This summer, learn to love yourself first!

This summer, learn to love yourself first!

Self-love. If you don’t hang out in behavioral health circles, you might not know exactly what we mean when we say “self-love.” Are we talking about treating yourself to a yoga class? Turning down a social invitation to curl up and read your favorite book? Buying a new outfit?

The answer to all of these questions is yes…and, no. In practice, self-love can take many forms – whether it’s taking on a healthy new habit, focusing on what feeds you instead of feeling obligated to do something else or being comfortable in your own body. But underneath all of these things is the core definition of self-love as the radical acceptance of yourself, as you are.

“We spend a lot of time thinking about other people,” said Erica Cross, QMHA, a counselor with Cascade Health. “Our commitments to other people. How other people see us. What other people will think if we do something. This kind of outward focus can distract from what we hold truly important, and can lead to a lot of dissatisfaction in life. Self-love is about mindfully refocusing inward and freeing ourselves from self-judgement and self-doubt so that we feel nurtured and confident.”

The journey to self-love is ongoing, added Erica, and it looks different for everyone. Typically, the process begins with reflection, introspection and self-awareness. Once people become more aware of their own thoughts, wants and needs, they can begin applying self-love tools like creating healthy boundaries, setting goals and practicing good self-care to ensure they are getting what they want out of life while still having time for others.

In April, Erica taught an introductory “Learning How to Love Yourself” workshop through Cascade Health’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Offering an overview of the concept of self-love, how it affects relationships and how to practice it in daily life, the workshop was a success – so much so that she’s offering it again in July, along with a second workshop that takes a deeper look at how to set goals and boundaries and learn to effectively prioritize self-love when life gets stressful.

For many people, starting this process can be uncomfortable because we are so conditioned to think self-love is selfish. But it’s important to acknowledge that loving ourselves is not the same as being narcissistic; rather, the more worthy we feel of our own love, the more humble, empathetic and capable of deeply loving others we become.

“When we feel burnt out, or stuck in negative self-talk, it’s impossible to live our lives to the fullest,” said Erica. “My goal is to help people become aware of their own needs, set goals to fulfill them and love their true selves.”

Erica’s next self-love workshops will be held July 6 (“Learning How to Love Yourself”) and July 8 (“Making a Plan to Prioritize Yourself”) via Zoom from noon to 1 p.m. You may register for one or both events by emailing cascadehealthEAP@cascadehealth.org. The workshops are free for EAP client employees, or $25 for the general public. Email for more information or to register, and gain the knowledge, tips and resources you need to break down barriers to self-love, affirm your own boundaries and free yourself from self-doubt.