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Using Your Love Language to Practice Self-Care

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Buffalo chapter.

Love Languages are a pop-psychology fad that took off in the early 90’s, founded upon the principle that people give and receive love differently based on their personality. This in and of itself is not a terribly wild concept. If you think about it, it seems obvious. Different people are going to do things differently. Love is a complex thing, and I don’t think that statement comes as a “hot take” to anyone. There are so many kinds of love, and so many different emotions that come with it. People spend their whole lives trying to understand love and communicate it. It is one of the defining facets of the Human Experience.

Now, despite the somewhat sordid history of Love Languages (rooted in toxic sexism and questionable faith), I find the core-concept of them very useful as a tool. If you remove Gary Chapman’s preachy tactics of explanation and shame-inducing rhetoric, there is really some substance there. While the concept of Love Languages was crafted to give wives struggling in their marriages a way to better care for their husbands (gross and antiquated, I know), I think it can be reclaimed as a way to help us get in touch with how we want to be treated by ourselves and those in our lives.

Like any and all “personality type” based psychology, it is a way to analyze your relationships with yourself and others. It gives you an opportunity to assess these aspects of your life that you might not otherwise give critical thought. Above all, it helps you to actually articulate these thoughts and feelings. To me, it is no mystery that things like horoscopes and personality quizzes have been all the rage since people could read and write. We are desperate to better understand ourselves and each other.

As we finally begin to shift away from the toxic productivity mindset that has plagued our society since the Industrial Revolution, the practice of Self-Care is growing in popularity. I love this. I think it is so important. I also believe that it has the potential to make the world a better place, because if you feel your best, you will do you best, and you will treat others better. So, you may be wondering how this all connects. How can something created by a sexist pastor almost thirty years ago help you love yourself better today? Think of it like a launch-pad for understanding how you want to be treated.

  1. Start by taking a moment to turn off your self-judgement. In the same way you could manipulate a personality quiz to give you your favorite My Little Pony character when you were 10 at your family desk-top computer, you can judge yourself into certain answers with this set of questions, and that won’t help you to better understand yourself. Remember this throughout your practice: you deserve to feel loved, you are worthy of love, and you deserve to love yourself. Even if you don’t believe these mantras right now, approaching a task with them in mind will help.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the Love Languages. If you don’t already know, there are Acts of Service, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, and Physical Touch. They are each exactly what they sound like. In your reflection, which of these things make you feel most loved when shown to you by others? How do you tend to show your love? Do you feel that the people in your life value how you show love? Do you feel like they are receiving the love that you give? Take time to think (or journal!) about this. Also, remember that is normal and healthy to need a combination of these to make relationships work and to feel loved.
  3. Once you understand how you receive love, start thinking about how you can use this information to take better care of yourself in the same way you might use it to take care of your relationship with someone you love. To help you get started, I have created a table of ways you can practice this type of self-care in your own company:
Acts of Service Taking care of your space
If your love language is Acts of Service, consider doing a service to yourself to show you care. An example of this can be taking care of your space. This can mean cleaning, looking after your physical possessions, organizing your closet, or even something as simple as mindfully doing the dishes, reminding yourself that it is something you do to take care of your space with the goal of making yourself feel secure and happy in it.
Quality Time Taking yourself on a date
Spending time alone with your thoughts can be difficult, but it is one of the most important things we can do. Go to a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, take a walk through your favorite park, see a movie in theaters by yourself, get coffee alone. Allow yourself to be present in the moment, to feel your feelings, and acknowledge your thoughts, without letting them consume you. Challenge round? Go get coffee without your phone. No earbuds, just thoughts. Terrifying, I know, but very useful in getting comfortable with yourself.
Words of Affirmation Affirmative Journaling
If your love language is Words of Affirmation, try starting a journal where you write things you love about yourself. Write about things you are grateful for in your life. Use the journal to write the things you might wish people would say to you. If you were to comfort yourself the way you want someone to comfort you, how would you do it? There are a wealth of self-love centered journaling prompts available all over the internet, and if you have $12 to spare, consider getting yourself this to guide you.
Gifts Projects
The obvious thing for this would be GO SHOPPING!!!! However you are probably already making impulse buys whenever you feel lonely or inadequate (sorry to call you out), so let’s think about ways you can give yourself gifts without spending a lot of money on stuff you probably don’t need. A good way to do this is through making things for yourself. If you are particularly creative, draw or create collages to hang on your walls. If you’re not much of an artist, print photos that make you happy and hang those. When the time does come where you need to shop, buy things that make you excited. When you get groceries, get things that make you feel like you are taking care of yourself. This can be healthy snacks that you enjoy eating, or a new type of shampoo that makes you want to jump in the shower.
Physical Touch Sensory Stimulation
If your love language is Physical Touch, you are probably in-tune with your senses. To honor this and show yourself love, you can indulge in activities that stimulate your senses. Cuddle with soft blankets and pillows, take warm baths and showers, use scented lotions, candles, and room sprays. Make yourself a meal, or if you’re not much for cooking, buy some par-baked bread or pre-made cookie dough. Take advantage that you are in-touch with the physical world, and practice things that ground you in it.

One final note is to practice getting comfortable voicing your needs and advocating for yourself. Once you have a better understanding of what makes you feel loved, you gain a framework to help people that love you. Use this tool as a way to support yourself while you work on your relationships with other people as well as the relationship you have with yourself.

Ali is the social media manager for the Buffalo chapter of Her Campus. She is a Political Science major with an affinity for crooked media podcasts and bad movies. She hopes she will one day learn how to take care of plants.