Self Love vs Self Care – 5 Self Love Exercises You Must Use Every Day

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Self Love vs Self Care – 5 Self Love Exercises You Must Use Every Day

If you’re not living under a rock, then you’ve heard the terms “self love” and “self care.”  They are very trendy terms these days, and you probably know that they are essential for your mental health.  But do you know the difference between self love vs self care?  They are not the same thing, but they are critical to living a healthy, balanced life. Your self care will take you to new heights when you put these 5 self love exercises into daily practice.

But first – What is the difference between self love and self care?

Self love is very different than self care.  Self care is all about taking care of yourself and nurturing your needs.  Self love reaches even deeper to the root of who you are and accepts your needs.  When you look in the mirror, can you honestly say that you genuinely love the person you see in the mirror?  You know – the kind of deep love that cherishes all of those deep bumps and bruises and slashes that are part of you?  Do you know that even though you are flawed and far from perfect, you are worthy of love?

But can you?

It’s asking a lot of other people to love what’s on the inside if we can’t even love our own insides.  If you can’t honestly say that you genuinely love yourself with all of your faults, you may need to work on your self love.

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Loving Yourself Can Take a Lot of Work!

I have been working hard on myself over the last several years, and I have learned that I don’t always like myself much.  I am learning.  I’ve practiced good self care and followed the advice of so many experts, including my therapist, my pastor, the esteemed Brene Brown, and self-help gurus a-plenty.  I have practiced self-care and forgiveness of others, even when I can’t forget.  My prayers are long and wordy (like me) and frequently include entreaties to feel better and at peace with myself.  But I’m not there.  Honestly, I have shed tears multiple times just while researching this post. 

The Epiphany

And so, we come to my recent epiphany while researching to write this post.  I think I’ve been doing all the right things, but I have yet to tap into the basic premise of what matters.  I need to learn to love myself.  Deeply.  I need to look in the mirror and recognize those crows’ feet and feel nurturing toward them instead of anger for not wearing my sunglasses as often as I should.  When I see my floppy belly hanging over the bathroom counter, I need to recognize that it’s a soft landing place for the grandkids as it was for their parents before them when they need a snuggle.  Instead, I have been seeing it as an ugly and embarrassing part of my body, to be hidden and yo-yo dieted away to overcome the shame.  I feel anger and failure when it comes back after each effort to rid myself of it.

When I think of how I chat too much and often say the wrong thing or have a hard time “zipping my lip,” I need to remember that this is how God made me.  My chattery personality is a beautiful gift that allows me to make friends with almost anyone in just a few sentences.  When I feel unwanted in some people’s lives, I need to stop and recognize what a treasure I am and how many people have invited me to be a part of their world.

a woman hugging herself with the quote "Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do." Brene Brown

Self Care vs. Self Love, the Vehicle and the Maintenance

So how do we begin to love ourselves wholly and genuinely?  Trust me when I tell you that this is not an overnight process.  And I can also assure you that self care can only take you so far.  Without self love, self care is an incomplete effort.  Self care with self love is akin to prepping a meal for your favorite grandma, whereas self care without self love is akin to preparing the same meal for Oscar the Grouch.  You can put the same effort into both meals.  But while Grandma will receive your meal with appreciation and love for every bite, Oscar will complain the entire time he’s eating and will loudly tell everyone that he likes garbage better.

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I Still Don’t Get It!

Maybe you’ve got it, and that’s great!  But the concept of self love vs self care is a bit of a complicated thought process for me.  As I mentioned, I have been studying, so I hope you don’t mind too much if I give another example here.  I will use a vehicle to illustrate.

Self love is all about loving the vehicle that transports you through life with all of its bumps and bruises.  Then think of self care as a tool that keeps your car running in tip-top shape.  I mean, sure – we’d all like the fancy new Tesla, shiny and perfect.  But most of us can’t (or shouldn’t) afford that.  So, we have a regular vehicle.  It gets us to and from all the places we need to go. 

And maybe that regular vehicle runs through transmission fluid a little faster than you’d like, doesn’t get the best gas mileage, and has a dent in the door and a red stain on the back seat upholstery.  It’s not a perfect vehicle, and it has its issues, but when we know what those issues are, we can work on which ones to take care of and which to embrace rather than focusing on disliking the vehicle altogether and wishing for a better one.

Accepting the Dings and Dents

Imagine you can look at your vehicle and see that the dent in the door is from when your college-aged daughter borrowed your dent-free car and brought it back that way.  What if, instead of being annoyed every time you look at that dent, you remember that it is a part of the story of your vehicle and remind yourself that you were blessed enough to have a car to loan out to a daughter who was working hard at building her own life.

How about that big red stain on the back seat of your car that you can’t get out.  What if instead of being annoyed and embarrassed every time you see that stain, you remember that the stain is there from the time you were bringing your son and his friends home from a high school football game, and there was so much laughter and joy and fun and then oops – a spilled Mountain Dew Ruby Red.  Wouldn’t you prefer to remember the laughter and joy that goes with the stain than to be embarrassed that it’s there?

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Or what if you can change your thinking around fueling and filling?  Instead of being annoyed at the expense and time it takes to fill up the gas tank or top off the transmission fluid, you remember that the better you take care of your vehicle along the way, the longer your car will last and the more opportunities you’ll have to travel to both new and exciting places and locations that offer true respite?  Wouldn’t you prefer to travel to those places in a car that you know and love, with all of its’ character and predictability?

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Spelling it All Out

You’ve stuck with me this far.  And I thank you for that.  I warned you that I could be chatty!  It’s just a little something I love about myself, friend!  But I digress, back to my illustration.

Your mind and body are the car, and the car is self love.  Love that car, despite its bumps and bruises.  Know that your car has the power to provide you with unique experiences, meet new people, and bring you on new adventures, no matter how many dents or stains it has.  Those dents and stains are part of the story and a conversation piece.

The maintenance of the car is self-care.  Your car will sometimes need a wash, a fluid top-off, or a minor paint touchup.  It will regularly need fuel, and as you know, this routine maintenance is essential.  So is taking a few minutes out of your daily life to practice good self-care.

We’re Halfway There

To differentiate self love from self care, we need to recognize that self love goes way, way deeper than self care.  See, we can’t trade our minds or bodies in for newer, shinier models.  But what we can do is learn to love and cherish what we have with all of its imperfections.

Self love is about acceptance and knowing that we are not perfect and never will be perfect.  Yet, we can still look in the mirror with compassion and understand that the person looking back is worthy of all the love and kindness we have within ourselves.  Self care comes after we begin practicing acceptance and self love.  Once we can accept who we are, we can move forward and recognize what our own needs are without shame, and keep ourselves running at tip-top shape.

Self love is the practice of accepting all of our parts, the loveable and the unloveable.  We must be gentle with ourselves when we err and be honest about those things that we wish were different yet accept the hard work that comes with change.  I think of self love as genuine compassion and girls – none of this is simple or easy.

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Ready for the big part?

Self care requires knowing what to do to keep yourself running at your best level.  Self love is the knowledge that there is nothing wrong with you to begin with and nothing needs fixing to live a rich and meaningful life.

How Do I Begin to Really, Truly Love Myself?

Now that we’ve established the difference between self love vs self care let’s talk about when the rubber meets the road.  How do I begin to love myself?  I’m glad you asked that great question!  I am still learning how to do that myself.  I have put together five excellent tools that are helpful for me.  Maybe they will help you, too.

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Self Love Exercises

Self Love Exercise #1 – Practice Gratitude

Each morning jot down 3-5 things for which you are grateful.  Try to focus on things you may have thought of negatively and turn them into positives.  For example, I am thankful for the lines on my hands as I age because when I study my hands, lines and all, they remind me of my mom’s hands, and that makes me feel close to my family and my roots.

I like to make these notes on small scraps of paper and put them in a jar.  When I’m having a rough day, I can pull out a few of these little scraps to remind me of what’s essential in life.  Another benefit of writing out your gratitude is that you remember what you write.

Self Love Exercise #2 – Take Daily Feelings Assessments

Stop what you are doing a few times throughout your day and take a minute to assess how you’re feeling.  I like to close my eyes and put my hand on my chest, take a deep breath and say, “how are you really?”  The key to this exercise is to be truly honest with yourself.  If you’re sad, acknowledge it.  If you’re feeling rejected, acknowledge it.  Feelings are not bad.  Ignoring them is.

Please note that it may take some practice to recognize your feelings.  I have created a feelings chart that I pull out when I’m having difficulty naming my feelings.  Spending time naming your feelings is a significant first step in understanding what those feelings are and how to process them.  You can pick up a copy of my Feelings Chart HERE.

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Self Love Exercise #3 – Take Time to Center Yourself

Take time each day to be alone and pray or meditate.  I spend 15 minutes reading my Bible each evening, and then I follow that up with prayer.  I love the bible app YOUVERSION where you can easily find and follow devotionals covering thousands of subjects.  Spending this time alone with me and my God helps me learn to quiet the outside noise, focus on who He made me to be, and remind me that I am loved and chosen.

If I’m being honest, I will tell you that I cry during this time on some days.  Some days I fall asleep, and some days I rush through it.  Do you want to guess which days I feel the least fulfilled in this practice?  Anytime I rush through this quiet time of personal reflection, I am shortchanging myself.  But that’s okay.  I am trying, and I am learning each day.

Self Love Exercise #4 – Embrace Journaling

Take time daily or a few times each week to journal.  Like our friend Shrek says, “Better out than in!” and this is not only true for intestinal gas but also feelings. Journaling helps to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings and move forward.  Use some of these prompts to get your wheels turning:

Who am I deep down inside when I’m at my best?

How can I show love to myself when I’ve made a bad choice or mistake?

Is this an opportunity to learn, and how can I love this lesson?

How can I show myself love in the same ways I would show love to a cherished friend or my child?

How can I be extra kind to myself today?  What can I say to myself to soothe my soul?

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Self Love Exercise #5 – Get Repetitive with Daily Affirmations

Just as we know how important it is to tell our children all the things we love about them, like how smart and kind and precious they are, we also need to learn to speak to ourselves with love.  Try speaking these words out loud to yourself throughout the day.

Right here.  Right now.  I know I am whole.

I know that I am enough.

I am worthy of love.

I am welcome in this moment and this day exactly as I am (even if I feel blue because all the feelings are okay).

I am perfect just as I am.  I do not need fixing because nothing is wrong with me.

I am safe in this moment.

I am powerful and strong.

I am surrounded by blessings.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

God has counted every hair on my head and knit me together exactly how He meant me to be.  And God does not make mistakes.

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Practice Makes Progress

Learning to speak positively to yourself can be surprisingly difficult at first.  Think about how many years you have probably beat yourself up with negative self-talk.  Would you ever talk to your child the way you speak to yourself sometimes?  I found this positive self-talk awkward and silly at first.  I’ll be honest.  It just felt uncomfortable and weird.  To get a little more used to hearing these things about myself, I have taken advantage of the technology at my fingertips and enlisted the help of my Alexa.

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I programmed my Alexa to feed me some of these affirmations throughout the day.  My husband and son find it hysterical when Alexa announces, “Veronica – you are worthy, and you are loved.”  Or “Veronica – You are strong and smart, and people like you.”  I like to mix up the affirmations to keep the messages fresh and keep my guys on their toes.  And secretly, I know that they are also taking in those messages for themselves.

Don’t be afraid to do something a bit unconventional if it helps.  Perhaps you can put a post-it note on your car’s visor or program your phone to send you an occasional push notice.  I searched social media for three things that give me amazing positive affirmations – memes or pictures work great.  Then I use those for my phone’s lock screen and handy in my photos so I can peek at them throughout the day.  I especially love the funny memes.  After all, a sense of humor is a fantastic skill.  Embrace it!

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Wrapping It All Up

Can you imagine waking up each day feeling that today will be a great day and that you are ready to conquer whatever comes your way?  What about starting the day knowing that you accept yourself as-is and are complete and fulfilled, and have all the tools you need?  Can you imagine the peace that comes with true confidence in who you are?

Self love is the actual ability to accept all of those fundamental truths.  When we genuinely love ourselves from the inside out, we know that we already have what we need to live life to its fullest, that we can only add to what’s already there.  A new relationship, a better job, a bigger house?  None of these things is the final goal.  The final goal is about knowing that you already have all of what you need, and adding those things is merely the frosting on the cake.

True contentment, true happiness, and true love begin with loving yourself and genuinely embracing all that makes you who you are!

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