Food For Thought: Fall in Love with Yourself
Today we recognize Valentine’s Day, a holiday that celebrates love and affection. We usually examine our various relationships with others and nurture them in many different ways. But how often do you stop to enrich perhaps the most significant relationship you maintain throughout your whole life—the one with yourself? Motivational speaker and author Leo Buscaglia, PhD, (also known as “Dr. Love”) once said, “To love others you must first love yourself.” In a world that often conveys messages suggesting you should do or be more, it is even more important to be your own advocate and fall in love with taking care of yourself. There are many roads that lead to self-love and appreciation, and each one looks different for everyone. The following suggestions only scratch the surface, but any of these steps are a great start to loving yourself more fully.
Are your beauty standards influenced by social media? If so, you’re not alone. Studies have identified an inverse relationship between time spent on social media and self-worth: the more time you spend on these accounts, the more likely you are to experience a decrease in self-esteem. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and forget we all take different paths. Facebook and Instagram are flooded with “fitspiration” accounts that showcase the modern-day Aphrodite or Adonis, leaving much to be desired when comparing our mortal selves reflected back in the mirror. How might your life change if you replaced those accounts that confine the concept of beauty to perfection, with accounts speaking to your strengths? What if instead of scrolling through a feed telling you through words and images that you’re not doing enough, you encountered a stream of messages telling you that you are unique; that your body works with you, not against you; that the love you carry for yourself inspires others; and that beauty is felt and recognized from within…? Regardless of who you follow online, these are all messages you can choose to explore for yourself. Be kind to yourself and identify—out loud—those things which make you feel beautiful but for which you don’t give yourself enough credit. Maybe it’s that one color you can rock in any outfit, or the way you wear your hair. Maybe beauty has little to do with your appearance, and you shine most doing the things you love; or sharing your most genuine self with the ones you love—in laughter, on the most ordinary day, or sometimes even in the tears you shed in compassion.
Just do YOU
Taking care of yourself involves meeting all your needs, physical and emotional. Make yourself a priority and ensure you are meeting your basic needs, like getting enough sleep. Chronic bouts of sleep deprivation have been associated with increased hunger, feelings of anxiety and/or depression, and, ultimately, chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension. Getting adequate rest sets you up for fuller days, improved mood, and general wellbeing. When thinking about health, most people automatically think “diet and exercise”. Take those terms broader, though, and discover what works best for you. Moving should not have to feel like punishment. Do the things you love to do and try new things that excite you, and you will usually increase your physical activity while finding joy in the movement! Likewise, we are meant to take pleasure in the food that fuels our bodies. Discover new ways to enjoy your food by practicing mindfulness when you eat. Stop to really savor your food and explore the different tastes and textures, observing how they make you feel. Being present in the moment helps you slow down, allowing your stomach to acknowledge fullness or satisfaction. Whether you’re gardening, learning a new dance step or recipe, or resurrecting a passion for painting, treat yourself often to those experiences that make you happy.
Find Your Tribe
As you consider some practices that might deepen your relationship with yourself, understand that you still are not alone. Surrounding yourself with the people who give you hope, unconditional support, and love accentuates your efforts. This might involve forming a close circle of friends with whom you can share struggles or accomplishments, joining a network of people with a common vision or cause, or it could even mean seeking private, professional help to understand yourself better. Whomever you choose to spend that time with, be sure the people in your life build you up, not down. Engage only in the moments that feel right to you, and express gratitude for those individuals who simply… “get” you.
Health is so much more than a number on the scale, stretch marks and wrinkles, or the size of clothes one wears. It begins inside, in the mind. If what we believe is what we become, we must each believe we are worthy of peace and happiness. That picture may look different for everyone. The journey, however, starts with the universal language of love.