Your First Love (Should Be You)

While we have been discussing relationships and love in the last number of articles, we haven’t looked at self love. This kind of love is foundational to our mental health and how we engage in our other relationships. So in today’s Therapists Thoughts post, Centre counsellor Teyhou Smyth examines the concept of loving’s oneself well.

Think of the people you love in your life. Family members, friends, your partner. You hold them in high regard, even when they irritate you and grate on your last nerve, as loved ones sometimes will. Are you on that list of people you love? Do you still hold yourself in high regard, even when you’re imperfect?

True love starts with you. If you can love, respect and forgive other people in your life, it is vital that you do the same for yourself.

How to love yourself?

Teach people how to treat you:

Love yourself first and foremost by establishing expectations about how others should treat you. If you tolerate disrespectful or harmful treatment by others you are not showing yourself love, nor honoring the fact that you deserve positive regard and respect.

Forgive your imperfections:

Are you judging yourself too harshly? Some people expect so much of themselves that it sets them up for failure. Ask yourself: would I expect this of someone else? Would I criticize someone else with the same standard by which I’m judging myself?

Refrain from self-abuse:

Self-abuse might be negative self-talk, harmful or risky behaviors. Taking care of yourself and treating yourself well is the best way to love and honor yourself and your life.

Spend time alone:

One cannot truly know themselves without spending some time in solitude. Even if you don’t have much alone time, make the most of those hours.

Resist the urge to fill the silence with television or social media. Spend time doing what you enjoy that engages your mind or creative interests; let yourself feel the joy of being with you.

Be your own best friend.

Get to know what you want and need:

Sometimes people can get stuck in a rut of narrow thinking when it comes to what they envision for themselves.

When we open the possibilities to explore where our values lie and what sort of life we want to live, this can make it even more clear what we want or need in a partner.

You have to know yourself before you can know what sort of partner is best for you.

How to self love?

Love needs to start in your own heart. It needs to extend toward yourself before branching out to others.

Love that is doled out to others and not to oneself can create a dynamic of resentment and misplaced anger that no one else can repair. Even if you have found yourself prioritizing everyone else in your life over yourself, it isn’t too late to make some healthy changes to show yourself love.

Sometimes self-love can mean simple acts such as noticing when you begin to back slide with self-esteem and working to correct it, or listening to your body’s need for rest, nourishment or care.

Once you begin treating yourself with the love you deserve, it will begin to feel normal to do so and you will never want to go back.

[This blog post originally appeared on Teyhou’s website]

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