An enormous shift took place for me when I recognized that self-love isn’t a destination. It’s a process that often includes forgiving myself. I have to forgive myself that I sometimes engage in old behaviors. Sometimes I want to call my ex and that’s okay. Even if I go through with it, being in self-love means being able to love myself especially when I make mistakes.
it means seeing myself with a gentler eye and being less judgmental on myself.
Before I would have beaten myself up for contacting my ex and included those “shoulds”, “I shouldn’t have texted him and said that my birthday would have been better with him there”. But in the real world, we're messy; I'm messy, and it was totally normal to have missed my ex-boyfriend. It’s about recognizing that sometimes I don’t act in ways that I’d like to all the time, but now I’m more loving towards myself, and thankfully, it takes a lot less time for me to arrive at that place.
Self-love is about giving myself more room to breathe.
Sometimes it comes in the form of being more flexible with my schedule and allowing myself to sleep in, miss a workout, or take my time from going from place to place.
So how do you bring in more flexibility into your life?
Reflect upon times when you’re most stressed. When you’re tired, are you more stressed, or the other way around? Maybe it’s an issue of the chicken or the egg coming first. Does this mean being more flexible with your sleep schedule and allowing yourself to go to bed half an hour earlier?
How can you see yourself in a gentler light, with less judgment?
It can be helpful to reflect upon how a friend would talk to you when you say something mean to yourself. Or maybe it’s just getting rid of the word “should” or “lazy”. You could start with using the word “could”, as a way of using language to shift your mindset. Or you could replace “lazy” with “I didn’t feel like it” and leave it at that--because it doesn’t mean that you’re lazy if you don’t want to do something; it just means that you’re human and that it’s okay!
It’s hard when we’re tired and things affect us more than they usually do. Have you ever had that experience when you blow up over something little? To make things worse, other people’s responses aren’t validating; they’ll say something like...
“Come on, it wasn’t such a big deal.”
It’s not about the little thing that went wrong. Often it’s the compounding of different things that made you upset.
So how can we deal when it’s been a long week?
Remind yourself that you’re more sensitive and that things might affect you more. On these kinds of days you might want to take a five-minute walk or allow yourself to be less rushed.
Rate your feelings throughout the day.
Let’s say that we use a five-point scale, where five is the highest level of intensity of an emotion. By pinpointing your emotions, you can take the actions necessary to make sure that intensity doesn’t increase. Now let’s use an example. Let’s say that you’re at a level three, where you’re feeling moderately anxious. To maintain that level, you figure out what you need. Maybe you need a moment to yourself, ten minutes without wifi, or a quick snack...the list continues.
pinpoint your triggers.
Find out what bothers you. Are there specific environments that amp you up or make you feel anxious? For some people, being in bigger groups of people can be anxiety-provoking. For others, people get irritated when people don't hold the door open when it's pretty convenient.
If you need help coping with anger
Acknowledge it. Forcing ourselves to suppress our feelings doesn't zap them out of our systems. Instead, we can reframe our feelings as something that helps us. It's an indicator that something inside us is threatened. When we're disrespected, it's infuriating. The urge is for us to fight back and to stand up for ourselves. When we allow ourselves to feel throughout the day, we let it out in spurts rather than through one explosion.
Find an acceptable way to channel it.
Find an empty garage and throw some plates and glass bottles.
Write about it.
Find a boxing class.
Scream at the top of your lungs in the car.
Find people who will validate what you’re experiencing.
Tell your friends that you want them to listen. Maybe this means that you’re not looking for them to fix your situation, but just be there for you.
There are those words. Hurtful words. "Unstable." "Weak." "Crazy." Anyone that has been called these knows what kind of pain accompanies these words.
Anyone that has been called these knows the kind of pain that accompanies these words.
But what are you really? It’s never okay for someone to call you these names. Ever. Even if your actions are erratic. Those actions don’t define you. We all go through periods in which we might do things that aren’t characteristic of us. Maybe because it’s a more stressful time in our lives. Maybe you haven’t gotten as much sleep as you usually do. Maybe because you’re dealing with a lot all at once.
We might not always handle things the way we’d like to all the time.
This doesn’t mean that we abandon all responsibility, but that we take responsibility for what we did, we learn from it, and we forgive ourselves.
When you hear these hurtful words, what’s your immediate reaction?
If you’re angry, let yourself be angry. If you’re hurt, allow yourself to feel it. Ask yourself what you need. Acknowledge what you’re feeling and press the pause button. When we push away our feelings, they end up arising at a later time. But if we let ourselves feel what we’re feeling, we can feel it and then ask ourselves what we can do about it; we can prevent ourselves from reacting.
The reason that I don’t use the word “overreacting” ...
...is that that word is filled with judgment--overreacting according to what is “expected”, overreacting in terms of how we’re “supposed” to react.
Remind yourself of who you are.
Write a list of qualities that you do have. Write a list of things that are meaningful to you. Now soak it in.
Sit in silence and repeat one of these phrases...
“What was said was hurtful. I am doing _________________ to take care of myself right now.”
"Oh, that was harsh. I am taking care of myself by ___________________________."
"I need to feel safe. What can I do to make myself feel grounded?"
The reason that these phrases or versions of these can be helpful is that they're acknowledging what took place and the wording suggests that we are “doing” something proactive to take care of ourselves. We’re placing ourselves in an empowered place.
Here’s a list of things you can do if you’ve had a long day:
Take a bath.
Get one of your favorite candies (if this is a trigger, skip this item)
Take a five-minute walk.
Call a friend.
Make some tea.
Color a mandala.
Fill a sheet of paper with smiley faces.
Write a friend a letter and send it.
Make a list of places that you’d love to visit.
Write down a list of role models you admire and why.
So what do you do to take care of yourself?
I got the pleasure of eating freshly caught crab and by the person that caught it earlier that morning.
There's something joyful about eating with your hands and getting messy. Have you ever eaten crab?!
On one level, it makes me think about societal expectations tied to gender.
As an identified cis-gender woman, I noticed that we are not given the chance to be "messy". Messy as in with our manners or with our clothing. Or how we maintain the inside of our living rooms. Or whether we sweat at the gym. Maybe these are just things that we do, regardless of our gender. Can we just throw all those expectations out the window?!
And if you do any of these things, there's no shame in it!!
It doesn't take away from your femininity or your masculinity. We get to define how we view ourselves. We get to decide how we present ourselves. But I also want to acknowledge that it's not an easy process. It takes courage to own all of you, the parts of you that you love, the parts that annoy you or the parts that you're tempted to change. It's also a process. It's not a quick fix. It can be frustrating and painful, especially if we haven't come to terms with the parts that we're less fond of or would like to change.
But it has also made me question why we don't give ourselves permission to be "messy"?
There seem to be a lot of negative connotations associated with the word "messy". So I'd love to invite you to give yourself to be "messy".
To experience your emotions. To be sad and frustrated and content all at the same time. Sometimes our emotional experiences don't make sense.
It doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with you; it just means that you're a person with a beating heart.When we experience extreme sadness, it leaves us with the space to feel joy. We are not only more likely to appreciate the experience of joy because we've felt something on the opposite end of the spectrum, but also because we've felt everything else in between-- frustration, guilt, anger, or anxiety. From my own experience, I've found that it's not about striving for that state of happiness, but rather it's an emotion that we experience on a continuum.
Start with acknowledging that the judgmental thought is coming about, "Hey, that's pretty judgmental. It's okay to judge. You're human. What do I need right now?" The reason that "it's okay to judge" is included is that it's about being kind to ourselves when we're being judgmental of ourselves and others. The next step is action-oriented. By asking ourselves what we need, we're creating space for us to take care of ourselves. So as an example, if we're tired and at work, maybe we need to take some long deep breaths for two minutes. Or maybe that means that we need to step outside and call a friend.
When I'm feeling down and exhausted, I have to ask myself what I need. Do I need love from myself or comfort from my friends? Do I need to take some alone time and be by myself?
I don't know if you get to those places where you're just not feeling it and all you want to do is stay home and veg out. But I've noticed that there are times that I have to push myself to hang out after a long day, just because I'd rather be in my comfy pants (literally and figuratively). I guess I'd call that tough-love with myself.
Yes, we can be judgmental. It serves a purpose. Sometimes it tells us that we're feeling insecure about something and that's why our criticism of others or ourselves comes up. At the same time, self-judgment and judging others can be taxing. When we're critical of ourselves, we're actually making it harder to give ourselves that self-love. That criticism adds to our negative thoughts about ourselves.
Here's an exercise:
Start by observing a judgmental thought, "Hey, that's pretty judgmental. It's okay to judge. You're human. What do I need right now?" The reason that "it's okay to judge" is included is that it's about being kind to ourselves when we're being judgmental of ourselves and others. The next step is action-oriented. By asking ourselves what we need, we're creating space for us to take care of ourselves. So as an example, if we're tired and at work, maybe we need to take some long deep breaths for two minutes. Or maybe that means that we need to step outside and call a friend.
I get it. It’s difficult. Do you ever feel like when you see that friend calling, you’re not looking forward to the phone call? Or after talking to this person, you feel drained? I hear you. It’s hard to talk to your friends about it, especially when you anticipate how your friend will respond. You worry that your friend won’t take it well and that will be the end of your friendship.
I’m here to tell you that it’s not easy, but that it’s not impossible.
Most likely, your friends will respond well to your setting those boundaries. So where to start? With you! Why do I say this? When we take the time for ourselves, we’ve grown accustomed to taking care of ourselves in all aspects of our lives, including in our relationships. So when we start with ourselves, it becomes more natural to trust ourselves and to assert ourselves with others.
This is all so abstract sometimes. What do we say to "set boundaries"? Let's say that you know that you will have a busy work-week, so you might tell your friend, "I can't meet this week. It's really hectic."
We might not know when we'll be ready to hang out with a certain friend. And that's okay.
Part of setting boundaries is listening to what feels good to you. So you might sink into that ambivalence, and when your friend asks if you can attend an event, you might say, "I'm not sure. Can I get back to you?" If you really want to hold yourself accountable, or if you feel pressured to respond, you might include when you'll make the decision, "Can I let you know by Friday?"
Empathize with yourself.
It is scary to set boundaries. Recognize that it does take courage to set a boundary, especially if it is not something that you’re used to doing. Acknowledge the possible guilt of stating what you need, and let yourself know how important and empowering it will feel once you do set the boundary.
Remind yourself that setting your boundaries is an act of taking care of yourself.
For all of us people-pleasers out there, you can let yourself know that sharing what you need is being of service to that friend: by stating what we need, we are not expecting the other person to read our minds. We are also giving the other person a chance to be held accountable for their actions.
When you set that boundary, we create that space for others to respect us.
Let’s say that we set a boundary with our friend, and she doesn’t end up responding positively to our boundary, it’s information. It can be revealing and difficult: our friend’s response lets us know if we want to continue that friendship, based on whether that person can respect our boundary.
Grief. It's heavy. Whether it's the death of someone or it's the loss of a family pet, it hurts. We sometimes minimize our own pain and forget that a break-up is also a loss.
About four years ago, a friend committed suicide. It was one of those painful losses because she had been such a light in my life. She never saw all that her friends saw in her.
REMIND yourself that past losses are triggered with death.
If you find yourself deeply affected by a death. Maybe you didn't know the person that died. Sometimes these losses bring up all the pain related to an earlier loss. We might get frustrated with ourselves for "overreacting" because we think "I didn't know this person. Why am I so sad?" Often we're reminded of someone that did pass away, and maybe that recent death is affecting you.
Allow yourself to feel whatever you're feeling