Last year was a difficult one for me. I was really struggling with my mental health and was suffering from depression and anxiety. Looking around at other beautiful, successful women, I wondered: How do they do it? How do they manage to feel so good?
I wanted to find out, and I wanted to share with other women who, like me, wanted to feel happy — wanted to feel well. Tapping into my creative energy, I set out to compile a resource anyone could use. I asked women I knew: What are your mantras and habits of self-care?
What they told me was both revolutionary and a total no-brainer at the same time. If I can practice them, I know you can, too. Here are 13 recipes for self-love that are simple in practice and multifaceted in their benefits.
1. Stop comparing yourself to others
We’re socialised to be competitive, so comparing ourselves to others is natural. But it can be dangerous. There’s just no point in comparing yourself to anyone else on the planet because there’s only one you. Rather, focus on yourself and your journey. The shift of energy, alone, will help you feel free.
2. Don’t worry about others’ opinions
In that same vein, don’t worry about what society thinks or expects of you. You can’t make everyone happy, so this is a waste of time and will only slow you down on your journey to being the best you.
3. Allow yourself to make mistakes
We’re told again and again from a young age “nobody’s perfect, everyone makes mistakes.” But the older you get, the more pressure you feel never to fail. Cut yourself some slack! Make mistakes so you can learn and grow from them. Embrace your past. You’re constantly changing and growing from who you once were into who you are today and who you will be one day.
So, forget about that voice in your head that says you need to be perfect. Make mistakes — lots of them! The lessons you’ll gain are priceless.
4. Remember your value doesn’t lie in how your body looks
This is fundamental! So many things in the world want to distract you from this powerful truth. Sometimes even your own internalized sexism affirms your thoughts of inadequacy. You are valuable because you are you, not because of your body.
So, wear what makes you feel good. If it’s a lot or if it’s a little, wear what makes you feel confident, comfortable, and happy.
5. Don’t be afraid to let go of toxic people
Not everybody takes responsibility for the energy they put out into the world. If there’s someone who is bringing toxicity into your life and they won’t take responsibility for it, that might mean you need to step away from them. Don’t be afraid to do this. It’s liberating and important, even though it may be painful.
Remember: Protect your energy. It’s not rude or wrong to remove yourself from situations or the company of people who are draining you.
6. Process your fears
Like erring, feeling afraid is natural and human. Don’t reject your fears — understand them. This healthy exercise can really help with your mental health. Interrogating and evaluating your fears helps you to gain clarity and unmask issues in your life that were causing you anxiety. That, in turn, can help alleviate some — if not all — of your anxiety.
7. Trust yourself to make good decisions for yourself
We so often doubt ourselves and our ability to do what’s right, when most of the time we do know in our hearts what’s best. Remember that your feelings are valid. You’re not losing touch with reality. You know yourself better than anyone else, so be your best advocate.
8. Take every opportunity life presents or create your own
The timing is never going to be perfect for that next big step in your life. The set up may not be ideal, but that shouldn’t hold you back from reaching to meet your goals and dreams. Instead, seize the moment because it may never come back.
9. Put yourself first
Don’t feel bad about doing this. Women, especially, can grow accustomed to putting others first. Although there’s a time and a place for this, it shouldn’t’ be a habit that costs you your mental or emotional well-being.
Find the time to decompress. Without decompressing and recharging you can put serious strain on yourself. Whether it’s spending the day in bed or outdoors in nature, find what helps you decompress and dedicate time to this.
10. Feel pain and joy as fully as you can
Allow yourself to feel things fully. Lean into pain, revel in your joy, and don’t put limitations on your feelings. Like fear, pain and joy are emotions that will help you understand yourself and ultimately realize that you are not your feelings.
11. Exercise boldness in public
Get into the habit of speaking your mind. Boldness is like a muscle — it grows the more you exercise it. Don’t wait for permission to take a seat at the table. Join the conversation. Contribute your thoughts. Take action, and know that your voice is just as important as anyone else’s.
12. See beauty in the simple things
Try to notice at least one beautiful, small thing around you every single day. Make note of it, and be grateful for it. Gratitude not only gives you perspective, it’s essential to help you find joy.
13. Be kind to yourself
The world is full of harsh words and critique — don’t add yours to the mix. Speak kindly to yourself, and don’t call yourself mean things. Celebrate yourself. You’ve come so far and grown so much. Don’t forget to celebrate yourself, and not only on your birthday!
Even if you don’t feel particularly powerful, think about how far you’ve come, how you’ve survived. You’re here, right now, alive and powerful beyond your knowledge. And be patient with yourself. Self-love may not happen overnight. But with time, it will settle itself into your heart.
Yes, you may struggle, but you’ll look back on these moments and see how they were stepping stones on your journey to being the best you.
Alison Rachel Stewart is an artist and the creator of Recipes For Self-Love, a collaborative initiative that celebrates habits, practices, and meditations for self-care and wellness. When she’s not creating personalized items for her Etsy store, you can find Alison writing songs with her band, creating illustrations, or exercising her creative energy into a new project. Follow her on Instagram.