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What Self-Love Is (And Isn't)

We live in an age where talk about self-love and self-care has become a casual part of our daily conversations. With a combined 81.3 million posts hashtagged on Instagram, this wave of self-nurturing has evolved beyond a trend and into an entire movement and industry.

I am not throwing shade in any way. I have definitely contributed to that 81.3 million pot of posts, and I will probably continue to as long as I have Instagram. I think that naturally, things become trends as we bring things and important topics into our collective awareness; and self-love is one of those things.

However, I want to clarify from a spiritual perspective, what self-love is (and isn't) and how to cultivate more genuine self-love in your life.

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Before we start unpacking self-love, I want to acknowledge unconditional love and why it's impossible to truly love oneself without full understanding of what it means to love unconditionally.

Unconditional Love

Is total acceptance for how someone exists, including the parts of them that are still growing and developing. To love unconditionally means exactly what the word suggests: to love without conditions. Therefore, unconditional love does not say "I love you only if you do X,Y, and Z for me." Unconditional love does not set requirements or a checklist to be completed before it can exits. Unconditional love has total acceptance, recognition, appreciation, and care for another person whether or not there is always reciprocation.

In other words, to unconditionally love someone is to have Love for them, beyond actions and love language. It's about total acceptance and appreciation for a person regardless what they do or don't do for you.

Loving Yourself Unconditionally

Ironically, we might find it easier to forgive others before ourselves. Do you still overthink choices and decisions made in the past? Do you feel guilty for things that have already happened and sometimes experience stress, worry, or anxiety due to these past events? Loving yourself unconditionally might feel easier on paper than in practice, but today I want to remind you:

You deserve the Love you give to others.

You deserve your own time, energy, and forgiveness. You deserve to give it to yourself and to only accept the Highest kind of Love from other people.

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So What IS Self-Love?

Self-love is unconditional love for ourselves. It's our ability to empathize with our growth and to nurture ourselves in the midst of imperfect moments. It is also our ability to understand what we need and to prioritize giving ourselves these things.

A commitment to self-love also means committing ourselves to a path of self-understanding and growth.

Self-Love is not...

Self-love is not buying new things or going on dinner dates. Although a good bubble bath and a snapshot hash-tagged #selfcare is always fun, these things don't always go past the surface of our psyche. Although self-love can be expressed in material things, it doesn't mean that self-love can be felt long-term through material things.

Practical Suggestions to Cultivate Self-Love

  1. Investing in your own growth Wanted to study something or learn a new skill? Investing in yourself and your interests is a great way to prioritize your growth. Your cooler and wiser future self thanks you!

  2. Practice self-understanding Before you judge yourself for how you act/ react, take a step back and observe what your emotions and responses are telling you. Unpacking your triggers and knowing your own behavioural patterns is a huge step towards deepening self-acceptance and understanding. A good therapist or trained practitioner can help with this too.

  3. Improve your pep-talk Think about the times you've given someone else a pep talk. Think about the times you've volunteered your time and energy to coach someone through their problems. Think about the care, patience, and guidance you've given others. Now turn that pep-talk inwards and start talking to yourself as you'd talk to a friend in need.

  4. Nurture the right relationships Beyond how we directly treat ourselves, self-love is also expressed by the kind of treatment we accept from others. Spend more time and energy in the relationships that fill you up, not the ones that drain you. Recognize who is supportive of your growth and what kind of people raise your vibration. Period.

The path to deeper self-love and acceptance isn't always in a straight line. Sometimes the road twists, and turns, but acknowledge your daily wins. Notice when you're improving your self-talk and celebrate the times you invest in yourself. Your time and energy doesn't belong to anyone but you. You deserve to choose where and how you want to spend it, especially if it goes towards things that bring you more high-vibing joy in your life.

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