SELF-Love is in the Air!

I hear the term ‘self-love’ so often nowadays it sometimes feels like it’s overused or used incorrectly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge advocate for self-love, self-care, self-awareness...self ‘anything,’ really. I just don’t think it’s always very clear what self-love actually means or how to do it.

Learning self-love in therapy

I chuckle at my therapist sometimes when she asks me what I’m doing for myself. Ummm… Silence usually follows that question because I tend to focus on caring for others and then take care of myself after. You know, if there’s any time left over after all.the.other.things. are taken care of...which there usually isn’t.

I am a caregiver by nature and by trade. I am a third-grade teacher and a mother, so a lot of little people are counting on me every single day of my life. But, as I try to learn more about self-love, its purpose is becoming clearer to me. I simply can’t take care of all.the.other.things. or all.the.other.people in my life if I don’t take care of myself first.

Ask yourself questions

Before you can give self-love, you have to first ask yourself a few questions. The first question you should ask yourself before attempting self-love is, ‘Who am I?’ I know that may seem a little strange because you are you, so clearly you know who you are, right?

That isn’t always the case. It surely wasn’t for me. I always identified myself as a mom, a wife, a teacher, a friend, and a daughter, but my therapist taught me that those things aren't ‘who’ I am, they're ‘what’ I am. ‘Who’ I am is more like this: I am someone with big, HUGE feelings. I am empathic and tend to live by what my heart tells me to do. When I love, I love BIG. When I am in fear, I feel angry and scared in BIG ways.

I live most of my days in fear of vision loss

I try to be really strong and at peace with everything difficult in my life. But, if I'm being completely vulnerable and honest here, a major part of ‘who’ I am is someone who is battling macular degeneration. The constant threat of total central vision loss means that I live most of my days in BIG fear.

Besides that, I have a lot of other ‘things’ going on that are adding anxiety, worry, and sadness to my fear. These things cause a domino effect of issues like lack of sleep and less energy to exercise and do the things I need to do in order to take care of my eyes.

How can I be my best self like that? I can’t. And nobody can fix this for me. I have to figure out how to love myself THROUGH my macular degeneration so it doesn’t take total control over my life.

Know your needs

The second question you have to ask yourself before you can self-love is, ‘What do I need?’ For me personally, I need to find ways to cope with my fear so I can take care of myself, take care of those who need me, and live my best life WITH macular degeneration...because it isn’t going anywhere.

Here’s the deal

Even after I started learning more about self-love I didn’t completely understand it. As I said earlier, I live with my heart and my heart belongs to people that I love BIG. I want to love people and I crave being loved by them in return.

But, the purpose of self-love isn’t to replace loved ones. It’s to ensure that you, yourself, are well and whole no matter what...so you can be your best self, live your best life, maintain healthy relationships with others, be successful in your endeavors, and reach all of your life’s goals.

Self-love is actually pretty easy

I’m learning that self-love isn’t a difficult task. Self-love doesn’t take up much of my time, which is good since my days are already pretty full. Here are some simple ways to self-love (with your eye health and mental health in mind)

  • Don’t talk down to yourself, talk to yourself as you would talk to a loved one. This allows you to have confidence and be brave when you need to be.
  • Fuel your body with nutritious food, and eat for comfort when you need to (use the 80/20 rule if you’re struggling to start). Your eyes are depending on this.
  • Take care of your body by exercising in ways that are fun and fulfilling for you. That fun and fulfilling part is so important. This keeps you motivated and allows you to take care of your mental health and the health of your eyes through the gifts of exercise and movement.
  • Give yourself grace, there is no way to be perfect...allow yourself leniency...when you fall, stand back up and learn from mistakes.
  • Give yourself a little bit of time alone each day: meditate, take a bath, sit on the porch with coffee to catch the sunrise, stretch before jumping out of bed, watch that show you love. Whatever it is that you enjoy, take 30 minutes to yourself to do it (not always including your workout routine). I once read a zen proverb that stuck with me: “If you don’t have 30 minutes to meditate each day, then you should meditate for an hour”...very thought-provoking!
  • Plan treat days! Whether it be with food or doing something that makes your heart happy, plan days in each month to do these things in order to rejuvenate.
  • Clean out a closet or organize something, trust me this daunting task feels really good after the fact and is really a way to clean out some stress in your mind as well!

How do you practice self-love?

I hope this article helps clear a few things up for anyone who is intrigued by or in need of self-love but isn’t sure what it is or how to do it. Do you have any other neat ways to self-love? Please share in the comments! I’m always looking for more ways to bring joy to my life.

Know yourself and love yourself first,

Andrea Junge

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