How to Practice Self-Care and Self-Love: 12 Reflection Questions to Get You Started
Our relationship with ourselves impacts every area of our lives. But do you find that you’re always at the bottom of your list?
“Put on your oxygen mask first.”
“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
“Taking care of yourself doesn't mean me first, it means me too.”
Sound familiar? Okay, but WTF do these phrases mean?
Self-care and self-love are different.
Self-care and self-love are different. But both are important for your well-being.
Exhausted? Uninspired? Blah? Then read on!
Are you wondering, “Ellen, if you’re a nutritionist why are you talking about self-care and self-love?”
Simply put: I’d rather help you uncover the “whys” behind your habits than dissect nutrition labels. Making space for self-care and self-love facilitates this kind of personal exploration. 🕵️♀️🗺️
Also, I don’t believe it’s my job to tell you how to live your life. In fact, I think you should stay away from anyone who does.
Below, I’ve compiled some questions you can ask yourself to come up with a plan that works for you. Yep, you’re the expert.
How to define self-care.
Self-care is about taking steps to look after yourself. In other words: don’t get dead.
There’s no perfect formula. Everyone has different requirements for self-care.
You can embrace self-care in its many forms. This includes: taking care of your mental and physical health, nurturing relationships, and yes, buying that shiny new lotion if that’s what makes you feel happy and cared for.
You should aim for some form of self-care (aka “recharging your batteries”) on a regular basis. Instead of waiting until you’re stressed, exhausted, and/or sick.
Daily activities like brushing your teeth, meal prepping, sleeping, and exercising all fall under the self-care category.
Self-care doesn’t have to be a solo thing.
Did you know that you can lean on community (IRL and online) for self-care too?
Sometimes there’s a misconception that self-care has to be a solo act. Not true!
Web Trends reporter Heather Dockray has a good article on how solo self-care isn’t enough, inspired by a viral tweet by community organizer Nakita Valerio.
Your self-care practice doesn’t have to be perfect.
Self-care can be hard to prioritize.
Especially if you’re putting the needs of family members, friends, employers, and/or your communities ahead of your own. But as the cliché goes: you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Reminder to all of the Type A “Monicas,” perfectionists, and over-achievers: you likely won’t be able to do everything that you want to do.
So you’ll have to prioritize your well-being over those extra tasks that you feel like have to finish. Like dusting your old CD collection. Guilty! 🙋♀️ (Yep, this is your permission slip to “drop the ball” a little.)
The commercialization of self-care.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you have enough scented candles at home.
Self-care gets wrapped up in buying, buying, buying—candles, bath bombs, face masks, and essential oils. Can you relate?
Two problems with this:
1️⃣ The biz side of self-care perpetuates the myth that wellness is a personal choice. It ignores things like bigger barriers and the social side of health (like community and support systems).
2️⃣ When you say you need a #selfcaresunday, what you’re really saying is that you want less chaos. Less stress. Less anxiety. Right? Buying something might not be the solution in this case.
How to incorporate more self-care into your life.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to bring more #selfcaresunday awareness to your whole week:
What do I need to feel good today? What rituals, activities, hobbies, and/or appointments would make you feel good?
Where can I find a pause in my day? Where can you realistically fit self-care into your day? Can you take 10-15 minutes to enjoy a tea or coffee, listen to music, read something (like The Good Yolk newsletter 😉), stretch, and/or go for a walk? Put it in your calendar, and plan not to procrastinate!
What does my body really need? What message is your body sending you about your stress levels? Your energy levels?
What do I need to finish? Are there any outstanding #boringselfcare tasks you need to cross off your to-do list? What do you need to complete them?
What do I need help with? Who can you ask for help? What resources are available to you in your community?
BTW I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of judgment over what is and what isn’t self-care.
If activities like zoning out on the couch to Netflix, scrolling on social media, LOLing at memes (I have so many saved), eating, and/or sleeping in recharges you, then I don’t see what the problem is. 🤷
✨ BONUS: Two of my fave self-care practices that you can put in place right away are:
Eat what you like.
Yes, kale smoothies and chia seeds are the epitome of wellness on Instagram. But new rule: if you don’t like it, don’t eat it. Self-care!
Move in a way that feels good.
The same goes for exercise. If you hate running, don’t feel obligated to sign up for that 5k race. Yes, walking is an acceptable form of movement!
What if self-care isn’t sticking?
If you’re still struggling with implementing a self-care practice. You might need to take some time to identify your worthiness wound.
After all, self-care is a component of self-love.
How to define self-love.
Self-love is valuing yourself unconditionally.
It’s being your own friend, and rooting for yourself even when you suffer, fail, or feel inadequate. No judgment or self-criticism.
Self-love is a deep state of appreciation for yourself that grows from actions like:
Accepting yourself for who you are;
Speaking kindly about yourself (out loud and in your head);
Believing in yourself;
Giving yourself compassion;
Trusting your intuition;
Setting and enforcing boundaries ( saying “no” to things or people that don’t make you feel good or happy);
Recognizing your place in a shared humanity; and
Meeting your body’s needs.
Finding self-acceptance and self-love is a never-ending journey, especially in a culture that tells you that there’s always more, better.
How to incorporate more self-love into your life.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to deepen your self-love:
What do I like about myself? Can you list 10 things or qualities that you like about yourself? Don’t second-guess. Just write.
What values are the most important to me? Does your present life fulfill them? How can you live in ways that align with your values?
How do I want someone to love me? How can you offer this to yourself too? The more you make yourself feel whole and worthy, the more you have to give in relationships.
How can I offer myself more compassion? Are you struggling with anything? Is there any part of you that needs healing? Forgiveness? When you’re in physical or emotional pain, what are some of the best things you can do for yourself?
How much do I trust myself? Do you listen to others more than yourself?
What does my inner critic tell me? How does your inner critic stop you from moving forward? What’s the origin of each critical belief? Is each belief still true for you today? What positive beliefs can replace each negative one?
What are my favourite ways to take care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually? What self-care practices can you incorporate into your days, weeks, months, and years? What makes you feel most like yourself?
Do you see how practicing self-care is an important act of self-love?
Remember, what works for one person might not work for you. There’s no one recipe for self-care. Despite what it seems like on Instagram.
So that’s the difference between self-care and self-love. Did you find this helpful?
Oh, and in case no one has told you this: you’re good enough the way you are.
P.S. Have you heard of The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman? If not, you can take the quiz online. This is another way to understand yourself and what self-care ideas are best for you.
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About the author
Meet Ellen Kaross (she/her), the Non-Diet Nutritionist and Intuitive Eating Coach behind The Good Yolk.
Ellen helps women-identifying folks uncover what their emotional eating can teach them, and find joy and balance in their relationship with food.
Her passion for advocacy informs her compassionate, non-judgmental approach.