"Loving yourself isn't vanity. It is sanity." — André Gide
We made it people!
We made it through 2020 & 2021 and that most certainly deserves celebration, for we all know the trials we’ve had to face.
What a ride, hey?
Our new year’s resolutions this time surely include ticking off many of those things that have been sitting on our bucket lists for too long, but mostly doing all kinds of normal activities we weren’t allowed to do over those 2 long (and bizarre) years.
Imagining a normal night out with friends or a dinner at a fabulous restaurant feels wow & somewhat wild now!
Conceivably, our resolutions this year also feature some smaller actions that had always been taken for granted or deemed unworthy of an official list, such as “call Grandma more”, “be nicer to people”, “appreciate family time”, alongside the usual “go to the gym”, “lose some weight”, “eat better” and so on.
2022 is the chance to put everything into perspective and actually achieve those resolutions by changing the only factor that has been holding us back this whole time: some good, old fashioned, self love.
Self love is a very simple concept that can be deceptive and mistaken for narcissism, self indulgence or just being overly cheesy filling diaries with random, self-absorbed quotes.
While citations can indeed be inspirational at times, the notion of self love has been around for millennia, stirring disdain from those who perceive it as selfishness and disregard for other people’s needs and feelings.
The definition that could perhaps put an end to the misunderstanding would be this:
don’t break your own heart
The idea behind this showy phrase is to try and treat ourselves as we would the love of our life. We would never ever intentionally hurt our partner, our parents, our friends, our children.
And yet, truly loving someone is massive work, isn’t it?
It requires a combination of nourishment, patience, forgiveness, willingness to connect, pep talks, healing, understanding, gratefulness, wound licking and open-mindedness.
Not an easy task.
The whole point is: if we’re willing to do all of this for someone else, can’t we use the same strength it takes to achieve the heights of love and apply the same concept to ourselves?
Putting “me” first has nothing to do with egotism but rather with being nice to our minds, souls and bodies so that we can, as a consequence, better receive and give to others.
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are so many in the course of one’s life that adding self-inflicted suffering truly doesn’t make any sense.
Instead of only paying attention to our inner critic we should make some mental space for that beautiful healing voice that lives hidden in the back of our minds which can - and should- remind us that mistakes happen, we are made to evolve, we deserve a pat on the back for a job well done (or for a bad day for that matter!) and not everything is our fault.
Mastering such a mindset isn’t easy at first because we are all stuck inside protective iron boxes that prevent us from connecting with that tiny sensitive part that just deserves to be loved.
Only when that part is reached can we really unleash, uncork, unlock our full potential and enjoy being who we are at full power: this seems to be the only sensible thing to do.
Adopting this perspective grants a huge boost, a gentle yet firm push towards gratefulness and self love.
Yes, we all have tons of regrets, a guilty conscience over something we did, a sentence we wish we could take back (and the list goes on and on, I know), but instead of focussing on what a horrible human being we have been, our attention should shift to condonation and clemency, the same two concepts we surely apply when it comes to our loved ones.
Look back at your mistakes, say that you understand, forgive that person and take a step forward.
This is nice and all, but where can one actually start?
Picture your daily or weekly calendar… are you featured anywhere in there? Can you find an activity, task or reward that is solely for you? Have you planned something to show yourself that you care?
No? Well, it’s time to squeeze in something that makes you happy because you deserve it, you’re amazing, you’re doing an excellent job at this thing called life.
If we don’t learn to tell ourselves that we are worth it, we’ll never fully embrace the conviction that we qualify for love, forgiveness, empathy and joy. But we do.
Journaling, for instance, can provide clarity and has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, tension and many other forms of mental distress that have a negative impact on relationships, productivity, physical health and overall confidence.
You can start with jotting down whatever is swirling in your head that is causing you to worry or sinking your confidence. Putting thoughts on paper will help you distance yourself from any negative ideas and looking at them from a more detached stance and perhaps a different perspective.
You can then build up from this, upgrading to simple considerations such as things you like about yourself, your morals and values, easy and yet rewarding goals you are working towards, the last time you were nice to someone and how that made you feel.
Taking 5 minutes out of your daily routine to write down simple concepts will contribute enormously to your overall well being.
If this seems too herculean to you or you simply lack the confidence (yet!) to externalise your inner thoughts, you could consider working on your existing agenda and at the end of the day concentrate on things that you did for yourself.
Instead of obsessing over tomorrow’s timetable and how daunting it is, add in today’s timeline those 2 minutes you spent looking out of the window just breathing, or when you raised your gaze from the phone, how nicely that jumper fitted you and even that much deserved shower you had.
Remembering to fill that part in our daily calendar serves both as a gratification and an encouragement to continue doing so. Win win!
Noticing these teeny tiny deeds will make nonsensical, hectic timetables look like they belong to a purposeful, balanced person and, in the case you find yourself out of work in these months, it will help you get out of that slump, uplift your mood and build up productivity.
These are just the first baby steps that can put you on a path that leads to self love: emotional, mental and physical movement are your reward, not a punishment.
One thing always, always, always follows the other and you’ll be galloping towards a happier you in no time: a self compassion and acceptance running engine is bound to take you to the Moon and back. On the other hand, self loathing and harsh criticism will only seize you up.
Learning how to self love is not an easy task but it’s definitely worth the endeavour because it pays off in confidence, self-esteem, determination, appreciation, mindfulness, clarity, fitness… is it me or one possessing those qualities could face any given challenge?
It is not about creating even higher standards or expectations for ourselves, nor meeting those set up by others: only you can know what is truly right for you and that is ok.
Sometimes, showing the middle finger is the greatest act of self love.
Written by Elena Donadon
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