People receive love differently, so knowing your love language and communicating it can help you and your S.O. get on the same page and also give your friendships a hearty dose of meaningfulness. And, guess what? It can also improve the most important relationship in your life—the one you have with yourself.
Self-love is central to living a joyful life and attracting the love we deserve—so knowing what fulfills you and being able to use that intel to actually fulfill yourself is an invaluable skill. “Many of us look for happiness outside of ourselves,” says therapist Joyce Marter, LCPC. “We’re looking for the perfect job, or the perfect relationship, or the bank account, or we’re focused on the externals. And really, joy and happiness can be found inside of us.”
Marter says that if you know the ways you prefer to receive love—using Gary Chapman’s love-language concept from his book, The 5 Love Languages—you can do those things for yourself and be less reliant on others to meet those needs. (If you haven’t already, take the official love-language quiz. We’ll be here when you get back).
How to us your love language on yourself (and reap the happiness-boosting rewards).
Words of affirmation
Affirmations can be something you say to yourself, either out loud or in your head, or that you write down in a journal. You can create these self-love mantras yourself, or they can come from others (Marter recommends daily affirmations from self-help icon Louise Hay).
“If we can retrain our brain focus on the positive, and look at our strengths, accomplishments, and positive characteristics, we’re going to attract more of that,” Marter says. “It’s like pouring water on the garden. We’re nurturing those qualities.”
“If we can retrain our brain focus on the positive, and look at our strengths, accomplishments, and positive characteristics, we’re going to attract more of that.” —therapist Joyce Marter
Practicing gratitude is also a way to self-affirm. For example, Marter acknowledges what she’s accomplished at the end of each day, whether that’s squeezing in a workout, cooking a nourishing meal, or taking the opportunity to say “no”—anything that reflects you taking good care of you. “It’s self-appreciation,” she says. “Honoring and paying respect to yourself for all the things that you do well.”
Acts of service
For people with this love language, tasks like organizing your closet, making yourself a great meal, or cleaning out your junk drawer aren’t so much chores as they are ways you care for yourself. And it’s important to do these things since so many of us forget our own needs in the midst of caring for other people, jobs, relationships, etc.
“We have to take care of ourselves first,” Marter says, calling upon that airplane-safety maxim of securing your own oxygen mask before helping others. And while emptying your junk drawer may not seem as relaxing or happiness-boosting as, say, a bubble bath, Marter says seeing out the task is just as useful (if not more) for acts-of-service folks, because next time they open that drawer, they’ll feel more at peace.
It’s great to treat yourself every now and then, but with this love language, it’s key to make sure you’re not disguising self-harm as self-love.
“Sometimes people are like ‘I’m going to take care of myself, so I’m going to go buy a $1,000 pair of shoes,’ when they can’t afford it, and that’s an actual actually self-harm,” Marter says. “Make sure that you’re treating yourself within your financial means, and that you’re not actually going to cause yourself more stress.”
And, a gift to yourself doesn’t have to be extravagant, Marter says. “I pick up heart shaped rocks when I noticed them on the beach. I have them in a garden in my yard or in places in my home,” she says. “That doesn’t cost anything but I’m gifting myself something that’s a reminder about self-love.”
“Quality time with yourself might be a period of solitude or self-reflection or time for your self-care practices,” Marter says, adding it’s also an A+ time to keep up with your hobbies. For instance, if you love going to dance-cardio classes, be sure fit that in your schedule.
“Quality time with yourself might be a period of solitude or self-reflection or time for your self-care practices.” —Marter
“I need solitude to kind of recalibrate to my own rhythm of life,” Marter says. “That’s important for self-reflection and pause. Otherwise, we’re just kind of always in the current of life, and we’re not pausing to map out where we want to go, and being reflective about why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
You can interpret physical touch literally, like by giving yourself a massage (or a yoni massage!) or rubbing in lotion—or take a broader approach. “It’s about being gentle and kind with your body,” Marter says, meaning things like stretching, exercise, putting on an outfit you love, or getting comfy with a throw blanket while you watch Netflix also fit the bill.
“Basically any way that you care for your body [works here],” Mater says.
Overall, find balance in your routine
If all the tips above seem like important things to implement, it’s because they are. Applying your love language to yourself might make feeling the love easier, but it shouldn’t be your one-stop shop for boosting your happiness. It’s good to be well-rounded, and to practice self-love in many different ways—because you deserve it.
“Sometimes people feel narcissistic or like they’re being selfish if they’re taking care of themselves,” Marter says. “It is challenging for people to show love to themselves, and it is skill that we need to be mindful of, and conscious of, and practice with intention.”
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