I was recently reading a book that said self love is a daily habit. I think this is such an interesting concept, because a habit is something that we create in our lives whether consciously or unconsciously, so that we can do it automatically and without thought. This frees up our thoughts and energy for other things, like problem solving, or tackling challenges throughout the day.
So my question is, is self love necessary?
Yes, I believe it is. Self love is appreciating, having respect for, and understanding one’s own unique abilities, traits and gifts that you bring to the world. It’s caring for yourself because you know how valuable your mental and physical health are, to living your best life. When you love yourself, you value your time and choose to spend it with people who treat you the same way, you treat yourself.
However, what I know from my own experiences and my work with clients, is that self love isn’t something that most of us feel. In fact, it is something we need to identify and practice, to fully integrate into who we are.
If you look at most adolescents, teenagers, young adults, middle aged or older populations there are telltale signs of lack of self love that may include: self doubt, peer pressure, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, addictions, the list goes on and on.
Yet, we weren’t born this way! Look at any child aged five and younger. They love themselves! Of course some of this is their own brain development and their lack of ability to see anything outside of how it applies to them. But, the self love is there! They are proud when they learn or do something new, they know what they like, and they fully feel and express their emotions-without judging themselves for those emotions. They embrace learning for what it is and learn from their mistakes. They say yes to doing the things they want to do and no to the things they don’t want to do. They spend time with people who make them feel good and don’t worry so much about the people they don’t enjoy being around.
While the description above is a simplified version of what self love looks like for a five year old, it’s a good generalization of what self love can look like and how as we grow older, we stop loving ourselves. I believe that we can rediscover self love for ourselves and teach our children how to love themselves, even after they have matured out of the “me only” focus of a five year old. This is necessary for creating a life that you love and are truly meant to live.
So today is the time to ask yourself-do I love myself, every single moment of every single day? And if the answer isn’t an absolutely yes-then keep reading.
Is it selfish to love yourself? No. When you love yourself, you’re actually at peace, kinder, and more giving to others. Self love creates space for you to appreciate who you are and all the gifts you bring to the world. In turn, you also appreciate others for who they are and all of the gifts they bring to the world.
When you love yourself, you have a fantastic understanding of your values and how you want to spend your time. You choose to spend your time bringing yourself happiness, which also brings others happiness.
Loving yourself in the purest sense of the meaning is actually the most unselfish thing you can do.
If you want to live your best life, it’s necessary to reverse the social conditioning that has caused you to not love yourself. Years and years of negative thoughts about yourself have laid down deep neural networks, that go against self love. Thoughts that have led you to question your truth, worth and value-all of these things need to be relearned for you to love yourself.
It turns out, relearning how to love yourself needs to be a daily habit. In fact, making it a daily may be the only thing that can help you rediscover the amazing person you have become. I’ll explain why, below.
So what is a habit and why is it so essential to learning to love oneself?
We naturally want to do things efficiently, and habits are the primary form of efficiency in our lives. Every one of our habits has gone through a 4 step process when they were developed. When we repeat habits, our brain runs through the same process- every time. Learning not to love ourselves, is a habit we developed over time. Now we need to create a new habit, that teaches us to love ourselves instead.
The first step of the process is the cue. The cue signals to your brain that there is a reward nearby and that with the repeated habitual behavior, you will reach that reward. Our prehistoric ancestors were cued into rewards like food, water, and sex. All necessary for survival.
Our present day rewards are things like love, friendship, approval, fame, power, money, and things that bring us personal satisfaction. Our brain is hardwired to look for cues in our internal and external environments that will lead to these rewards, and we behave accordingly.
When we were growing up, there were many cues in our environment that may have taught us not to love including:
- When adults told us to apologize for doing things we didn’t feel were wrong.
- Being forced to do activities that we truly felt weren’t good for us (I know chores can fall into this category, and that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful)
- Being told to be nice to other people we didn’t like or who were mean to us, for the sake of being nice or just getting along.
- Cultural beliefs about beauty that override the importance of health.
- A culture that promotes being busy over self care and relaxation.
- A culture where things are valued for their monetary value, rather than for their worth and purpose to each individual.
- Cultural messages related to racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, etc.
In looking at the above list it’s clear how avoiding a cue in our external environment is next to impossible. So, what is important is becoming aware of it these cues now, and when they occur, questioning them-changing your old habitual thought in the moment, to one of self love. The new thought is simple “I love myself.” That’s all you have to say in the moment. Replace the old thought with one of self love.
The next step in habit formation is craving. The craving is the motivational force for our action, the promise of a reward if we act in a certain way. All cravings are linked to a desire to change your internal state, to feel better in some way. Without a craving, a cue has no power. For example, when choosing whether or not to have dessert-the dessert is the cue. It’s the craving you have, the promise of the reward of having dessert or not having dessert-that will motivate you either way. What you desire and will bring you the most satisfaction is what you will choose to do. Cravings differ from person to person and it’s the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of each person that transforms cues into cravings.
Say you have a cue. Again, the important thing is to acknowledge the cue, and then the thought, feeling or emotion that comes about as a result of the cue. The cue is your friends are having a get together and you’re not invited. Rather than getting into the pattern of self doubt that you normally would run through in your head- Stop! Acknowledge that this is an old thought, that no longer serves you. Then think “I love myself.” Continue to say that either out loud or to yourself. You are reforming those neural networks that over time have caused you to be unhappy by thinking thoughts about yourself, not rooted in self love. This will become easier as you continue to do think this simple thought in your head over and over again.
In stopping your patterns of negative self talk, you will discover that your cue is showing you something you want in your life. Perhaps you are craving connection or acceptance which were set off by that cue? How can you provide yourself with these feelings instead? Or perhaps you’re craving shows you that you want to communicate with your friends about the reasons they’re getting together without. Here the cravings would be to be heard and understood.
The third step is the response. The response is the potential habit that you’ll need to perform repeatedly over time, and can be in the form of thought or action. Whether a response turns into a habit, depends on several factors. The amount of physical and mental effort required, and if there is a reward in that thought or action. If the amount of physical and mental effort is more than you are willing to expend (think that new workout routine over a long period of time) you won’t do it. And a habit isn’t formed.
The final step of developing a habit is the reward. Rewards are the reason for our habit formation for every habit we have.
And, this new habit you’re developing is easy and something you can do no matter where you are and what you’re doing. It’s changing your mindset and developing the habit-which means stopping when you notice the cue followed by the craving and then responding with “I love myself.” Many many times. It sounds simple and it is. It’s also very effective.
One thing that is very useful is to repeat to yourself “I love myself,” as many times as you can throughout your day. So that you are again laying down new neural pathways. You’ll be preparing yourself for when you are in a situation where you need to challenge that habit that doesn’t promote loving yourself-your thought of “I love myself” is there and at the ready.
There are so many benefits to self love. When we love ourselves, we value ourselves and establish healthy boundaries with others. We honor what we need and show others how to do the same in how we interact with them and the behavior we’ll accept from them. We spend our time doing work and learning about things that have great value to us and add richness to our lives and the lives of others.
Our world needs you to show up as your best self, each and every day. If you’re struggling with self love, please try this habit changing practice and see the amazing difference it has in your life.
If you need more support than that, book a complimentary discovery call with me and I will provide you with additional support and guidance in creating a life you truly love and are meant to live.
We all have unique and special gifts that we’re here to share with others. Self love is the first step to making that happen!