Selflove: it's more than a bubble bath
The focus on self-love - the act of looking after one's own well-being and happiness - is on the rise (at least on Instagram if not in real life; #selflove brings up over 16 million results). Sophie is a blogger who once cringed whenever she heard the word 'self-love'. But, now she has a different view on it...
So, how do you feel about self-love?
'Self-love’, 'loving yourself' urgh.. these expressions have always made me absolutely cringe. As a Brit, the idea of 'loving yourself’ really is at odds with everything I’ve ever been taught; apologizing to everyone and everything, steadily deflecting all compliments, and having a general attitude of 'just get on with it'. So the idea of swanning about having bubble baths and listing all the nice things about myself...are you joking? But, while getting better acquainted with this whole 'self-love' thing, I discovered firstly, how much I'd misunderstood it, and secondly how little I had of it. Although it may be a cringey phrase, I’ve come to recognise a misunderstandings around 'loving yourself' that I'd like to clarify...
Self-love is not selfish.
My happiness is my responsibility, no one else's, and it’s not selfish at all to pursue the things that make me happy.
Also, when I’m unhappy in myself, I’m often not that great to the world around me - impatient, grumpy, on a short fuse, tutting in the coffee queue. But, when I’m happier, I’m much a better human to the world around me and to the people I meet.
Self-love is not about superiority or arrogance.
"Well she likes herself”. If I'd heard someone say that about me 5 years ago I would have been mortified. These days I'd take it as a compliment. “Yes I do like myself thanks”. I'm not perfect but I will say there are parts of me that are pretty fantastic.
If I like me - how I look, who I am, what I do - it doesn't take away from anyone else. There’s enough room for all of us, in all of our glory. So when I feel the sneaky rising of resentment at someone else’s confidence or beauty, I take this as a sign that I need to work on my self-love. For example, when I failed exams at school, I found it really hard watching other people’s successes. I knew this resentment wasn't fair on anyone - any resentment I had was entirely about me and my own insecurity, and not to do with the other person. The way out of feeling this way was to have some self compassion. So now if I feel that resentment rising I know it’s a signal to keep going and keep working on that, yep, self-love.
Self-love builds a protection system.
One of the more hidden benefits of self-love is something that reveals itself when we are challenged. How do you respond when someone hurts you? Do you tell them, or do you ignore it through fear of loss or confrontation? With self-love comes a self-protection system; an ability to say “No, that's not ok with me”.
By starting to respect myself, my emotions, my time and my body, I’ve learnt to speak up if someone isn’t doing the same. By learning our worth, we develop boundaries in how we let people treat us - and how to ask for what we want and need. Of course, I'm not advocating becoming a big confrontational uncompromising diva; people make mistakes, and won't always be thinking about what’s best for me. Nevertheless, self-love builds up a detection system so I can make the choice about whether to speak up, or to just let it go.
Self-love leads to self-compassion; tell the Critical Committee to sit the hell down.
OK, not a literal real-life committee, but most of us have a ‘critical committee’ that pops up in our minds when we do something wrong or silly or feel like we looked the fool - those ‘you massive idiot' or 'oh god they all think i'm weird, why did I say that?!' thoughts. Self-love is where self compassion begins; the opposing panel to the Critical Committee is the Compassion Squad. I’m not perfect; no one on this planet is. When you accept this as a truth the critical committee, that pipes up in your head reprimanding you when you do something wrong, gets quietened down by new noise from your compassion squad. And in accepting that I’m flawed, I also stop expecting other people to be perfect.
So, self-love has much deeper and more important implications than liking what you see in the mirror; it’s a vital part of living a happy life. But, I will admit, I still find it a cringey expression...