We’re talking about love. But a very specific kind of love. Not the love for our partner or kids (if we have them), or even the love for our family and friends.
“We’re talking about love for ourselves.”
Be honest - are you ready to close the blog now? If you’re one of us who rolled our eyes, groaned, felt dismissive and maybe even felt uncomfortable, then we’re exactly the group of people who need to hang around and read on!
And if we are feeling uncomfortable, then we’re pushing our comfort zone. And we know what they say about stepping out of our comfort zone, right?
“It’s where the magic happens!”
What is Self-love?
According to Brain Behaviour,
“Self love is a state of appreciation for ourselves.”
It goes on to say that working out what self-love looks like for ourselves, is an important part of supporting our own emotional wellbeing and mental health. More on that later.
Self-love might also be called self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-esteem or self-forgiveness. They’re all about being accepting, kind, forgiving and loving of who we are.
It’s about not seeking love from others to make us feel good. It’s about genuinely ‘being love’. And ultimately, the more self-love we have, the more love we are likely to attract!
The benefits of self-love
1. Greater happiness
Research shows that people who practice self-compassion and self-kindness (self-love), are happier than those who don’t.
2. Stronger resilience
Self-love changes how we respond to life’s challenges. And goodness knows that as carers, we can face many challenges. Resilience is something carers need in bucketfuls. Research shows that with self-love (self-esteem), we treat ourselves more kindly and respond to difficult and challenging situations more flexibly. We waste less time berating ourselves and others, and better look for solutions and other ways to respond.
Research shows that self-compassion is a greater personal motivator than self-criticism. As carers we can have long ‘to do’ lists, plus sadly it's not uncommon for us to find ourselves preparing for appeals and tribunals to access the support our cared-for need. Increased motivation would be a big win for us.
4.Better physical and mental health
Self love has also been matched with better physical and mental health, through research. With 72% of carers stating poor mental health and 61% physical ill health, these figures far exceed the general population.
5. Valuing and modelling what we want and how we expect to
By modelling how we expect to be treated, we can attract that kind of treatment. Other people take their lead from us.
Setting our boundaries and sticking to them, showing self-kindness, putting ourselves first, respecting ourselves. Displaying this behaviour is a clear demonstration to the people around us, as to what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.
This can be so very important in our role as a carer. For example, it may pave the way for a more balanced caring role of a parent, between siblings. Or simply foster positive and supportive relationships in our life.
But ultimately, our relationship with ourselves is of the highest importance. Get that right, and all other relationships can further bloom.
As PairedLife puts it,
“Instead of staring into the void of your loneliness and hoping someone will show up, the best way to manifest a relationship with a good partner is to fill that void yourself first. Happy, self-sufficient people are attracted to the same kind of people, after all.”
What does self-love look like?
This is unique to each of us, but some common examples include;
Talking kindly to ourselves
Having a break from judging ourselves
Doing nice things for ourselves
Setting healthy boundaries
Where did our self-love go?
We’re all born complete. When we’re a baby, there is no self-doubt, no self-loathing, no self-esteem issues.
It’s simply life that erodes us. And depending on our life, our parents, our friends, the messages we heard growing up. Our interpretation we put on those messages and the meaning they therefore had. We will each have our own unique level of self-love or indeed self-loathing.
And stepping outside of the influence of personal relationships, the culture we grew up in will have also played a part.
Was saying nice things about ourselves considered gloating? Was feeling confident in ourselves considered boasting? Was standing up for ourselves considered brazen or ‘being difficult’.
“Just because it was said, doesn’t mean it’s true.”
Thinking back to our seven-year old self, what reassurance and love would we like to have given to ourselves? What positive affirmations would we share?
“I am strong”
“My opinion matters”
“I have interesting things to say”
“I’m allowed to say when I’m uncomfortable with something”
“I don’t have to remain quiet”
“I am talented”
Which affirmations carry meaning to you?
If our self-love is low, if the idea feels uncomfortable, then we’re not on our own. We have decades of programming to unpick. But we can do it.
Where are you right now?
So where to start? A good starting point is to ask yourself these questions:
When was the last time we said something nice to ourselves?
What is our internal dialogue to ourselves and about ourselves?
How forgiving of ourselves are we?
Would we talk to someone else like this?
Notice your answers. How do they make you feel?
Many of us berate ourselves. We notice the things we didn’t do - not the things we did. We’re quick to criticise ourselves.
Five ways to start fostering self-love
1. Notice your language
Every time you notice yourself putting yourself down, belittling yourself, berating yourself - Stop. Congratulate yourself on noticing - rather than berate yourself further. That's a big first step. It can take a long time to break old habits, but being aware is a great starting point.
2. Reframe your self-talk
Now you’re noticing your language, start to reframe it. For example, if something is going wrong and you find yourself saying, “I’m useless at everything”. Then perhaps this could become “Oops, glad I spotted that. Now I just need to do x to fix y”. Again, be patient, changing old habits takes time.
3. Notice our feelings
This may sound tricky and it will take practise. We each have layers and layers of limiting beliefs and triggered responses to situations. Some responses served us well in the past, but may not be needed now. Pausing objectively to think “why am I in this mood?" or "why did that make me feel like this?" can be really enlightening and empowering. Sometimes we can just “let it go”.
And while we're talking about feelings, it's also important to remember that feelings pass. As carers there can be some very challenging times. Remembering that feelings pass, may give us the strength we need in a particularly tough moment. And this moment right now is tough, speak to someone. Please do reach out to a friend or family member for support. Or our Carer Support team are available for you seven days a week, including evenings.
4. Notice your awesomeness
Start a daily journal “Today I’m proud of myself for…” and write at least one thing every day, recalling something we are proud of, or handled well. With time, this will become easier, as we start to notice more and more.
Our early entries might simply be “caught myself berating myself today and chose something more positive to say to myself”. And with time our entries may become, “I stood my ground at today’s meeting, speaking with confidence and passion.”
5. Create positive affirmations
These are positive statements that we say about ourselves. Stick them on post-it notes around the bathroom mirror or on the fridge! Say them daily.
Let us know what works for you. Some people like to creative affirmation cards. Did you know that our mind believes what we tell it? We have neuroplasticity, which means we can learn new beliefs! What an opportunity.
These techniques work best as a set. And they work best when we apply some self-love and self-forgiveness as we learn and trip up along the way.
Yes, we all have time for self-love
Loving ourselves takes no time at all. Handy to know as a busy carer! It’s not about actions per se, and more about feelings, boundaries and language.
“Loving ourselves is about feelings, boundaries and language. None of these take time or energy away from our busy caring lives. But they will definitely enhance our lives.”
If this has really struck a chord with you, then you may be feeling somewhat emotional. That's a healthy response, and the start of great healing.
You may like to book a call with our carer support team. A supportive chat to get your thoughts and feelings offloaded, can be a really healthy starting point.