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You Don’t Need More Self-Care. You Need Self-Love.

Sure, massages are great but have you ever fallen in love with yourself?

TLDR: Self-care is way of doing. Self-love is a way of being.

How many times has someone asked about your self-care practices and all you can think is, “What self-care? When am I supposed to have time for that??

Repeat after me: Self-care should never be a to-do list.

And the church said, “amen!”

Whether it’s a manicure, bubble bath, movie night, whatever… tacking self-care onto an already full to-do list reinforces our “human doing” and self-care is about returning to a human being.

Each time you grimace as you make plans for self-care, another unicorn loses its sparkle.

If you want to fix that eye-roll the next time you’re asked about your self-care, have I got the thing for you….

Fall in love with yourself.

I’m not saying this is easy. I’m a queer man raised in the Church in the rural South. The first two decades of my life was spent being driven around by Fear with Shame riding shotgun & Guilt (Shame’s first cousin) buckled up next to me in the back.

So it ain’t easy, but it is necessary. You gotta (re)discover those “little” details - even those perfect imperfections - that you make you so unique & lovable. A regular gratitude practice along with affirmations (more below) really helped me here.

With a foundation of self-love, you’ll want to treat yourself with just as much care, support, & respect as you do for those around you. You’ll soon understand that self-care isn’t selfish or even time-consuming, it’s a celebratory act of self-love.

If you can hear this GIF, we are officially friends.

You know what else happened as I embraced myself with unconditional love? Not only did I feel more love for myself and others, I felt more self-compassion and grace. Which is great because I no longer talk down to myself when I’m unable to build typical self-care practices into my schedule.

I don’t know about you, but I need ways to “fill my cup” every single day. But I can’t get a massage, go on a hike, or take a bubble bath every day. Self-love is something I get to practice every. single. day. And this is how…

1) Taking Out The Garbage – One of the biggest joys from therapy is how to identify & release the limiting beliefs that hold me back. I also learned that words of affirmation are far more important to me than I thought.

Pro Tip: Download the I Am app and listen to this loving-kindness meditation. I’ve come a long way from “I am stuck” to “Feeling stuck is a feeling and not a fact.” Speaking of which…

2) Becoming BFFs with My Feels: I was taught that some emotions are better left unexpressed and unattended to. Even though I had access to a beautiful array of emotions and emotional states, I grew up with a limited emotional vocabulary & ways to express my full being. My self-love journey has been an intentional exploration of ALL my emotions - accepting them, choosing curiosity over judgment, and exploring their foundation.

Pro tip: I love a feelings wheel for this practice.

3) Knowing My Limits – Not unlike a cat, curiosity is one of my greatest gifts. But curiosity without boundaries? Not so great (cue “curiosity kills the cat” adage). It’s essential to know what serves me well (what fills my cup) and what doesn’t (what takes from my cup). These are my boundaries, and I respect them by saying “no” to the things/events/people/food/jobs/etc. that don’t fill my cup and saying “yes” to those that do.

Pro Tip: Make a mini-date with yourself each day. It could be a morning routine, a moment in the sunshine after lunch or, just 10 minutes in the bathroom after dinner, locked away from household distractions. You’re not by yourself; you’re with yourself. Just be intentional with your time. The Calm app has short (5-minute) meditations, stories, or music.

4) Who am I, really?! – Part of my anxiety that I’ve learned to be grateful for is my obsession with self-exploration. It’s so rewarding because I’m able to know myself in more diverse and meaningful ways. It’s also exhausting (change fatigue is real!) which is why point #3 is so important. Especially as a White man, it’s important to understand where and how I can show up better for others and for myself.

Pro-tip: In addition to therapy, diving into the Enneagram and Brené Brown’s work has been life-changing.

5) Showing Myself Love – This is where self-care comes in! I take time (our most precious unrenewable resource) to nurture every aspect of my being. Sometimes it’s just closing my eyes for a few minutes to repeat a silent affirmation in my head. Or an hour on my yoga mat. A a day-long hike or a Zoom date with friends.

Pro-Tip: Sometimes I don’t know what I need. Which is why I created this self-care assessment (which you can download for free) which helps me prioritize.

Ultimately, I practice self-care because I love myself and as a way of showing myself love.

And since Lizzo makes everything better… As she wrapped her NPR Tiny Desk Concert (which I recommend watching as a self-care practice), she said,

“I just want everyone to remember, if you can love me, you can love yourself. Every single day. If you can love my big, black ass at this tiny, tiny little desk, you can love yourself.”

Now go make Lizzo (and me) proud and LOVE YO’ SELF!

How do you practice self-love? What has challenged you? What successes have you found?

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