I wasn’t born yesterday. I understand the importance of self-love. What amazes me is that I still make the mistake of looking for it in the mirror.

A few weeks ago, I accompanied my husband to the barbers for his bi-weekly Peaky Blinders-inspired haircut. Afterward, we strolled around Queen West for a while, poking in and out of stores. In one store, he put on a flat cap, approached the mirror with a swagger, raised an eyebrow, and gave his handsome reflection a nod of appreciation.

And here’s the thing. He is not the first guy I’ve caught in the act of such obvious self-approval. I’ve witnessed both of my brothers rock their best Blue Steel looks while glaring at their handsome selves in the looking glass. On this particular occasion, though, I found myself feeling mildly jealous and wondering what it would feel like to look at myself and think, hello gorgeous.

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Understanding the importance of self-love is one thing. Practicing it is something else.

And so I created a Self-Love Challenge. Yep. I decided that for 10 straight days, which soon became a week, which then became five days (practicing self-love was way harder than I anticipated), I would try to do something every day to make myself feel more, dare I say it, beautiful.

I kept a log so that I could measure how well I was exercising the importance of self-love. Reading it now makes me cringe as much as I’d no doubt cringe if forced to read a page from one of my teenage diaries out loud. That said (squirm), here it is:

Self-Love Challenge: Day 1

Today I was treated to a belated birthday lunch by two lovely friends. I paired a grey top with pleated cuffs (just one notch above your average long-sleeved tee) with a pair of cropped, light-denim flares and a pair of ankle boots that have just enough heel to give my bum a lift. Yep. It’s Monday. It was only 1 pm. But I went for the bum lift — normally reserved for special occasions. Before I walked out the door, I honoured the importance of self-love by looking in the mirror and saying, hello gorgeous. Out loud.

Self-love Challenge: Day 2

This morning I walked the dog with a friend. The dog’s gorgeous, so why shouldn’t I be? I put on my long, grey skinny sweater dress, layered it with a long black cardigan, and threw on a bright orange scarf for a splash of colour. I then rummaged through my jewelry box, full of goodies I rarely bother with. One fat blingy ring, a few sparkly bangles, and a pair of big silver earrings later, off I went with a wiggle.

Self-love Challenge: Day 3

Today’s highlight: the cleaners are coming. What to wear? Another black top with frilly sleeves (I’m into frills these days) and a pair of jeans with a few random stars scattered about. Oh, and I fished into my jewelry box for a silver ring gifted to me on my 50th. The accompanying note read, “You deserve the moon and the stars.” Yeah, I do, so I’ve decided to own it!

Self-love Challenge: Day 4

Today has been a Boho kinda day. Black leggings, black boots, loose and flowy Indian-print shirt and gold filigree earrings.  When I walked, my shirt swung and my boots clickety-clicked. Must admit, I missed the hello, gorgeous pep talk on my way out as I was running late, but I strutted through IKEA like a boss.

Self-love Challenge: Day 5

The highlight of today’s wardrobe? A pair of Merino wool socks. Beautiful, no. Life-altering, yes. Why, oh why, did it take me 28 Canadian winters to discover these? If anything honours the importance of self-love, it’s Merino wool socks.

And then I called BULLSHIT on my Self-Love challenge.

Come ON! Pleated cuffs, frilly sleeves, a splash of colour — what the hell was I thinking? While all of these little details delight me from an aesthetic point of view, not one made the slightest bit of difference to how I perceived myself.

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Maybe I understood the importance of self-love, but I was experiencing an epic FAIL when it came to honouring it. And so, mission aborted. I was going to have to look elsewhere. I was going to have to — GULP — look deeper.

“True beauty comes from within.” Yes, yes. I know. I’ve heard the saying a million times (who hasn’t?) and I’ve no doubt said it a hundred times myself and probably even meant it.

But “True beauty comes from within …ME?” That’s an altogether different story. And while most of the people I hold dear have suggested in one way or another that I may, in fact, be a beautiful person, the truth is I’m not 100% there when it comes to believing it myself.

I recently attended an event that brought the importance of self-love to light.

Last week, I had the privilege of participating in a conversation about gratitude that was moderated by Judy and Amy, two Toronto-based relationship therapists. A big part of the dialogue revolved around the challenge of accepting gratitude. My takeaway from that conversation?

We need to practice more self-love!

How often do you find yourself responding to a thank-you with a whatever, not a problem, no biggie? On such occasions, you can bet you didn’t allow yourself to bask in the goodness of receiving gratitude. Rather, you brushed it under the carpet quickly. Why? Most likely because it felt uncomfortable.

If you really allowed yourself to receive gratitude, you’d likely have left at least a little space between their acknowledgment and your reply. You would have paused to allow their kind words to sink in, to own your worthiness, and to feel at least a second of warmth and connection before responding with a genuine, you’re welcome.

Similarly, how often have you found yourself downplaying or completely disregarding a compliment? Here’s another scenario that may sound familiar:

Friend 1: I love your dress.

Friend 2: Oh this? I bought it because it hides my bloated stomach.

Why do we kill compliments? What’s wrong with a simple, thank you?  Nothing, except that saying thank you can make us feel as fake as the person who gave the compliment in the first place because they couldn’t have honestly meant it, right?!

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If we don’t honour the importance of self-love, we’ll never see the beauty within ourselves.

If we don’t see the beauty within ourselves, we’ll never feel appreciated by others. Because even when they’re pouring on the gratitude, we’ll be so busy looking for evidence to support the low-opinion we have of ourselves, we won’t receive it.

Yep — even when it hurts, we just love to be right!

I get the importance of self-love. What amazes me is that all these decades in, I still make the mistake of looking for it in the mirror. Here’s the thing. The mirror doesn’t lie. If you believe that you are ugly on the inside, ugly is what you will see. Maybe ugly with a frilly shirt, or ugly with a splash of colour, but ugly all the same.

So what now?

We / I need to practice more self-love.

By self-love, I don’t mean treating oneself to more manis and pedis. Such indulgences may be nice, but they are not self-love. Self-love is free and it is always there for the taking.

In an article I read on Tiny Buddha, author Banu Sekendur kicks off an explanation of self-love by saying it is, “choosing ourselves, even if it means upsetting others and not being popular anymore.” Indeed, it is, but there is so much more to it than that.

As she goes on to say, self-love is “owning our inner and outer beauty and complimenting ourselves without feeling guilty, arrogant, or entitled.” It is “trusting the path that our soul is on,” “allowing ourselves to make mistakes and not berating ourselves for making them,” and so much more. You can read her complete self-love article here.

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Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

As for practicing self-love, Nitika Chopra presents a great how-to in 10 Wonderful Ways to Practice Self Love. Her suggestions, none of which cost a penny, are as follows:

  1. Create a self-love ritual.
  2. Build a precious community.
  3. Make a “What’s Working for Me” list.
  4. Know that your body is a loving vessel.
  5. Clean out your closet.
  6. No more comparisons.
  7. Explore your spirituality.
  8. Do something you’re good at.
  9. Find your happy place.
  10. Build your letting go muscle.

To delve deeper, read her full self-love article here.

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Remind yourself of the importance of self-love with these self-love quotes.

Self-love. It’s a whole different challenge to the one my husband inspired me to embark on. If only it were as simple as a pretty outfit, a bright red lipstick or a fresh, new fragrance.

Last week, after realizing the error of my ways, I quietly berated myself for being so foolish but with every new day comes new insight. Onward and forward. Let the real self-love begin. Are you with me?

Viv for today xo

If you related to this, you may relate to my post on the power of positive affirmations, too. (Spoiler alert: affirmations make me squirm.) Check it out!

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