It’s not uncommon for us to reflect on our relationship status through rose-tinted glasses as most of the world population gets swept into the furore of red roses and endless advertisements of romantic getaways and dinners for two. Even critics who are hip to how the day is, “just another money-making scheme fueling the global greed machine known as capitalism” are in some ways forced to consider the state of their romantic connections. 

While romantic relationships provide a degree of fulfilment, it’s imperative that the totality of our love, joy, worth, or any other part of our identity is not completely defined by romance. As we approach the International day of love, we felt that this is the most opportune time to talk about the love that is foundational to all forms of love, self-love. 

The 21st Century woman is not afraid to put in the blood, sweat, and at times relentless ugly cry sessions in pursuit of freedom from the unhealthy and sometimes dehumanising societal value of romantic partnership. We are done excusing toxic behaviour in the name of love and let me tell you something, I am living for it all! 

I’m living for our collective desire and personalised articulation of the soft life.

I’m living for the kick-ass stay at home moms choosing to be true to themselves and love themselves enough to say, I need help! 

I’m living for all the boss (you know what’s) of all shapes, shades, and sizes choosing to not only lead with vulnerability and integrity, whilst leaning into and trusting our intuition, emotional intelligence and capacity to love. 

With less than two weeks to go before many of us either witness or experience some seemingly over the top gestures of love – just so we are clear, I’m not a hater of Valentine’s because there’s nothing wrong with being shaken out of the mundane rhythm of life in celebration of love. 

However, it is important to note that these gestures of love cannot be experienced to the fullness of joy if our relationship with ourselves is unhealthy. When your tank of self-love is not at a healthy level those seemingly over the top gestures of love will be wasted on you because you’ll spend the day anxiously comparing and consumed by other peoples celebrations. 

I’d like to direct our attention to a verse in the Bible where Jesus Himself declares the most important commandment. He tells us we ought to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. And the next is like it; love your neighbour as (to borrow from the King James) thyself!” Matthew 22:37-39.

Many of us have become so accustomed to this scripture being weaponized, leading us to believe a false and toxic narrative about love. I’d like to particularly highlight the last part of Jesus’ response to the pharisaical scholar’s question. I think it’s no coincidence that Jesus is responding to a trap question that is essentially promoting a performance-based ideology of love. 

However, the last part of the response often gets buried by the overemphasis of the “love your neighbour part. By omitting the “as thyself” or as the NLT puts it “YOURSELF” is to paint an incomplete painting and that’s often what happens when we omit this from the equation of love in our own lives.  We are essentially operating in an incomplete love. I belabour this point because I’ve met more sisters whose understanding of moral and or Christian duty to love is defined by an incomplete narrative. 

As we grow in not only understanding but living out the transformational truth that love in its fullness can only be given and experienced when we embody the full scope of it. The health of our relationship with ourselves is foundational to how we show up in love for others. 

In Olwethu’s ‘Happy YOU year’ post she encourages us to “be vulnerable, honest, sincere, and open” with our intimate partners. We can only fully lean into these things and reap the rich benefits of vulnerability by first loving and valuing ourselves! You know how they say “hurting people hurt people”? It’s true! I know it’s true because I know I hurt a lot of people in my life during an extremely unhealthy season of self-love. Most of the time it’s unintentional but still, our actions have the same impact on all who are unfortunate enough to fall prey to us in such seasons. 

Tips on How to Start Practicing Self-Love

  1. Start each day by journaling or recording a voice note about one thing that you truly appreciate about yourself. It can be a character trait, an area of growth that you’ve noticed, or a physical feature. 
  1. You often hear us talk about food as fuel on AoS. Pay attention to what you put in your body and how it makes you feel. Food is supposed to leave us feeling re-energised and fulfilled, not bloated and sluggish. The types of food we eat also impacts our mental health. For more on this check out these previous blogs: (Trust Your Gut: Gut & Liver Health, Boosting Your Child’s Brain and Memory During Exams, The 5 Health Benefits to Decreasing Your Meat Consumption.
  1. Curate your social and inner circles. It’s so important that you surround yourself with people who see, love, challenge, and respect you. You want to be able to feel safe to vulnerably communicate and elevate yourself with the support and encouragement of your immediate community. 
  1. Unplug Weekly. Schedule a weekly date with yourself for a minimum of 1 hrs. Grab a glass of water or wine, switch your phone off, and shut down the laptop and TV.  It’s time for you to just be whatever that allocated time prompts you to be. The more you spend intentional time with yourself, the more you start to see, know, like, and love yourself!
  1. Unleash the inner child in you by letting her come out to play in all her glory! Allow your creative juices to flow by digging into your child’s, nephew, or nieces arts and crafts box. Let your hands get dirty, pull out the colour pencils or paint and allow your imagination to lead you. 

The most important human relationship you’ll ever have is the relationship with yourself. Take the time to learn how to nurture and feed it. Get to know and cherish your value. 

As we draw near to the end of the first month of this YOU year – commit to extravagantly and radically loving yourself. It’s time to tap into that unconditional type of self-love sis, it’s yours for the taking! 

What is the current status of your relationship with self? Is it thriving and strong, a work in progress or complicated? We’d love to hear what self-love practices you plan to implement in your life this year. Share with us in the comment section below.