Sometimes, we can allow our preoccupation with our relationships to eclipse the most important relationship we can have: the one with ourselves. Partners might come and go. Children will grow up and lead their own lives. But we will always have ourselves. And it’s easy to take what we’ve always had, and will always have, for granted.
It’s important not to do this.
I know I’ve been guilty of this, of pouring my time and energy into figuring out my relationship with other people to the exclusion of myself. It’s what every toxic relationship looks like — and I’m not just talking about the romantic variety either. We distract ourselves trying to figure out the dynamics of our interactions with other people. We people-please and goal-attain, but we don’t always love ourselves well through it.
Maybe I’m a fair-weather friend to myself. When my body looks the way I want it to and my hair behaves and I’m attaining one goal after another, I’m incredibly kind to myself. But when things go sideways because I have to prioritize different things or get behind on my goals, I’m suddenly wrapped up in dissatisfaction. I shift to a critical place, and it’s not one that is very kind.
I’ve decided that if I do nothing else I want to start loving myself better. I started thinking about what it would look like to love myself better in the days, weeks, and months ahead. I wanted to think outside the box of weight or other markers that measure anything but health. I tried to take a holistic view. What would nurture me as more than just a body? And this list slowly developed. It’s probably not all-inclusive. But it’s a start.
1. Have more sex.
I hope that got your attention. Having more sex is good for you, provided you practice the safe variety with trusted partners. Be responsible, but definitely consider “more orgasms” for your resolution list. It counts as exercise, too.
No partner? No problem. There’s a whole adult industry designed to help you out with this one. Get out your sexual bucket list, and start doing something about it. But more than that, explore how your sexuality can be more intimate and connected.
2. Veg out.
I’m not talking about being a couch potato. I’m seriously talking about adding more vegetables to our diets. Adding a dash of color to our plates with fruits and vegetables can help us be healthier humans.
3. Water for the win.
Because it needed to be said. Most of us don’t drink enough water. I know my water consumption dropped off dramatically when I started working from home. Staying hydrated is a great way to love ourselves better.
4. Connect with nature.
You don’t have to be an outdoor person to get the benefit of nature. Try a houseplant like a low-maintenance succulent. But a walk outside won’t kill you either, provided you look both ways before crossing the street and walk where it’s safe.
5. Read more.
Books, magazines, blogs. Just read. And every now and then, just for the hell of it, read something outside your interests or belief system — not to criticize it or build an argument but to get a new perspective. Ask your friends what book changed their lives or what book they just couldn’t put down. Choose a different genre or a new author, but read more and watch your life expand accordingly.
6. Speak up.
We have things we probably need to say. Hurts that need to be talked out. Love we feel but haven't shared. Lies we’ve told or secrets we’ve kept that never should have been. It’s time to speak up and, in doing so, love ourselves enough to let what we have to say matter.
7. Practice intentional yeses and nos.
Many of our obligations are put on us by none other than ourselves. It’s like we don’t remember that we’re adults who get to choose. An intentional life can allow us to say yes to the things we want to do that align with the lives we’re building and to say no to things that don’t interest or engage us. Figure out which is which, and act accordingly.
8. Make space for quality time.
Put down the phone. Turn off the screens. There are people in our lives who need our undivided attention, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Tune in. This quality time will feed our souls, too.
9. Kiss the victim mentality goodbye, and own your shit.
So, bad stuff happened to you. Welcome to the world. We all have our baggage. It may be time to step up and own the choices we’re making now without blaming anyone or anything else. The hurt they’ve caused may be their fault, but what we do is and always will be our responsibility. It’s time to accept our part in the choices we’ve made and take responsibility for our healing.
10. Make a friend.
You can never have too many. Start by being friendly. See where it goes. Being inclusive of others isn’t just kind; it gives us the opportunity to expand our social support.
11. Let go of a toxic relationship.
We all have them. The person that never does anything but criticize. The frenemy. The one who shows up for our failures but is mysteriously absent or silent when we’re doing well. Letting go of them is a loving action for ourselves.
12. Work on addressing a bad habit.
If you thought of smoking or biting our nails, think bigger. Bad habits might be interrupting others, losing our temper, engaging in a pattern of toxic relationships, binge eating, drinking too much, hitting below the belt in arguments… the list could go on forever. We all have bad habits. It could be a good time to address one of our personal challenges, even just to improve if not entirely eliminate them.
13. Create a new and positive habit.
Sign up for a yoga class. Listen to a TED talk every day. Start the day with a glass of water. Begin a gratitude practice. Figure out something that could enrich your life, and then do it.
14. Learn something new.
I started using Duolingo to learn a new language, but learning something new can be as easy as looking up a fact or figuring out how to put something together. Just don’t stop learning.
15. Make fitness fun.
When people complain about fitness, I’m often befuddled. I understand that not everyone thinks running five miles a day is enjoyable. But there are so many ways fitness can be fun. I run, but I also do yoga, hike, paddleboard, throw axes, participate in obstacle races and generally try new and fun fitness adventures.
Fitness doesn’t have to be boring. Swimming and dancing are forms of fitness, too. We’ll never be interested in exercise if we equate it with pain and suffering rather than fun. So, make it fun.
16. Laugh more.
Seriously. Watch a comedy, talk with friends, whatever makes you genuinely laugh.
17. Sing your heart out.
Sing in the shower. Sing in the car. Don’t worry about singing well. Just enjoy the experience.
18. Pamper the skin you’re in.
Moisturizer and sunscreen come to mind, but staying hydrated helps, too.
19. Forgive people — make one of them you.
Holding grudges and staying angry simply hurts us, not the person who we’re bearing the grudge against. Practicing forgiveness is a great gift to give ourselves. I still find this one a challenge, but that’s why it requires practice.
20. Play more.
Life shouldn’t be all about work and achievement. Sometimes, it just needs to be about playing and having a good time. Let’s bring a little joy into our lives this year.
21. Create a healthier environment.
This isn’t just about cleaning our space; it’s also about making it healthier for us. An organized, beautiful space — maybe even one with a plant or two in it — can give us a healthier space to live and work in. But going a step beyond, that healthy environment also means the people we surround ourselves with. We can make the new year a time to surround ourselves with people who build us up, not break us down.
22. Break a toxic cycle.
If you don’t have any, you may not be paying attention. Speaking kindly rather than adopting an angry tone when we address conflict is just one thing we could do to end a cycle that likely spirals the same way every time. That’s just one example.
Generational curses continue because we blame our past and refuse to take responsibility for our present. Breaking cycles means doing things differently than what we may have experienced in order to create new, healthier patterns in our own lives.
23. Dust off the bucket list.
I sort of hate when people talk about bucket lists like some kind of wish list. It’s almost a lottery fantasy equivalent. But our bucket lists shouldn't just be things we want to do someday; they should be things we’re actively trying to work into our lives.
Want to skydive? Great! Save up for that. Book it. Get a buddy to go along so you don’t back out at the last minute. Probably pick a buddy braver than you see yourself. Dust off that bucket list, and make this the year that you actually show yourself love by doing the things that make you happy.
24. Find financial freedom.
Stress about finances doesn’t just age us; it can actually make us feel less healthy. The burden of debt can create an underlying hum of stress that’s always with us. Learning to find a little more financial freedom could look like changing our relationship with money.
While I love retail therapy as much if not more than the next person, I also love not feeling overwhelmed by finances. Figuring out where I can afford to cut back and where I can work in the occasional splurge helps me find the balance between paying all the bills and still managing to afford a little fun. Self-love should look more like freeing ourselves from stress whenever possible.
25. Sleep more.
People are always saying you can sleep when you’re dead. I’m not sure they understand sleep, to be honest. I want to sleep when I’m alive. Clearly, not the whole time. But I enjoy a good nap when I can manage one. But going to bed a little early is another good way to work in more snoozing time so that we feel refreshed and ready for the next day.
Divorce dynamited me out of my complacency. If I wanted to create a better life, I would need to step into self-love and make some tough choices. Or any choices at all rather than passively allowing life to happen to me. I needed to figure out this whole self-love business so that I never, ever allowed anyone else to treat me like I wasn’t worthy of love, respect, or consideration. But more than that, I needed to figure out how to treat myself better to enrich the life I was living.
It’s been a practice, and it took me a little while longer to learn the lesson. But now, self-love is a big part of my life, and as we move forward into new years and new beginnings, it just might help us to really work on our relationship with ourselves — not just everyone else.