I’ve gotten several asks lately about how to love yourself and how to start practicing self-care after years of feeling worthless. As someone who has struggled with severe depression and self-harm in the past and still struggles daily with anxiety, I have been in some pretty dark places. I’ve come a long way since then. By no means am I perfect, nor do I feel awesome about myself all of the time, but I figured I’d share some of the things that have really helped me in my journey to love myself.Before I start sharing, though, i want to say that if you’re reading this, I’m extremely proud of you for wanting to change your mindset and start taking care of yourself. It isn’t easy at all, but wanting to try is a HUGE step, especially when you struggle with mental illness. I know some days just getting out of bed is hard, let alone loving yourself. So I just want to give you a big hug of encouragement for even trying. Now, for some tips.
1. Find your happy place and use it as a starting point. Think of the times and places when you feel the most confident and at peace. Maybe it’s when you’re snuggled in a blanket drinking tea and watching your favorite movie. Maybe it’s when you’re all dolled up and wearing your favorite heels. Maybe it’s when you’re riding your bike or knitting a scarf or reading a book at the park. Whatever it is, find that situation and recreate it as often as possible. While you’re in that place, think about everything you’re good at. I know that can be hard, and you might think “I’m not talented!” but come on, you’re good at something. Maybe you’re great at remembering birthdays or making homemade waffles or doing your hair or watching a whole season of a TV show in one day. Whatever it is, even if it seems silly to you, it matters and it’s part of what makes you unique. Write it down on post-it notes and stick them on your mirror, on your laptop, wherever you’ll see it.
2. Find music that makes you feel empowered and incorporate it into your daily routine. Doesn’t matter if it has silly lyrics or it isn’t what you’d normally listen to—find something that makes you smile and makes you want to dance and be awesome. I’m partial to THIS playlist. Then, take a long, hot shower. After that, put on your favorite underwear and blast the playlist while taking your time doing your hair and makeup (if you wear it). Dance around, sing along, act ridiculous. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, pretend that you are the badass diva singing the song. Try a new hairstyle. Do your makeup the way you’ve always wanted to but have been too scared to try. Take a bajillion selfies just for yourself. Eat some chocolate. Be indulgent. Treat yourself. Look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re hot and awesome and could rule the world if you wanted to. It sounds ridiculous and you’ll probably laugh and roll your eyes. Tell yourself anyway. Turn the music up and dance around some more. Do this every morning, even if it’s only for one song. I swear by it.
3. Learn how and when to be selfish. This is imperative. It’s really hard, because we’re brought up being taught to always put others before yourself. While this way of thinking has good intentions, it can become destructive because you end up treating yourself as though you’re not worth anything unless you’ve made everyone around you happy. Unless you have children, you are responsible for exactly ONE person’s well being and happiness: your own. You can still do nice things for people, and we all need to sacrifice our own comfort sometimes to get things done, but if you have the choice, you need to take care of yourself. You need to learn how to say “no.” If someone asks a favor of you or asks you to hang out and you know in your heart that you can’t swing it, don’t be afraid to say “Sorry, I really can’t this time.” The first few times you do this, it will be scary, but at the same time you will feel as though a weight has lifted off your shoulders. You have the power to control when and if you do things. You don’t HAVE to go to that party if it’s not your thing. You don’t HAVE to drive half an hour to pick up your friend if it’s inconvenient and you know they could ask someone else. Sometimes just saying “no” can be extremely empowering, so practice it.
4. Last but definitely NOT least, a tip from one of my favorite TV shows, Twin Peaks: "Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee." Pretty self-explanatory. But seriously. Give yourself little treats for no reason. They don’t have to cost money, although they can (buying new nail polish is my personal favorite). It could be waking up a few minutes earlier so you can take a longer shower, or brewing an extra cup of tea, or reading your favorite book before bed instead of checking Facebook. Making a conscious effort to find small ways to be kind to yourself can make a huge difference. You don’t have to bake yourself a cake (although you certainly could!) but take a few extra minutes every day to do something nice for yourself that you wouldn’t normally do.