Give yourself the gift of love

February is a definitely a special month for love – with Valentine’s Day and all the symbols of romance that surround us during this time!

But, many of us are much better at loving other people than we are at loving ourselves. So, I want to bring focus on self-love.

Most of us can be kind and compassionate towards others when they are struggling, and even forgive another’s behaviour, but when we experience challenges or setbacks we often criticize and mentally ‘beat ourselves up’. Many of us can recognize value in other people and their situations but fail to appreciate our own positive traits and what we have or do in our life.

Why is it we give ourselves such a hard time, yet probably would never treat others in the same way?

Victim or victor?

When we make a mistake, or fall short of our own expectations and the goals we set for ourselves, when we have a tough day and don’t make the progress we had hoped for, when something unexpected happens that we wished hadn’t happened, or what we hoped for doesn’t materialize, it’s important to remember that we have a choice about how we respond.

We can dwell on the negativity, be it a situation or person. We can complain and criticize, either out loud to others, or in our head. We can wish that things were different without doing anything to change how we feel. That will most likely generate more negative emotions such as frustration, shame, fear and resentment. Our moaning will likely only attract other people who enjoy complaining. Psychologists refer to this as a ‘victim’ mindset. A ‘woe is me’ attitude. We will feel worse, rather than better.

We can forgive ourselves (or others). We can let go of feelings such as anger, resentment or guilt. We can stop complaining and focus on gratitude – something, however small, we are thankful for. We can appreciate ourselves; our traits and characteristics. For example:  “today, I appreciate myself for…”. We can practise acceptance of what is and move on. We can see our value and worth, even if only for a moment, regardless of what anyone else says to us, or what happens to us.

We can initiate a change. If the issue is a priority and within our control, we can choose to do something else, something different that moves us towards more of what we want to have/feel/be/do and steers us away from what we don’t want. Taking control can start with taking care of yourself on any, or all, levels – mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, professionally.

What does self-care look like?

Some examples:

Take your stress outside – take a break in nature, get some fresh air and exercise. Go offline.
Make time to eat regularly and eat well (food is medicine) – less junk food and more healthy choices will positively affect your mood.

Set boundaries – know what to say yes and no to. Aim for some balance in different areas of your life e.g. work and relationships, home and recreation. Communicate your needs.
Connect – find your community, volunteer, make friends, talk, listen. Ask for, and be willing to receive, help.

Journal – write or draw ideas, achievements, thoughts, plans, goals.
Practise self-compassion & forgiveness – tell yourself you are doing your best with what you have. Recognize what you can let go of.

To be able to love and give freely to other people it’s important to learn to love yourself first. You can’t make your best contribution if you feel depleted, especially if it’s at the expense of always putting others first. Think about why the airline always asks you to put your oxygen mask on first before helping other people.

Mindset is key

We can’t outperform our self-esteem. We may have stretching goals for the year, but we will never achieve them if we have a negative self-image and low self-worth. When we have healthy self-esteem, we hold ourselves in warm regard, despite our flaws and imperfections, and despite any negative circumstances we find ourselves in. We believe that we are enough and that we matter. We can stand up to any critical voice with love. We are mindful about what we focus on, knowing that ‘like attracts like’. We make a conscious effort to monitor and guard against our negative thoughts and change our thinking to focus on appreciation.

Managing our mindset requires discipline and determination, but the benefits are worth the effort.

Why is self-love important?

Human beings need love and appreciation to thrive. Whilst we might look for this outside of ourselves, it must come from within. We cannot rely on input from others or external circumstances to feel better about ourselves. We only have control over ourselves, our thoughts, our feelings and our actions. Our happiness.

Emotions connect the mind and body. As soon as you start practising self-love and appreciation your heart rate steadies, your immune system gets stronger, your cardiovascular system improves as does your brain function. Self-love is a powerful healing emotion with many positive benefits to your health and relationships.

On the other hand, negativity breeds ‘dis-ease’. Over time, negative stress from constantly beating ourselves up leads to chronic illness.

It’s your life. Choose self-love. Choose happiness.

– Canadian Immigrant

Bustani Media

Diaspora Community Hub!

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