Monday, October 10, 2016

Bethany's Guide to Self Love

Self - love. 

What the heck is that? It sounds so...weird. Uncomfortable. Selfish. 

Well, it sort of is. But as far as I'm concerned? The rest of the world can deal with it. Women struggle with self love every day. Wives caring for their husbands. Mommas raising a houseful of children. Often while working full time, still cleaning her own house, and doing the entire family's laundry (because even though women "are not to be confined to housework!", there's still inevitably housework to be done). Teenage girls are even being raised to put everything else before themselves. Their grades. Their extra curriculars. Their resumes, GPA's, college applications... Not to mention friends (it's important to be social!), and their family (because they wouldn't even be here without them). Right? 

We've been brainwashed. Everything else is more important. Everyone else is more important. And there's something to be said for selfless, unconditional love. But then we wonder why every girl's first love ends up being some insignificant bad boy when it should have been herself. 

Self love is just what it sounds like. Love (defined as an intense feeling of deep affection) for yourself. For who? Let's say that scary word again. For yourself. 

Because you deserve it. When was the last time you allowed yourself to receive a compliment? When was the last time you recognized your own strengths? Answer me honestly. When was the last time you felt worthy of love, attention, and affection? 

Some of you will answer a week. Maybe a month. Some will even gather the courage to say a year or longer. But if you answered anywhere on the timeline prior to yesterday or earlier today, it's been too long. 

The journey to self love is not a simple one. Nor is it an easy one. And some would say you never permanently reach it. But it's definitely an enjoyable journey. You not only end up feeling stronger in yourself and more confident in your beauty, but every aspect of your life seems to shift. Life may not get any easier. But it certainly becomes more satisfying. 

Begin the day listing 5 things you love about yourself. 
You might write them down if necessary, but I just try to find them first thing when I get up and look in the mirror. The key, however, is listing these things before I put my makeup on or straighten my hair. Don't list 5 things you love about your vanity routine. List 5 things you love about yourself. For an extra challenge, find five things you love about your body, and five things about your soul. 

Thank your body. 
Be kind to it. Instead of saying you hate your stomach rolls, be thankful you have enough food to be able to feed yourself. Instead of hating your jiggly thighs, be thankful you're still able to walk. Instead of calling yourself fat, be thankful that there's more of you to love. You should be honored that God chose you to take up space in this world. Being healthy is one thing, but don't channel all your creative energy into making yourself smaller. 

Use people-first language. 
This is slang we hear a lot in education, specifically in the special education community. Instead of saying “that autistic child,” we say “the child with autism.” It allows us to reference the child (heart, mind, body, soul…) before we reference the disability (autism), so that the disability is not defining the child. Likewise, if you struggle with a mental illness or self-deprecation, you should refer to yourself as a person before you refer to the illness or negative standard you have set for yourself. You are not an anorexic. You are a warrior who is fighting anorexia. You are not ugly. You are a woman who struggles with positive self image. Never forget to put yourself (your true, strong, beautiful self) before the battles you’re fighting. 

Keep a journal.
I know, I know. My creative, artistic, self-reflective readers just clapped their hands and did a happy dance, and my analytical, scientific, non-expressive readers let out an agonizing moan. But trust me. It doesn’t have to be a long, reflective novel each night before you go to bed. Just a few sentences about what happened that day, how you’re feeling (relaxed, stressed, anxious, exhausted, weak, etc.), and some ways you can channel that energy into self love. Positivity is a powerful thing, and I have found that I am able to generate more of it when I have first expunged all the negativity consuming my mind. 

Treat yourself each day. 
Some mornings, I have to be awake at 5:30 am for work, and my venti iced coffee from Starbucks ensures that I will embark on those early mornings as a positive, tolerant, and fully caffeinated individual. The weekends might be a glass of wine, and I have my cappuccino chocolate chip gelato reserved for that monthly emotional roller coaster when every other female craves generic chocolate ice cream. With chocolate syrup. On top of a fudge brownie. And does it have to be food? Of course not. Some nights I’ll read a book under a blanket, take a long walk with my earbuds in, do a craft, or take a drive with the windows down and music blaring. It’s easy to find a way to treat yourself. You just have to make time to do something you like. Which, I realize, is often the hardest part. 

Use your days off to decompress.
I like to call it #SelfCareSaturday. If you’ve got too much planned on a Saturday, make it #SelfCareSunday. Use the day to sleep in a little, spend time with friends/family, and maybe even get a jump start on the upcoming week to ease a little stress. I find that prepping meals on Sunday evening to cook throughout the week greatly relieves some anxiety when I have to cram dinner down my throat on my way to work, bible study, or whatever else I have going on that evening. 

Place reminders everywhere. 
I keep bible verses depicting God’s love and precious, feminine design wedged in the frame of my bathroom mirror. My scale holds a neon index card reminding me that the scale can only tell me the numerical representation of my gravitational pull, rather than my worth, intelligence, talent, or beauty. On particularly rough weeks, I have my phone give me reminders of positive quotes to keep me going through the day. 

Ultimately, take care of yourself first.
I am the world’s worst at this. There are so many other things that I could be doing! So many other people are hurting, so many other children require my attention, and so many other tasks are plaguing my planner. Wouldn’t taking some time for myself be, I don’t know… Selfish? Stupid? Counterproductive? 

No. 


Never forget to take care of yourself. Sometimes, you’re all you have.

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