What comes to mind when you think of January?
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Regret about bills on their way? Frustration about carrying extra pounds from last year’s indulgences? Stress about goals you haven’t met? Or resolutions you failed to keep… again?
Most of us begin the new year by bullying ourselves about our failures. We focus on the things we need to change to become a better person. Does that sound familiar?
Ironically, January is the month of self-love.
(Ugh, not another blog about self-love!) Wait, before you run away, give us a chance. We promise that this won’t be a fluffy bunch of words you can’t relate to.
We’re not pretending that self-love is easy. It’s not! And it doesn’t just happen overnight, nor because you read a blog about it. Instead, we’re going to give you some simple tools to support you in learning to accept yourself.
The First Step Towards Self-Love
Self-acceptance is the first step towards self-love. If you can start to accept all parts of yourself (even the bits that feel unlovable, and even on the boring days) then you’ll be on your way to a powerful transformation.
Self-acceptance is the first domino that needs to fall to allow you to enjoy many positive benefits. It reduces stress. And it improves body image, mental attitude, self-esteem, self-confidence, resilience, and the ability to work towards goals. In other words, it helps to boost happiness!
When you accept yourself, you approach self-improvement from a new loving angle. You stop relying on self-abuse as a mean motivational tool. Instead, self-improvement becomes a radical act of self-love that can help you reach your full potential.
Isn’t Self-Love Selfish?
Not according to the French poet, Pierre Corneille. His quote is my favourite on this subject. “Self-love is the source of all our other loves.“
It makes sense, right? If you’re always bullying yourself, putting yourself down and overlooking your worth, how can you truly show up with love for anyone else?
That kind of care-taking is depleting and can lead to resentment. You can only truly care for others when you’ve made peace with yourself.
So, in a nutshell, self-love is the opposite of selfishness!
Where to Start?
Have we convinced you that self-love is worth working on? Good! Then here are some realistic actions you can take to edge you closer to compassion.
- Use the fancy lotion (the one in the back of the cabinet)
- Light the candle (the one you’ve been saving)
- Set the table (even if it’s just you and a bowl of cornflakes)
- Take a short walk (get the heck away from the desk for five minutes – bonus points if you can get into nature)
- Call a friend (just chat!)
- Write down 5 things that you’re grateful for
- Drink an extra glass of water
- Eat a nutritious snack
Take a Deep Breath
Deep breaths are also a teeny-tiny action, but they deserve a bigger mention than a bullet point. Breathing is more than just oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. It’s also a basic support system. Focusing on your breath can restore equilibrium and calm. And, by elongating your exxxxxxxhallllllle you can regulate your nervous system. Breathing is a free, readily-available self-care tool that you’re probably overlooking most of the time.
Take a moment for stillness and listen to yourself. Observe the thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations that you’re experiencing in the moment. This act of presence moves you out of autopilot, out of the endless loop of repeated thoughts that tell you you’re unworthy… and into the ‘now’.
Listening to yourself is especially effective to help you develop compassion in moments when you’re super busy.
Discover the power of pleasure and of accepting your natural erotic nature. Spend time consciously bringing pleasure to your body, and you’ll boost your connection to yourself. Repressing your sexuality and denying your authentic desires keeps a big part of you shrouded in shadow – and that shame is exhausting on many levels.
Plus, self-pleasure has many mental and physical benefits! It can help you to relax and sleep more deeply. It promotes the release of endorphins, reduces stress and enhances body image!
Consciously think of one reason you appreciate yourself… and do that every day. Make this a part of your daily practice. Why not write it down? This is a powerful practice in the moment, and it’s also great to revisit when you’re struggling to remember that you’re awesome.
Do you find it difficult to say mean things to other people? I bet it’s far easier to speak unkindly to yourself. Ugh, that inner critic can say the ugliest things. Wouldn’t it be great if you could eliminate it?
Unfortunately, that’s not really possible. The mean voice is an inbuilt mechanism, created by past trauma and it’s designed to protect you. So, what can you do?
In the moments that you catch yourself thinking or saying something mean to yourself, the best thing to do is actively notice what you said.
Then pause and ask yourself if it’s accurate. Be objective here. And then, choose a different thought. It’s not as complicated as you might think. Here’s an example:
You look in the mirror and your eyes are automatically drawn to your thighs. Your mean voice starts playing the old familiar script.
“Ugh, I’m so disgusting. How did I let myself get like this? I’m repulsive. Nobody will ever love me.”
What do you do? Notice the details of the mean thoughts. Then, ask yourself objectively if the thoughts were true. Sure, you might have a bit of cellulite – but repulsive and unlovable are a stretch… So, you consciously choose a different line of thought.
“Yes, my thighs are a bit jiggly. But it’s no big deal. It doesn’t detract from my value as a person – I am an amazing person and I’m worthy of love.”
Even if that final sentence feels difficult for you, I encourage you to give this process a try.
The start of a new year is a great opportunity to take stock of how far you’ve come, and what you’d like to achieve. But rather than repeat the familiar self-bullying tactics to coerce yourself into becoming a better person, why not choose self-love?
Use the nurturing and self-affirming tools we have shared here to bring yourself closer to your goals with compassion. You’ll find that these are far more effective than punishment and deprivation.
Commit to exploring self-love this January, and watch yourself bloom into the person you’ve always wanted to be!