Note: This post has been adapted from a chapter of my book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Self-Care.
As someone who struggled with how to best care for myself in the midst of crisis, loss and devastation, my journey in life required that I let go of toxic relationships and stage my own recovery from a life of abuse and trauma.
It was a difficult path riddled with adversity, but I am happy to say I was victorious in accomplishing my goals and paving a path to personal healing. Along the way, I learned that self-care and self-love were vital to engaging in healthier relationships, giving back to the world and living out my unique purpose with strength and confidence.
Here are the top ten ways I engaged in effective self-care and self-love. I hope you can look at these as powerful reminders of how you can best care for yourself more compassionately on your journey to a more mindful and fulfilling life.
This includes physical, emotional, and interpersonal clutter which only serves to detract us from focusing on our personal growth.
Clean the physical spaces where we live, because physical clutter can affect our mindset every day. An organized, tidy living space can do wonders for our moods and help us to complete tasks more quickly because everything has its place.
Cut the toxic interactions with people we don’t need in our lives which are only bringing us down. Stop allowing negative people to take up the space in our minds, hearts and souls—they don’t belong there and the ruminations we’re engaging in over them are virtually useless.
Refine our to-do lists—stop trying to do a million things every day and instead, prioritize the main tasks which are most important to us and closest to what we value in life.
Remember, quality beats quantity when it comes to self-care, so let’s invest only in relationships and friendships that make us happier, pursue only the goals that are true to our deepest desires, and save our energy and talent for those worthy of us.
2. Give ourselves unconditional love every day no matter what.
Unfortunately, no one can really give this to us except ourselves.
Human beings, while capable of extraordinary love and compassion for others, still love others conditionally. When I say unconditional love, I truly mean unconditional, unlimited and infinite love.
It may seem impossible to achieve, but we can love ourselves regardless of whatever circumstances we may have in your career, relationships, status, power, finances and so forth.
I highly recommend reading the book “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It” by Kamal Ravikant to understand how to enter into a mindset of self-love with a simple mantra.
Loving ourselves unconditionally also means loving all of us—our flaws, our strengths, our secrets and our weaknesses.
Every part of us is important, unique and worthy of love.
When we give ourselves unconditional love, we find ourselves recognizing people who don’t give us the full acceptance we deserve, which makes it easier to clean out the interpersonal clutter as mentioned above.
3. Take care, holistically.
Creating a balance between work and play is essential to maintaining holistic self-care.
Don’t focus just on one aspect of life when it comes to self-care. Energize your body, nourish your spirit and enlighten your mind.
Meditation is important for our spiritual, emotional and mental well-being.
Yoga, pilates, dance cardio and running are great ways to get into shape and improve our moods.
Eating mindfully will also help us to achieve optimal levels of energy and fitness while making our bodies less vulnerable to disease.
Writing, reading and taking classes that interest us will keep our minds sharp, alert and always learning.
Don’t forget to maintain an active social life in the form of healthy relationships and friendships, as these are essential psychosocial resources that will serve as a crucial source of support which enhance our enjoyment of life.
4. Have high standards and stick to them.
Self-respect is crucial to self-care because it protects us from settling for less when we deserve the best.
Settling for less is toxic to how we view ourselves and how we allow others to treat us, our values and our boundaries. If we constantly allow others to trample over our expectations, we’re debasing our worth and chopping away at our self-esteem.
We might be afraid that if we have high standards for ourselves, people might perceive us as high-maintenance and even abandon us in the process.
Let them. It doesn’t matter—in fact, it’s probably a good thing that they do abandon us and reveal their true colors.
At the end of the day, our opinions of ourselves and what we deserve is all that truly matters in life. Having high standards in our careers and relationships protect us in the long-run from scammers, emotional predators and exploiters who may suck us dry and leave us drained.
Think of things that fall below your standards as a bad business deal.
We’re not getting what we need and want out of it, but the person on the other side is. It’s not worth the investment if someone else is benefiting from the positive return. Whatever our standards are, we must stick to them and not let anyone or anything convince us to lower them.
5. Pursue our true passions.
Life is too short to waste our energy and allocate resources into goals that are not truly our own.
Caring for ourselves means remaining authentic and recognizing our true passions.
Don’t be pressured into picking a certain career path just because society says it’s the right one for you. Don’t always settle for crappy jobs just because they’ll pay the rent. Don’t pursue a major just because of its financial rewards unless it’s something that really interests you.
Sometimes we will have to make do with what we have in order to survive, but we have to be sure that we are looking for ways to improve yourselves, to progress to something better and something that represents our true calling.
For example, if you’re a waiter who dreams of writing the next big screenplay, continue working on it when you have the time. Setting aside time to pursue your dreams is important because these are things no one can take away from you. You own the right to all of your dreams and have the ability to make them come to life.
The key is to still be practical, but also to be passionate.
We were not meant to live this life doing just what is required to survive. We were meant to live life chasing our dreams.
Don’t be afraid of failure, because failure is a learning experience.
Would you rather sit around and live in the regret of not knowing what would’ve happened if you had tried, or would you rather lead an exciting life by taking on risks and challenges that will ultimately lead you to what you were meant to do?
It’s okay to explore multiple interests and talents; we don’t have to limit ourselves to one pursuit.
However, if you do have that one dream that’s been pulling at your heartstrings, start chasing it now.
Take small steps today to start paving the path to tomorrow. Achieving long-term goals and big dreams are possible so long as we put the effort into making them happen. The most successful people I know are not just passive dreamers; they are active chasers who make an effort every day in order to accomplish their goals.
6. Minimize people-pleasing.
Nobody wins when it comes to people-pleasing, except a person on the receiving end that’s out to exploit us.
Our tendency to people-please takes away from our authentic self, drains us of our energy and deprives us of our ability to take care of ourselves in meaningful ways.
By creating falsehoods in our relationships and interactions with others, we detract from who we were meant to be and pigeonhole ourselves into being who we’re not, just to please others.
Be confident that who you are and what you want, feel and experience are completely valid. You don’t have to change to gain someone else’s approval; if someone disapproves of you, that’s okay.
Rejection is not about self-worth—it’s about another person’s wants, needs and preferences. Don’t see it as a selfish thing to honor your true self. It’s not selfish, it’s self-care and self-love.
7. Be mindful.
Many of us go through life mindlessly and this detracts from our experience of present joy.
This mindlessness is exacerbated by our fast-paced, technologically advanced society. We are so absorbed in social media and the buzz of our phone that we forget to appreciate the everyday, simple pleasures that come our way.
The humming of the birds, the color of the sky, the beauty of someone’s smile, the colorful and delicious food in front of us—these are all things we should be mindfully enjoying.
Being attentive, aware and alert to our surroundings and the present moment is vital to experiencing each moment of life more fully and enhancing its joy.
So, make sure to take at least a couple of hours each day to release yourself from the distractions of technology and enjoy nature, be engaged with whomever you’re with, and immerse yourself in the conversation you’re having.
Start by writing about the various things observed during the day. It takes practice to be more mindful in everyday life, but it’s a worthy practice since it greatly enhances our experience of life’s everyday moments.
Being grateful shouldn’t be set aside for the holidays; it should be a way of life.
Think of gratitude as another important component of mindfulness and as a lifelong habit that should be practiced every day.
It teaches us to be mindful of the things we take for granted every day: basic things like our ability to see and walk, to the bigger accomplishments like having a good job, access to education or a supportive network of friends.
Whether during times of strife or times of bliss, it’s helpful to write in a gratitude journal and take note of all the things we have in our lives.
Remember, these are the same things that other people may be praying for.
9. Give back to the world we live in.
Remember how we talked about our unique talents and goals?
This is one of the best incentives for exploring them.
We are part of a larger world that needs our help. Whether it’s through volunteering, research, activism or teaching, there are a myriad of ways to give.
Find creative and engaging ways to help others whenever possible, whether its sharing resources or investing your time and energy into a cause you care about.
We are here for a purpose and that purpose is tied to benefiting this world in positive ways.
As we learn to love and care for ourselves better, we will also have more positive energy, love and compassion to give to those around us.
Embrace your destiny and change the world.
10. Honor and validate our feelings. All of them.
As someone who would qualify as a HSP (highly sensitive person), I know how tough it can be to honor and validate your feelings in a world that’s becoming highly desensitized to emotions and meaningful relationships.
However, this last self-care commandment is perhaps the most important one of all. If we can’t honor and validate our own emotions, we will allow others to belittle and invalidate them, which means we’re permitting toxic people to enter our lives without thinking twice.
We will make ourselves vulnerable to gaslighting, manipulation, coercion and abuse. We will settle for less because we believe that our feelings don’t matter.
Guess what? They do.
We have to live with our emotions every day. That’s why it is so vital that we learn to honor them.
Validate every emotion you have, even if you think it’s inappropriate or “wrong” somehow.
Emotions aren’t meant to be rational, by the way. They are meant to be signals that provide information about situations you’re experiencing or thoughts that you’re having. Honoring and validating your emotions means telling yourself,
“It’s okay that I have these feelings. It’s valid that I have them. These emotions are telling me something about this experience. Now I have a choice on how to react to them.”
We don’t have to make our decisions based on our emotions alone, but we should consider them in the decision-making process when it comes to relationships, friendships and personal goals.
By honoring our feelings, we honor ourselves.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith / Editor: Renee Picard
Photos: Author’s own/ Alexis O’Toole via Flickr Creative Commons