Self-love is the first step toward successful self-care.
The most giving individuals sometimes take the worst care of themselves. I've certainly been guilty of this. Givers all-too-often prioritize the needs of those around them, putting their own needs in the backseat. This can lead to burnout, fatigue, and resentment. And while we can talk all day about self-care (which I like to call self-maintenance), it will never become one's priority until the individual has cultivated a practice of self-love.
Extend the same love and kindness to yourself as you show those around you.
The simplest and most important step toward cultivating self-love is to identify and address your own needs.
This can be as simple as acknowledging your physical needs - such as feeling hungry or tired - and actually addressing those needs. Powering through pangs of hunger or feelings of fatigue doesn't help anyone around you - not your family, your colleagues, your friends...and certainly not you. Investing the time to address your physical needs is an investment in everyone around you. Reframe it as though you were caring for a child. If you were caring for a young child, would you ignore them if they told you they were hungry or tired? Of course not! You would immediately take action to address their needs, otherwise you'd be risking unmanageable behavior or even a meltdown. Treat yourself as you would lovingly treat a child. If you are hungry, take the time to eat. When you are tired, rest.
In addition to your physical needs, take time to identify and address your emotional needs. One of the simplest techniques that I teach clients is to learn their love language. The most generally accepted love languages are:
1) words of affirmation
2) acts of service
4) quality time
5) physical touch
Treat yourself as you would lovingly treat a romantic partner. Here are some ideas for the different love languages:
Words of Affirmation: Speak to yourself as you would a romantic partner. Write yourself a love letter. Listen to affirmation soundtracks.
Acts of Service: Outsource the tasks that do not spark joy for you. Ask for help if you need it, and focus on completion, not perfection for the tasks you enjoy the least.
Gifts: Treat yourself to something special. Buy yourself flowers and place them somewhere you will see them every day. Surprise yourself with an gift that will be delivered at a future date.
Quality Time: Take the time to do things you enjoy by yourself. Read a book, go to a play, watch a movie, draw a bath.
Physical Touch: Treat yourself to a massage, or do it yourself! Practice restorative yoga. Don't shy away from stuffed animals, pillows, and clothes/blankets made of lush, comforting materials.
Learn to love yourself without the love of others.
Dr. Lori Ana Valentín is an analytical chemist who holds doctorate and master’s degrees in chemistry from Binghamton University as well as a bachelor of science in biochemistry from SUNY Fredonia. She applies her perspective as a scientist to develop unique wellness solutions.