Self-Love and Self-Care
Why I Did Not Understand Self-Love
Growing up, I did not really understand the concept of “self-love.” In fact, not only did I not understand it, but I thought of it as something along the lines of narcissism or conceit. Coincidentally, the first definition of self-love on merriam-webster.com is: love of self: a.) conceit. However, conceit is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about self-love as a regard for one’s own well being and happiness, (chiefly considered a desirable rather than narcissistic characteristic)-as the dictionary on google defines it. Growing up, I felt like I was always taught to care for others, not myself, so I am still working on the concept of self-love in my own life.
How I Came to Understand that Self-Love is a Good Thing
Right now, I practice self-love by caring for myself better than I used to. I think of this sort of self-love as self-care. For example, if my body is sore, I may stretch it, take a warm bubble bath, or both. I also receive regular massages to help my body to stay loose, relaxed, and pain-free. This is a bit of a stark contrast to my earlier life as a college student. With a large amount of classes and extracurriculars combined with little sleep, I ended up at the student health center frequently, with various complaints. If I would have continued with that type of lifestyle and resulting stress with no self-care, I may still be plagued with the same problems today as I was then.
Luckily, I realized that not only could taking care of myself and showing myself some self-love help with my ailments, but it also helped me to be able to better help others. When I feel good, I have more energy to help others, and am much more pleasant to be around. So, not only can I help myself by practicing self-love, I can help others as well, which I see as a win-win situation. When I care for myself, I feel balanced and more rested. Therefore, I feel like I have more resources within myself to make conscious, healthy decisions for both me and those that I love. Thus, caring for myself helps me to better spread love and care to others.
How Do I Even Begin to Practice Self-Love?
Now that I gave a few examples of how I practice self-love and self-care, you may be thinking, how can I practice self-love? Well, here is another definition of self-love from psychology today that may help: “Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth.” It further explains: “Self-love is dynamic; it grows by actions that mature us. When we act on ways that expand self-love in us, we begin to accept much better our weaknesses as well as our strengths, have less need to explain away our shortcomings, have compassion for ourselves as human beings struggling to find personal meaning, are more centered in our life purpose and values, and expect living fulfillment through our own efforts.”
Deborah Khoshaba, Psy.D, outlines a seven-step prescription for self-love, and it includes becoming mindful, acting on what you need rather than what you want, practicing good self-care, setting boundaries, protecting yourself, forgiving yourself, and living intentionally. Rather than commenting extensively on them all here, you can read what she has to say about each here.
How Can I Look at These 7 Steps for Self-Love Holistically?
When I read the details on the seven-step prescription, each step brought my mind back to the concept of balance. Really, each of her steps illustrates an example of balance within its category. The concepts of balance that they bring up include both the physical and mental realm. This idea of balance brings me back to Chinese Medicine, which was developed at a time when people lived in harmony with the world around them. The seasons and activities that went along with them flowed, and there was more of an aim to balance life. This balance of life went along with the thought of health also being a balance. Acupuncture, massage, reflex therapy and ortho-bionomy can all aid in helping the body to balance itself. Alpenglow’s Integrative Massage is the newest edition to our family, and is 25% off through the month of February, so now is a great time to give it a try! If you do not see a time that works for you, please call or email and we will do our best to accommodate you.
All I Really Have to Do is Listen to my Heart?
All this talk about self-love leads us to the subject of the Heart. February is American Heart month. In Chinese medicine, the Heart is the organ of joy, and thus joy nourishes the heart. So, if you love dancing, running, rock climbing, singing, meditating, collecting rocks, or drawing, go ahead and do it! Doing what you love is a great way to help your self-love grow. The Chinese Heart is a beautiful organ to help us to learn about self-love, because it houses our Shen, or Spirit. The Shen includes consciousness, emotions, and mental health. Our Chinese Heart can help us to get in touch with how we are feeling if we just become present by listening to what our body and mind are telling us. When we access our Chinese Heart by becoming more aware of our physical and mental selves-basically becoming aware of what makes us the unique individual human being that we are-it will open us up to self-love by allowing us to detect where we need more conscious effort for balance in our lives.
So, now that I am armed with a seven-step prescription for self-love, as well as my own heart as a guide, I can’t go wrong. If I forget one (or all) of the seven steps, I can look in at myself, into the unique aspects of my own Chinese Heart, and see what aspect of self-love I need to work on. Our Chinese Heart serves as a reminder that perhaps the needed tools for self-love have really been within us all along. Rather than looking at the outside world for answers to what should make us happy, perhaps we should look within.