Loving Your Self, Building Your Health
So often we hear about self-love’s importance; we hear time after time that this concept is crucial to a successful and productive life. If we want to reach our goals, establish an invigorating career, and develop nurturing, challenging relationships, we absolutely must practice it. We are told this, but not how or even why it is so crucial to fully love our inner and outer selves. Ultimately, we may be left thinking: ‘I want to be happy and successful and I want to love myself, but what does self-love really look like? And why do I need it?”
To start, it’s helpful to actually define the term self-love; we use and hear others use the term as though all participants in a given conversation should inherently know what it means and what it looks like. According to Yourdictionary.com, self-love is the knowledge “that you are a valuable and worthy person;” the recognition that you, just like anyone else, are deserving of happiness and prosperity. The term “deserving” is especially important here. When we believe good things should, in fact, happen to us, we are more likely to pursue dreams, take risks, and build connections. With this realization also comes:
The understanding that we are the sole provider of our own happiness; we are the makers of our life story.
The aptitude to better practice compassion and acceptance of others.
The fortitude to stop comparing our jobs, looks, significant others, children, etc. to those of our acquaintances; “when we let go of competition and comparing…[we are] always enough” (Belmer, 2014).
The assurance that ‘failure’ is just a stepping stone in personal growth’s journey.
The capacity to ward off stress and its negative physiological effects.
Life is certainly full of both minor and major stressors; part of our personal journey is spent navigating said stressors and success in doing so is typically contingent upon the belief we have in our ability to prevail and the love we have for ourselves. Indeed, self-love’s ability to ward off chronic stress is worthy of examination. Without a secure sense of self and self-worth, obstacles and ordinary daily occurrences alike might trigger paralyzing anxiety. Stress is linked to a number of negative health issues and a decreased quality of life; some detrimental consequences are:
Heavier, labored breathing and the potential for hyperventilation (and, consequently, panic attacks).
Elevated levels of blood pressure and stress hormones exhibited in the body.These can inflame the circulatory system and heighten cholesterol levels, thus paving the way for hypertension, heart attack, and stroke.
Gastrointestinal complications such as heart burn, stomach ulcers, and poorly-moderated food digestion (which can result in diarrhea and/or constipation).
Reproductive irregularities such as missed periods in females or lowered testosterone in males.Reduced sex-drive is also common (American Psychological Association).
As evidenced by the points above, although low self-esteem and love appear to be “nice to haves,” they are actually quite fundamental in maintaining physiological health. The mind is so very powerful, the brain frequently labeled the ‘strongest muscle’ in the body, and this is no exaggeration. The brain regulates all bodily functions, whether we are directly conscious of this or not; the way we feel about ourselves falls right into how productive those functions are.
As we continue with February’s theme, self-love/appreciation, TOPPS encourages exploration of all the wonderful things that make you you and absolutely deserving of love. When we care for our own well-being, we are also better equipped to bring compassion and understanding into our interactions with others. We feel empowered, capable, in control, and a worthy contributor to our work, school, and relationships. Our TOPPS Tip for the week, and the first step to self-love, is to begin cultivating self-like. Try making a list: what are your favorite things about yourself? What are the unique qualities/skills you bring to life’s table?
American Psychological Association. Stress Effects on the Body. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-body.aspx.
Belmer, Cynthia. (14 January, 2014). 20 Awesome Side Effects Of Practicing Self-Love. Retrieved from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-12250/20-awesome-side-effects-of-practicing-self-love.html.
Self-love. (2017). In http://www.yourdictionary.com. Retrieved from http://www.yourdictionary.com/self-love.