Self-love is important. Its presence or lack of presence in our lives affects everything—from our health to our choice of work and mate. Armed with self-love, we feel braver, and we’re less likely to act in self-sabotaging ways or to audition for the love and attention of others. Rather, we expect to be happy, to live fulfilled lives with people who care about us.
That said, self-love is often the hardest love of all. We know ourselves well, and it’s all too easy to focus on our perceived flaws and failures. While it would be wonderful if our inner voice were a cheerleader, urging us on to ever-greater heights, many of us spend our days listening instead to our inner critic—a voice whose superpower is finding new, inventive ways to tell us how insufficient we are.
The good news is that you can change that by making self-love a practice. While the idea of self-love may seem big and nebulous, the practice of it can be exactly the opposite. You can start a self-love practice today that’s fun, concrete, and easily incorporated into your daily routine, with actions that engage you creatively and stir your imagination. From that place of playful expectation, evolution is not only possible, it’s inevitable.
Here are five examples of simple yet powerful activities you might include in a self-love practice.
1. Celebrate your body—out loud.
Too many of us spend an inordinate amount of time lamenting our bodies. We’re too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short. We’re too old, stiff, tired, wrinkled. We’re not strong, or fast, or graceful enough. We look at Photoshopped models and wish we were perfect, even as we rail against our society’s preoccupation with an aesthetic that has nothing to do with real, soulful beauty.
What if, instead, you started a practice of complimenting your body, out loud? Try this: In the morning, as part of getting ready for your day, take a second to thank your body for all the stuff it does and for the way it so masterfully holds all your insides in place. (Imagine if it didn’t!) Compliment your curves and your hard-earned scars. Love your shoulders, your wrists, your ankles, and elbows. Appreciate the steps your feet take, the leaps they’re capable of. At first, this may feel awkward, but roll with it. You’ll be surprised at how it gets easier and easier to see and love your body for the miraculous feat of biology that it is.
2. Be wildly creative.
Because it is a form of self-expression, I believe that every act of creation is also an act of self-love. I can’t think of anything more basic and beautiful than our human desire to create, to make something out of nothing, or change something old into something new. Whether we’re playing music, writing a book, or building the perfect pizza, engaging creatively is like a full-body workout for the soul. In doing so, we honor our time, our instincts, our tender (often unspoken) ideas, and we connect with the most adventurous, evolutionary part of ourselves.
3. Make a list of songs to belt.
Play is the fastest, easiest way to refill our well when we feel drained by the minutiae of everyday life, and what better way to play than to sing? First, imagine yourself driving a convertible, top down, on a beautiful spring day. There’s a wide open highway ahead of you, and your favorite music blasting on the radio. Now put together your songs-to-belt playlist. Bonus points if, when you’re through, you start singing like the unselfconscious rock star you are.
4. Hold a burning ceremony.
I believe that the secret to loving yourself more and better lies in letting go. There is such freedom in shedding your limiting beliefs, the stories that no longer feel like yours, and the wounds that never quite heal. Letting go is an act of supreme generosity to your soul. One way to do that is with a burning ceremony. There’s something about the ritual that imbues your intention to let go with a reassuring, tangible weight, a physical moment of release.
Here’s how to hold a very simple burning ceremony. First, write the thing you’re letting go of on a piece of paper. It can be anything—an old resentment, an unhealthy relationship, an old definition of yourself. Fold the paper, hold it with tongs over a fire (a candle will do), and watch it burn away, all the while feeling inside the space that gets created when you let go of what no longer serves you.
5. Write a self-love mantra.
No matter how committed to self-love we are, some days it’s just hard. We don’t feel playful or accepting, kind or generous. We’re just spent. That’s when it’s helpful to have a self-love mantra—a sentence that we can say to ourselves that is reassuring and supportive and nonjudgmental. Something we would say to our best friend, or our child, or our spouse to let them know they are loved and we’re here for them. Write that sentence to yourself, put it in your wallet or your purse, and refer to it as needed.
In the end, that’s what self-love is all about, after all. Being exactly the love you need.