Updated: Jun 29, 2020
If I were to ask you if you loved your sister, brother, mother or friend, what would you say? Many of us would say yes.
If I were to ask you how you expressed that love to them, many of us would attempt to explain the indescribable emotion that love is, or name all of the things we do or have done for them out of love.
I’m sure if I were to ask you if you loved yourself, you’d say, “Sure.” But what would you say when I ask how you express your love of self?
*Cue the crickets*
Someone recently asked me to describe the difference between self love and self care. After giving it some thought, I settled on this:
Self care is how you practice self love.
I find that while many of us do indeed love ourselves, we are hesitant to express that kind and loving energy inward and to our own selves. And for those of us who do understand the importance of self care, we still prioritize it very low because we run the risk of feeling or looking selfish.
Taking care of yourself first can feel like a radical and selfish act for many. In these times, it's helpful for me to remember one of my favorite affirmations.
“I love myself so that I may project that same love onto others. In order to fill you up, I must first be full. Therefore I must prioritize that which is filling for me.”
Self care is more than those lavender baths I look forward to after a long day of work, or my regular nail appointments, which have now been cancelled due to this pandemic. It’s more than spending money on myself and sleeping until I feel like it (which is sometimes the opposite of self care).
Self care is also my ability to advocate for my needs on many levels. I demonstrate this in various ways. I’m going to share with you my top three (and FREE) self care practices that help to ensure my cup is never empty:
Setting boundaries is one of the first steps in prioritizing your mental health, as boundaries communicate our expectations and how we wish to be spoken to and treated.
It is important to set boundaries with your friends, family, co-workers, and anyone else whom you feel it would be beneficial (i.e. neighbors, strangers who try to touch your hair *eye roll*). It is also important to set parental boundaries. As rewarding as parenthood is, it is also a full-time job and one with little to no breaks.
Here are some examples of boundaries you might set that include other people:
● I will not engage in relationships with people who are emotionally unavailable.
● I will not answer work emails on the weekend
● I will give myself permission to turn down social outings/gatherings when I’m tired
● I will not participate in conversations that are draining, like work gossip.
We must also set boundaries for ourselves.
Here are some personal examples:
● I will listen to my body and rest when I need it
● I will not use “self-care” as an excuse to neglect my obligations.
● I will stick to my daily budget
● I will limit my screen time, especially at night.
Remember: You cannot hold anyone responsible for respecting boundaries that you have not defined.
Rest and Recovery
I am not now, nor will I ever be a member of “Team No Sleep.” Nor do I subscribe to the whole “no days off” mindset, as I feel they are unrealistic and are counterproductive to the long term progression of any goals. This mindset also perpetuates the belief that people who choose to incorporate ample rest/sleep somehow aren’t as ambitious as those who are willing to sacrifice it.
We all know the feeling of staying up late to cram for an exam, or meet a deadline at work. Sometimes, despite our best efforts to plan around doing this, moments like these may be unavoidable. However, if you find yourself constantly staying up late studying, bringing loads of work home with you, or tending to other obligations that pull you away from the vital rest that your body needs, you are putting yourself at risk for low productivity, burnout, compromised health, and overall poor quality of life.
When you prioritize self care, you integrate rest and recovery into your daily routine.
Use your support system
Often we encounter many adversities and challenges in life that can make us feel alone. Personally, I believe this is when we should lean into our support system the most. The challenge with that is it can be hard to identify who those supports are. There are different types of social support:
● Emotional. For some of us, this is the first thing we think of when we hear “social support.” These are the people that provide that loving, caring, and accepting energy. We generally put our friends and family in this category, though this won’t be the case for everyone.
● Informational. These are the people who we generally go to for advice, guidance, input, and feedback. Examples of this could include a trusted co-worker, supervisor, or spiritual leader.
● Tangible or Instrumental. This type of support is usually more direct and concrete and usually provides some type of financial assistance, goods, and even services.
● Companionship. This type of support aids in sense of belonging and can be seen in shared social activities.
I invite you to generate a list of the various people in your life and identify which support category they fall into. You will find that one person could very well fall into multiple categories.
To take it a step further, analyze what type of support you are in the lives of the people you listed. This can help you gauge the level of reciprocity you have in your relationships. It can also invite conversations for growth and boundaries. Keep this list handy to remind you of all the loving and supportive energy you have around you.
Can you imagine how much better off we would be if we assumed responsibility for ourselves in these ways? The best thing I could’ve done for myself a couple of years ago was to relinquish my personal obligation to “fix” others and their situations. To only fully assume responsibility for my own happiness, my own healing. And perhaps show others through the example I set in my life, that they may generate their own happiness and healing too.
What does self love mean to you and what ways do you practice self care? Let me know in the comments!
I cover this in the latest episode of the "No Tea, Just Juice" Podcast. You can give it a listen here.
If you haven't done so already, follow me on Instagram @therapyjuicebar and as always
Peace, Love & JUICE