Disclaimer: I am not a licensed mental healthcare professional, so please make sure to speak to a licensed therapist or your doctor if you are in a rough place. If you are in crisis, please call 988 or 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
We live in a culture that is in love with love. Whether it's to the moon and back or better to have done and lost than never at all, romance seems to be all around us from books to ads to well-meaning family advice.
And it makes sense! We are a social creature, and there's nothing wrong with looking for companionship. It impacts so many areas of our lives, after all. Whether we want to build a family. Our living situation. What we can and can't afford. Partnership ties into so many truly important aspects of our lives.
However, while we're told that love is all you need, that doesn't really tell the full story. And of course most of us already know that. Relationships - not just the romantic ones - take a lot of time and attention, both of which are in high demand. We're run down, exhausted, stressed, and juggling work, home, hustles, and the insanity of the world around us. At the end of the day, we have to decide where to put our energy, and, if you're anything like me, self-love and care are too often placed at the end of the to do list.
Many times I find myself overbooked and overwhelmed, and while I'm a people pleasure by nature I struggle to find the will to give myself the same attention or respect. I don't want to disappoint or give a bad impression, so when push comes to shove I would rather let myself down than anyone else.
I'm not the biggest fan of the saying "You can't love anyone else until you love yourself first," but I do think making self-love a priority is vital. Especially when it can be so hard to know how.
The Five Love Languages is a book written in 1992 by Gary Chapman. It explains that there are five ways that we each receive and give love to others (words of affirmation, quality time, gift giving/receiving, acts of service, and physical touch). While I don't people necessarily fall into any one category at the total exclusion of the others, I do think we will tend to find some more meaningful and others less so. More importantly, making sense of someone else's love language gets us thinking about caring for someone in ways that are most meaningful to them. It helps us to get outside of our own mindbox and really understand someone else's perspective, which can be pivotal in relationships.
Of course part of the idea behind love languages is that not only do we receive love in certain ways we also show love in certain ways, and so do others around us. It helps us to recognize when someone is showing us care and communicate our love language differences so that we can hopefully meet somewhere in the middle.
This is a wonderful took for navigating relationships, but can it play a role in self-love?
It was during the midst of an anxiety-fueled stress fest, that I began looking for new ways to self-care. I'm an introspective person, wanting to understand as much as I can about what makes me tick and why. Why am I reacting a certain way to a situation? What part of my early-childhood relationship to my mother does that link to? In the same way, I'm always looking for ways to be a better me. How can I organize my time more effectively? How can I help soothe myself when in a bad place?
When it comes to caring for yourself there are many bits of advice floating around, and it can be hard to figure out what works best for you. That's why approaching love for yourself in the same deliberate and caring way you would for another can be so useful.
As we get into it, remember: love for yourself and those around you can't be put into simple categories, but hopefully this can be helpful to you along your journey!
The 5 Languages of Self-Love
As we begin exploring which self-love languages speak the strongest to you and different ways to show them, here are some questions to think about.
When you've had a really stressful day, what could a friend do to make you feel better?
Talk you through what's going on
Take you to a movie
Surprise you with a new book, movie, or game
Bring you food
Give you a big hug
When you've just had a fight with someone who means a lot to you, what helps patch things up for you?
Sitting down and having a conversation to hash things out
Spending a beautiful day on a hike together
Receiving flowers, a stuffed animal, or accessory you love
Not having to do a home or yard task you were avoiding
You have a full day free from work and other obligations, what would make this day perfect?
Journaling in an airy cafe
Taking a walk through a park or checking out a new exhibit
Going shopping at your favorite stores
Tackling a home project or organizing your things
Getting a massage
As you think about these questions, rate your answers from what speak to you the most to what speak to you the least. Mostly 1's are words of affirmation, 2's are quality time, 3's are giving/receiving gifts, 4's are acts of service, and 5's are physical touch. Remember that you can't fit into any single box, so take what speaks to you from each of these languages and mix together what works for you.
Words of Affirmation
Most of us enjoy nice words, complements, and hearing positive talk. It almost goes without saying that words of affirmation are important in any relationship, romantic or otherwise. But how often do you build yourself up with words?
If you're anything like me, the answer is not often enough.
Do words of affirmation speak to you?
You may be a word person if you find comfort and reassurance from encouragement, complements, and hearing just generally how awesome you are. If that is the case, consider the following as a way to show some word love to yourself.
Speak to yourself
Mirror, Mirror, on the wall...
Find a mirror and stand in front of it. Put a timer on two minutes. Look yourself in the eye and until the timer goes off, give yourself some words of affirmation.
Say some positive things about your personality and character. Tell yourself what you are good at. What are some things you have made it though? What are some things you've accomplished.
If you find that you don't know what to say, try the following:
I love you.
You are worthy.
You are valuable.
You deserve respect.
I am a badass.
I am powerful.
I can achieve my goals.
The world needs me and my story.
Once you say the above, continue with whatever comes to your mind. If you get stuck, just keep repeating these statements. Remember to say them while making direct eye contact with yourself.
Time alone can be a wonderful space for rejuvenation and reflection. While some of us thrive in chosen spaces of solitude, there are others of us who find it more uncomfortable and difficult. Whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or anything in between, spending quality time with yourself is a wonderful way to show self-love.
Does meaningful time alone move you?
You may be a quality time self-lover if you seek alone time to find comfort and peace. Maybe you thrive with the space to introspect and perhaps enjoy the companionship of your thoughts. If this speaks to you, give the following a try.