Last year I wrote about making Valentine's Day about self-love, and to this day it's one of my favorite posts of 2016, and I'm so thrilled to do it again this year. The most wonderful thing about self-love (and so many of the women below mentioned this) is the more love you show yourself, the more capacity you have to love other people, to show them patience and encouragement. It's this incredible circle; a ripple effect. Now, you may logically already know that. But it bears repeating. In a world where we all struggle to be consistently kind to ourselves, it's an important reminder. So here, 11 brilliant, funny, unique women share the practices that bring self-love into their lives... I hope you get as much joy reading them as I did putting them together for you.
1. Quiet those critical voices in your head with a little meditation.
"For most of my life, I really didn't understand the concept [of self-love]. Self-hatred was more my style. It seemed that there was always something to criticize, find fault with, or to change, whether that be my weight or my features or my skin or my anxiety or depression. Meditation has become key to centering myself and staying grounded. I show myself self-love by refusing to feed the lies I tell me about me. I find that by taking even 10 minutes to slow down and breathe, I'm able to shift to a more positive frame of mind. Most importantly, I try to give myself a break. I try to remember that I'm not perfect. I remind myself that I'm good enough. I constantly have to be mindful of how I speak to myself. Self-love translates into love for others. The way I treat myself affects the way I treat other people. Self-love could be considered the ultimate form of altruism." —Joanna, 30
2. Get engrossed in a new podcast.
"I have become obsessed with podcasts, which started as a way to pass the time on my 45 minute commute to work. Some of my favorites are “Terrible, Thanks For Asking,” by Nora McInerny; Kevin Porter and Demi Adejuyigbe’s “Gilmore Guys”; and “Don’t Get Me Started,” with Will Hines and Anthony King. While I’m interested in the main topics of these shows, I'm fascinated by the connection I feel to the hosts, even when they get off topic and are just having random conversation. I’ve also learned about a lot of different podcasts, television shows, books, and more just by listening regularly." —Alicia, 31
3. Throw caution to the wind and break out the fancy stemware.
"Self-love is something I have to remind myself to write down on my to-do list, because it's challenging when you become a mom and don't really have time for yourself. I try to keep in mind that my daughter is learning everything from me and she should learn to love herself. One thing I've always believed is that nothing should be saved for a special occasion. In my apartment I don't have such things as special-occasion glasses, towels, soap, etc. Everything I have gets used. Even when I am by myself. Some days I just pour orange juice for my breakfast in a champagne glass. No one sees it, but I see it. It instantly brightens my mood." —Marggorie, 33
4. Pour your heart out to a furry friend (or snuggle in silence)... either way, they just get it.
"I love spending time with animals. I sometimes think that I love animals more than I love humans (it's not just a Betty White thing!). There is something to be said for the love and affection an animal can give you. They don't care what's going on in your life—and sometimes I don't want to talk about what's happening in my life—so I go to animals. They love you no matter what, and they always brighten my day. My dog, Toots, brings me such joy. She is so smart and when I talk to her I feel like she's actually listening. When I go [to my parent's house] now it's always so nice to be surrounded by her constant love and affection. She is home." —Kristin, 29
5. Take yourself out to lunch...
"I exercise four to five times a week to a beach body DVD for 25 minutes a day. Since I live with my parents and "alone time" is hard to come by, those 25 minutes a day I am doing something just for me. Also, going out to a cafe or eating lunch or any meal by myself—sometimes it's nice to just unwind, relax and enjoy just being [on my own]. It's rare in New York where everyone is rushing around and following a schedule to find time to yourself, so I think we should all make the decision to have at least 25 minutes [of alone time] each day." —Jillian, 28
6. ...Then go see a movie on your own.
"To me, self-love is learning to be comfortable alone. I've started to get into doing leisure activities alone, like seeing a movie. I went to see Me Before You in the theaters by myself—I'm surprised I didn’t drown in my own tears. There is something about being by yourself and not being influenced by other people's emotions—you can fully reflect on your own." —Kaitlin, 28
7. Do something you love—and help someone you care about at the same time.
"Self-love is a concept that has always been a challenge for me, but I've recently realized how important it is to accept yourself in order to accept other people. Something as simple as rearranging my room or just helping others declutter [makes me happy]. I feel productive, creative and motivated. I recently helped my 18-year-old cousin clean out her room. It was something she had wanted to do for a long time, but was hesitant to ask. Once she did, I was so excited to help. She realized how much she had that she no longer needed—things that just took up space and gave her negative feels every time she looked at them. I remember her telling me how relieved she felt once we finished. Helping someone with something as simple as decluttering can make a huge difference, not just in their lives, but in yours as well." —Jenna, 23
8. Explore a new world (or mindset).
"Lately, I've been trying to do a lot of reading. Not just for school, but actual reading for pleasure. It has helped me slow down and remember to plan some time for me. Usually it will be at night before bed, but sometimes I'll take a break from schoolwork to read my book. It's my own little "me" time sprinkled in with all of my other obligations and commitments. A week ago I finished The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. It was pretty intense. I liked it a lot, but it also made me cry a lot! Now I'm reading Originals by Adam Grant. This is a book I've been wanting to read for a while now. Sheryl Sandberg wrote the preface!" —Maggie, 30
9. Pause for a moment and think about one thing you're grateful for.
"I've started waking up in the morning and saying five things that I'm most grateful for. I don't always come up with something new, often I repeat myself. I am most grateful for my family, friends, health, job and my creativity." —Ava, 30-something
10. Slow down, savor the moment and get some fresh air
"I really love just sipping on some tea on my days off and enjoying the warmth and flavor compared to when I'm working and rushing through the process. Sometimes I get sick of the stale air that surrounds me at work (where I work on a level below the basement) and in my home, since it's too cold to open up the windows during winter. So when the sun is shining and it's not freezing out, I'll take a walk around the block to clear not only my lungs but my mind with no distractions, meaning I'm not on my phone or listening to music." —Kirti, 30
11. Start a new daily good-for-you habit.
"My biggest thing is to make time almost every day for yoga class. It's all about feeling supported by yourself and those around you, which can take some active attention and perspective shifting. One of my favorite poses is standing forward fold because it makes me feel like all of my tension is dripping out from the top of my head. I always take extra time in this pose when I'm feeling stressed. Making yoga a near-daily habit means it's something I can count on myself for. Everyday, I make it a question of when I'll fit it into my schedule, rather than if I will. A big part of what inspires me to stick with it is that going more frequently makes it easier. If I skip two days or more, the next class will be that much harder and I can feel that I don't accumulate the positive effects in the same way. Also, when my intention is to practice almost every day, it makes it okay to skip a day. I usually end up going to class four days a week, sometimes five. If I don't make it one day, I know I'll be back the next. So it's okay!" —Margaret, 27
Thank you to the amazing 11 women who contributed to this story. I hope that you, my dear readers, can take at least one new thing from this story to add to your "self-love" repertoire. You're worth it.
All my love, Heather xoxo
Photograph by Tom Schelling.