Self-love is a pretty big talking point these days. Often wrapped tightly around that of ‘self-care’, while they are closely integrated with each other, they are both still quite individual concepts. While self-care involves the curiosity of exploring our emotions, both positive or negative, and exploring them in a way that gives us the space to be gentle while also retaining the power to grow through the learning opportunities. Meanwhile, in my opinion, self-love is more so about our relationship with ourselves. It’s knowing our wants and needs and learning how or when to fulfil them. Doing things for us and realising that it is okay to put ourselves first. It’s a knowledge of our own self-worth.
Looking back to the beginning of 2021, I can’t say that I anticipated self-love would play such a significant role in my life currently. Honestly, it kind of snuck up on me. I had this feeling of incompletion. Even looking back to last year, there were points where I knew that I wanted or needed to do certain things. At times, such as finishing college, it was knowing what my dad would have done to celebrate, but instead of doing it for myself, I would just allow myself to suffer. Fast forward several months, and now I see so much clearer. I hope that sharing my own experience might help you in helping yourself in the future, and seeing clearer too!
There are obviously many different aspects to self-love, but I’m going to share the key ones that apply to me for now. Little gestures I perform on a semi-regular basis to upkeep this healthy relationship that I have or am trying to have with myself.
Romanticise the Little Things
A lot of my personal acceptance of self-love has been in romanticising the little things in my life. Maybe work dragged, but I can still take a moment on the walk home to appreciate the birds singing or a colourful sunset. That is one of my favourite ways to make a day seem that bit less crappy. A good sunset is just a work of art. And then, when I do get home, I am greeted by Emily, who attacks me with kisses and cuddles the second my foot is through the door. I adore those moments.
Learning to view these fine details that occur almost daily, yet still feeling immensely grateful for them. That is how I romanticise my life.
It’s incredible how such a minor adjustment to seemingly unexciting things can do such a 180 on your perspective. I truly adore the little things now. Like I wrote about before here, I love a caramel latte and pastry for breakfast on my first day off over a weekend. I love making it; although the coffee machine does most of the work, I enjoy slowly pouring in the caramel, adding the shot of espresso and always trying to make the milk look pretty in the cup and failing to achieve any art as of yet. It’s a way of slowing down my mornings and showing up for myself. It’s my first day off in a few days; I don’t have to rush.
Cleaning, I’m sure we all can agree, is a pretty mundane task. The way I try to make it more appealing is my standard: music playing on my absolute favourite speaker, candles lit and fairy lights on. It just adds to the vibe and makes the whole experience more enjoyable. Cheesy as it may sound, dancing around as I get the cleaning done is seriously wonderful. I have even branched out to making specific playlists for different moods! The one I listen to for relaxing on a lazy Sunday afternoon is clearly different to my cleaning music, which is also different to my dancing-in-the-kitchen-while-I-cook playlist.
Seeing the beauty in all these things is amazing. It turns the mundane tasks into magical little moments.
Embracing my Creative Side
I’m not sure I would say I am that talented where art is considered, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t bring me joy. In the past year, I have allowed myself to fall deeper and deeper into this world. Trying to find activities during that first lockdown, like so many of us, I choose painting, which slowly grew as a hobby; next thing, I bought some clay, an embroidery kit… Now I have a large box at home dedicated to my artistic endeavours. It has me wondering why I was so adamantly against art class in school! The liberty of being able to create absolutely anything my heart desires is inspiring.
Painting mini cards or posters of flowers, buildings or a beautiful sky that has inspired me. I am far from talented, but it brings me joy, and that is what counts. It does not matter how good I may or may not be. Likewise, clay is a very random thing, but I saw it when buying supplies for paint one day and decided to give it a go. It’s a very tough thing to do, but it’s fun! The act of moulding a grey and shapeless object to anything that comes to the forefront of your mind is therapeutic. Embracing my childlike creativities is an act of healing in itself.
As for embroidery, it all started when I wanted a jumper with an embroidered pattern on it, but I could not justify the price, so decided to teach myself! Not that I’ve actually done that just yet, but I am still learning. I enjoy it a lot more than I had anticipated. I find it is an activity where I can almost entirely zone out and forget any of my worries. It is a way for me to clear my mind and only focus on what is directly in front of me.
A Good Bath
Honestly, I really adore a good bath. It is an activity I believe I have perfected the art of. I have a press dedicated to anything I may need: bath salts, bath bombs, bubble bath, flower petals, candles, tea lights, any number of these combined in a dimly lit bathroom. I love wearing a face mask either before or during, followed by my skincare routine once I am out. If it’s not too dark, I might read a book, or if it is, I just close my eyes and relax, fully taking in the moment. I would usually listen to low key music – similar to that of my lazy Sunday afternoon playlist! But during one of my more recent baths, I went all out and listened to a meditation to really unwind. Depending on my mood, I’d either bring a glass of wine or some fresh tea. If I am really, truly focused on self-love, I would avoid the wine or any alcohol, but the tea works every bit as well.
Buying Myself Flowers!
I was pretty fortunate growing up. My dad really knew how to spoil my mam and I. If he went to the shop, he would bring us back some chocolate, or coming home from work, he might have a book with him that made him think of us. He would always buy us flowers, fancy chocolate, our favourite takeaway, and a lovely cake for special occasions. He would always surprise us. Even on Valentine’s Day, he would treat me every bit as much as he treated my mam. He has shown me the importance of celebrating all those little days.
As an adult, the downside to all of this is that I feel an immense sense of grief without my father by my side for these celebratory occasions. He is no longer here to make me feel special. And that is a hard thing to come to terms with. It has taken me a long time, but I have finally realised I don’t need someone else to buy me flowers or anything really – as lovely as it would be – I can do it for myself. I buy my own flowers. I treat myself to those fancy chocolates. I don’t need anyone else. I have made it, so my own relationship with myself is enough. And that is a compelling feeling that has taken a good while to achieve, but I am very proud of it. Obviously, it is tough, but so am I.
These are all things that help me to show myself the love I deserve. Small changes that I keep up on a regular basis. I don’t do them all every other week. I might buy myself flowers a couple times a month, a cheap little bouquet for around €5 that just brightens up my week. Afterwards, I like to take some of the petals and press them. I have a jar sitting across from me, slowly filling up with a collection of dried petals – a charming keepsake. I rarely have baths, but that just means I get to put in all that extra effort when the time does roll around again.
I think it’s about finding a balance between all ways to show love to yourself. Show yourself that you care. Do what you love yourself, don’t wait for someone else. It can be hard to remember to love yourself at times, infinitely hard. But once you make it a conscious habit, you’re on your way.