Although this comes last in our list, it is probably the most important of all. It is difficult to be emotionally healthy without the foundation of genuine self-care and self-esteem. It is a combination of thoughts & actions which lead to enhanced self-esteem. If any of the following sound familiar, then there is likely an opportunity for personal healing and growth:
- Loud inner critic: Telling you that you’re not able to do something, you don’t deserve success and happiness, or that you should be afraid because you’ll probably fail and get hurt.
- Sporadic physical care: Do you take care of your physical health or is it just an afterthought? Is there moderation in diet (being either too strict or too lax may signal an underlying emotional issue).
- Not knowing what you want or should do with your life: Do you struggle to know what you want? In relationships? In life?
- Stuck at the starting line: Do you say you’re going to do something but can never seem to get started?
- Have an addiction: Is there something that you feel compelled to do – whether related to a substance, person, or type of behavior.
- Suffer periods of anxiety or depression: And perhaps feel overwhelmed by these feelings, like they may never end.
While lack of self-love and self-care may be at the root of some of these issues, recognizing this is the case is a significant hurdle to overcome. Our ego can set up powerful and cunning defense mechanisms against change – and often tells us that everything is okay, or that there is a another (seemingly easier) way to get results. However, the reality is that by changing our ingrained thought patterns and choosing healthier actions, we will develop a more positive relationship with ourselves, while building a solid foundation for emotional health.
This simple saying contains lots of wisdom:”If you want self-esteem, you have to do esteemable acts.” In this context, ‘esteemable acts’ refers specifically to self-care. For people severely depressed, these acts of self-care could be things as basic as making their bed or brushing their teeth. For others, it might mean doing something kind for ourselves like buying ourselves flowers, getting a massage, or going for a walk. It might even mean doing something that feels strange at first, like looking in the mirror and not just looking at the reflection, but attempting to really see ourselves – flaws and all – with genuine compassion. And perhaps even saying those three little words to ourselves.
Even if these small acts of kindness feel hard to do at times, somehow if we can stick with and build upon them, over time our thoughts and feelings will eventually come along for the ride. And, as self-care increases, we will also indirectly set the bar for how others treat us. We communicate our value and set standards by which people act towards us, by the way we choose to treat ourselves. Self-care and self-love is at the core of leading an emotionally healthy life.