Love is in the air; I can smell it! February is full of all things LOVE, so why don’t we stop and take a second to talk about self-love?
As an English major, I’m kicking myself for this, but Merriam Webster’s dictionary definition of self-love is: “love of self or regard for one’s own happiness or advantage.” In psychology, you can learn all about what self-love is, how people with more self-love tend to know what they want and understand who they are, and all sorts of scientific B.S.––which is great and all––but no. No, no, no, no. This is okay and all, but I want to talk about something more real. I want to talk about what self-love really is.
Self-love is so much more than just looking in the mirror and liking what looks back at you.
Self-love is looking in the mirror and loving WHO looks back at you.
One thing people get confused about with self-love is what exactly it means. It’s not loving how your hair turned out this morning or how good you look in your new jeans. Self-love is loving who you are deep down inside and loving all your flaws and imperfections because that’s what makes you so indescribably you.
Self-love can’t happen overnight; in fact, it can’t happen in any measurable amount of time. Self-love is something that just needs to keep being practiced until you fully love you for you.
I’m no expert, but I’ve put together a list of things I believe are important to encouraging the growth of self love:
1. Don’t compare yourself to others.
This is the hardest, but most rewarding step to self-love. Please, whatever you take away from this article, just remember to not compare yourself to others. It is so toxic. Everyone has many strengths and weaknesses, and comparing yours to anyone else’s is always going to be an unfair fight. Everyone wishes they had what someone else has, because nobody is perfect. Learn to appreciate talents, looks, humor, etc. instead of wishing you had it. Every time you compare yourself to someone and wish you had something of theirs, train your brain to rethink it. If you catch yourself thinking, “Ugh, I wish I had hair like hers––I hate mine,” then be mindful of that and think to yourself something you do like about yourself. Rewire your brain to think, “Wow, her hair is beautiful! I love the color of mine, though,” because although it seems silly, it can do wonders to stop your habit of comparing yourself to those around you.
2. Forgive yourself.
Learn to forgive yourself. You will make mistakes and that’s okay. You might snap at a friend and say something you regret. Maybe you’re having a bad day, and you didn’t smile at the person who held the door open for you. It can be the small things that stick in our brains the most—the things other people don’t notice but you beat yourself up for all day. Be aware of this: if you notice yourself thinking all day about the door you didn’t hold open or the person you didn’t say hi to, be aware that you’re upset about it, but then move on. Learn to forgive yourself for the small things because they happen to everyone. Teach your brain to acknowledge what you’re upset about and then let it go; learn from the small and the big things and ultimately forgive yourself.
3. Listen to yourself.
Listen to what is too much. When your mind wanders and you start thinking about what you’re doing later this week or you’re thinking about what you’re going to do about the huge project you have tonight, take a moment to think about it. If it’s distracting you and taking away from what you’re doing in the moment, think about it (maybe write it down or plan it out), and then move on. Listen to what your mind is wandering to: if it’s out of boredom, don’t let your mind wander off to nowhere; if it is something that stresses you out, listen to it. Let your mind process it so you can get back to what you were doing. It’ll take a little time away from the task at hand, but it’ll let you get it out of your mind and allow you to stop stressing about it.
4. Be patient with yourself.
Setting goals and making changes are hard. Don’t get discouraged if your goals are hard to achieve and it takes longer than you hoped for. Set realistic goals but be patient with yourself if you don’t reach them in the time you had expected.. Growth is a process, and it can be a slow but extremely rewarding process.
5. Forget about perfection.
Perfection is not achievable. No matter how many things you fix, improvements you make, or changes you achieve, perfection will never be the result. This sounds negative, but it shouldn’t be. Perfection of the self shouldn’t be a goal because it is an unachievable goal that only makes self-love harder. Teach yourself to be proud of the baby steps that lead to fixes in the way you think about things, improvements of mental health, and the changes you spark by being mindful of what you want. Don’t strive for perfection, strive for personal bests. Be proud of what you achieve and set achievable goals.
Self-love is so important––I cannot emphasize this enough. It does not matter your age, gender, where you are in life, nothing. Self-love is so important to everyone. College students in particular need to practice self-love. We are so wrapped up in the tides of life that we forget to even breathe sometimes, let alone take time out of our busy days to just be. Self-love doesn’t need to be taking hours out of your day to stare in a mirror and tell yourself all the good things about yourself. Self-love doesn’t need to be journaling every night. Self-love doesn’t need to be forcing you to love yourself because you think you have to. Self-love needs to be careful, slow, and most importantly, it needs to be honest. This Valentine’s Day, take some time out of your day to practice just a little self-love because you are worth it.