In the spirit of the new year, this January I have been putting my focus toward the theme of loving yourself first. So many women (and people in general) struggle with self-esteem; fight a battle within themselves every day. Even those of us who have come to self-acceptance often struggle with being okay with putting ourselves on the priority list.
As a mother, particularly a mother of small children, I have often found my 'self' disappearing. So many days have passed where I haven't actually seen myself, despite washing up directly in front of a mirror at least 20 times (you know, potty training...). Whole days where I forget to drink water, or get too busy to remember that I needed to pee about two hours ago (surely I am not the only one that does that??). While I am eternally grateful for the perspective that motherhood has given me; to see that the world does not revolve around my own problems, sometimes I miss feeling like a person of my own.
As much as we are all reminded that we should not rely on our lovers to define our sense of self and worth, equally we cannot place that weight on our children. We are more than just mothers, lovers, friends, employees and entrepreneurs, no matter how beautiful and fulfilling any of those roles may be. When all these things are gone, what will remain? Who will remain?
The one person you are guaranteed to always have a relationship with, for better or worse, is yourself. It is vitally important that we give ourselves time and space to cultivate that critical relationship. How can we bring our best selves to each of those important roles without being our best selves?
But saying "just love yourself already" isn't exactly a solution, is it? An attitude realignment like that is really a new habit, an instinctive response to the ups and downs of daily life. Like any new habit that we wish to develop, it will require intentional practice. I have pulled together 10 activities that you can interject into your routine to create a time and space to be with your own thoughts and nurture your relationship with your self.
10 Habits to Loving Yourself First
1. Set a weekly coffee date with yourself
Get out of the house, out of the office, and sit somewhere cozy, alone, with an indulgent beverage and your own thoughts. Breathe deeply, journal, read, create, or just close your eyes and sip. Have you been up to Marty's Cafe in Fort Assiniboine yet? It is my favourite local cozy coffee getaway with a relaxing fire, some cozy chairs, staff that remember that I like my cappuccino dry, and so close to home!
2. Practice yoga
Yoga has so many benefits for your physical and mental well being, but mostly, I just love being somewhere quiet for an entire hour! It is so much easier to feel at ease when your body isn't aching, reminding you how tired you are, and of how you "slept" half the night in a rocking chair with a baby hanging off your boob all week. A little stretch and quiet time and you feel lighter for days. I am dying to try the warm candlelight yoga Tuesday evenings at Barrhead Yoga, but even setting up a mat and an aromatherapy candle in the quietest part of the house while the kids play with dad or sleep is a much appreciated moment of quiet thought and physical restoration.
Please don't roll your eyes. I mean it! I did a little meditation as a teen, but was drawn back to it during pregnancy. It was a big part of my mental preparation for labour, and was also a great way to deal with difficulty falling asleep. Once you have used guided meditations (you can even find free ones in your podcasting app of choice), you can apply the techniques yourself using your favourite music, white noise, or in a quiet space. It is basically mental yoga, with the bonus of being able to drift off to sleep if you so desire!
4. Start colouring again
Adult colouring books are a huge trend at the moment, and after colouring alongside my girls, I totally get it. If you aren't ready for meditation, colouring is a great alternative. The soft, repetitive motions, and the relatively mindless nature can lull you into a meditative state and allow your mind to flow freely without your conscious interjections. Pair it with some aromatherapy, good music, and a bold cappuccino or full bodied red and you have a perfect date night with yourself. The Flower Shoppe had a few beautiful ones the last time I was in.
5. Start reading again
I am very guilty of "not having time" for reading anymore. Let's face it, the 15-40 minutes we spend reviewing our Facebook and Instagram feeds one last time before bed could just as easily be spent with a book, and we would be far more likely to fall asleep well when we were finished. When I do read, I have restricted myself to non-fiction so that I can enjoy smaller chunks should I be interrupted by a crying babe. Now that the little ones are a bit less dependent, I have a goal of adding fiction back into my repertoire. Reading gives us a chance to challenge our own viewpoints and ideas, and to expand our understanding of ourselves and our place in this world.
6. Get a massage
I admit, I haven't made time for a massage since I was pregnant with my first baby, but I haven't forgotten how healing that time was. Sensing a theme here yet? Quiet time to yourself, with the bonus of great physical relief.
7. Get outside
Any time spent outside is healing, but again, I am going to suggest making time to do this alone, or pull the kids in a sled because then you may as well be alone, in 10 minutes they will surely be asleep ;) This time of year I love to get out cross-country skiing, but with as little snow as we have this year, you can trek out pretty much anywhere you like in your Sorels. If you haven't gotten into XC skiing yet, I must recommend it. Once you get past the initial awkward stage using muscles you don't normally use and getting your timing down, it is so easy and relaxing, and trust me, I sort of despise physical exertion.
8. Make something
Let your mind wander, follow your instincts, and just play. The satisfaction of creating cannot be denied. Paint, sew, knit, draw, build, code, distress, bead, bake... My own personal project of late is learning hand lettering, maybe it will correct my terrible penmanship as a bonus. I am going to go against the trend here and suggest that doing this one with friends is equally effective. Whatever you do, don't worry about perfection. Take a class, or make a date. If you are interested in joining a local crafting night, get in touch or sign up for my email list, I am hoping to set something up soon, and I would love to hear your ideas.
9. Get yourself a pretty reminder
A recent purchase of mine, despite it's small size and price tag, has been serving as a reminder to appreciate myself, especially in the trying moments. I feel that it is valuable to find something that you love, that you would use daily, and give it as a gift of appreciation to yourself. I have a pretty new mug that says "best mom EVER", and when I really need a coffee in the morning, it reminds me that in this house, I am the best mom ever, and that I deserve recognition for the little accomplishments of each day. I believe that a beautiful hand lettered inspirational print on the wall, or a dainty stacking ring on your finger would be perfect reminders of how beautiful your life is, and to look for those little moments of beauty.
10. Appreciate your own beauty
It is not self-centered to believe that you are beautiful. You are. I challenge you to show me a woman that is not beautiful to those who love her. Own your beauty. Choose your favourite photograph of yourself, print it, big enough to actually see it, frame it, and hang it... right where everyone can see it. I want you to walk past that image at least 5 times a day. Stop and take notice of it. Remember how it feels to be beautiful. Remember that those that love you see you like that every day. If you are having trouble seeing that beauty in yourself, call me. I am serious, I will do whatever it takes to find that for you. No woman should live without seeing herself through the eyes of love.
This month I am accepting 5 bookings for natural beauty and beauty of motherhood sessions. Each session includes a deep conversation to find the heart of your beauty, a wardrobe consultation to find the perfect style from your closet, from my collection of gowns, or from a local boutique, an intimate in-home session to capture your honest beauty, and a personal image selection appointment to help you see the beauty that motivated each of your images.
Do it for yourself, and if you like, throw in a Valentine's gift for your love...