Getting Real About Self Love: What does it really mean to love yourself?  

By Ayah Ziyadeh 

How do you practice self-love? Get your coffee ready, and let’s talk about it! 

As a result of the drastic developments of technology and the high impact of social media; we have all been victims to the pressures of attaining a certain capitalistic lifestyle that prides itself around “loving yourself.” The truth is – just as the concept of love alone does not entail a single definition, self-love doesn’t either. What nurturing yourself looks like is truly subjective depending on your own personal needs. It does not carry one universal definition and it is not a fixed idea. 

How I love myself or learn to love myself, can often be different than the way you do. What may work for me, may not work for you. 

Attaining self-love is not always pretty. It’s not always consistent. And it’s certainly NOT centered around things like hot baths, manicures, skincare, and Pilates. Sure, those things are nice and can elevate your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, because it’s true that when you look good, you feel good. But taking care of yourself is also about checking in with yourself, challenging yourself, and really being conscious of how your daily habits (physical, emotional, and mental), impact your well-being. Are you conscious of what media you consume? The energy you give out? The people you surround yourself with? 

When it came to building practices that allow me to really start loving myself, one of the most important things I began to ask myself was: how do I practice justice and fairness with myself? Do I reflect on that often? I’ll be honest, it would often cross my mind but I never sat down with myself and truly reflected on it. And for the longest time, even when I was conscious of my self-neglect, I didn’t take much initiative in placing the right boundaries, whether it be with myself or with others. 

As I worked towards practicing justice and fairness with myself, I began forming a list of questions that I would reflect on every time the initial question came up:

  • Do I listen to my body when it tells me that I have pushed its limit for the day, week, or month?
  • Do I appreciate myself and give myself the credit I deserve when needed? Do I celebrate all of my wins? 
  • Do I do things that make me happy often, regardless of what others think or expect of me?
  • Do I hold myself accountable?
  • Do I acknowledge my wrongdoings and take initiative in mending them?
  • Do I check in with myself often enough to acknowledge my triggers and find ways to dissolve them faster?
  • Am I just as kind and loving to myself as I am to others? Do I speak to myself with grace as I would with a loved one? 
  • Do I place relevant barriers between myself and others to prevent unrealistic expectations?
  • Do I speak my mind when needed?

After giving myself the time and space I needed to reflect on these questions deeply – I concluded that I was pushing myself beyond limits and I seemed to appreciate neither my body nor my mind enough to take care of them the way I should be.

For the longest time, I subconsciously believed I was undeserving of the things I have earned. I was giving 99% of my energy to others and leaving none for myself. I wasn’t holding myself accountable in that I allowed myself to lack the effort needed to accomplish my goals due to outside noise. I was not placing barriers between myself and others, making me more vulnerable to control and manipulation imposed onto me by others. I lacked self-appreciation. Worst of all, I allowed myself to suffocate by not speaking up for myself when I needed to. I neglected my own joy to please others. 

By putting these questions into practice, I came to learn that my lack of self-love stemmed from self-neglect which was caused by different elements I had struggled with in the past. This can look different for everyone. It can range from anything such as childhood experiences/traumas to present-day experiences and thoughts. I also concluded that I needed to embark on a journey of unlearning. Unlearning certain habits or negative ideologies is key as those very things you may ‘think’ you believe, could be the very things causing you to neglect to nurture yourself.

Alongside asking yourself the right questions, such as the ones mentioned above, sealing the deal with yourself in a journey of self-love and nurture requires consistent action. I found the following actions to be helpful on a daily, weekly, and/or monthly basis:

  • consistent, raw, and honest self-reflection 
  • building a solid morning routine (a good start to the day impacts our mind, body, and soul more than we realize) 
  • highlighting what’s important to me, often 
  • becoming conscious of when I need to be re-energized by asking myself where I’m lacking energy and why 
  • doing regular cleanses on all fronts by remembering that I am what I consume (social media, tv, books, etc.); I am susceptible to becoming who I surround myself with; I become what I think of myself (learning to elevate my thoughts and rid of any negative self-talk) 
  • holding myself accountable (#1 key and goes hand in hand with the first bullet point) 

Have I entirely overcome these forms of self-neglect? No. I remain to be a work in progress, just like most people are. As I mentioned earlier, getting rid of these habits and fully attaining love for yourself is not easy and not always consistent. You are going to have bad days, you are going to fall, and you are going to face plenty of obstacles. After all, you’re still human at the end of the day. The key to all of this is to be conscious of what areas you lack in and how you neglect yourself in order to figure out ways to take yourself out of it. 

Your mind and body are a world of their own. Just like in the real world, you can’t figure out where to go without knowing how to read a map. Take initiative in learning about yourself. Learn what your triggers are, what you actually love and dislike, unlearn ideas, thoughts, and habits that are weighing you down, and always hold yourself accountable. 

Here’s to embarking on a journey for true self-love in this new year!

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