You can’t love others until you love yourself.

You deserve love.

Love yourself the way you want others to love you.

These “love thyself” statements are thrown around in what seems every magazine article and every conversation these days.  But what does loving yourself and true self love actually look like? How can we actively practice self love?  I’m no expert at this, nor do I claim to have this whole thing figured out, but I’ve been evolving and growing in my understanding of what it means to practice self love over the last few years.  I love that with every year in my twenties, it has brought me greater compassion, greater appreciation, and a greater love for myself.  With Valentine’s Day around the corner, this post is dedicated to 5 ways to cultivate self-love —because Valentine’s Day isn’t just about celebrating with a significant other, it’s about honoring love in all forms and that means honoring the love for ourselves, too. 🙂

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First off, in my opinion, self-love is not just a state of mind or a moment that just happens instantly.  You can’t just buy yourself a new pair of shoes and say, “I did it! I love myself!” And it’s certainly doesn’t come from reading an inspirational quote (though they are great reminders!). Self-love is a habit you must actively practice. Just like any skill, whether it be playing the piano, weightlifting, practicing yoga, drawing, etc., you must actively practice habits that cultivate your well-being.  Self-love is about creating habits that nurture emotional, physical, and spiritual growth.  For me, I’ve been actively cultivating self-love through my fitness and health journey, through the relationships I choose to foster, and through the daily habits that I intentionally choose in order to breed the outcomes that I desire.  In a nutshell, here are my 5 ways to cultivate self-love:

1. Protect your spirit, your heart, your mind. For me, this means inviting and investing in relationships that genuinely bring value in my life.  I’ve had to learn that not everyone you meet is meant to stay in your life.  There are people who I once called friends, but over time, I’ve slowly realized how some of those friendships were genuinely unhealthy.  I’m intentional with whom I spend my time with, whom I share my goals with (because not all “friends” have your back), and whom I decide to invest in.  Quality over quantity, all day–any day.

2. Set boundaries. For me, this lesson was learned mostly through my professional journey.  I’ve always been a workhorse and someone who prides themselves on doing great work (perfectionist tendencies), and achieving at a high level.  I’ve always given my 150% in everything I do and for many years post grad, this meant a life that was 100% dedicated to my job, grad school, and oh did I mention my job?  It took me a few years into my career to begin to develop a better work/life balance and I’ve slowly had to scale back the amount of responsibilities I was taking on because it just wasn’t healthy, nor sustainable.  Set boundaries for your work, your relationships, and really, anything you do.  Stick to them and be unapologetic. This will certainly help preserve your sanity and your ability to invest in yourself.

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3. Acknowledge your feelings, process them, and let goThat last part is really key.  I’m someone who traditionally hasn’t been able to let go of grudges easily or forget about times when someone has “done me wrong.” I’m a sensitive soul and I genuinely try and be a light for others.  But when I feel someone has crossed me, I have a hard time letting go.  It wasn’t until the last few years I’ve gotten better with this; I allow myself to feel the hurt/pain/distrust, remind myself that if it is a relationship I genuinely care about, I need to have that crucial conversation, and if it is not, I need to let go. There is no point in putting my energy into negativity–there’s enough to think about in life already!

4. Do things that genuinely bring you joy. We all go through that period in our life when we do things because other people around us are doing it.  For me, that involved the typical twenties lifestyle of drinking and doing the young people thang.  But if you really know me, you know that I have a true spirit of an 80 year old grandma.  A few years ago, I decided to stop drinking because 1) I have an alcohol allergy and 2) I genuinely dislike the culture of drinking. I have learned that it is okay to say no to things that you don’t want to do, and you do not need to justify why.  Now that I’m approaching my 28th birthday, I’m excited to continue living intentionally and choosing to do things that genuinely bring me joy (like going to bed at 9:30pm, drinking tea, and making granola bars #27goingon80).

5. Develop a self-care routine. When I finally developed more positive exercise and food habits, I began to see radical changes in my physical health, and more importantly, my mindset.  Learning how to cook gluten free meals (and now vegan!) has helped me to learn more about nourishing my body and not just mindlessly putting things into it just for the sake of eating.  I’m learning what foods make my body feel good, help it to operate at it’s optimal state, and how food plays a powerful role in my mindset.  Before going gluten free and vegan, I had a very traditional American diet full of coffee, processed foods, sugar, and anything I wanted to eat, really.  I didn’t realize how much of my symptoms were attributed to food.  Fatigue, brain fog, eczema, digestive issues–you name it.  I’m finally on a path to healing and for the first time, I feel in control of my health because I’m equipped with the knowledge to help nurture my body. Self-care means taking care of your body, your mental health, and your physical health. Do what feels right for your body and treat it as the temple it is! #sacredspace

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Ultimately, self-love is a practice. Self-love is choosing to love yourself, even when you’re in the darkest hour…because it is the light that shines on the other side to tell you to keep going.  Self-love isn’t a race or a medal you can take home; it’s an ever-evolving process and practice that takes time to develop and the patience to know that it won’t suddenly appear right in front of you. It is a work in progress because we are a constant work in progress. Self-love is knowing you are worth investing in. Self-love isn’t easy, but I 100%, full-heartedly believe it is the greatest love you can give.

Sweet friends, how do you practice and cultivate self-love? Did you find these tips helpful? Share with me your thoughts on this topic!

P.S. These photos were taken by the talented Karya Shanilec! It was my first time shooting with a professional photographer and super fun! Check her page out!

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