by Andrea Pennington, MD
The first step in embracing self-love is about self-discovery. By identifying and acknowledging your own talents, values, dreams and visions gives your heart and soul a chance to be seen and heard. Far from a self-indulgent or selfish act, taking the time to reflect on what is important to you will allow you to make self-love a way of life -- and everyone else will benefit from it, too!
Practicing self-love which includes self-care, authentic self-expression, allowing for rest, relaxation and play will fill you up with such radiance and resilience that all areas of your life will be benefitted. As much as we as women want to nurture and care for others, if we aren’t operating from a base of real self-love our actions become tainted with resentment or regret.
Giving your personal needs a high priority in your daily and weekly life is a great act of self-love that prevents you from being a doormat or ‘yes’ girl who gives and gives out of obligation or fear. Learning to set boundaries and not reflexively saying ‘yes’ to every request is a sign that you not only value your time and space, but you recognize that you can give of yourself with true generosity. This self-love affirming gesture goes a long way to teach others -- especially our children and our beloved -- that we will treat them with the same respect.
My mother always says, an empty barrel can’t give any water to the thirsty. Self-love is not a frivolous, selfish, or narcissistic thing. By prioritizing your own self-acceptance you’ll be better equipped to generously love, support, and give to others. Loving yourself is both natural and healthy and contributes to a ripple effect in the universe, and in the world. So be sure to fill yourself up with the self-affirming practices of exercise, drinking clean water, meditation, yoga or some other mindfulness process.
When you treat yourself with love and respect you come to realize what is important in your life and your relationships. This means that you will be less likely to ‘settle’ for intimate or business partnerships that go against your values and ideals. Searching for outside validation, approval or affection happens easier when we don’t truly love and value ourselves. Thus, I and many of my clients have found that we end up in dead end jobs or partnerships that may look good on the outside, but are unfulfilling on the inside.
Practicing self-love is also about respecting and prioritizing your physical well-being. When we don’t esteem ourselves highly we may give into temptation to eat junk food, avoid exercise, smoke excessively or drink too much alcohol.
Embracing an attitude of reverence and appreciation for yourself also makes you incredibly attractive and radiant. Real self-love is about connecting with the part of you that is beyond flesh and bone. When you really come to appreciate that you are a unique being, one of a kind on this planet, it is easier to look at others from that standpoint as well. We become radiant as a loving compassion beams from our heart. And it starts with recognizing that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, which makes it so much easier to love ourselves.
If you’ve ever felt the intense anxiety that comes from being a bit too perfectionistic then you’ll find that practicing self-love can set you free. Perfection doesn’t exist for humans (or robots!) This recognition that perfection is not obtainable, and is therefore, a futile pursuit can release an incredible burden of striving for perfection. You’ll have lower stress and great joy in life.
Practicing self-love can also enhance your sensuality and improve your intimate relationships. Studies show that when we arrive at the point of unconditional self-acceptance we can be more fully present with ourselves and our beloved. Getting out of our head, which is often full of judgmental or critical voices, allows us to tune into our senses and enjoy intimacy even more.
Healing the wounds and traumas of the past are made easier when we tap into the life enhancing energy of love. Love is the very essence of life. It sustains all living things and permeates all the cells in your body.
Dr. Andrea Pennington (@DrAndrea) is an integrative physician, acupuncturist, meditation teacher, conscious communication specialist and best selling author (The Orgasm Prescription for Women). Andrea's new book I Love You, Me! is out now and explores her journey from depression to real self love.