You’ve heard of romantic love, but what about self-love? Sometimes we put so much energy into finding love with another person that we forget how to love ourselves ‒ and how important it is!
Self-love isn’t exactly the same as self-worth, but they go hand in hand. Self-worth is a reflection of how you treat yourself and view yourself. However, we often put too much value in how other people treat us. When people treat us badly, we equate that to being unworthy and our self-esteem plunges. By working on our relationship with ourselves and practicing self-love, we can break this unhealthy cycle.
Gary Chapman, PhD, author of The Five Love Languages, attributes the success of his book to its focus on our “deepest emotional need: the need to feel loved.” Regardless of age, religion, sexual orientation, or relationship status, every single human being has the emotional need to feel loved. What people seem to overlook is that love doesn’t come just from other people ‒ love also comes from within. It comes in the way we talk to ourselves, take care of ourselves, and treat ourselves.
Here, we’ll explore translating the five love languages into ways to cultivate self-love for a healthier, happier relationship with oneself.
Five Ways to Cultivate Self-Love
Practice words of affirmation.
Many people imagine themselves practicing affirmations by standing in front of a mirror, reciting all their good qualities, and trying to convince themselves they’re loveable. It can be all that, but it can also go so much deeper!
Talk to yourself and respond to others in a way that communicates your love and appreciation for yourself:
- Common affirmations include “I am strong,” “I am capable,” “I am worthy.” Try them now; they’re sure to put a smile on your face.
- Professor Brené Brown, PhD, once said, “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” Our self-talk is often negative – would you ever say those things out loud to a friend or loved one? Probably not! Halt your self-talk in the moment and talk back to it! This could sound like “No, I’m not going to beat myself up about that. I am doing the best I can today.”
- Ever gotten a compliment and immediately responded by refuting it? Cut out the self-deprecating statements and try to accept compliments. When someone compliments you, don’t counteract it by making a negative comment. Simply say, “Thank you.”
- Respect yourself. If you’re ever going to learn to respect another person, you must be able to respect yourself first. This can mean respecting and affirming your boundaries with others as well as recognizing when you need to say no.
The more you practice talking to yourself in this way, the more you will believe and embody it!
Spend quality time with yourself.
Learn to spend time doing things you enjoy, even if it means doing them alone. In fact, go out of your way to schedule alone time. Whether it’s spending time going on a hike or having a picnic while watching the sunset, learn to enjoy your own company. This doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone, but you shouldn’t shy away from it.
Feeling like you belong and having quality relationships is very important to your happiness and well-being, but while you’ll want to make time for those, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy doing things on your own as well! One of my favorite activities is to sit on my balcony on Sunday mornings and drink my coffee while reading a good book. Having those 20 minutes all to myself is the best feeling and really helps to improve my mood, no matter what else is going on.
Some examples of spending quality time with yourself include:
- Taking a walk/hike (Just make sure you tell someone where you’re going.)
- Picking up a new hobby
- Taking a cooking class
- Signing up for an exercise class
- Dedicating a portion of your day to alone time, whether it’s your morning matcha or evening wind-down after work
Perform acts of service.
Acts of service as a love language stems from the idea that it’s “more blessed to give than to receive.” As a physician, I find that this love language has special meaning. I have a deep sense of satisfaction when I’ve helped someone improve their health. Unfortunately, the acts of service I provide for my patients fall short when it comes to myself.
One of the acts of service I performed for myself was creating an Instagram account where I share tips for following a healthy diet and living a healthy lifestyle. After going through a health scare several years back and changing my life through diet and exercise, I was inspired to share what I’d learned with everyone.
I felt like I’d uncovered some huge secret and wanted everyone to feel as good as I did. I changed how I practiced medicine. I wanted to show everyone that it’s never too late to start living your best life.
Here are a few ways you can perform acts of service for yourself:
- Meal prep one or two days per week
- Declutter your space and donate clothes you no longer wear
- Volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about and get involved in your community
Give and receive gifts.
Giving gifts is one of the fundamental and universal languages of love. In fact, anthropologists have never discovered a culture where gift giving is not an expression of love.
When it comes to self-love, you are both the giver and the receiver. Treat yourself to something you’ve wanted for a while. Maybe it’s a day at the spa or a gorgeous pair of shoes. Maybe it’s breakfast in bed or an out-of-town getaway. Whatever it is, splurge on yourself every now and then. And remember, gifts don’t have to be expensive (or cost anything) to have meaning.
Some of my favorite gifts include:
- A good book
- A simple call to a loved one to tell them I’m thinking of them
Use physical touch.
Physical touch is a great way to nourish your physical self. If you feel refreshed and rejuvenated after indulging in caring for your body, physical touch might just be your primary love language.
Whether you’re busy taking care of your kids, significant other, parents, or friends, turning your attention inward may be the thing you need to energize you from the inside out.
Some of the best ways to physically foster self-love are:
- Take a hot bath. Adding Epsom salts and/or essential oils can be even more soothing.
- Pamper yourself. Back rubs, pedicures, facials, and scalp massages are all great options. If you don’t have the budget to go out for these services, that’s okay! There are plenty of DIY at-home treatments you can indulge in.
Nourish Yourself with Self-Love
Self-love is the building block of our health, our relationships, and our happiness. How can you love others if you can’t even love yourself?
My training with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition helped me realize that health is not just about what we’re eating or how much exercise we’re getting. Emotional and mental well-being are just as important as physical health. Like anything in life, we develop a sense of love and appreciation for the things we work hardest for. By investing time and energy in ourselves, we can experience true joy, nourishment, and fulfillment.