Philia’s global discussion over the month of February, the month of love, was self-love. Philia Communities host meetups all around the world. In Lisbon, Dubai, Berlin, Paris, Istanbul and Kabul we discussed last month what it means to love ourselves, why and when we stop loving ourselves and why loving ourselves is vital in order to be able to love others.

Self-love can be practised

Self-love is a decision. We decide if we take the time to give ourselves care and attention. Being kind, forgiving and respectful towards ourselves leads to us treating ourselves better because we are worth it. It is ultimately about treating ourselves in ways we would treat a loved one. Most of us have self-doubt and do not find it easy to practice self-love, but we can learn and practice to do so by knowing ourselves, our strengths and values. 

Know thyself. Knowing ourselves can help us understand our triggers better and how to work on areas in our lives that are stopping us from loving ourselves or feeling less of ourselves. Learning about these triggers can help us find ways to manoeuvre around these obstacles or to find new tools to work through them.

What stops us from loving ourselves?

Seeking validation to love ourselves is a weighty variable that stops us from loving ourselves genuinely. Nowadays too often we depend on others to accept ourselves. We love ourselves if we get validation like likes on Facebook or Instagram or if we get compliments from people who like us in our daily life. However, should self-love depend on outside validation of should it come from inside? Would it not be amazing to develop such a love towards ourselves that will not be shaken easily by any criticism or failures? Let’s see what the insights from our global conversation suggest.

Our internal dialogue can either hinder or enhance our self-love. It is influenced by who and what we surround ourselves with. The inner voice in our heads assesses things around us – sometimes we are conscious of it and sometimes we are not. When we work on our internal dialogue we are able to counterbalance variables that hinder our love to ourselves. So, paying attention to our internal dialogue will help us assess our level of self-love.

The ultimate hindrance to loving ourselves is in fact us! We stop ourselves from loving ourselves when we give others the power to define us for us.

Sometimes we are overly judgmental of ourselves and become so captivated that we cannot focus on the present anymore. For example, wearing the dress that you start to feel insecure in later perhaps by how it’s perceived by your surroundings. You start to criticize yourself so much that you will not be able to act or speak as confident as in the absence of this validation from the outside. However, self-love is focusing on our area of control. The first thing we can control is what we think of us. The second thing we can control is how we perceive what others think of us or how we perceive their behaviour. We cannot control how others judge us. Self-love is understanding what to focus on when it comes to judgement. Because Self-love is built through action, not affirmation. No amount of telling yourself that you love you is going to convince you if you don’t take action to show that you love you.

How can we cultivate self-love?

Everyone has their own self-love mechanisms: Sometimes it’s slowing down and taking care of your body. Sometimes it’s speeding up and setting your limits high in your work life. Sometimes it’s re-evaluating your priorities in your personal and love life.

Self-love should not be conditional for example: “I can only be ok with myself if I pass this exam”. Self-awareness helps to cultivate self-love through finding out what brings you self-esteem, joy and pride and doing more of it.

Self-love is reflected in what you tolerate. How you allow others to treat you either at work or in your inner personal circle is a reflection of your love for yourself. Not tolerating toxic behaviour helps you set healthy limits of how others can treat you. This, in turn, increases your self-respect and self-love of course. In essence, acting out of self-love inspires others to do the same.

Another great visualization that was shared during the global conversation was that we should surround ourselves with a bubble of awesomeness before we walk out the door in the morning. The bubble of awesomeness allows us to encounter negativity without it altering our level of self-love, which remains firm and unaffected. 

Our capacity to love and care for others

Sometimes it is hard to find a balance between your needs and wants and the needs of others. We don’t want to disappoint others and therefore often fear to be seen as acting selfishly and egoistical because. However, putting yourself first doesn’t mean being selfish. It is not an excuse for poor behaviour or a way to escape accountability by choosing what is best for yourself. Selfishness is when you do not want something for others. 

In essence, loving yourself enables you to love others. We need to pour into ourselves first until we are so full that giving to others comes automatically from a state of energy and of overflow. If you love yourself you radiate love. At the same time, it enables you to stand up for yourself and push back when someone does not deserve your efforts. Once you get to know your desires and limits you can begin to understand what you need to do in order to achieve your goals and learn to love the process and yourself in the meantime. 

Furthermore, accepting ourselves as we are, respecting and appreciating ourselves for what we are, gives us the energy to share that love with others. Solidarity (last months global topic) and self-love are related, too. Once we love ourselves we can come together with a mass to make a change in society.

In the upcoming meetup, the discussion will be on equality.  Stay tuned for our next post.  

A huge thank you to Zakira Rasooli and contributors: Mirna, Mina, Solveig, Becky, Marielle, Nicole, Zakira, Mariam, Nuha and Sigita