Most everyone, when confronted with the term ‘self-love’, has their own unique response. Some people start picturing a narcissistic person, adoringly staring at their own image in the mirror; others immediately feel a strange feeling inside of them: quite often one of disgust or guilt. Yet others – seemingly out of nowhere – hear the voice of their mother or another significant person, telling them that engaging in self-love is wrong and selfish and that it is just not right to put yourself before others.
Of course, deep down we actually know that it is important to look after our own needs and we may even talk about it at times. But all too often we come up with excuses as to why we can’t and shouldn’t. It’s not the right time, it’s not the right place, other people are less fortunate and need our help and who are we to be that selfish anyhow?
The truth is that self-love has nothing to do with selfishness or narcissism. Quite the contrary. Self-love is the ability to honour and respect your own values, and to set healthy boundaries and standards in life: for your career, your self-care and your romantic and non-romantic relationships. In essence, it is your ability to (finally) acknowledge that your happiness, your love, your well-being and balance actually matter.
Yes, of course, there are situations in which it is important to tend to others’ needs; however, if your own needs are never met, if you are always out of balance, then how can you fully tend to others and the aches of the world? In other words, how can you give them your best if you’re not at your best?
Whilst – quite obviously – the topic of self-love is ‘bigger than Ben Hur’ (as they say), in this article, we’ll have a look at three areas, so you get an indication on whether you’re on a path to self-love or self-loathing. Before I continue, let me point out one thing: like so many things in life, self-love is a process; a life-long journey with a lot of ups and downs. There will be days that you utterly love yourself and your life, and there are others on which you can barely stand yourself – let alone look at your reflection in the mirror. And that’s okay. It happens. What matters most is what happens next: what you do and say to yourself after the fact.
Be this as it may, here are three quick ways to assess your level of self-love in your life right now.
1. Your environment speaks of loathing, not loving
Have a look around you. What do you see? Do you love your furniture? What about the decor? Or the utensils you use on a daily basis? How about your clothes? Are you excited about wearing them or will they just do? What is the state they are in? Are your gadgets all working or broken? Do you keep presents you actually don’t really like? Maybe out of guilt? And what about the cleanliness of your place? Does it speak of love or loathing?
“What the actual heck does this have to do with self-love?” you may exclaim. It’s quite simple actually. Your surroundings will give you a good indication of what you tolerate in your life. In other words, it is a reflection of your boundaries and how much you value yourself. Don’t get me wrong: this is not about having lots of things or expensive things or about being the perfect housewife or househusband. Not at all.
But it is about having things that make you feel good, that you are happy with, that make your life easier and that work for you. And in my experience, putting up with a broken mobile phone screen, looking all day at that ugly porcelain cat your aunt bought you for your 15th birthday, walking around in old granny undies with holes in them and living among dirty washing and dishes is more likely to breed frustration and contempt than joy and pleasure.
Personally, I started to really pay attention to my belongings and how I treat them when on one quite ordinary day I picked up one of my kitchen towels and noticed it was riddled with holes and irremovable stains. Looking at it, I pondered: “What does this say about me?” Nothing too good about self-love; that much was certain. So I started decluttering… slowly removing all the items from my life that didn’t serve me any longer, were broken or that just didn’t generate any joy for me. Then, one by one I replaced them with ones that did. It’s as simple as that.
So ask yourself, on a scale from 1 to 10 how happy are you with your current environment? Is it making you feel good about yourself or not? And if the answer is no, what is one small thing you can do today to make yourself feel better?
2. You are who you hang out with
This is a little mantra I live by. In short, the people closest to you will be a major influence on your behaviour, views of the world and how you deal with life. I also believe that we attract those who we think we deserve. This simply means that people and things are coming into your life based on your vibration. Yes, it sounds a bit woo-woo; however, when you examine your relationships, you will often find that the people around you reflect your current feelings about your life and yourself.
A quick way to test the quality of your current relationships is to ask yourself two simple questions. First, “after I’ve seen my friends, do I feel energetically re-charged or drained?” If for a particular friend, the answer is “drained” most of the time, then you might want to consider limiting your exposure to this friend. This is especially the case if you continue to carry their “negative vibes” through the rest of your day.
The second question is: “do I like myself when I am in the company of this friend or not?” This is a really good question, because sometimes the people around us bring out the best in us (keep those!); yet others the worst, and we might find ourselves behaving in ways that we really don’t enjoy (hint: ditch those or, at least, limit your exposure to them).
As an example, every time I hung out with a friend of mine, we ended up gossiping about mutual friends and other people, a trait I don’t really exhibit with other people. Afterwards, I would feel guilty and angry with myself for behaving in a way I actually despised. Of course, I couldn’t blame her for my behaviour – I am responsible for how I behave after all. However, what I could do was to stop buying into the gossiping. And so I did. After a while, it became too draining for me though to constantly deflect all that negativity. This is why I started to create some distance between us to redefine our friendship. Instead of seeing her twice a week I saw her once a fortnight, instead of hanging out in coffee shops, we went to the movies.
Over time, our friendship morphed from super close to casual friends. The good part about it? It not only made me feel better because I stopped my unwanted behaviour but, in a sense, it also saved our friendship. How? Easy. If I hadn’t changed the parameters of the friendship, I probably would have disliked myself more and more over time and either would have cut all ties or ended up blaming her for my behaviour. Both would have been an absolute relationship killer. Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to walk away or, at least, redefine our relationship with others.
So ask yourself: do you like yourself when you’re around the people closest to you or not? Do you feel energised or drained being around your friends? If the answer is ‘no’ and/or ‘drained’, then it’s time to put some strategies in place to turn the ship around or abandon it altogether.
3. You ask “do I deserve it” instead of “does it deserve me”?
A third way is to monitor your inner self-talk for a while. Maybe for a day or two. How many times do you say positive things to and about yourself as opposed to commenting negatively? Pay special attention to inner commentary surrounding one of the biggest self-love blocks: deserving.
Too often we believe that we don’t deserve something: opportunities, people, nice stuff, good luck… you name it. Yet, to believe that we don’t deserve something, to begin with, is a false assumption. Sometimes the better question is “does it/he/she/they deserve me?” Let me share with you how I learned this.
There was a time when I was in complete and utter awe of a company. My biggest dream was to work for them one day. They looked exclusive, cutting-edge, innovative and super cool. In fact, I felt quite intimidated by their amazing achievements and vision, and I doubted that I’d be good enough for them to hire me. In short, I didn’t think that I deserved to be part of their movement. But I continued to dream of joining them, and – lo and behold – five years down the track by some twist of fate they ended up hiring me.
Here is the fun fact though. Whilst still in awe and super proud for the first few weeks, the excitement turned into a big WTF relatively quickly. Behind the shiny, glossy magazine covers and marketing campaigns people were yelled at, disrespected and things were – quite honestly – just awful. People were sidelined, fired with little reason, back-stabbed… you name it and I am sure it happened. In short, it was one big, excruciatingly painful drama fest. Great place to work for? Certainly not. Talents were not fostered, good work was not acknowledged and people were not respected.
It was at this point that I realised that I had asked the wrong question. For years, I had pondered whether I was good enough for them and whether I’d deserve working for them, when – in all honesty – they didn’t deserve me: not my talents, not my skills, not my personality, nothing. Needless to say that – once the penny dropped – I loved myself enough to resign and move on.
So the next time you are silently thinking to yourself something along the lines of “I am not good enough for this” or “I don’t deserve this”, think again. A much better question to ask is: “Does it (or do they) deserve me?”
Obviously, there are other ways to assess the level of your self-love in your day-to-day life. These are just three quick ones to evaluate where you’re at right now. This allows you to take immediate, small steps for creating an environment, a circle of friends and inner self-talk that is geared towards self-love instead of self-loathing. Because… quite honestly? You deserve it!