Self-love doesn’t come easy for everyone. Some of us are conditioned to feel guilty for prioritizing ourselves above others. But we are a big part of our lives and just as important as everyone else. And if we don’t take care of ourselves, what good are we to anyone?
For those out there struggling with self-love, here’s the deal: It’s okay to put our needs above other people’s needs sometimes.
There are many situations where we need to take care of ourselves first in order to be fully functioning, happy, and useful people.
And here’s the other deal: It’s okay to not feel guilty about it.
Now, this doesn’t give us a license to be selfish little gremlins, disregarding the feelings of others and solely thinking of ourselves all the time.
But, when the time comes for us to make decisions that we know we need to make in order to take good care of ourselves, it is a-okay to make those decisions and not feel bad about them.
Here are three practical ways we can practice self-love in our daily experiences:
1. Take time for yourself
We all need breaks to recharge. For some, that means taking a night off from socializing and cuddling up alone on the couch with a book. For others, it means delving into a project or crossing off household to-dos.
How we recharge depends on our preferences, personality, and lifestyle. The important part is setting aside time to actually do it. And there’s always time to set aside, we just have to prioritize.
Taking time for ourselves is a great opportunity to do the things we enjoy without worrying about anyone else’s schedule or needs. Such times enable us to fully express ourselves and be one hundred percent authentic without anyone else looking over our shoulders.
The result feels freeing, and we end up refreshed and energized, ready to tackle new challenges and be of better service to the world.
2. Say “no”
“No” is a complete sentence. The more we practice saying “no,” the more we align our lives with what’s most important to us.
It’s okay to turn down an invitation or opportunity. Just because something’s being offered doesn’t mean we have to take it. It’s like denying dessert after a big meal – we know it’s delicious, but there’s no more room, and if we eat it, we’ll be sick.
It’s also totally okay to reject a demand. If someone needs or wants us to do something, and it doesn’t align with what we need or want, we can practice self-responsibility and just say “no.”
We can also say “no” to relationships. As much as we want to love and be with everyone, we just don’t vibe with some people. And if we force it, we risk being not-awesome versions of ourselves. So, as uncomfortable as it may be to end relationships or distance ourselves from some people, it tends to work out well for everyone in the long run.
And here’s the kicker: We don’t owe anyone an explanation.
We don’t have to provide an excuse for why we’re not doing what someone else wants us to do at the time they want us to do it. We don’t have to explain why we’re going here while they’re going there. We don’t have to define what “no” means or defend our decisions.
We can certainly offer an alternative so that we all get our needs met. But if our counter is denied, then it’s fine to say “no” and move on.
3. Stand up for yourself
Standing up for ourselves doesn’t imply aggression. Instead of standing up against someone or something, we can stand up for ourselves. It’s a mindset shift that influences our approach, especially in emotionally heightened, high-stakes situations.
Remember, we can’t control what others say or do, but we can control what we say and do. So, if we see the world as something we need to combat in order to preserve our personal comfort, then we’ll always be in battle mode and ready to pounce on others. But if we see the world as a place where people of equal value co-exist, then we can navigate difficult situations more productively.
In daily, non-confrontational experiences, we can stand up for ourselves by creating clear boundaries and saying “no.” We can make our stances known through our everyday speech and decisions and practice nurturing healthy relationships.
During confrontations, we can practice effective communication and attempt to transform the discomfort into a learning and unifying experience. Or, if we’re just not on the same frequency as the other party, we can always say “no” by ignoring or walking away. Rejecting a confrontation because we know it won’t be productive isn’t a passive move – it’s an empowering, courageous move that spares our energy for more useful tasks.
Here are three things to practice:
(1) Carve out time for yourself. It may be 20 minutes, an afternoon, or an entire weekend. Plan something that fulfills your needs and wants, and stick to the plan. Resist letting other people’s needs take precedence during that time.
(2) The next time someone asks you to do something that interferes with your needs or wants, politely say “no” without giving an explanation. Then, notice the outcome – the other person’s reaction, how you feel, what the rest of your day is like, and so on.
(3) Start setting boundaries and adhering to them, making your stance known through your daily words and actions. Pick and choose confrontations based on whether you think they’ll be productive. To everything else, say “no” and ignore or walk away.
Keep helping people and being of good use to others, and be a good friend yourself, too. You deserve your own love and attention just as much as anyone else.