What is self-love?
Some people have it easy. Secure attachments, a solid support system, and the ability to maintain healthy boundaries. Those are all ingredients in the recipe for those who are most confident and have this deep appreciation for their individuality. It’s called self-love. We see it every day on Instagram posts, hashtags for selfies, and articles advocating for therapy. But what does self-love really mean and why is it so suddenly “on trend”? Why is it important to survivors? Well, before anyone can practice this and set off to begin their own internal work, let’s dive into what self-love really means.
Self-love is a sense of value for ourselves that only grows from consistent actions that support our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. This means having a high regard for your own happiness and well-being. It also means taking care of your own needs, saying “No”, and not sacrificing yourself to please others. If you’re a woman of color, self-love is looking in the mirror and proclaiming on a daily…”I am not superwoman”. You can’t do it all. And in all honesty…there’s no need. Self-love means not settling for less than you deserve. If you were to ask me…the definition of self-love was best said by the late poet, essayist, and mother warrior, Audre Lorde: Self-love is defining yourself for yourself…so you’re not crunched into other people’s fantasies or eaten alive.
No matter how you choose to define self-love, the rise of the term, currently, might be attributed to coping mechanisms used to help ease the burdens that 2020 brought us. To face these uncertainties…to face the reflection we had no choice but to observe everyday…we had to use our resilience. We had to face our own storms as calmly and deliberately as we could. We had to learn…how to love.
In addition to challenging times presented to us, millennials are a large reason for the rise in self-love. They are doing something few in previous generations have done before, perhaps because there was never time to. But now? No more. Millennials are starting to love themselves exactly as they are. In fact, in comparison to “Baby boomers” and “Generation X”, millennials spend twice as much time on self-care tools such as therapy, meal plans, fitness memberships, and apps that focus on improving well-being.
It is useful for survivors to take notes from these young grasshoppers in this sense. Showing yourself some extra, EXTRA kindness as you navigate such a life altering experience is crucial. Many people confuse self-love and self-care with bubble baths and face masks. And yes…self-love can be those things…along with tacos, too. But the way you think about yourself, the people you surround yourself with for support, and greeting your mind, body, and soul with compassion is what matters. During and after a breast cancer diagnosis, as you navigate the ups and downs of trauma, hurt, and grief…the self-love rituals you choose are important for staying grounded, believing in your own worth, and reflecting on what your body has been through.
Self-love vs. Self-compassion vs. self-esteem.
All this talk about self-love, you might wonder how it is any different from “self-compassion” and “self-esteem”. While self-love is the foundation on which we build a healthy and happy life, self-compassion is acting the same way toward yourself when you are going through a tough time, as you’d act towards a friend or loved one. Self-love is not a destination, but a daily practice one must do to continuously value his/herself as a human being worthy of love and respect. This is a much more stable construct, compared to self-compassion. While you can choose to be compassionate towards yourself in any given moment, self-love is something that you continuously have to work at as you experience each trial and tribulation of life.
Furthermore, both terms are very different from self-esteem. Self-esteem refers to our sense of self-worth, perceived value, and how much we actually like ourselves. This can be tricky in comparison to self-love, but you can think of self-love in the terms of this formula:
Self-Love = self-compassion + self-esteem + acceptance
Self-love is about feeling AND action. It’s healthy, and it is NOT narcissistic. So, love yourself. Not because it’s some cliché statement that everyone will tell you. Love yourself, because it’s what is necessary in order to actually properly love those around you.
The Ho’oponopono Prayer
“I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you.”
On your darkest days, did you need these words? To “cleanse” yourself of the destruction caused by others around you, the chaos in your head, and the storm in your nervous system. The above mantra, known as The Ho’oponopono Prayer, is a kind of meditation to develop self-love and self-esteem at times we desperately need it. Ho’oponopono comes from an ancient Hawaiian teaching called the “Huna”. The “Hu” translates to “knowledge” while “na” translates to “wisdom”. The overall teaching is that we create everything in our world, thus we have the power to heal it.
This traditional Hawaiian forgiveness prayer is so powerful because it first requires you to acknowledge wrongdoing. Having other people acknowledge our feelings is a desire we all have, but in ho’oponopono, it all starts with you. It requires you to see YOU. Once you start with the [wo]man in the mirror, only then can you start to begin to forgive someone else. The final step of the prayer is acknowledging both love for yourself and others. The prayer remains a highly effective in not just increasing self-love, but impacting physical health. In an article from Johns Hopkins Medicine, research shows that the act of forgiveness is linked to major health benefits, such as lowered risk of heart attack, improved cholesterol levels, reduced pain, blood pressure, and levels of depression. This shows that when the mind is healed, the body follows suit.
So, heal today. Love yourself today. Move forward. After all….you deserve it.
“I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank you, I love you.”
Practice Self Love in Community! Join Tigerlily Host Natalie Lewis for a special Courageous Self Love Workshop Series: Tuesdays at 5pm on Zoom via the Pure Cat Initiative.