Written by: Claudia Hypes, Community Education Coordinator
Self-love…self-compassion, self-care, call it what you will- all these words are different articulations of the same act. This topic is a hard one to wrap up in a single blog post. In general, I find it hard to tackle and I think that reigns true for most humans. We are innately our own biggest critics. When I hear the words self-love, I feel as if I’ve hit a brick wall. To simplify it I try to look at the anatomy of the word itself.
Now love is a grand concept. It is why we are still on this planet because we have built bonds, embraced connections, and protected those close to us. So, how do we treat those we love? Or how do we show love?
Above all love is shown through upholding our values: showing respect, kindness, honesty, loyalty. Now if we turn that idea inwards to ourselves, something just does not quite add up. Why is it that we do not always show love for ourselves the way we show love for others?
Self-love for me is a huge part of recovery and just the healing process itself. It is also one I historically excluded from my routine and existence. “Self-love” has never come very naturally to me. As a mental health professional, I find it more important than ever to “practice what I preach”. Dealing with depression, I have days were getting out of bed, brushing my teeth, showering, and feeding myself are how I show myself love. Now, these tasks may not sound revolutionary, but they are an essential component to my well-being. This is the heart of what I believe to be self-love for one simple reason, I am doing it for the betterment of myself and with that perspective, I think any action we perform can be an illustration of self-love.
Living in recovery, I now try to challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone and embrace the fact that “self-love” sometimes means “tough love”. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “tough love” as “love or affectionate concern expressed in a stern or unsentimental manner (as through discipline) especially to promote responsible behavior.” In short, we all have to do things that we do not want to or that make us feel uncomfortable. The difficult things in life are the ones most worth doing.
I have dealt with patterns of disordered eating since I was a teenager. Since then, I have had a very strange relationship with food, the act of eating, body image, and self-worth. Over the past few years, I have found one adult task to be most DAUNTING: grocery shopping. As soon as I enter a grocery store my heart rate skyrockets and I feel the fight or flight responses emerging. For a long time, I had trouble eating food and buying food in front of people because it made me physically uncomfortable and overwhelmed. A couple weeks ago I had a Friday off and I went to a diner near my apartment and sat down and ate all by myself. To look at grocery shopping as an act of tough love or eating alone as an act of self-care makes it easier to do because it means I am growing.
Self-love looks different every day. Sometimes, it is just getting through the workday and making sure I ate enough. Other times it is going to yoga, even on the days I’d rather sink into my bed and hibernate. It is chopping off my hair and realizing I am still beautiful no matter what beauty standards promote about women’s hair length. It’s listening to my body when I start pushing myself too hard in an exercise. Self-love is responding to my emotions non-judgmentally and telling myself it is ok to feel all the things. It sounds like verbally practicing loving kindness, radical acceptance, gratitude, and affirmations. It’s having faith in myself and reciting the words “I am capable” in the mirror. It’s living by my values and choosing to live each and every day as my most authentic self.