Most people, when confronted with the term ‘self-love’, conjure up a picture of a narcissistic person, adoringly staring at their own image in the mirror. Others, at the sheer thought of it, start feeling either selfish or guilty or both. Yet others might have a yearning desire to start looking after themselves a bit more, loving themselves a bit more, overcoming that feeling of guilt to - at least once in a while - put their own needs above the needs of others but they can’t. Either they don’t know how to or they immediately discard this yearning desire by telling themselves that this is not the time, not the place or not for them.
The truth is that self-love has nothing to do with selfishness or narcissism. Quite the contrary. Self-love is the ability to honour and respect your own values, and to set healthy boundaries and standards in life: for your career, your self-care and your relationships: romantic and non-romantic. In essence, it is your ability to (finally) acknowledge that your happiness, your love, your well-being and balance actually matter. Yes, of course, there are situations in which it is important to tend to others’ needs; however, if your own needs are not met, if you are out of balance, then how can you meet other people’s needs and how can you give them your best if you’re not at your best?
Self-love is a big topic and in this article, we’re covering three quick ways on how to quickly assess the level of self-love in your life. Before I continue, let me point out one thing: like so many things in life, self-love is a process; a life-long journey with a lot of ups and downs. There will be days that you love yourself and your life utterly and completely, and there are others on which you can barely stand yourself - let alone look at your reflection in the mirror. And that’s okay. It happens. What matters most is what happens next: what you do and say to yourself after the fact.
Be this as it may, here are three quick ways to assess your level of self-love in your life right now.
1. Your environment speaks of loathing not loving
Have a look around you. What do you see? Do you love the furniture in your place? What about the decor? Or the utensils you use on a daily basis? How about your clothes? Do you love them or will they just do? And the cleanliness of your place? Does it speak of love or loathing?
Let me share with you why this matters. Your surroundings will give you a good indication on how much you value yourself. You might say: “but I can’t afford anything more expensive”. Or: “but I don’t care about materialistic things.” Totally fine. That doesn’t mean though that you need to put up with broken or budget-level pens, non-matching socks with holes, or living among dirty washing and dishes. My personal turning point was when; one day - just like any other - I picked up one of my kitchen towels and examined it closely. It was old with multiple holes and irremovable stains in it. Looking at it, I pondered: “what does this say about me?” Nothing too good about self-love; that much was certain.
So ask yourself, on a scale from 1 to 10 how happy are you with your current environment? Is it making you feel good about yourself or not? And if the answer is no, what is one small thing you can do today to make yourself feel better?
2. You are who you hang out with
This is a little mantra I live by. In short, the people closest to you will be a major influence on your behaviour, views of seeing the world and how you deal with life. I also believe that we attract who we think we deserve. This simply means that people and things are coming into your life based on your vibration. Yes, it sounds a bit woo-woo; however, when you examine your relationships, you will often find that the people around you reflect your current feelings about your life and yourself.
A quick way to test the quality of your current relationships is to ask yourself two simple questions. Firstly, “after I’ve seen my friends, do I feel energetically recharged or drained?” If for a particular friend, the answer is “drained” most of the time, then you might want to consider limiting your exposure to this friend. This is especially the case if you continue to carry their “negative vibes” through the rest of your day. The second question is: “Do I like myself when I am in company of this friend or not?” This is a really good question because sometimes the people around us bring out the best in us (keep those!); at others the worst, and we might find ourselves behaving in ways that we really don’t enjoy.
As an example, every time I hung out with a friend of mine, we ended up gossiping about mutual friends and other people, a trait I don’t really exhibit with other people. Afterwards, I would feel guilty and angry with myself for behaving in a way I actually despised. Of course, I couldn’t blame her for my behaviour; however, what I could do was to stop buying into the gossiping. Once I did that, I found that deflecting all that negativity was too draining for me and, although I still think she’s a pretty lovely person, I distanced myself. Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to walk away or, at least, redefine our relationship with others.
3. You ask “do I deserve it” instead of “does it deserve me”?
A third way is to monitor your inner self-talk for a while. How many positive things do you say to yourself as opposed to negative comments? Pay special attention to inner commentary surrounding one of the biggest self-love blocks: deserving.
Too often we believe that we don’t deserve something: opportunities, people, nice stuff, good luck,… you name it. Yet, to believe that we don’t deserve something, to begin with, is a false assumption. Let me share with you how I learned this.
Prior to joining a particular company, I was in complete and utter awe of them. In fact, I felt quite intimidated by their amazing achievements and vision, and I doubted that I’d be good enough to be a good fit for them. In short, I didn’t think that I deserved to be part of their movement. But I continued to dream of joining them, and - lo and behold - 5 years’ down the track they hired me.
Here is the fun fact though. Once I got to know the company from the inside and observed how people were treated and treated each other, I realised that it was not the case that I didn’t deserve them. Quite the contrary: they didn’t deserve me. Needless to say, I resigned soon after to move onto a company that could appreciate what I had to offer.
So the next time you are silently thinking to yourself something along the lines of “I am not good enough for this” or “I don’t deserve this”, think again. A much better question to ask is: “Does it deserve me?”
Obviously, there are other ways to assess the level of your self-love in your day-to-day life. We covered three quick ones to evaluate where you’re at right now. This allows you to take immediate, small steps for creating an environment, circle of friends and inner self-talk that is geared towards self-love instead of self-loathing. You deserve it!
Maike Sundmacher is an NLP therapist, author and trainer who is passionate about people, learning and coffee. With the tag line “Love yourself first”, she encourages women to increase their self-love and self-acceptance to improve the quality of their relationships and life. Maike can be reached by email or via her website.