Indulging in acts of self-care used to leave me feeling dirty and shameful. Commitments to my family, Air Force career, CrossFit gym, and community service rendered me non-present in my own life. Taking even more time for self care would inevitably worsen my situation, not help it, right? At my breaking point, I met Dr. Dawn Dalili and she changed my mind.
What is Self Love?
Self-love is extending the same patience, kindness, and significance toward yourself as you would a loved one. It comes from a place of inherent worth and, as parents, is a powerful behavior to model for our children. As I’m sure you are aware, expressing love has it’s nuances ;)
In his book, The 5 Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman explains that everyone has a love tank. Everything either adds to the love tank or takes away from it. Even love, dependent upon its form (hence the 5 languages), can tip the needle one way or the other. Resiliency lives in this tank. When the tank is full, stressful workdays aren’t unmanageable, the family chaos rolls off your shoulders, and you keep moving forward. When the tank is low or empty, the typical workday seems overwhelming, your family is at the receiving end of a quick temper, and all you want to do is sleep for 20 hours straight. The latter scenario was my life one year ago and it needed to change.
With my husband’s intense work schedule, the vast majority of his time is spent out of state and/or out of communication with us. In this situation, reconciling our different love languages can only help so much. This is where Dawn delivered some mind-blowing advice: what if I filled my own love tank? The result of this simple act was both surprising and extensive.
How do you Practice Self Love?
The most effective way to practice self love is through your unique love language. Everyone is different. You may have more than one that deeply resonates with you. If you are struggling to find your language, think of the times when you felt the most loved. Think of the times you felt the most loving. Next, come up with a few ways to speak love to yourself in your love language. It doesn’t have to be expensive, time consuming, or complicated. The 5 languages and a few ideas include:
Words of Affirmation – write down 3 things about yourself that are beautiful or strong
Quality Time – read for 15-30 minutes, meditate, move for pleasure
Physical Touch – apply a face mask, get a massage, take a bubble bath
Acts of Service – cook yourself a beautiful meal, get your nails done
Gift Giving – pick wild flowers and display them, donate to your favorite charity
Why It’s the Opposite of Selfishness
When the love tank is full, we are more patient, more understanding, and more present. We are better versions of ourselves. The love for my family is the reason I must take care of myself. They deserve the best, most resilient me. This is not selfish. This is love.
I experienced a few unexpected outcomes with this new practice. First, the small investment paid out in huge emotional dividends. Setting aside 10-30 minutes per week would fuel resiliency for an entire week, not just a few hours. Second, by taking responsibility for my own emotional resources, the love in my marriage intensified in every way. Both my husband and I were free to choose each other without pretense. With my children, I became more playful and more patient. I’m not just the mother I want to be, but the mother they deserve. I challenge you to try this practice and see how it affects your life!