Author’s note: the following is adapted from my book, Ever Wish You Got Hit by a Truck? A Woman’s Manual for Bravely Changing Lanes at Any Age.
For far too many women today, life can seem a bit lackluster.
Their ability to get up and face the day with enthusiasm and a smile has started to fade, and the people around them can see that their light has dimmed.
If you can relate, I want you to know that I understand what you’re going through. At the age of 40, my marriage was falling apart, I was struggling to be a good mom, and my demanding job was swallowing me whole. I felt powerless and stuck, which made everything that much worse.
Frustration slowly invaded the space that held my joy and spark, and it dug into my fears. I started questioning myself and doubting my ability to make changes, thinking things like, “What if I’m not strong enough?” or “What if I’m too old?” and even “I wouldn’t know how to get started.”
However, I want to share something with you: you and I aren’t the only ones who have experienced these feelings. I’ve coached numerous women who are struggling with those same feelings of powerlessness and stuckness, and I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell them: you can turn things around and create a fulfilling and authentic life, and it all starts with self-love.
What is Self-Love?
Self-love is an appreciation of yourself and regard for your own physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. It grows from the actions you take in being good to yourself and showing yourself compassion, the way you would with one of your oldest and dearest friends. Don’t think for a minute that practicing self-love is being selfish in any way.
To use self-love as it relates to your desire for change, make peace with who you’ve been in the past and who you are now. Give a nod to what you’ve been through, understand how it shaped you, and then let it go. Your work here is forward-looking and forward-thinking.
Forgiving yourself for being human and for not being perfect is one of the greatest expressions of self-love. The sooner you realize no one is perfect, including you, the kinder and gentler you will be with yourself. You’ll also be less hesitant and more willing to try new things, and more likely to change up your everyday routine.
Because our society doesn’t emphasize self-love, many of us are at a bit of a loss as to how to actually practice it. However, it really isn’t hard, and the more you do it, the easier it will be.
To get you started, here are a few of my favorite activities to promote self-love:
1. Practice self-care by nourishing your body with what it needs to be healthy.
2. Be compassionate with yourself on days when you don’t feel your best or most confident so you can heal and bounce back. Know that it’s a temporary state, and beating yourself up about it will only delay your recovery.
3. Treat yourself with personal experiences. Spend quality alone time by doing special things by yourself, like having a cup of coffee solo with a piece of cake at your favorite café, or getting a massage.
4. Write a love letter to yourself. Be your own admirer and rejoice in the magnificence that is you. Once you’ve finished, you can mail it to yourself and read it for full effect when it arrives.
5. Journal. You can write out all the good and bad thoughts and feelings you have about yourself so the negative ones don’t fester, and the positive ones gain strength.
6. Honor yourself by saying “no” to things you don’t want to do. Be selective about how you spend your time and who you spend it with. Saying “yes” and being half-heartedly engaged will only drag you down, especially if it’s with people who don’t lift you up.
There are other ways of practicing self-love, such as going for a walk, taking time for yourself, or doing activities that lift you up. However, the six activities I shared here are all great starting points, so pick a few off this list that speak to you and make a point of doing them regularly.
Self-Love and Setting Boundaries
Putting self-love into practice may be unfamiliar territory for you. If so, start by believing you’re deserving of your love, add activities to your day that foster self-love, and begin to pay attention to what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed. Set boundaries when you feel this way to ensure you can do more of the things that are important to you, that you enjoy.
Having healthy guidelines, rules, or limits will increase your self-esteem and empower you to say yes (and no!) to others and mean it. When you feel the need to set a boundary with someone, do it in a clear, calm, and resolute way. Communicate with love and respect, and understand you are not responsible for the response you get.
If you’re new to speaking up about your needs, you may feel anxious, guilty, or even angry, and use too many words to overexplain your point. If this happens, focus and remember that this is a worthwhile demonstration of your self-respect. Working through these feelings may take some getting used to, but like any other skill, confidently and assertively setting your boundaries will become easier the more you do it.
As your self-love grows, especially if you tend to put other people’s needs before your own, you may find yourself saying “no” to social invitations more frequently. Be gracious but unapologetic when communicating your message. If you’re dying for a soak in the tub or a few hours alone in your pajamas to rest and recharge, the people who truly love and support you will understand when you tell them you can’t be with them.
You Have the Power to Change Your Life
We are meant to live purposeful lives with strong, connected personal relationships and fulfilling careers. I know it may seem out of reach now, but I promise you have the power to transform your own life into one that brings you true fulfillment.
The first step to bringing passion and joy back into your life is to start practicing self-love. Just this one change can move you into great things and open your mind to new possibilities. I’ve done it, and I’ve watched my clients do it. And if you commit to taking this step, I have no doubt that, sooner than you could have dreamed, you’ll also be living a life you truly love.