of ourselves over the years. We get angry at ourselves for eating too much, drinking too much alcohol, messing up in a social situation, getting distracted and watching videos or playing video games, and so on and so on. We are harsh on ourselves, and don’t like how we look or who we are, in many ways.
This affects everything in our lives. It makes us more stressed, less happy, anxious, depressed, stuck, procrastinating, less happy in relationships, less focused, more likely to reach for comfort foods or distraction or shopping to comfort ourselves from the stress and pain of being who we are.
But if we could give ourselves love, it would start to heal all of this. Everything could shift. We could deal with uncertainty and chaos and difficulty in a much more resilient way.
Giving ourselves love is such an important act of self-care, and yet is rarely ever done.
How to Give Ourselves Love Regularly
Set reminders for yourself, everywhere you go. Put reminders on your fridge, on your computer, on your phone, on your bathroom mirror, in your car, at your desk, near your TV.
The reminders only need to be two words: “Love yourself.”
When you see the reminder, the act is very simple (even if it doesn’t feel natural to most people yet – give it time):
- Pause and feel any stress, pain, self-doubt, anger, frustration, anxiety you might be feeling. Let yourself actually feel it, physically in your body, for just a few moments. It’s OK to feel this.
- Now give yourself the balm of love. As weird or silly as it feels, just try it. Imagine first that you are sending love to someone you love very much – your child, your parent, your best friend. Imagine them going through difficulty, and send love from your hear to theirs, hoping to make them better. Notice how that feels in your heart. Now try it for yourself, generating the same feeling in your heart, but sending it to yourself instead.
- Feel the love as a healing balm. No matter how little you’re able to generate, feel it wash over your stress, pain, anger, doubt … like a thick, syrupy liquid soothing the pain. Let yourself receive this love like the love you’ve been craving.
It’s that simple. It only takes a few moments – feel your stress and pain, send yourself love, let yourself feel it.
Do it 8 times a day. Or a dozen, if you can.
You need this care. Don’t hold it back from yourself any longer.