Self-love is hard to master, but as author and life coach Camilla Sacre-Dallerup explains, it’s essential for our wellbeing – here’s how to practice it
One thing I know for sure is that it doesn’t matter how successful you are, how much money you are making, how strong you are, whether you are a man or a woman, self-love is for everyone. Loving yourself is not reserved for a select few, but something we all deserve. You, yes you, deserve to be loved. If you feel a void within, if you have been searching outside of yourself for ways to feel love, if you have ever doubted whether you are enough and whether you are loved, it’s time to go to the ‘mind gym’. Let’s exercise the love muscles now and create a clear pathway between your mind and your heart. I want you to switch your focus from whoever, or whatever, has been draining you or upsetting you, and allow yourself to focus fully on how magical and wonderful you are. Think of it like that moment on an aeroplane when the aircrew tells you to put on your own oxygen mask before attending to your child. It feels selfish, but it makes total sense – you can’t help anyone if you are dead! It is time to ignite the love within you, fill up your love cup and let it overflow – there will be so much love, you’ll be able to spread it far and wide. The way you love yourself affects all aspects of your life, not just romantic relationships. It can affect your friendships, your career and your body image. The need to search for validation outside of yourself and settling for less than you actually want all changes when you truly love yourself.
In order to write this and ensure I walk the walk, I’ve done a bit of a spring clean of my own self-love practice. It’s just like your wardrobe – once in a while it needs a good old declutter and tidy up. Upping your self-love practice doesn’t have to be complicated – for example, it can be as simple as changing the way you speak about yourself to others, and to yourself; moving on from a friendship that’s draining you, as you start to truly value yourself; and knowing you are enough.
I believe that as a society we have never needed self-love and self-care as much as we do now. People are under so much stress with the pace of life, juggling careers and home lives, not to mention the pressure placed upon us by social media and our high-tech lives. “I’m overwhelmed” is probably the concern I hear most in my practice. At times I feel that too and those are the days that I meditate twice as much.
Self-love and self-care are what we need to soothe ourselves. Many of my clients, no matter how successful they are professionally, lack something in their personal lives and that something is love, especially self-love. I’ve seen the most powerful and strong business people moved to tears (even those who tell me they never cry) when I have simply asked them to put their hands over their hearts and then say something nice to themselves, like “I’ve got this” or “I’m doing the best I can, and that’s enough.” It seems so crazy to think that we would say such things to our friends all the time, yet neglect saying them to ourselves.
I want to share one of my most powerful tools which I use with my clients and for myself, to awaken your self-love. To love yourself is your birthright, it’s within you, but it may take some practice to become really good at it and that’s OK. The following exercise will help loving yourself become second nature.
Write a love letter to yourself
Writing a love letter to someone we really love is pretty easy, so why can it be so hard and almost silly to write one to ourselves? As easy as it can be to say nice things to others and compliment them, it can be difficult to say them to yourself. Yet it is so important because your opinion of yourself matters, it matters more than anyone else’s.
In this letter you are going to tell yourself all the nice things you would like someone else to tell you, but it’s going to mean even more because this is a true act of self-love, and because we both know it doesn’t matter what other people tell us unless we believe it ourselves. No matter how cute or charming someone else thinks you are, you are not really going to acknowledge and accept the compliment unless you believe it to be true yourself. This is why relying on outside validation is not sustainable.
Keep the letter simple. You can either make it specific to a current situation in your life or more general about loving yourself. As an example, I’ve given some of the words I like to use in love letters to myself. Get creative and write the most loving letter to yourself you have ever written. This experience is for you, so make it an act of self-love. Sit somewhere relaxing, make your favourite drink (mine is a matcha tea or coffee) and play your favourite tune. (I’m obsessed with Weightless by Marconi Union – backed by neuroscience, it’s written specifically to calm the mind. I feel it helps me relax and let the words flow.)
Dear Me, or write your name (whichever feels best to you), I’m so proud of you for how you are being disciplined with your self-compassion practice and making time for it every day. I want you to know that you are always loved and supported, even in the moments when you feel alone. Always know you are infinite love and light. You are always enough!
And so on…
Another example might be to write how proud you are of yourself for handling a situation the way you did, or to tell yourself that even though you are feeling hurt and sad at the moment, know that you are loved and that it will pass, that you are a really amazing human being and that the world needs you.
You can be as creative as you like – after all, this is your love letter. Mention as many nice things you can think of about yourself and really notice how you feel as you are writing the letter – really allow yourself to feel each word. You can read it back to yourself if you want to – it’s really powerful to read it aloud and I have had clients who have read it to themselves in the mirror, to me or even to their partner. Do whatever works best for you.
For more, read this It’s Not You, It’s Me: How to heal your relationship with yourself and others by Camilla Sacre-Dallerup (£9.99. Watkins)