The term “self-love” is occasionally sneered at, or chuckled at, because it sounds either “a bit lame” or something X-rated. On UrbanDictionary.com it might mean something entirely different, but according to the official dictionary, it means: “The instinct or desire to promote one’s own well-being”.
In all honesty, although I felt totally honoured to be featured on this list, I didn’t really feel like I could truly say that I had earned the title of someone who practices “self-love”. I’ve been just as busy this year since quitting my job in January and launching my own business; I’ve been opinionated and bitchy, I’ve been stressed, I’ve being doing evening events when really I would have loved to have chosen the sofa and a cup of hot chocolate, I’ve not watched hardly any TV (I have so many episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to catch up on) and I haven’t beaten my night-time anxiety. Also, my eyebrows have recently grown out of shape. I mean, it’s quiet dull to talk about how busy and anxious you are. It’s also not very on-trend to be busy. Surely, I was being pretty shit at this self-love malarky. Surely, I was doing the opposite of what is good for me.
But then, what does “self-love” actually mean?
I had been the person who scoffed at the phrase. Maybe because it felt trivial. I pictured the idea of “self-love” being a day at home dressing up to take a nice selfie, or one of those patronising quotes about how “You Must Love Yourself Before Any One Else Can”. Using the hashtag #SelfLove could often mean the opposite. It was a misunderstanding of the phrase, perhaps a bit like #Hygge. Without really cutting into the middle of the true meaning of it, people assume it’s all about cashmere, when really it’s about comfort and contentment. “Self-love” doesn’t have to mean “well-groomed.” It also doesn’t mean “being a perfect person”. It also doesn’t mean moving to Bali.
I sort of blame the way the media depicted it. Some magazines made it feel like you could “practice self-love” by “shopping the trends!” or downloading a mindfulness app that will miraculously fix all your problems. Yes self-love could mean a nice bath with some expensive bath salts (and trust me, I love that sort of shit), but it goes far far beyond that. It simply means valuing your own happiness. That will probably look very different depending on the person. With or without the bath salts.
For me, it means giving myself a break; it means thinking “I matter” and “I’m enough” and meaning it without having to always strive for the next thing. 2017 is full of exciting projects but equally, I am in no rush. It means not putting too much pressure on myself, physically and emotionally. It means treating myself as I would a best friend. It means lots of different things. It means giving yourself the space and stillness to be you. You, without the fluff and stuff and ego and comparison.
So here are five things I file under “self-love”:
1. Forgiving yourself.
Said something you didn’t mean? Phrased something in the wrong way? Got caught up in the heat of the moment? Congratulations, you are human. You will probably say the wrong thing sometimes, or a lot. Whether you got a bit stroppy with a mate or you sent an email too quickly to your boss, it’s these seemingly small things that can drive you crazy. But you cannot beat yourself up. Any sort of self-love for me is admitting that you fuck-up sometimes, but you are also a good person who wants good things for people.
2. Saying “yes” to the future you want.
Yeppppp this sounds tricky on the surface. First of all, you have to pinpoint what makes you happy in the first place in order to know what to say “yes” to, which is hard. But building your future means giving yourself the space to experiment, the space to think, the space to make mistakes. This one kind of goes hand in hand with point 1 – allow yourself to try new directions and forgive yourself if things don’t go perfectly your way straight away. Carve your own zigzag and make your own path. Your happiness might be different to others and that’s OK.
3. Saying “no”.
Boundaries. My word of the year. This year I have ring-fenced my time and energy. You cannot offer your time to everyone, just like you can’t be actual friends with 300 people on Facebook. Choose wisely what you say yes to, and equally it’s OK to say no to stuff that makes you feel icky. And guess what: you don’t have to explain yourself either! I’ve said “no” more times than I’ve said “yes” this year and it feels very very good.
4. Writing it down.
Writing down your thoughts and ideas can legitimise them, even it’s just for yourself. It’s saying “these words matter!” I realised that I had been put on the “self-love authors” list because the very act of writing is an act of self-love. My book is messy and imperfect, but it’s mine and it was made from the heart. Giving yourself permission to share your honest thoughts with people even though you might be scared of how they might be received is an act of respect to yourself. It’s also a way of welcoming other people in.
5. Slowing down.
Being still, in this crazy digital world, is pretty impossible. We are living in a world of the Refresh Button and FOMO – it can feel shallow and competitive. Screw the packaged up digital-detoxes, but welcome in your own version of quiet. Reading, writing, drawing, cooking, nail-painting, napping, swimming = any activity you do for yourself is an act of love.
6. Take things with a pinch of salt.
For me, self-love also means being grounded enough to not need hundreds of compliments to stay afloat. It means accepting a nice comment about your work, retweeting praise, taking in nice words, but not feeding on them too much. It means taking in bad criticism too, accepting others peoples points of view, learning from it and moving on. It means taking extreme forms of feedback with a pinch of salt – and always coming back to yourself and your place of calm.
Who’s making 2017 a year of genuine (and constantly evolving) self-love? xo