Updated: May 1

The words self-love seem to be the self-help buzz words at the moment, but what does it really mean to love ourselves?

“Self-love is not selfish; you cannot truly love another until you know how to love yourself.”

Healthy self-love has nothing to do with being selfish. It has nothing to do with vanity, egotism or narcissism. A healthy sense of self-love is a state of appreciation, acceptance and compassion that we have for ourselves, that can grow from self-care actions. A balanced sense of self-love means we take care of our own well-being and happiness and value our own needs as well as others’. Self-love also means not sacrificing our own well-being to please others.

Self-Love means letting go of the idea of being perfect!

Truly loving ourselves means accepting and loving the whole human that we are and embracing the negatives as well as the positives. It means forgiving ourselves for anything we feel we did wrong and for not being perfect! Perfection doesn’t exist! It means loving ourselves for all of our flaws and the great things about us too! Self-love also means having the same compassion and kindness that we may extend to others, for ourselves as well.

Why is it so difficult to really love ourselves?

I come across a couple of issues that can make loving ourselves tricky. One is that we are not used to it and the other is that the brain is literally wired to look for the negatives around us, this is our survival instinct. I’ll explain both these concepts:

Loving ourselves is unfamiliar

If we developed limiting beliefs about our self-value and worth when we were kids it can become a habit to be unkind to ourselves and allow others to do the same. This is because we may not believe we are worthy or that we matter and therefore

we act accordingly.

If we’re used to being critical and mean to ourselves it can feel so unfamiliar to treat ourselves nicely. The trouble is if we don’t do this for ourselves no one else will. So, it’s important to practice loving and accepting ourselves and to really develop

this underutilized muscle, so that it becomes more comfortable and natural and familiar.

Our brains are wired with negativity bias

Scientists tell us that we are wired for negativity bias. Our ancestors survived due to their ability to scan the environment for danger and take actions to avoid injury and death. There was little survival value in relaxing and being compassionate to ourselves. This explains why our brains do what they do. It takes a bit more effort and some repetition, but negativity can be over-ridden by positivity. The good news is that positivity has a more powerful impact on us than negative thoughts, so it’s well worth the effort to practice retraining our brains to be positive and loving towards ourselves.

Here are three concepts and tips to help you to practice self-care in order to cultivate self-love:

Tip 1 – Speak to Yourself Kindly

“Self-kindness is self-empathy. And even when I talk to myself like someone I love and it feels weird, it works.” – Brene Brown

Be kind and compassionate to yourself when you feel you fall short. Talk to yourself kindly when you feel down and forgive yourself when you make mistakes, this just means you’re trying and that you’re human. Praise yourself as much as you can. Remember this quote by Dale Carnegie and give yourself the gift of praise: “Abilities wither under criticism; they blossom under encouragement.” Praise will build you up, tell yourself how well you’re doing at every little thing.

Tip 2 – Make time for Fun and Laughter

“Your body cannot heal without play. Your mind cannot heal without laughter. Your soul cannot heal without joy.” – Catherine Ripperger Fenwick

Nourish your emotional self and have fun. Seek out things that make you laugh and feel happy. Do more of the things that bring you joy and feed your soul. Find ways to bring these activities into your life more often, even a few minutes during your day will make a difference.

Tip 3 - Treat Yourself as you Would Your Best Friend

“Give yourself the love you’re willing to give to others.” – Mahin Ismail

Treat yourself with the compassion and kindness that you extend to others. It’s easy to feel empathy and compassion for the people in your life, but what about towards yourself? An important part of The Healthy Relationship Roadmap Program (which helps women to attract healthy, happy love) is teaching effective ways to cultivate self-love. One of the exercises we do during the program is to write a letter of appreciation to ourselves as if it’s from a dear friend. This letter should include all of the things that people appreciate in you and some kind and compassionate advice to encourage you to value and love yourself more.

I hope that these three tips help you to practice the very worthwhile task of loving and valuing yourself more. Remember that how you love and treat yourself is how you show others to treat and love you too. So lead by example and always value and respect yourself first. You are enough, just as you are and you are worthy of love and respect!

If you want to know more about The Healthy Relationship Roadmap Program, click here!

We are now taking applications for enrolment in the June Program!

“I was devastated when he left!”

“I felt like my life was over.”

“I felt so low, like I just wanted to hide from the world.”

Breakups can leave us feeling heartbroken, alone and sad. Especially if we had our hopes pinned on our ex being the one! Even if the relationship was not ideal we can still have feelings of “What if we’d done this or that differently, would it have worked out?”

A breakup brings uncertainty about the future. What will life be like without your partner? Will you find someone else? Will you end up alone? These unknowns often seem worse than an unhappy relationship.

Depending on the circumstances we can blame ourselves for the failure of the relationship and feel depressed or regretful. Or we could be incredibly angry about how we were treated, especially if our ex was unfaithful or abusive.

Sometimes we don’t even get the closure we need from a breakup especially if we were just told it was over and then ghosted! We’re left reeling and wondering why…

If it was you who made the break it can still be stressful and challenging especially if you’ve lived together or have shared friends/family and experiences. Even if you know you made the right decision you may worry about your ex and feel guilty for hurting them.

Something I wasn’t aware of at the time of a major breakup in my life was the different stages of grief/loss that we can go through. This is something I talk to clients about now if they are experiencing the same.

5 Stages of Grief/Loss

In 1969, a Swiss-American psychiatrist named Elizabeth Kübler-Ross wrote in her book “On Death and Dying” that grief could be divided into five stages. Her theory came from years of working with terminally ill patients. While these grief stages were originally devised for people who were ill, they have been adapted for other experiences of loss too, such as the death of a loved-one or a breakup. The stages are of grief are listed here with some examples of thoughts that could be coming up for you when/if you find yourself at a particular stage following a breakup.

1. Denial; “We’re just on a break.” “He/she will change her mind tomorrow.”

2. Anger; “How could he/she do this to me.” “I’m going to tell everyone what a …….. you are.” “I hate you!”

3. Bargaining; “If only I’d been around more/been more open about my feelings etc then this wouldn’t have happened.”

4. Depression; “Nothing is fun anymore.” “I’m never going to meet anyone else.”

5. Acceptance; “This was the best option for us both.” “It’s still sad but I have to move on now.”

Note that not everyone goes through all five of these and also that grief is different for everyone so each person and situation will be unique. I remember from my own experience of divorce, going back and forth between the first four stages more than once before reaching acceptance. A close friend actually said she’d never seen anyone go through such a range of emotions in the space of a few days as me at that time!

Being aware of the different stages that you may be moving through as you heal from a breakup will help. Also here are some other suggestions to help you on this journey:

· Do take time to mourn the loss. It’s important to feel the emotions to heal them. When a wave of sadness comes over you don’t be afraid of it. Sit with the feeling and breathe. If you do this, the emotion will be acknowledged and will pass. I made a video here about processing your emotions and giving a great tool to help you with this. Getting some outside help from a therapist could also be useful here.

· Be kind to yourself while you’re going through this. Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep and lay off alcohol & drugs (these may numb you to the pain temporarily but don’t help long-term for obvious reasons). Do things that you enjoy like reading, watching movies or box sets, have a nice bath. Get a massage or facial, anything to pamper and focus on you for now.

· No contact. Whatever terms you’re on with your ex agree to have some time with no contact between you. If things are really over, meeting up or calling/texting each other will not help either of you to move on. The anger and bargaining stages of loss are often the times where we tend to want to make contact to either let our feelings be known or to try to get our ex back. Neither of these are a good idea!

· Don’t blame yourself OR play the victim. Relationships fail and this is life. Sometimes things just run their course. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it or spending loads of time blaming the other person. If the relationship was toxic or dysfunctional both of you are responsible. This may be hard to take, but when this sinks in it empowers you to change yourself so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes or allow someone else abuse you again.

· Learn the lessons that need to be learnt. What have been your patterns, beliefs and triggers in relationships so far. If you want to have more positive experiences in the future awareness of your own stuff is the first step to attracting a happier, healthier relationship next time.

· Build your confidence. Write a “Reasons I am Awesome List.” Include all of your qualities, talents and attributes that make you unique, things you like about yourself, achievements, compliments others have given you. Read through this everyday to remind yourself of your great bits! Listen to an empowering confidence hypnosis recording (this works on rewiring the subconscious to boost your confidence and self worth on a deeper level.) Get your hair or nails done, treat yourself to a new outfit, read some inspiring self development books. Do whatever boosts your sense of confidence and self esteem.

· Connect. This is not a time to shut yourself off from the world. Make sure you speak to friends and family. Confide in them and allow yourself to be supported by them when you need it most.

· Forgive. This is a powerful quote about the importance of forgiveness. “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” Bearing a grudge won’t help you. Forgive yourself for any mistakes you made and when you feel ready forgive your ex to let go of the past, if you don’t you’re only hurting yourself.

· Focus on something new. When you’re feeling a bit better set yourself a new challenge. It may be a career, fitness or personal goal you want to achieve. Focus on this and you’ll take your mind off the breakup and look forward to the future.

· Don’t rush into dating again. It can take time to recover after the shock and sadness of loss. Give yourself enough time to process, heal and learn from this experience. You’ll be glad you did, I promise.

A final thought

"Pain makes you stronger, fear makes you braver, heartbreak makes you wiser."

Breakups are difficult and often painful events in our lives, but remember that personal growth is always on the other side of anything challenging that we have to face. For every ending, there is a new beginning and for every door that closes a brand new one opens! You might just be making room for something much better in your love life.

Things are challenging at the moment as we all know. Lockdown #3 has been tougher than the first two in many ways. The added worry and anxiety that people are feeling about these uncertain times, the dark winter days plus being so restricted can really take its toll on our close relationships.

Throw into the mix home schooling, working from home and the other pressures of being cooped up inside together 24 hours a day and many relationships are being tested to the max.

Here are some things we can do to cope and create more harmony in our close relationships:

* Accept that things are difficult. If you are struggling emotionally this is totally normal. Be kind to yourself and the people around you and if you have a ‘down’ day, an over-sensitive moment or you react in a way you wish you hadn’t, just apologise and move on. Tomorrow is another day. Allow others around you to do the same.

* Show appreciation: Communicating to the people in your life that they are appreciated goes a long way. It creates more harmonious, loving and supportive environment. It makes everything easier!! You can incorporate this into your day by each person expressing 5 things they appreciate/love about the other person.

* Communication: When something has upset you it’s important to get it out in the open. Resentment is a ‘silent killer’ in any relationship. If you’re upset because of something someone has said or done, the best way to communicate this is to focus on the comment or the behaviour and not the person. I.e. “When you did/said this it made me feel …….” By communicating in this way the other person feels less attacked and more likely to listen, accept and understand.

* Allow Space: Physical & emotional/mental space is important for any relationship to thrive. This can be quite tricky at the moment. If you’re lucky enough to have separate spaces within the home to work, study separately then all good. If you have limited space I know this is more difficult. Wearing headphones when needing ‘space’ from others is one strategy and creates a boundary that you wish not to be disturbed for a while. A walk outside on your own is another way to ensure you have some alone time.

* Connection: Do something fun or enjoyable together at some point during the day or evening. Maybe you sit down together to eat and chat at dinnertime, watch a movie or have a walk together, play some cards, a board game or have a jigsaw puzzle on the go. Whatever it is, ensuring that you have a bit of quality time together will nurture the relationship.

* Laughter: There are funny moments in all this madness and laughter is so good for the soul. Watch some comedy, listen to something funny, laugh together. I think the power of laughter is often overlooked!

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