4 habits in self-love
4 habits in self-love
Right now, I am so happy just doing me. My life feels full and exciting and full of opportunities and I’m the happiest, calmest and most confident I’ve been since around the end of 2015 - which feels as long ago as it sounds.
Conversations with my girlfriends are currently all about the world of online dating, awkward first dates and hungover WhatsApps filled with regret and requesting emergency pancakes at 3pm in the afternoon. And while I love hearing all of these stories from my friends (trust me - some of them bring me absolute joy on a Sunday afternoon), I’ve surprised myself recently by not really feeling like I need to join in right now.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had more than my fair share of dating experiences and I threw myself back into it when I first moved back to Liverpool. And then, at the end of March, things didn’t work out with a guy I was seeing, and a few weeks of feeling sorry for myself later, I realised I’d been throwing my energy into the wrong type of relationship for a long time.
I’d invested a lot of time and energy into relationships with other people, while investing zero-anything in my relationship with myself and my own body. I got so lost in craving that feeling of falling in love with somebody else again, that I’d forgotten that I needed to fall in love with myself, first. Because unsurprisingly, a few years of a toxic relationship in your life can take that away from you.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup”, as they say, and I realised that I’d been attempting to do so for a long time, and my cup certainly needed refilling before I could give anything to anyone again.
Just like falling in love with a partner takes time, falling in love with yourself does, too. It doesn’t happen overnight and I think that you have to be a really strong person to keep such a positive relationship going with your own body and mind consistently. I don’t think any of us will ever love ourselves all of the time. Things happen that means our self-confidence will take a hit - it’s inevitable. But, just like when a relationship hits a bump in the road, if the right foundations are there, you are able to work through it and come out of the other side stronger - the same goes for the relationship with yourself.
So, what is self-love, anyway? Here are some definitions from a quick Google search:
An appreciation of one's own worth or virtue.
Proper regard for and attention to one's own happiness or well-being
Self love is the belief you hold that you are a valuable and worthy person
Self-love, as I’ve come to learn, isn’t just for those times when you’re feeling a little crappy. It needs to be something that becomes such a part of your daily and weekly routine, that it forms your most favourite habits every day.
So, what are my habits?
EXERCISE & DIET
I have recently fallen back in love with the gym after a three year hiatus from any form of exercise other than running for the train that I was so stereotypically late for because I’d spent too long taking mirror selfies of my outfit.
However, this time it’s different. This time I feel like me and the gym are in it for the long haul and this relationship is getting serious. I’ve even seemingly lost my mind and have taken up running too - which is a sentence that I never thought I’d hear myself say, but more on that later.
I’ve grown to love exercise again very quickly because of how it makes me feel. When I’m at the gym, I focus mostly on weight training and it’s made me feel so much stronger - both physically and mentally. There’s almost a mindfulness part of exercise that forces you to refocus on your body and yourself, and for me, this has been one of my most favourite parts. When I’m at the gym or starting out on a run, it’s just me and the only person I’m in competition with is myself - and it turns out that I’m really competitive which proves to be a great motivator for me to try and get better every time.
The endorphins from a good workout can give you a mood and energy boost for hours, so I’ve been trying to fit in my workouts either in the morning or at lunchtime so that my work benefits from them too.
I find that when I’m exercising regularly, my diet improves dramatically without me really thinking about it too much. I’m much more inclined to eat better and more often - probably because my body needs it more! I still regularly treat myself and my current obsession are stroopwafels in the evening with a cup of tea! So much so, that this has almost become a little ritual in itself that I look forward to each day, as well as the Sunday afternoon run to the big Tesco for more stroopwafels…
GRATITUDE & VICTORY LOGS
My gratitude diary is something that I started at the beginning of the year, and it’s a habit that I’d recommend that everyone get into. Every evening I will sit and write down at least one thing that I’m grateful for that day and it’s such a brilliant way to refocus your mind if you’ve had a bit of a crappy day. Of course, if you do this every day, you’ll soon end up with a huge list of things in your life to be thankful for, which in itself is a useful tool to read back on when you may be in a bit of a slump!
Gratitude has been such a huge factor in getting my happiness back over the last 9 months, and if it’s something that you don’t currently consciously practise, I’d recommend having a go at it and I guarantee that you’ll start seeing a difference in your every day well-being.
I’ve recently taken this a little further and started to write a victory log, too. I don’t write in this every day, but I probably should! This one is a list of things that I’ve achieved or that I’m proud of - no matter how big or small they may be. The list ranges from sending a risky email at work that paid off, to completing my first 10k run, to finally doing that life admin I’d been putting off forever.
We often don’t celebrate our successes, and so by writing down the things that we’ve achieved in a day or a week, gives you the motivation and the confidence to keep going! If you have a tough day coming up, you can look back on your victory log and remind yourself that if you can achieve everything that you have written down, that day lying ahead of you will be just fine.
POSITIVE SELF-TALK & AFFIRMATIONS
For a lot of us, negative thoughts are a natural and all-too-common occurrence. We blame ourselves for everything, we only focus on the negative aspects of situations, and we are absolute pro’s at jumping to the most catastrophic conclusions for something that hasn’t even happened yet. We can be super self-critical of ourselves too, and we will focus in on the parts of ourselves that we are not so fond of, rather than all of the wonderful things that we love.
As part of a coaching session I had at work a few weeks ago, I was asked to write down ten things that I liked about myself, and I found it to be one of the most difficult tasks of the day and I struggled to even get to five. Only for my coach, who has only met me twice before, be able to rhyme off five things without hesitation.
This is where positive self-talk comes in. It’s all about recognising those negative thoughts, accepting that they’re there but then pushing them away and replacing them with positive ones.
Your brain hears and listens to everything that you tell it, and a prime example of how powerful positive self-talk and affirmations can be came for me when I started running.
I’ve spent my whole life saying things like...
‘I hate running’
‘I can’t run’
‘I’m just not a runner’
...and guess what? I’ve never been able to run because I’d been programming my brain to think that I’m not a runner. However, a few weeks ago, I’d decided that one of my goals would be to run 5k without stopping, as I hadn’t been able to run more than 1.5k in over three years and I wanted to get some stamina back. And so, I changed my thoughts to…
‘I enjoy running’
‘I can run’
‘I am a runner’
I visualised the 5.00k ending distance on the treadmill, and told myself over and over that I could do this and guess what? I did it. Not only did I do it then, but I went on to do eight 5k runs over the next ten days.
I then set myself a goal of completing a 10k run by the end of the year, and seven days later I’d done 4.
How crazy is the power of your mind? Needless to say this all went in my victory log! It’s also meant that now when I look in the mirror, instead of looking at my thighs and thinking ‘god, I hate my thighs’, I think ‘god, how amazing that they’ve been strong enough to enable me to run more than I thought I ever could’.
Positive affirmations are a great thing to practise on your morning commute. If you have a huge to-do list, affirm to yourself that you’ll smash through it today. If you have an important meeting, affirm to yourself that it’ll go brilliantly. If you’re just not feeling quite yourself, let yourself know over and over that you are a fabulous, confident, and worthy person who is about to have the best day. It sounds super cheesy, but it works!
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH HAPPINESS & KINDNESS.
And finally, one of the best things I’ve done for myself in the last twelve months is surround myself with happiness and kindness. I’ve cut out the toxicity that I hadn’t realised had been consuming me for a while, and replaced it with things and people that bring me absolute joy.
If we go back to those definitions of what self-love is, it’s all about believing that you are valuable and worthy, and I think a huge part of this are the people that you have in your life and how they make you feel.
If you have friends that constantly bail on you last minute and make you feel like you or your time aren’t important, it’s okay to distance yourself.
If there are people who seem hesitant when you tell them all about your dreams and your life goals and make you feel like you’re not good enough to achieve them, it’s okay to stop having those conversations with those people, no matter how close you are to them.
Instead, make sure that the people in your life value your time. Ensure that they believe in you. Make sure that you have those people who will support you in anything and everything and will be right there behind you helping you get to wherever you want to be.
You owe it to yourself to feel valuable and worthy, and so if there are people in your life who make you feel like anything but, it’s okay to spend less time with them too.