by Dionetta Hudzinski, RN, MN
Self-love is centered in self-compassion.
In 1956, psychologist Eric Fromm proposed that loving oneself is different from being arrogant, conceited or self-centered. He proposed that loving oneself means caring about oneself, taking responsibility for oneself, respecting oneself, and knowing oneself (e.g. being realistic and honest about one’s strengths and weaknesses).
When I first heard about self-love, I thought, “I love myself, what are they talking about?” But as I learned more about self-love and what it meant I found that I had not truly loved myself at all. I was critical of myself, how I looked and what I did or did not do. My self-talk was harsh and hardly loving. I said things to myself I would never say to a friend. Does this sound familiar? So step one was to stop the negative self-talk. I found a phrase that helped me out in this practice. “I am willing to practice loving myself.” (Rhonda Britten, Fearless Living Training Program, 2013) And when I would catch myself saying something unkind or judgmental of myself or my actions I would say “I forgive myself for having that thought; I choose love instead.” It took some concentrated practice and effort but I can say truthfully now that I do not beat myself up any more and I am willing to practice loving myself every day.
So what is self-love and self-compassion?
Self-love is treating yourself as you would a close friend. It is caring for yourself, putting your needs first. This is not selfish or vain. Until you can truly love yourself you cannot open yourself to truly loving others (Dr Kristin Neff PhD). Opening your heart to loving YOU will allow you to be more open to others. This is especially true when facing a life with pain. How do you show love for yourself? Here are some tips that I found helpful:
- Stop being critical and judgmental of you, stop beating yourself up, and stop the negative self-talk.
- Be gentle and compassionate with yourself.
- Say NO and mean it when you unable to do a task or favor at a specific moment in time; leave guilt off the table
- Forgive yourself for your imperfections
- Ask for help
- Take care of you when you need comfort: wrap yourself in your favorite blanket or afghan, cook your favorite meal, listen to uplifting or soothing music, smile at yourself and/or get a massage or take a warm bath/shower.
- Acknowledge yourself for the positive actions you did today, no matter how small it seems, they are important.
Here are some examples:
- I acknowledge myself for eating fresh fruit today
- I acknowledge myself for clearing off the counter and putting things away
- I acknowledge myself for resting this afternoon when my body was crying out in pain.
Practicing mindfulness is another core value of self-compassion. Being with what it is in the present moment, with no lying, no comparing, no looking back at what was, no looking forward to what might be. Just be in the present moment with what is in the moment—cherish it and honor it.
For me, I thought I understood what it meant to be compassionate toward another person. I found that I had no idea what that meant to be compassionate toward myself. So I did some research and discovered that there was actual research being done in the field of psychology on self-compassion. Did you know that when you practice compassion toward yourself that this causes a chemical change in the body? Oxytocin and endorphins (the feel good hormones) are increased and cortisol (a stress hormone) is lowered. These chemicals can influence your pain levels, too. During my search, I found several internet sites dedicated to the concept of self-compassion and have listed them for you in the references below. Who knew!!
Self-compassion is treating ourselves with the same care and unconditional love as we would for others. Treat yourself as a good friend. Send negative self-talk out the window. Rather than thinking how you are different from others, think about how you are the same: You are human and share the human experience, you bring with it flaws and special qualities. When you think that you are abnormal or different, this only serves to separate and isolate you from others. So say to yourself starting today and every day after: “I am willing to practice self-love and self-compassion.”
Britten, Rhonda, Change Your Life in 30 Days (2004): http://www.amazon.com/Change-Your-Life-30-Days/dp/039953069X
Fromm, Erich. The Art of Loving (1956): http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-Loving-Erich-Fromm/dp/0061129739
Greater Good, The Science of a Meaningful Life: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/try_selfcompassion/#
Self-Compassion, A Healthier Way of Relating to Yourself: http://www.self-compassion.org
- Downloadable mp3 meditations on self-compassion: http://www.self-compassion.org/guided-self-compassion-meditations-mp3.html
- Test how self-compassionate you are: http://www.self-compassion.org/test-your-self-compassion-level.html
Wellbeing Alignment: http://www.wellbeingalignment.com/self-compassion.html