(This article was originally published on lemondrop.com.)
Real self-love is not self-ish or self-centered. On the contrary! This may sound cliché, but it’s true: It’s only when you deeply love and nurture yourself that you can deeply love and nurture others. What’s more, loving yourself is a prerequisite to a happy life. It is also the most basic component of living the life of your dreams.
So, here’s the million-dollar question: Do you love yourself? Do you really, really love yourself? Or … not so much? Maybe you’re not quite sure how to tell. I know it’s not every day that you make a self-love checklist, but imagine if you did!
The following checklist can help you gauge your self-love quotient and — if necessary — even help you raise it. Read on.
Ready? Answer the following questions, then in your favorite journal, write down the first answers that pop into your head:
Body and Appearance
What is your self-talk surrounding your body? When you look in the mirror, do you automatically think, I look so fat, or maybe, Damn, I look hot.
Do you find that you’re more constantly fixated on your facial flaws, or the sparkle in your eyes?
Do you take the time to exercise? If so, do you do it in the spirit of self-care, or self-punishment?
Why it matters: Our minds and bodies are connected, so when we think positive thoughts about our bodies, they thrive. There is nothing wrong with wanting to change them, but it is so much more effective (and pleasant!) when we love ourselves as we are first. Then, for example, you can exercise and eat healthy foods as if you’re giving yourself a beautiful gift, rather than as if you are punishing yourself for not being good enough. Watching this video might help too.
Mind and Intelligence
Notice the words you use about your level of intelligence. If you find yourself saying things to yourself that you would never say to a friend, like, “Well, you know, stupid me, I forgot to bring a sweater,” take note. Then, little by little, shift the tide of your inner dialogue so that you speak to yourself with kindness.
Do you let yourself research and study the things that interest you? Perhaps you find that you’re always interested in crime shows, science documentaries, or home improvement magazines. Your mind craves nourishment, just like your body, and your natural interests are indications of things that will bring you joy, and perhaps even wealth and success. But no pressure: Start with a single book, take up a new hobby, or enroll in a simple course and see where your interest leads you.
What makes your spirit soar? For some, it’s spending time outside, on a bike, on foot, or in quiet contemplation. For others, it might be singing, writing poetry, traveling, painting, praying, meditating, doing yoga, or something else entirely.
When was the last time you took a vacation — or just a hot bath?
How much alone time do you allow yourself? No matter who we are and how many obligations we may have, in order for our spirits to be in balance, we all need to carve out at least a bit of relaxing alone time each day.
Take a look around your home. Whether it’s large or small, does it feel comforting to you? Have you taken small-yet-powerful steps to make it into a personal paradise? Perhaps it’s time for a new cushy bath mat, or maybe clearing clutter will make everything easier and more exhilarating. In what ways can you shift your home so that it nurtures you on all levels?
Car and/or Workspace
If you have a car, how much trash is in it, and do you keep it in good repair? Express your self-love by making it as safe and pleasant to be in as possible.
Similarly, if you have your own cubicle, office or workspace, how organized is it? You might bring in a little plant or desk fountain to show yourself how much you care, and to make your day that much better.
When you open your closet, what do you see? A bunch of clothes you love, or a bunch of clothes that make you say “I don’t have anything to wear”? First, let go of what I call your “low-self-worth clothes.” Then, as your budget permits (taking your time and getting creative if necessary), treat yourself to some really nice, key pieces that you look great in. From a psychological perspective, the importance of a wardrobe you love can’t be overemphasized. In other words, consider it a necessity, not a luxury.
How would you describe the major relationships in your life? Do you speak your truth and stand your ground, or do you let others take advantage of you or mistreat you? Your relationships with others usually are indicative of your relationship with yourself. For example, when you love yourself, you know on a deep level that you deserve to be surrounded by people who love you, who treat you well, and who speak kindly to you.
Goals and Dreams
What would your perfect world look like? In your perfect world, what would you do for a living? Where would you live? Who would you be? Write a list. Don’t hold back and don’t leave anything out.
Now, look at what you’ve written. Are you moving toward the things on your list and letting yourself believe that they can be a reality? If you find that you’re talking yourself out of them, or telling yourself it can’t be done, then make a shift. Remind yourself that if Helen Keller could not only learn to communicate effectively, but could also become a published author, you can absolutely do and be whatever you want.