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The Importance of Treating Self-Love as a Relationship

“I’m not good at self-love.”

“I know I love myself when I really think about it, but I also compare myself to others so much.”

“How can I love myself more?!”

“I am struggling with loving myself today.”

These are words of clients. There are words that feel really familiar to me, too– words I have said to myself or my therapist or my partner or my dear friends. Can you relate?!

Seeing Self-Love as Relationship

Okay, I know this is easier said than done, but the following phrase has been super helpful for me on my own journey towards radical self-love: Self-love is not a destination. It’s a relationship. And like all relationships, it requires time, attention, care, and practice.

We don’t expect all of our other relationships to be the same from day to day. I think most of us expect there to be ebbs and flows, changing seasons, challenges and times of ease in our friendships, family relationships, romantic interests, and so on.

Yet, many of us expect ourselves to have perfect, flawless love for ourselves. And, frankly, this is an unreasonable expectation for any human.

When I think about self-love as a relationship, I feel a sense of understanding, patience, and compassion wash over me. And, how poetic is it that these feelings are in alignment with the goal of self-love?! How does this idea of self-love as relationship land with you?

Relationships Love Rituals

Does your family have any traditions that feel really special and connecting? What about your friends… do you have ways that you love spending time together? Like making silly dance videos together, or gaming, or painting nails? If you have a partner, are there any routines you’ve gotten into that feel really good and sorta routine?

These sort of predictable, expected experiences might be rituals! I like to think of rituals as containers for connection that we can count on. Rituals are practices that we return to again and again.

I’m also thinking about the fact that rituals can be done in the “good” times and the “bad” times. When we are feeling positive about our lives, self-love may come more easily than in the times we are feeling more struggle or challenge. Rituals, though, can be an anchor through all of these experiences.

So, I invite you to consider: What are the rituals you have with and for yourself? And what are the ways that you are tending to your relationship with yourself?

Ideas for Practicing Self-Love

Some of these ideas may sound like trendy self-care things. Self-care often takes the form of an outward action, task, or ritual, while self-love is a complex, dynamic relationship with oneself. In other words, self-care is valuable and important, AND it may contribute to self-love. So, these two concepts are connected, but not exactly the same.

Rituals with and for ourselves contribute to the expansion of our self-love. We don’t have to do any or all of these rituals in order to love ourselves. But we do have to tend to the relationship. So take these ideas as simply that, ideas. Use what feels helpful, throw out the rest, return to this list later, or make your own.

  1. Create a simple 2-3 step morning routine that gives you time with yourself. Ex: personal care/hygiene, followed by 5 minutes of journaling. Then, listening to a favorite song.
  2. Practice inner child meditations or any kind of meditation or visualization that feels supportive or centering.
  3. Spend time in/with your thoughts and feelings by journaling or creating art.
  4. Be with your body. This may look like a bubble bath, self-massage, doing face masks, painting nails, self-pleasuring, booty dancing, other types of movement, etc.
  5. Create and listen to self-love songs! (You can also search self-love on Spotify or YouTube to see if there’s a playlist that resonates with you.)
  6. Honor and celebrate yourself!
  7. Write and recite affirmations that feel loving and sweet.
  8. Practice breathwork.
  9. Explore self-compassion exercises.
  10. Take intentional time away from your phone and other devices.
  11. Write a kind letter to yourself or keep an “awesomeness journal” or “bravo book” where you keep track of things you are proud of and kind things others have said to/about you.
  12. Give yourself a small, meaningful gift. This could be something free, like a flower you picked on a walk, too.
  13. Keep a jar of notes of appreciation or gratitude to yourself.
  14. Work with a coach or therapist or other practitioner that you feel seen and supported by.
  15. Sit and listen to music with no other agenda. 

Tapping into Support

As you continue your self-love journey and find your own ways of tending to your relationship with yourself, you may enjoy documenting your support system with this guide + map. Additionally, you might like to connect with a coach or other support professional; if you need help getting started, please reach out.

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