Estimated reading time: 23 minutes
What does self-love mean?
It’s about understanding your own needs, acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses, and developing an unshakeable core of acceptance and appreciation for who you are.
Self-love is the practice of taking time in your day to make sure YOU are taken care of, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This takes the form of engaging in activities that make you feel good such as exercise, meditating, or treating yourself with grace and kindness.
This blog post shares my story of coming home to myself by discovering what self-love means.
You’ll discover the first steps to living an inspired life in a state of appreciation for your authentic self.
How to Start a Self-Love Journey
We read about self-love inspiration on self-care blogs and social media without really thinking about what it feels like in practice.
Positive affirmations from authoritative resources about personal development, personal growth, and mental wellbeing with images of people who seemed to have figured out the secret to life flood our feeds.
In these posts, we see the outcomes of people who have learned how to make better choices to become a better person and live a better life.
The Urgency for Self-Love
Speaking for myself, there was a time when I would immerse myself in filling my feeds with new things like self-care ideas and the importance of self-love.
I set goals with strategies to overcome low self-esteem. Looking back, I was in such a state of panic I was convinced my goal of finding the right way to self-love needed to be achieved in a single day.
One of my favorite messages in my feed was about how changing your life is one decision away. I would ask myself, “how?”
- What is the best way to achieve a change of life?
- What are the fastest and most effective ways to shift from low self-esteem to real self-love?
I was desperate to see myself in the bathroom mirror, embracing myself because I would finally know what self-love means.
Slowly, over time, I started to realize we are all on our own journey and true self-love comes from strong foundations of a state of being.
I learned how a daily practice including the simple steps to make positive changes in small things is a great place to start.
The first step is healthy choices.
If you’re making conscious choices for your well-being, you will see how we are always in the right place, at the right time, and with the right people.
How do you achieve self-love?
- choose healthy relationships
- choose your tribe consciously
- put yourself together
- lifelong learning
- choose love
Living abroad has created space and time to look at my life from a bird’s eye view. These are five key lessons I have learned in the past few years of my travel. Each lesson is embedded in choosing love for self and others:
Changing Your Life is One Decision Away
We read inspirational memes and posts on social media daily without really thinking about what it feels like in practice. Changing your life is one decision away? How?
My soul sister, Karen, and I both decided at the same time in June 2019 that we were going to take massive action to change our lives.
Both unhappy with aspects of our lives and searching for how to live a fulfilled life, we discussed work, family, community, travel, and our life’s passions. At this very moment, both of us sitting together at Tim Horton’s in south Calgary, Alberta Canada she decided to move to her home in Ireland and I decided to move to China.
She boarded her plane in July and I boarded my plane in December. Not knowing what to expect, we both ventured into unknown territory, leaned on each other in the dark times, and celebrated our successes.
These were big moves with ripple effects throughout all of our relationships and experiences. Each of us felt resistance within and around us. We leaned on each other throughout our journeys abroad.
Choose Healthy Relationships
Changing your life is as simple as deciding what you will allow to flow into you.
Choosing healthy relationships and consistently setting healthy boundaries for yourself is something you can do today.
These are some things to start today:
- choosing what food you will eat,
- what movies you will watch,
- what books you will read,
- what activities you will participate in,
- what music you will listen to,
- how you will spend your money,
- who you will spend your time with,
- and so on.
We all have the potential to live our best life and to live to our fullest potential right where our feet land.
Balancing self and others in the relationships that mean the most to us begins with understanding our core values and setting healthy boundaries from that space.
Self-Love Means Choosing You First
Choosing ourselves first, above all else is a form of self-love. I have learned we are all one decision away from changing our lives by making ourselves a priority.
Removing the things not bringing you joy, or wasting your time, energy, and resources helps you get focused on the life you want to live and who you want to become.
Making conscious choices for my desires helped me achieve more than I ever imagined in one year!
Last year I completed a Certificate in Project Management, completed a Master’s of Education (Teaching Multilingual Learners), wrote a children’s book, and settled into my new healed way of being by consciously choosing what flows in and what flows out of me and my life.
Things seem clearer and my future is focused. It’s a great space to live in.
Self-Love Means Choosing Your Tribe Consciously
Throughout our lives, we encounter many people. Some we hold close, and others move on.
Karen always reminds me people are with us in our journey of life for reasons or seasons. I am grateful for those who showed me the reasons but hold those close who remain with me throughout the seasons.
As we grow, we change. Some people may disappoint us in their response to our growth.
We must remember it is our growth, not theirs.
Growing may mean letting some people go and that is ok. You are ok. What you are feeling is normal. You do not need to judge your feelings.
Choose your tribe members who support you, challenge you, embrace you, and love you throughout. People who you learn from and feel the belonging and assurance of a reciprocal relationship.
Self-Love Means Choosing Your Narrative
When my dad was in palliative care, he feared the imminent death he faced.
He asked me if I am ok. I said, “Daddy, close your eyes and remember us sitting in the boat on a sunny day. Hear the water, feel the sunshine.”
He closed his eyes and smiled. “Smell the fresh air of the north. Do you see it?”. He replied, “Yes baby girl.”. I said, “Daddy when I miss you, I can love you from here”. He nodded, hugged me and we continued with our day.
This is the thing, we will lose people and we will let people go, and we can love them from here.
Choose the people you want around you and invest in your relationships with those who get this. Hanging on, trying to prove your worth, and giving without reciprocation, are all indicators you may find value in spending some time within to see what you are needing in your relationships.
None of us do anything because of someone else.
We all behave based on what we need. It’s not about you, and it’s not about me. Remember this, please.
After taking the time you need to reflect and once you are clear, go and find your tribe. They are out there waiting for you!
Self-Love Means When the World Falls Apart Put Yourself Together
In 2020 I spent 17 weeks in isolation with no physical human contact. This was life-changing.
In 2022, I spent 12 more weeks for good measure in limited isolation with access to our garden to take Cathy, our golden retriever, out for her bathroom breaks.
I must say, my time in 2020 prepared me and the second time around I didn’t feel the fear and angst I did the first time around.
I was prepared in mind, body, and spirit. I had time to order groceries and supplies, I was able to get fresh air a few times a day, and Cathy and I learned the discipline to climb six flights of stairs to burn off excess energy.
The lesson in these experiences is we need to adapt when the world is falling apart around us.
This period of my life allowed me to go within and clear out what was no longer needed so I could be open to receiving what was waiting for me.
Being isolated from human physical contact gave me a deeper appreciation for my spiritual practice. Leaning on my elder’s teachings and ancestors with smudge and prayer each day helped me to keep focused on living in the moment and reminded me it is all a moment in time and I will pass through.
Sometimes when prayer wasn’t enough, I learned to pick up the phone and say, “I don’t know if I am going to make it.”. Reaching out when we are scared and vulnerable takes courage.
Knowing our tribe helps to ease the process of asking others for help in our darkest moments.
Self-Love Means Choosing How You Spend Your Time
My soul sisters and brothers and I invested in hours-long FaceTime calls during this time. I am grateful beyond words. My experiences abroad at this time in our world have given me a deeper appreciation for those around me, especially those of you who rallied around me in my darkest times. FaceTime calls, text messages, blog comments, and emails have warmed my heart and reminded me I am loved and my tribe is with me always.
Lifelong Learning is a Lifeline
Investing in yourself with both tangible and intangible assets creates value and confidence you will not find by any other means.
My experiences in China showed me I still have a lot to learn. Moving to a foreign land with a different culture, language, and way of life put me in a classroom.
Simple day-to-day tasks like getting mail, ordering food, setting up a bank account, doing banking, buying a SIM card, and visiting a doctor were new to me.
I needed to fast-track my learning, acceptance, and resilience in order to survive.
Self-Love Means Choosing a Growth Mindset
People have told me that once you spend one year in China, you will make it.
I am now in year four and know what they meant by that statement.
No one consistently speaks English here. Especially in Hainan. Learning Chinese pinyin and characters is essential to communicate and feeling connected to the community around me.
Now that the MEd. is done, I will continue to take Chinese classes. I do feel confident when I am speaking Chinese in the community, even with my Chinglish errors.
I can make purchases, request medical care and prescriptions, shop in the markets, order food in restaurants, answer and respond to telephone calls and text messages, and communicate my address to delivery people.
I have much more to learn as I believe learning Chinese is a lifelong adventure. My proficiency is a beginner at best, yet I feel connected and understood.
Choosing Love Opens You up to Being Love
On my self-love journey, I continue to learn about being love.
Shedding old karmic systems of beliefs is important in this process to get to the root of your being.
Being away from my loved ones and periods of isolation provided me with the perfect opportunity to reconnect with myself. In the spirit of seizing the moment, although unintentionally, I was forced to decide if I was willing to choose love for myself.
I could either lay down and give up, or I could dive in and learn how to love myself wholly.
Exploring all parts of myself was essential to deciding what to keep doing and what to let go of. It was a painful time of clearing out the clutter of past lives I lived. In the end, it was the greatest gift I could only have given to myself.
Self-Love Means Choosing to See Love
I learned how to see love around me, how to reframe my perception of love, and how to be open to receiving the love I had longed for.
Love is in the fabric of my family relationships, friendships, work relationships, and now in my intimate relationship.
Shifting from wanting love to being love opens us up to attracting what we desire in this life. Connection, belonging, and security. This is my recipe for how to love and be love. These three key ingredients provide a foundation for all relationships, starting with your relationship with yourself.
Self-Love Means Choosing a Self-Love Practice
We all need a method to mediate our relationships with ourselves. I used painting.
Creating paintings was my time to immerse myself in art and music. I would put on my most comfortable jammies with my playlist on a Bluetooth speaker and sing my heart out while I painted.
This process was therapeutic and cathartic. Looking back now, and reviewing my personal masterpieces, I can see not only what I was experiencing at the time of creating each painting, but how my painting craft has evolved over the past three years.
Moment after moment I was surprised and thrilled with how becoming aligned with our truest selves, while grounded in these three foundation blocks, manifested what I had been waiting for.
Taking my time to consciously look at every possibility presented to me, I was able to see what and who I wanted to spend my time with very clearly.
Being love puts us into a state of light.
Self-Love Means Recognizing Love in Others
Others who shine the light within us will be presented in our lives and we will recognize them when we see them. It genuinely makes us feel like our sunshine has quadrupled being around them.
Doc (Murphy) is my mirrored source of light. When we met it was unexpected. Neither one of us thought we would randomly meet someone at a medical clinic at the Visa office who would become our person.
I was spiraling after receiving my medical results and learning the name of the congenital heart issue I live with. Although minor in nature, it was devastating for me at the time as I was so scared to have to give up my life abroad at some point because of a health issue.
In a random act of sharing our contact information, he taught me about it as he told me only after the fact he is a physician and surgeon on residency to specialize in cardiothoracic surgery.
What are the odds? In China, we add people on WeChat almost daily, and here we were chatting with each other and he is specializing in the heart.
We developed a beautiful friendship over weeks of talking about our passions, what brings us joy, our goals, what we want to learn, and our interests.
We spent time with friends, danced the nights away, played cards, watched NFL football, and shared experiences together.
Self-Love Means Courageously Following Your Heart
Following one weekend when I went away for the night to another city, I realized how much I missed being around Murphy.
My mind was upside down with questions about why I missed him so much. Looking back, it was funny because he had previously asked me if I was interested in dating and I said I wanted to be friends. I wasn’t ready.
His response was to be around me in whatever form I wanted because he valued me and enjoyed our time together.
Our friends kept asking me what I was afraid of and why I was waiting for someone when someone is right in front of me. “What are you waiting for?” , “What are you afraid of?”, “He adores you!”
The funny part was now I had to be the one to share that I wanted more for our relationship and I was terrified. I was faced with another choice. To choose love and be love or chose to continue to believe this kind of love is for other people.
We decided to begin this journey together three years ago and each day I am so happy to not only be in love with Murphy but to be love with Murphy.
He and I have both done our internal work to live in a state of self-love. We speak the same language, and our spirituality intersects with a solid belief that our ancestors are in everything.
Choosing love and being love is not about a relationship. Choosing love during our days opens us up to knowing love when we see love in all aspects of our lives.
Self-Love Means Setting Boundaries
In our union, Murphy and I are clear about our boundaries for what our “self” needs first.
Starting with a foundation of core values guiding our personal lives, we are able to intersect our core values and boundaries with the life we aspire to live together.
Looking at our relationship as an entity on its own helps us each to check in with each other and our relationship needs. I am grateful as we are each consciously aware of the two living entities we are responsible for: self and relationship.
Spoiler alert: this type of living is a load of work.
I will say, when we choose love, choose our tribe, put ourselves together, and adopt a growth mindset to keep learning, we are on a trajectory of transformation to becoming love.
Thanks for stopping by!
Until next time,
‘Eat, Pray, Love’ (Gilbert, 2007)
Deepak Chopra Resources
Yoga With Adriene (30-Day Yoga Challenge)
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