“First you have to love yourself”. Now hands up who’s hears this saying before? I imagine you’re not raising your hands as you read this, but you’re probably saying “yes I have” in your head.
It’s quite a common phrase and one that my counselor repeatedly said to me in numerous sessions, but its not really a phrase I could relate to. To love myself? I don’t know about you but to me it just seems odd, almost like sitting in a room by yourself (now I know where you may think I’m going with this but I’m not! Don’t be rude :)) as I was going to say, sitting in a room by yourself and saying “I love you Dave, your the best, I really really love you!”
Anyway, in this blog I want to explore how I was able to make this phrase real to me, make it work for me in my recovery and (I hope) how I will continue to use it moving forward.
So we’re going to look at:
- Love yourself – what does this mean?
- Why is it important?
- What can you do?
love yourself – what does this mean?
We’ve already established I couldn’t relate to the phrase, but that’s not to say others cant and also that it doesn’t make sense. You just have to make the best of what works for you.
So how did I make it work for me? Well with my limited academic brain, you wont be surprised that my answer isn’t rocket science. I simply found an analogy that works for me.
OK, for those of you that have been on a plane before, you’ll get this, and for those that haven’t it should still make sense. So before the plane takes off, the cabin crew do a pre flight safety talk. In this they say that IF the cabin was to fill with smoke, an oxygen mask will fall from the unit above your head. Also, that if you are with children, put yours on first and then help others with theirs.
This analogy worked great for me, help yourself first, because if you cant breathe and god forbid die, you’re no good to anyone let alone the child of person near to you, right? So in life, if you dont spend time helping yourself, looking after yourself, you are at a high risk of deteriorating. If, like me, you end up with mental health problems, you’re not good to anyone.
The irony in my situation was that one of my issues was trying to be the best husband and dad I could, I wasn’t looking after myself and my needs and I began to suffer to the point that I couldn’t be a husband or dad anymore?!
why is it important?
So we’ve just covered that loving yourself doesn’t mean “ooooh look at me, aren’t I brilliant” and actually means taking care of yourself and making sure that your needs are met. If you don’t, you’ll be no use to anyone!
But let’s look at that a bit more.
First of all, and this will seem quite a basic question but I’ll ask it anyway. Who’s responsibility is it to make sure that your needs in life are met? Well once you become an adult, I’m afraid the buck stops with YOU! Please please please don’t play the victim with this. “Oh I couldn’t do something because…” “This thing happened so I couldn’t do that thing for myself.” I may be being a bit blunt with you here, but I’ve learned through my experience that sometimes you have to be. It isn’t up to others to look after you, to love you or to make sure you have what you need. It’s nobody else’s responsibility but yours. AND it is so important for your mental and physical health that you do take time for yourself.
Secondly, and I’ve covered this topic in a previous blog , it’s really important for us to have ‘community’ in our lives. If you are not going to take time for yourself and look after yourself, how appealing do you think you are going to be to others? And I don’t mean in a sexual way. I mean that by taking time for yourself, you will be happier, a trait that people are drawn to. By taking time for yourself, you may take part in hobbies or sports. Well no surprise here, but I guarantee there will be others that are into the things you’re into…no matter how bizarre or strange 🙂 You will have things to talk about with others. Community is something we all need. Another benefit of this point is that you will also start to find yourself in a position whereby you can help others! And that feels great.
Thirdly, you will find that by taking part in things for yourself, by getting outside in the fresh air, by clearing things off your to do list, you will start to remove any negative perceptions you have of yourself. So what do I mean by this? When we don’t do things for ourselves and don’t look after our individual needs, we can start to be critical of ourselves or create negative perceptions. “I’ve not done this thing so I must be a bad person.” “I can’t find the time to connect with this friend/family member, I must be a bad friend/brother/son”. “I see other people on social media doing this and that, I can’t do that because…..therefore I must be rubbish at life”. When the reality is you’re a great person and chances are you’re just putting others first. Sound familiar?
what can you do?
Well as I’ve said earlier, loving yourself is not about telling yourself how good you are. It’s about helping yourself before you can help others. It’s about taking the time to make sure that your individual needs are met. At first I thought this sounded quite selfish, I remember having that exact conversation with my counselor. But it’s really not selfish to spend time on yourself if it means that you are able to function properly and help other people! Anyway, rather than make a list myself, here’s a list of things you can do taken from huffpost.com
- Sleep 8 eight hours a night.
- Wake up 30 minutes earlier than the day before.
- Workout 30 minutes a day.
- Go to yoga.
- Eat breakfast.
- Bring lunch to work.
- Take a walk around the office.
- Say no to something you don’t want to do.
- Say yes to something you haven’t done before.
- Get a massage.
- Get a facial.
- Get a manicure and pedicure.
- Get a haircut.
- Clean your room.
- Organize a drawer.
- Throw out extra clothes.
- Wash your sheets.
- Clean your refrigerator.
- Read 10 pages of a book.
- Read a blog.
- Read a magazine.
- Study your hero.
- See a movie.
- Go to the library.
- Cook a new recipe.
- Play the guitar.
- Dance to the radio.
- Sing to your favorite song.
- Call your mum.
- Call your dad.
- Call your siblings.
- Call your best friend.
- Set auto pay for your bills.
- Put £20 in your savings account.
- Write an entry in your gratitude journal.
- Send a thank you card.
- Shine your shoes.
- Cuddle with your cat.
- Walk your dog.
- Water your plants.
- Buy flowers.
- Hug your neighbor.
- Laugh out loud.
Now they’re just examples to give you an idea. Find things that suit you and meet your needs. Start small, don’t go crazy at the start, but if they’re right for you, I guarantee you’ll start to feel more positive and have a more positive outlook.
Look after yourselves.