How I Realized I Was Practicing Self-Care Without Self-Love
February 15, 2019
I spent a lot of my 2018 focused on self-care.
Either through writing about it, practicing it, or discussing it with friends and loved ones. Yet, at times, I felt as though I was coming up short. Empty, almost.
I visited my therapist every week, I left a job that was no longer in line with my passions, my skincare game was on 10, and I even started going to the gym more regularly. However, it always felt like there was something missing.
It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that though these were all helpful actions, I didn’t spend enough time truly loving myself and communicating internally in a way that uplifted me and aligned with my goal of self-care.
The truth is, I’m my harshest critic. So, although I may have taken a leap of faith by leaving one career path for another that I’m more passionate about, I still spent a lot of time doubting this decision. I indulged in negative self-talk if I didn’t hit specific goals or if I wasn’t “winning” like everyone else on my Instagram timeline.
Self-love is what I struggled with.
Most assume that self-care and self-love are interchangeable, which is absolutely not the case. With self-care, you can grow physically, financially, spiritually, and organizationally, but emotionally–that’s all self-love. And the way that you feel about yourself emotionally can make a great impact on the likelihood of any physical, financial, spiritual, or organizational gains.
What I was lacking was empathy towards myself; the kindness and the compassion I gave to others was not something I offered myself. After reflecting on the year I had—which was much better than I made it out to be—I realized that if I wanted to make progress, this needed to change.
Here are a few things that have helped me bring more self-love to my life:
I Noticed My ‘Destination Addiction’
I started by acknowledging that this path I’m on is made for me. Though there have been bumps along the way, it’s where I am supposed to be. And, in order to truly believe that, I needed to be more present in what was happening now—instead of feeling as though my happiness would magically increase once I achieve a particular goal.
I recently saw on someone’s Instagram page that their therapist suggested that they may have “Destination Addiction.” I had never heard of this phrase before, but once I looked it up could 100 percent relate.
Destination Addiction is “a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner,” according to Dr. Robert Holden, Ph.D., who coined the term. He goes on to say that “Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.”
Destination Addiction is "a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.”-Dr. Robert Holden, Ph.D.
As I continue on this journey of self-love, I’ve internalized that who I am and where I am right now are more than enough. Yes, wonderful things are to come, but how will I get there if I don’t focus on the path I’m walking?
I Started Embracing My Emotions
Another step to help boost my self-love is leaning into my feelings and emotions instead of avoiding or pushing them away.
Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to just “stop” thinking about something? Telling yourself over and over, “Don’t think about it, don’t let it bother you, don’t feel sad” and so forth.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m an emotional being and I can’t just dismiss them. I have to acknowledge my feelings—the same way I would if speaking to a child.
For instance, if a child is crying or upset about something you wouldn’t tell them to just stop crying, or just get over it. You’d sit them down and ask “What happened? Why are you feeling this way?”
It’s time we started giving this tenderness to ourselves.
I’ve learned to take a moment, a deep breath, and acknowledge how I feel—then ask myself why I feel this way. I follow that up by letting myself know that I am allowed to have these feelings. This helps alleviate the suffering more than wrestling back and forth with myself, further prolonging the negative emotions.
I Carved Out Time for Self-love
Lastly, truly dedicating time to myself is when I feel the most in tune with self-love.
I work from home most days during the week, so I spend a lot of time alone. I mistook this time alone for having my own “quality time,” and it essentially left me feeling lonely instead. I’d work, constantly check my phone, wonder what everyone else was up to instead of using this time to my advantage by intentionally taking more moments for myself.
I’ve learned that taking moments—true time out of my day to focus on myself—is key.
Whether that’s journaling or sitting quietly in the kitchen alone enjoying my cereal without any electronic devices. My favorite instances are when I’m doing my hair in the bathroom (which for Black women with natural hair can take 45-minutes or more!). I put my phone on Do Not Disturb, turn on an uplifting podcast and separate myself from the world around me. These moments are when I’ve found the most inspiration and am able to be the most introspective.
Self-love isn’t something that can be found overnight and forgotten about. It is something that, if nurtured, can make the biggest impact on a person’s life.
Now, I know to never leave it out of mine ever again.