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This post is written by our Senior editor, Rachel Kempton.

 “When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits…anything that kept me small. My judgment called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.” ~ Kim McMillen

A few days ago one of my friends reminded me that “You cannot pour from an empty jug” and it rang so true. How can you possibly take proper care of the people around you if you’re not taking good care of yourself?

Her wise words got me thinking about the importance of self-love and how it really is key to living a present, positive and happy life. After all, self-love is a state of appreciation for yourself that grows from doing things that support your physical, psychological and spiritual growth.

Of course self-love also requires self-respect – an acceptance of who you are. And there may be times in life when we find ourselves making poor decisions, facing difficult situations, or being so influenced by outside circumstances, that we act out of neither self-love nor self-respect. For example, are you loving and respecting yourself if, as a working mum, you constantly put everyone else’s needs first and burn out? Are you loving and respecting yourself if you have a “successful” career that is making you unhappy or depressed? Are you loving and respecting yourself if you’re constantly being swayed by what you should do rather than what feels right? Or, are you loving and respecting yourself if you put up with the boss who is treating you badly? The answer is, probably not.

While you can’t always control external circumstances, and how others might think, feel, or act, you can control your own mind, your own body and your own soul. You can try and be more conscious about how you treat yourself.

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Here are some things that can help you make self-love and respect a priority in your life:

  • Forgive yourself. We can be so hard on ourselves. The downside of taking responsibility for our actions is punishing ourselves too much for making mistakes as we learn and grow. Accept that no one is perfect and practice being less hard on yourself when you make a mistake. Remember, there are no failures, only lessons learned.
  • Set boundaries and be honest with yourself, and others. You’ll love yourself more when you set limits or say no to work, love, or activities that deplete or harm you physically, emotionally and spiritually, or express poorly who you are.
  • Nourish your body. Give your body the nurturing, rest, exercise, and comfort it needs to the best it can be, after all it’s the only place you have to live! Set your intentions by writing a commitment letter to your body, telling it how you intend to love and accept it unconditionally, and practice self-care habits that support its thriving. For example:

Dear dedicated body, 

From this moment forward, I promise to feed you with healthy, clean food and positive thoughts. I will water you often. I’ll cherish the spirit you so tirelessly protect and take time out to rest. I’ll strive to understand you, to exercise and inspire your mind so that I may serve you into your old age. From this moment on, I will trust that you are the perfect vehicle for my journey through life. From this moment on, we are a team and I will repay your best with my best. 

With love, respect and deepest gratitude, Me xxx

  • Speak positively about yourself. Judgmental voices from the past may have left a hidden residue of toxic shame, which blocks us from honouring — or even noticing – what we’re really feeling. Being gentle with ourselves means accepting the feelings that arise within us. It is normal to feel sad, hurt, and afraid sometimes. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to become mindful of these feelings and allow a friendly space for them.
  • Follow your intuition. Instead of living out of your brain and ego, follow your heart.
  • Don’t settle for less than you deserve.  Get in touch with who you really are. Ask yourself: how do I want to feel in my every day life? What do I really want? What are my core values and beliefs? Who/what matters most to me? If you’d love help figuring all this out, take the Do What You Love course which runs for five weeks from 16 January 2017.

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Our life-changing course will help you start building a life that you love now by:

– Doing what you love, more often. Very often. In fact: daily.

– Getting paid to do what you love. (If that’s what you want — for some, it’s not. For many, it is!)

– Making your life simpler and sweeter — not busier and more complicated.

– Re-opening doors that you thought were locked shut… re-opening possibilities that you thought were long gone… and illuminating possibilities you never knew existed.

Self-love: it’s all about what’s inside

No one else can do these things for us. No one can take our vitamin pills for us, or make us speak our truth, or force us to choose the path that brings most joy. Even if we have the best partner/most loving family/most supportive friends in the world, we won’t feel happy and whole unless we create the space for it inside by practicing self-love and respect.

What do self-love and self-respect mean to you? We’d love to know! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.