Valentine's Day is this week. It is a day where we are reminded to tell those we love, how much we love them. Whether they are friends, family, lovers or children, Valentine's Day is a day of love. But why is Valentine's Day only about others? Why don't we take the time to tell ourselves, "I Love You". Self-love is a very important part of self-care. If we can't be kind and gentle to ourselves, we cannot effectively take care of others.
It can be hard to accept ourselves for who we are today, who we were in the past and who we are working to be. We are our own worst critics. We are hard on ourselves due to the ideals we think we need to achieve to be happy. If we fail to meet those ideals, we feel as if we let everyone down. Being critical of ourselves means we are encouraging negative internal dialogue. This makes us less likely to be empathetic towards others.
But did you know thinking negative thoughts about ourselves leads to both physical and mental illness? When we are self-critical, we may become depressed, anxious, develop an eating disorder and even have chronic fatigue. (Source: U.S. News) Self-criticism can easily lead us down a path that is hard to recover from. I am here to tell you there are ways to stop being so harsh on yourself.
First, accept yourself exactly as you are. This means looking at yourself in the mirror and saying out loud "I love you exactly the way you are." When you say I love you to yourself, make sure you say your name. It is important that you hear your name when you are saying something nice to yourself. It makes the statement real to hear your name associated with a positive statement. Say your name in the beginning of the statement or at the end of the statement. This takes practice. It feels weird at first. We aren't taught to respect ourselves in such an intimate way. When you get into the habit of saying I love you to yourself, it will reinforce your positive attitude.
Once you accept yourself exactly as you are, it is very freeing. It helps you let go of the so-called ideals you are trying to live up to. It helps you realize life is not a reality TV show. Life is what you make it. There aren't rules you need to follow. Whatever path works for you and your loved ones, is the path that is right for you.
Second, take time for yourself. When you are focused on taking care of others, it is easy to let your needs go to the bottom of the list. By not taking time for yourself, you are doing a disservice to others. You will feel resentful, not cared for and unloved. It is OK to tell those you care for that you need time for yourself. When you focus on just you, it is easier to take care of others. Taking care of yourself cannot be something you do occasionally. It has to be routine. If you need to schedule it, do so. Tell your family and loved ones why you need alone time. Then do it. Tell the family when and where you will take your time. Tell them they cannot interrupt you. Laying down ground rules will help you get the time you need for yourself routinely.
Third, learn to say No. This is a very difficult word to say. No. We aren't told that it is OK to say No. In fact, we are mostly taught that we must do everything even if we don't want to. We don't have role models who say No. Instead we are bombarded with images that show we can do it all and then we internalize, "well if I can't do it all I am a failure."
Set boundaries in your life. If someone asks you to do something, seriously think if you can say No. For example, let's say that you committed to taking time for yourself. You talk to your family, you tell them when you will take time for yourself. One week later, they ask you to do something that interferes with your alone time. Now is the time to say "No, I can't do it because it is my time. But I can do it another day." It is going to be weird the first time you say No. It will take practice. After you get good at it, you'll see how good saying No feels.
Finally, learn to ask for help. Do you think your family would love you less if you didn't try to do it all? No! They probably would be happier because it would mean they are helping you. Do you think if you asked your family for help they would say no? Absolutely Not! When you don't ask for help and life gets too much to deal with, your negative attitude about having to do it all affects the people around you. You may get angry and snap at people even when you don't mean it. When you get help from others, it gives you a positive mental outlook because it fosters the feeling of being loved and cared for.
Now that you've started asking for help, routinely take time for yourself, telling yourself you love you and started saying No, how will you feel? WONDERFUL! The end result of following these 4 simple guidelines is a positive attitude, a healthy body and mind and increased satisfaction with your life. Plus, you will feel energized which will make it easy to care for others. Don't wait to start taking care of yourself. Start today.
I hope this post inspires you to love yourself so much that you that you take time for you. If you would like to receive more healthy living tips for free, follow my blog on Bloglovin.