As Valentine’s Day 2021 rushes towards us, I want to talk about a different kind of, self, love – one we should all have in our lives but somehow most of us neglect.
What’s the love I’m talking about?
In other words, having a high regard for your own love and happiness, and taking care of your own needs without sacrificing your wellbeing to please others.
Somehow, the idea of self-love has become something of a contradiction in modern society. On the one hand, there’s a growing recognition that self-love and self-care are basic human needs but, on the other hand, we often act like it’s a moral flaw to want to put your own needs first.
But let’s get this clear, self-love is not narcissism. It’s not vanity or selfishness.
I truly believe that self-love is one of the kindest, most compassionate things we can offer ourselves and it is actually a gift to our loved ones too.
We’ve all heard the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty vessel” and self-love is about keeping your own reserves full and strong so that you’re better able to connect with those around you.
When you love and respect yourself, you don’t look to other people for validation or disempower them by having to do everything yourself.
Self-love levels the playing field.
Self-care is more than a bath or shopping alone
Recently, I’ve seen a spate of memes and posts on various social media pages which, on the surface, seem to promote self-care but actually fall short.
People talk about self-care being the opportunity to do the food shop alone, drink a cuppa before it gets cold, have a bath one evening, or go to the loo without interruptions.
But is this self-care? Really?
I don’t think so. These are things that many people view as basic rights, the mundane moments of their day.
Honestly (and I know I’m gender stereotyping here) but ask a man in your life whether he views going to the loo alone as self-care and I bet he’ll either laugh or look at you as though you’re very strange.
We have to do better than this.
Self-care is a way of life
While finding moments to unwind such as having a relaxing bath or reading a book can be associated with self-care, I think self-care itself is much bigger.
It’s a way of life.
To me, self-care is about nurturing yourself. It’s an outlook, a set of priorities, an agreement with yourself to safeguard and improve your wellbeing.
How might this look?
Well, self-care could be about eating food that nourishes your body and makes you feel healthy. It could be about finding ways to spend more time with people who care about you and support you. It could be about being more active.
Self-care in its truest sense is taking conscious steps to improve your mental health or walking away from a job that makes you feel miserable (or, at least, taking steps towards being able to walk away as soon as you can). It’s about better sleep, more learning, equal relationships, expressing gratitude and even drinking more water.
Ultimately, self-care will look different for everyone but the core intention is the same for all of us and that is to consciously do things that preserve or improve our physical, emotional and mental health.
Self-full not selfish
When I wrote my book, No Longer Last on the List, I spent a lot of time thinking about self-love and self-care. The book itself was born out of a networking session during which just two out of the 24 attendees said they put their own needs and wellbeing at the top of their list of priorities. Seventeen of the other attendees either put themselves last on the list or they didn’t appear on it at all.
This exercise led to a conversation about how it feels selfish to put yourself first and how many of us feel that ‘good’, ‘kind’, ‘better’ people always put others first.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that self-sacrifice was as deeply ingrained in our identities as women but somehow it shook me.
At that moment, I became determined to lead what I see as a “self-full” revolution. You see, I don’t think putting ourselves first or being self-full – as I see it – is selfish at all.
I believe that when I feel well and refreshed and nourished, physically and mentally, I’m a far better wife, mother, friend, mentor, business owner, daughter – and any other role you can think of in life!
When I model self-care, I teach my daughters how to look after their own wellbeing. When I protect my boundaries or grow my business in a way that suits my needs, I’m better able to empower other business owners to do the same.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that neglecting yourself is actually more selfish in the long-run.
If you’re always exhausted, always resentful, always fighting against the tide, then how can you ever connect with other people and experiences in a truly meaningful way?
How will you show your self-love this Valentine’s Day?
So, the question is, how will you show your self-love this Valentine’s Day and every day that comes after it?
Will you let go of the limiting beliefs that are holding you back? You know, thoughts like I’m not good enough, I’m not clever enough, I can’t charge that, I’m being greedy to want more.
Will you name your dreams and set goals to work towards them?
Will you stop beating yourself up about not having an Instagram-worthy house or Pinterest-perfect kids?
These changes to your mindset are the ultimate form of self-care.
Honestly, there is nothing better than treating yourself with the same kindness, empathy and compassion that you would show one of your children or a best friend.
This is my Valentine’s Day gift to you, the knowledge that the relationship you have with yourself could be one of the most exciting, fulfilling and surprising relationships you ever experience.
You just have to nurture it to see it bloom.
No Longer Last on the List is available on Amazon and would be the perfect gift to yourself this Valentine’s Day. Packed full of inspiration, tips and activities, it will take you on a journey into self-love and putting your own needs first (and remind you why this is a gift to your loved ones too).
Already read and love it? Why not buy copies for the special women in your lives and get them to join the self-full revolution too?