Updated: Sep 15, 2019
What is self-love and why should we cultivate it?
Self-love begins with getting curious about our inner workings and patterns of behaviour. Taking the time to look at our thoughts, emotions, desires and limitations, and to want to care for, encourage and support ourselves to live our best lives. Just as we would our own child.
The starting point is to be an observer of our minds. Curiously watch, without judging, what is going on inside. Through getting to know our thoughts, reactions, emotions, sensations and listening to our bodies, we can begin to tune in to our innate power and wisdom.
What does teaching
self-love to teen girls look like?
Self-love is teaching girls to value themselves enough to want to live their healthiest, best lives so that they can feel good and thrive. It involves learning how to adopt healthy habits and to support themselves through the challenges of adolescence with understanding, encouragement, confidence and compassion.
Developing mindful awareness
"Awareness is the greatest agent for change"
- Ekhart Tolle
Through developing mindful awareness, we can learn to sit with our thoughts, emotions and sensations without reacting to or getting carried away by them.
Once we have an awareness of what’s happening inside, we can start to support ourselves to break through limitations as we begin to see where we are holding ourselves back, or being our own worst enemies.
Through practising mindful awareness, we create space to thoughtfully respond rather than react to the thoughts, emotions, events and people that show up in our lives. We become more aware of our habitual reactions and behaviours, and can shine a light on those we wish to change. This allows us to act in a way that is more considered, that better serves us, and others, because we have greater ability to make choices that are aligned with our values and highest selves.
Digging deeper with reflection
It takes time and effort to change habits. Once we develop the ability to observe our thoughts, emotions and reactions, we can start to reflect and unpack what is happening on a deeper level.
This happened... my thoughts were... I felt... my reaction was... why?
Most often, we operate on the level of, 'this happened... I felt... then reacted...' Rarely do we take the time to dig deeper and investigate the WHY. Why did we react that way? Why did these emotions surface?
The truth is, our reactions belong to us. And as much as it feels like the external events are the problem, or it's someone else's fault that we feel a certain way, it doesn't serve our growth to sit in that perspective.
Things happen and people behave in ways that we can be hurt by. We can't change that. What we can change is our response to the people and situations that lead to us feeling hurt. It might feel good in the moment to judge, get angry or express disappointment in others but blaming doesn't get us anywhere in the long run. Of course, there are times when we need to vent, let it all out and allow ourselves to be supported by loved ones, and it can be really healing to do so. However, we shouldn't stop at the level of reaction. To truly grow and learn from the experience, we need to get curious.
Consider, why might this have happened to me? What can it teach me about myself? It may be that we put too much value in other people's perceptions of us. That we let our self-worth be defined by others or that we expect people to behave in a certain way, and get upset when they don't. Perhaps we give too much of ourselves and need to establish personal boundaries.
The lessons here: our worth is defined by us, not others. When people behave in a way that causes hurt, it's about them and whatever is happening in their lives rather than it being about us. People don't often set out to inflict harm, it's just that they probably have their own suffering or insecurities that prevent them from seeing or considering how their actions may impact others. We need to take responsibility for the situations and environments that we put ourselves in, and choose to surround ourselves with people who support us to feel good.
We can always learn something about ourselves when we investigate our reactions. For teens, its about teaching them to listen to their body and choose to interact with people and life in ways that make them feel good.
It is valuable for young people to develop a regular reflective practice that supports personal growth, and to work on forming healthy relationships with themselves and others. Through recognising the people and interactions that are either uplifting or draining, young people can start to be more conscious about with whom and how they choose to spend their time.
Strategies for reflecting
Encouraging young people to practise reflection can lead to greater self-awareness which will support them to make positive changes in their lives. Here are some simple daily reflection activities that are easy to adopt:
Create two lists. List all the things that were energising & those that were draining for you each day.
Write for 5 minutes about all the things you can be grateful for each day. This is a great activity to do before bed as it can put you in a state of contentment, encouraging a better night's sleep.
Do more, do less
This activity allows you to take an inventory of your day and set intentions for the next.
Create a table with 3 columns and explore the following;
'What I can be proud of today'
'Do more of'
'Do less of'
Through these activities, we can develop awareness of what serves us and what doesn't, leading to more conscious choices about how we live our lives.
If paper and pen aren't your thing, there are some fantastic apps available that promote daily reflection and gratitude practice. Here are a few of our favourites:
"Happify’s science-based activities and games can help reduce stress, overcome negative thoughts, and build greater resilience by providing effective tools and programs to improve emotional well-being."
"Track Your Happiness is a scientific research project that investigates what makes life worth living. Using this app, you’ll be able to track your happiness and find out what factors — for you personally — are associated with greater happiness."
"Grateful was created to make expressing gratitude in your life both easy and fun, as well as to remind you, during those down moments, of the many blessings in your life."
"Your SECURE and PRIVATE diary of life's best moments, GRATITUDE is scientifically proven to drastically change lives."
Choosing empowering thoughts
When we understand that not every thought that enters our mind is true or helpful, and that we have the power to choose thoughts that serve us, then we are more likely to foster resilient and optimistic attitudes.
Understanding the negativity bias and how to be an observer of our mind is one of the most powerful tools we can learn; one which empowers us to make positive changes and act or think in ways that better align with our values.
When we develop the ability to look at our thoughts with curiosity, we shine a light on some of the negative ways we speak to ourselves. With that awareness, we can then adopt practices that strengthen our ability to reframe thinking and use our brains to help us, rather than hurt us.
There are simple, practical ways we can override the negativity bias and strengthen neural pathways for optimistic, grateful, empowering ways of thinking.
Establish daily mindfulness and gratitude practices
Mindfulness strengthens our ability to focus and observe our thinking without reacting, and a gratitude practice trains our brains to more habitually notice the good things in our lives.
Practise looking for the good in every situation
When we catch ourselves complaining or focusing on the negative aspects of a situation, we benefit from taking a moment to identify the positives. It is worth remembering that things can always be much worse than they are. Developing perspective and an ability to see the silver lining eases tension and promotes resilience in stressful situations.
Choose a growth mindset
Recognising when we have 'fixed mindset' thoughts and choosing optimistic thoughts that reflect a 'growth mindset' instead, fosters resilience and a greater ability to overcome challenge, and solve problems.
Beginning the day with empowering affirmations or setting intentions helps us to approach life more consciously with personal values in mind.
Turning to pen and paper when we have an emotional reaction to something can be incredibly healing. It allows us to express our reactive thoughts and emotions in a safe way, and gives us time to process everything that is happening. Often, when we look back on our writing after the emotions have settled, we can see how irrational our thinking was in that moment. Taking the time to later reflect on the situation with wisdom and a more rational mind helps us to respond in a considered manner, rather than react to emotional events in our lives.
Adopting self-care practices
To truly function at our optimum and thrive, we need to be coming from a place of wellness - physically, mentally and emotionally.
When we take the time to listen to our needs and respond with care, encouragement and compassion, then we promote healthy relationships with ourselves, and others, and experience increased wellbeing and success in our lives.
Some simple yet impactful self-care practises that are worth prioritising;
-meditation, relaxation, sleep
-connecting with friends and family
-spending time in nature
-time management to support balance
METTA GIRLS understand that teaching young people to value self-care is a gift that will serve them for life.
We offer workshops and coaching services that explore healthy mindsets, tools and practises through the lens of self-love. We teach girls how to develop self-awareness so that they are better able to think and behave in ways that support them to thrive.