What does self-love mean?
And how do you practice it? Samantha Skelly of Hungry for Happiness gets to the heart of the conversation.
There’s lots of talk about ‘self-love’ and ‘self-care’ in the wellness world, but what does it really mean? Some claim anything from a fitness class to a skincare regimen can be an act of loving yourself, but can they actually bring peace, happiness and acceptance into your life?
Hungry for Happiness
Hungry for Happiness is a movement aimed at promoting acceptance and self-love. While many women are drawn to our organization with the aim of ending yo-yo dieting and healing negative eating routines, Hungry for Happiness is ultimately about addressing the true cause of damaging self-image – things like emotional baggage and lack of connection with one’s body.
My passion for helping women feel strong and secure in their own skin came from my struggles with insecurity. As a young woman in the acting industry and world of dance, I felt constantly scrutinized for my body and appearance. By the time I was 18, I was obsessed with controlling my appearance.
The journey towards learning to love myself and my human body revealed how much my fixation on my looks was actually an expression of deeper internal conflict. I wasn’t hungry for food, or even a certain appearance – I was hungry for true happiness from within.
For me, self-love is all about acceptance. Long-term transformation and sustainable change don’t come from quick fixes like a diet change or an exercise program. It comes from accepting your life and yourself, inside and out, through constant effort.
I like the analogy of sunglasses: no matter how inexpensive a pair of sunglasses may have been, if you treat them well by storing them in a case and keeping them shiny and clean, their inherent value skyrockets. On the flipside, a pair of sunglasses that we neglect by throwing them around carelessly will feel worthless, no matter how much we spent on them.
Practice makes peaceful
Creating positive energy and feelings of self-love are rooted in the practices we create in our day. Practices can help contribute to a healthy state, remind us to love ourselves and make time to listen to ourselves – just like shining our sunglasses and keeping them in good condition helps us value them.
There are no particular boxes you can check off or specific practices that will make you feel better about yourself. When it comes to cultivating self-acceptance, it has to be visceral: something driven by what your body is telling you.
Slow down and listen
The only rule I make for myself around my personal practices is that they need to start with:
- making space,
- slowing down,
- surrendering, and
The practices themselves can look completely different from day to day. Today, it may mean an hour of yoga surrounded by candles. Tomorrow, it could mean soaking in a tub full of bath salts. What’s important is creating the time and space to allow my body to talk to me. We spend all day telling ourselves and our bodies how to feel. In the time I make for myself to slow down and connect within, I’m allowing my body to dictate my actions.
There are endless ways to access self-love, but it’s really a personal journey. Take the time to experiment and discover what is best for you.
Here are a few places to start:
When we have structure, we can let life flow. When we create boundaries with the intention of protecting our energy, we can flow in our relationships. Learn how to honour what your body is telling you, while communicating with love that you need to conserve your energy for you.
We have anxiety around things that we don’t have adequate boundaries around. If you feel like people are walking all over you: check your relationship boundaries. If you feel tired all the time: check the boundaries you have created – or haven’t created – around sleep. So often when we have anxiety, we try to numb or suppress it. Try being curious about the area of your life that is causing you anxiety without drowning it out.
When you are in denial, you can’t create meaningful change. Sometimes acceptance can seem to hold the same meaning as complacency, but they are very different. Self-love means actively being at peace with all parts of us, not just the shiny parts. Are you in denial about parts of yourself? Which ones?
Trust your body
The mind is a beautiful tool, and so is our body. We are fundamentally designed to be intuitive beings, and we can choose to use the wisdom of our body. There’s very few times when I make a decision from my logical mind. What is your body saying to you? Does the situation feel expansive, or does it make you feel small? Trust your intuition and let go of the need to put words to the feelings.
If there’s one thing I could leave you with, it would be this: your body is the portal to the truth. Pain is the portal to the divide. In order for us to feel connected and feel powerful, we have to change our relationship to pain and use our bodies to get there. We can’t get there if we’re constantly fighting our body and making ourselves feel horrible. Listen to your body, and give it room to talk to you.