Updated: Jul 26
Allowing space for self-compassion is essential in our relationship and journey with self-love.
My introduction to self-love came when I had to choose between the love for myself and someone else.
I was 18 years old, just finishing up my first year at Spelman College, and taking part in a summer internship at the Department of State. I started dating this handsome and well-accomplished man. Everything was going well until I noticed I was engaging in activities against my values. At first, it was little things like choosing to see him over attending a family event – a personal no-no for me. To bigger things like allowing name-calling and believing him when he told me I couldn’t do better.
This relationship lasted for years until I couldn’t recognize myself anymore. My confidence dwindled, my goals for myself were pushed back, and my values and wants were shifted to align with his.
This experience helped me understand the true definition of self-love involves showing up for yourself even when you feel shameful. It involves taking steps to identify what caused you not to respect your needs or boundaries. And most importantly, it involves self-compassion and giving yourself grace when you encounter failure.
Allowing space for self-compassion is essential in our relationship and journey with self-love. Self-compassion can act as a safeguard between us and self-judgment and self-doubt. While it won't prevent you from experiencing those symptoms, it will help you better cope with those important and defining moments.
Read on to see how you can make self-compassion your secret weapon to conquer self-love.
Follow Examples Aligned To Your Personal Values
One of the biggest reasons I remained in the relationship for so long, was because I did not have a good example of exhibiting self-love in romantic or interpersonal relationships.
I also started dating during a time where women were encouraged to go through trauma to get married or strengthen their relationship with their partner. This was not something I wanted for myself.
Seeing examples like my sister and Michelle Obama that were more aligned with my values helped me identify and redefine my self-love values when opening my space, heart, mind, and body to someone else.
Ultimately you define your self-love relationship. However, identifying examples of how you want your self-love and self-compassion to look can help tremendously. Your examples do not have to be strictly romantic relationships. You can identify examples in all areas of your life- career, health (mental + physical), financial, spiritual, and more.
Write A Letter To Yourself
During a Women Leadership event at my company during the time, we were instructed to write a letter to ourselves. Fresh off the break-up (and with a new discovery of self-love) I wrote a letter to my younger self, letting her know we were just fine. I didn't blame anyone (especially myself), just a letter describing the past situation and my current circumstances.
Try writing a love letter to your younger or older self (or both). If you are addressing a letter to your younger self about a past experience, be sure not to blame and show compassion. If you are writing a letter to your older self, be specific about your goals you want for yourself and how showing compassion for yourself is vital for your success.
This exercise will help you nurture your feelings and show yourself compassion.
Define "Self" And The Love Will Follow
Define "self" before the love and the compassion will follow. With "self" at the center, you can create your idea of self-love the way you want, and it allows your approach to change as you grow in your journey.
I was able to identify my self-love was dwindling and (eventually) end the relationship because at the end of the day, I knew myself. I knew I was compromising my values and standards and was changing from the person I was before we met.
It is tough to know yourself, especially in today's society when there are so many various narratives promoted in the media that can influence how we see and define ourselves. However, the work to determine and define who you are is needed to practice self-love.
Define who you are by identifying and defining your values, goals, strengths, and what you stand for.
When you don't know yourself or your worth, you are more susceptible to losing control of situations and making compromising decisions. It is also more difficult to show yourself compassion when making mistakes. Take some time to learn and understand your wants, values, strengths, and weaknesses.
Release What No Longer Serves You
As you pursue fulfilling self-love relationships, you will need to let go of friendships, connections, and memories that caused you to be unhappy and unfilled. Try not to dwell on this and any past experiences you had.
Create space for self-love and self-compassion by releasing thoughts, emotions, circumstances that take up negative space.
Speak To Yourself Like You Would Someone You Love
Extending empathy to friends comes super easy to us. When we experience a setback in our personal and professional lives, we must extend that same compassion to ourselves.
To be more self-compassionate, you need to recognize your inner self-critic and check it when it comes for you. That does not mean showering yourself with endless compliments. Instead, it demands you talk to yourself in a kind and nonjudgmental way—the same way you would encourage a loved one.
For example, rather than saying or thinking, "You're so stupid for thinking you could do that, "try saying, "You're so courageous for going after that, we will get it next time." This forces you to show yourself compassion, rather than harping on your mistakes. It also creates a sense of responsibility and ownership as you work towards practicing self-love and self-compassion.
If you are having trouble silencing your inner critic, try creating and repeating an affirmation that can help you avoid negative thoughts and words. For me, it is I embrace and love the best and worst parts of myself.
The way you speak to ourselves matter when building or improving self-compassion. Encourage and speak to yourself like you would a loved one.
Give Yourself Permission To Fail
Self-compassion is about giving yourself permission to fail and to be imperfect without defining yourself by your mistakes or guilt. Failure can be such a valuable form of learning. We should not shut down or lose faith in ourselves or our potential when experiencing failure.
Give yourself permission to live with the possibility of failure and accept failure as a part of life. Embracing failure as a part of life will help lessen the negative self-talk, empower you to love yourself in spite of your missteps, and ultimately transform your self-love relationship.
Be Kind to Yourself And Enjoy The Journey
We sometimes confuse having a strong sense of self-love with being perfect, but it’s quite the opposite. People with a strong sense of self-love treat themselves with compassion and understanding. Your relationship with self-love will become stronger from believing your weaknesses and flaws are just as valuable as your strengths and perfections.
While practicing the tips above, you should also understand that self-love is a journey not a destination. My relationship with self-love did not end there. I'm still growing and discovering ways I can love myself better and forgive myself more.
Self-love is a challenging journey , and it is not always about being happy. Know that you are doing your best, by practicing self-compassion.