Give Self-Love a Chance
By Irene Roth
Photo by Andrew Thornebrooke
Kindness makes the world a much better place because we extend attention and care to others. We may open a door for someone, or we may simply smile and lend a listening ear to someone in distress in a grocery line up.
However, how often are we kind to ourselves? That is a question that I have asked a few of my chronically ill friends lately. And the answer they gave me didn’t surprise me as much as it saddened me. I too was in the same boat and felt the same way.
Self-love is the practice of treating yourself with kindness, compassion, and love. Just as you would give a friend some of your time, understanding and respect, authentically engaging in self-love requires that we offer the same to ourselves.
Loving yourself is a powerful thing to do. However, it can be difficult to achieve. Why? Because are our own worse critics. We judge ourselves more harshly than we would anyone else. I guess there’s something about being privy to our feelings and emotions.
Part of self-love is recognizing that we are more partial to loving others than caring for ourselves. We may see aspects of ourselves that we don’t like. We may even judge these to be difficult to accept because some of us think we should be perfect. And when we’re not, we judge ourselves harshly.
Why is self-love important for a chronically ill person?
If we don’t love ourselves, our self-esteem will suffer. We will feel like we’re less than anyone else. But this simply isn’t true.
It can be easy to believe this since we’re chronically ill. We tend to think of ourselves as damaged individuals. However, we’re anything but. We are just as valuable as we were when we weren’t chronically ill. We must just learn to pace ourselves more and take better care of ourselves.
This requires that we do things that are in line with our health and well-being. For instance, if we’re tired, we should rest. If we didn’t sleep well last night, we should take a few things off our to-do list. But all of this requires that we develop a loving mindset towards ourselves.
Here are a few ways to do this.
1. Cultivate mindfulness. There are links between mindfulness and a range of positive outcomes, including healthy self-esteem, which is related to overall life satisfaction. Cultivating mindfulness is most often pursued through a regular meditation practice. Even ten or fifteen minutes a day of focusing on your breath in a quiet space and developing an awareness of your thoughts can put you on the right track towards caring for yourself and being kind when your energy levels dwindle.
2. Speak positively to yourself. How we talk to ourselves privately and internally are very important and powerful ways of gauging how we feel about ourselves. Negative self-talk is linked to depression and anxiety. Most of us wouldn’t criticize and tear down someone we love so harshly. So, why do we sometimes do it to ourselves? It can be easy to slip into negative thought patterns. This is especially the case for a chronically ill person who may have had more pain or didn’t sleep well the previous night. Physical disability can leave us feeling less than we really are. On days such as these, we must remember that we are still wonderful human beings, with intrinsic self-worth.
3. Take Time to Check in with Yourself. Loving yourself can be more difficult if you don’t truly know yourself. Checking in regularly is one way to get to know yourself. Take a few minutes to evaluate why you reacted the way you did to a situation or why you’re feeling bad about something. Writing in a journal can really help as well.
4. Discover what self-care means to you and what works best. Most of us have different definitions of self-care. For some of us, having a bubble bath is best. But for others, true self-care goes deeper than that. Here are a few of my deeper ways of caring for myself:
• Turning down a social invitation to spend some time alone when I need time and space to recharge.
• Make plans with a friend when I feel I need support or to have a little fun.
• Saying no to a work project that would put me at risk for burnout.
• Prioritizing sleep over chores when I’m exhausted or in pain.
• Taking time to read every day. I love to read romance, so for me that’s a real treat.
• Writing in my journal and lighting a candle for 15 or 20 minutes.
• Having a class of wine with the lights dimmed either outside in the summer or in my fireplace room in the winter.
So, what are your ways of creating self-care? Spend some time determining what you need. y taking these steps, you will be taking steps to be kind to yourself. This is so important for a person who struggles with a chronic illness.
Do some self-exploration. I know you can create a plan for yourself that incorporates everything that you want in a self-care plan.
To your Good Health!