Practical Ways to Love Yourself First

If you grew up anything like I did, then the idea of loving yourself first was WRONG! I intentionally wrote that in all caps because it wasn’t just wrong it was WRONG! With that in mind, imagine how challenging it has been to rewire my thinking and thus my behaviors about this once sacred ideology. Maybe you can relate?
If you’ve read any of my previous blogs (which I hope you have) then you know I spend weeks percolating on an idea or theme for each one. I watch and wait (the “W” in S.L.O.W.) to see what message or lesson the universe sends or teaches me to determine what I’ll share here. Writing on the topic of “loving yourself first” was the most prominent reoccurring message and it was completely underscored during an unexpected but invigorating conversation I had with a childhood friend this past month. Reconnecting and sharing our life’s paths with each other confirmed the desperate need that exists for many of us, primarily women, to learn how to and then practice loving ourselves first.
For many of us, it is almost second nature to put others’ needs above our own, especially when we are in some type of care-taking role personally or professionally (or Heaven help us, both!). The analogy she used during our conversation was that she is the type of person willing to set herself on fire to keep others warm. Quite a powerful image, isn’t it? And yet unfortunately I don’t think it’s too far off from the way we tend to prioritize others’ needs above our own. I know for me, I lived that way for years. It was so much the case that for the longest time I didn’t even realize that I HAD needs. They had been neglected or ignored for so long it never occurred to me to consider them or be in touch enough to recognize them. Therefore, I absolutely didn’t feel able to communicate them. It took years of reassurance from many people around me to gain the courage to say what I needed once I actually figured it out (and I’m still working on that skill).
My encouragement to my friend and to all of you (and myself included) is to give yourself permission to love you first. This means that you say YES to you, which conversely means that sometimes you have to say no to other. Maybe that feels too daunting for you, perhaps too extreme. If that’s the case, start small and try a “not now” or “maybe later” instead of a “no”. It’s ok to baby step your way into this new approach of thinking and being. Occasionally, I have to ask for time to stop and think about what I need before I can answer someone’s request. Saying things like “can I sleep on it?” or “can I get back to you in an hour?” are usually acceptable to people. That gives me time to SLOW down and check in with myself to really determine what is best for me and the situation. I have found when I am true to myself it not only benefits me but also those around me. It’s then that I have the energy and peace of mind to fully devote myself to their needs once mine are ensured. The saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup” is true!
It really takes a mind shift to feel ok saying “no” or to establish healthy self-care boundaries. There are times I have to intentionally work through the self-condemnation that goes on internally. It’s ironic that I am far more damning of myself than others are of me. In fact, when I set boundaries, others tend to validate and reassure me that I’m doing the right thing, often adding that they wish they were able to do that for themselves. It is my hope (and often motivation) to provide an example that those around me can imitate.
As you read this blog, my desire is for you to commit (or re-commit) to loving yourself first, taking the time to connect to you. What do you need today (remember we are taking baby steps, so we can take it one day at a time)? Feel the freedom to express your needs to yourself and to others who are safe and available to support those needs. You are loved….by others… but most importantly by you!