“Talk to yourself like you would someone you love.” – Brené Brown
Having a solid, stable and healthy relationship with yourself takes work in the same way that any strong relationship needs work.
But a lot of us inadvertently cultivate poor relationships with ourselves, letting our negative self-talk run amok, engaging in destructive behaviors that don’t align with our goals for the future, and doing and saying things to ourselves that we would never say or do to someone we love.
When it comes to self-care or healing our relationship to ourselves, we might push this down the list of priorities – below the needs of our families, our work, our pets – believing that taking the time to honor our own needs and nurture our own wellbeing is “self-indulgent.”
But there is no relationship in this world that is more important than the one you have with yourself. How you feel about yourself will set the bar for your achievements, your parenting, your romantic relationships, and what you think you’re worth in life. It is the foundation upon which everything of value in your life rests, and it needs to be strong.
Before I continue, let me be clear about one key detail.
Self-love is different to narcissism or an inflated ego. (Those afflictions are actually signs of self-loathing.)
Loving oneself means working to grow strong self-esteem through carrying out regular loving acts of care toward yourself – in the way a good, caring and stable parent would do for a child.
It means catching yourself in the act when you’re saying nasty things to yourself, like “I’m such an idiot!” or, “I’m too old” or, “I’m not good enough.”
When we actively decide to restore our relationship to ourselves, it means we become much more self-sufficient. We no longer need other people to validate us, approve or give permission. We are no longer dependent on others to feed our self-esteem. We become more whole when everything we need resides inside of us.
So here is a list of suggestions for activities you can carry out to nurture yourself:
1. START THE DAY SLOWLY AND WITH INTENTION:
Wake up a bit earlier than usual. Resist the urge to check your phone. Instead, do some stretches. Take five deep breaths. Make yourself a cup of tea or hot water with lemon and reflect on all the things you can be grateful for before you start your day.
2. COMPLETE ONE THING ON YOUR TO-DO LIST:
Self-care isn’t the same as escapism. It’s about using your energy mindfully. So bring out that to-do list. It’s time to declutter your environment so you can declutter your mind.
Is there a task you’ve been avoiding for months even though it would take five minutes? Today, cross one of those fussy jobs off the list. You’ll feel a weight lift off your shoulders.
3. DELEGATE SOMETHING:
Now look at the rest of the things on your to-do list. Is there something you could outsource or delegate? You don’t always have to do everything yourself.
4. GO ON AN ADVENTURE:
If you have the day off, go somewhere new. How about a beach day? A walk in the forest? Or something else you enjoy?
If you’re going to work, you can still have an adventure on the way there. Mix up your commute. Ride your bike if you usually drive. Listen to some music you’ve never heard.
5. SHOW KINDNESS TO A STRANGER:
Say hello to someone new. Strike up a conversation with your barista. Help someone with a heavy bag. Acts of kindness make you feel good, no matter how small.
6. RETREAT INTO WELLNESS:
We all need time out. You know that meditation retreat that’s been tempting you? Or that new yoga class? A course? Make a decision today to book in and get that ball rolling.
7. START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL:
Open a fresh notebook and pick up a pen. Write down something you’re thankful for. Think about what you’re proud of. Jot down something you love about yourself.
8. REFRAME YOUR GUILT AND SHAME:
Bothered by a mistake you made? Embrace your imperfect humanity. Remind yourself what you learnt from that mistake. Why are you grateful for that experience now?
9. PAMPER YOURSELF:
Feeling tired and dull? Treat yourself to a massage if it’s within your means to do so. Give a nurturing gift to the person who you need to love the most: you.
10. GO ON A FRIEND DATE:
Go on a dinner date with your friend. Self-love is about surrounding yourself with your community as well as taking time out.
11. GO TO BED AN HOUR EARLIER TONIGHT:
As a type-A “gotta-get-things-done” type of person, getting to bed early is not easy for me! But it’s probably one of the most loving things we could do for ourselves. Try it out!
12. TALK KINDLY TO YOURSELF:
Finally, as you move through your day today, pay particular attention to how you’re talking to yourself – not just the words, but the tone, too. When you start to pay attention to your self-talk like this, you can begin to be more deliberate about it and make positive changes.
To read the next Mindful in May article, click here.
NOTE: This article was written by Dr. Elise Bialylew and is part of the Mindful in May series, the world’s largest online mindfulness meditation and fundraising campaign. Every May, thousands of people worldwide join the program featuring the world’s best experts and build mental resilience through committing to 10 minutes of meditation per day, while also raising funds to address the world’s most urgent global issues. Over the last eight years, Mindful in May has taught over 40,000 people to meditate while raising $800,000 to bring clean, safe drinking water to the developing world. Due to the unprecedented and catastrophic bushfires in Australia, this year Mindful in May’s fundraising efforts will be directed toward this cause.