When I published my post on self-love on Thursday, one reader mentioned that she wished she could believe my words. That we are love, always.
I can relate to this wishing. I’ve been in a similar space oh-so many times. For years my self-worth was wrapped around my weight, and my accomplishments.
One mistake would undo my sense of self. You’re so stupid. Only you’d make that mistake. What’s wrong with you?
In my own eyes, I was only deserving of love and care if I earned it. Those were the stories my mind would spin. Over and over. A merry-go-round of insults, shoulds and disappointments.
My self-care was virtually non-existent. I wasn’t even familiar with the term.
But here’s an important fact: You don’t have to love or even like yourself fully to treat yourself well, or at the very least, to tend to your needs.
It’s like what Therese Borchard told me about exercise for a piece I’m writing on self-care and depression. She stressed the importance of regular movement, which has antidepressant properties. She said: “I think sometimes we have to lead with the body, and the mind will follow.”
When it comes to self-care and self-love, I think sometimes we have to lead with the body, too — with action, that is — and then our minds will catch up.
We can lead with nourishing activities, and then the broken relationship with ourselves can start to heal.
Roberto Olivardia told me something similar about ADHD and motivation: “If we believe that we have to ‘feel like doing something’ in order to do it, we might not get anything done. If we simply just begin a task, we can become more motivated as the task is in action.”
In other words, we don’t need to feel stacks of self-acceptance to fulfill our needs. Of course, it’s great if we have that, and it’s something important to work on. But in the meantime, we can focus on action. And, again, our minds will follow.
We can build our lives around self-care. And we can keep practicing and practicing. We can simply start, without feeling particularly motivated. We can take a first step, and then a second.
And, before we know it, we might even have a self-care routine. Because self-care, while tough at first, feels good. It boosts our mood, feeds our soul and re-energizes us. It replenishes an otherwise empty well.
Here are some ideas to start tending to your needs and being kinder, regardless of how you feel about your body or yourself.
— Instead of beating yourself up, cope with failure constructively.
— Be mindful of the moment. As Christina Rosalie said in our self-love series:
Remembering to breathe, and bringing awareness to the moment at hand and really deeply observing: my strong legs, my steady heart beating, my clear eyes that are able to take in the pale sky and the snow melt falling from the gutters, the latte in my hands, or my pen.
When I do this, it gives me context and space to shift focus again back out into the world, and towards whatever I am doing in a way that offers more perspective.
— Consider how you’d treat a close friend — and treat yourself that way.
— Capture the bits of your day that bring you joy.
— Play more.
— Think of your favorite way to move, and start there.
— Create one thing.
— Marvel at the miracle of life.
— Take care of your basic needs.
— Start a soothing bedtime routine.
— Set one boundary, and think of how you’ll preserve it.
— Avoid weighing yourself, and toss the scale. (It feels pretty darn amazing and liberating.)
— Take a minute to visualize your sanctuary. This excerpt comes from the book Five Good Minutes: 100 Morning Practices to Help You Stay Calm & Focused All Day Long.
Sitting or lying down, place your hand on your abdomen and inhale and exhale, deeply and slowly. Visualize a meadow with a small creek running through it. You are wading in a babbling brook, and you can hear the wind and the birds overhead. The current tugs gently at your ankles. Recognize the rhythm of your breathing. As you inhale, say the word ‘warm’ aloud. Imagine the warmth of the sun and water around your body. As you exhale, say the word ‘heavy’ to yourself. Allow yourself to reach a comfortable and soothing place from within.
— Spend time getting to know yourself better.
— See a therapist. They can help you heal your body image issues and build a healthier relationship with yourself.
What’s one step you’ll take today to tend to your needs? What stands in the way of your self-acceptance or self-care? What brings you joy?