CEL Summer Masthead

Go and love yourself

Ashleigh Went

Valentine’s Day is all well and good, but can you imagine if we had a day to celebrate loving ourselves?

As someone who’s spent their fair share of Valentine’s Days single – or in toxic relationships – I’ve learned just how important it is to develop a loving relationship with myself.

In fact, I believe that self-love impacts just about every aspect of our lives: how we treat others, the way we carry ourselves, our performance at work, and, importantly, how we take care of ourselves – mentally, emotionally and physically.

Much like our fitness, self-love is something that we have to work at on a day to day basis. It isn’t something that you one day attain – only to never have to work at it again. Rather, you have to flex it like a muscle to maintain it and to make it grow stronger.

It’s unfortunate that many of us pursue fitness out of a lack of self-love. Note I’ve used the word “us” because I’ve been there myself. Our train of thought goes something like “I’ll love myself when I lose five kilos” or “yeah, yeah, I love myself – but I’d really love myself if I had a flat stomach”.

While social media might not be the cause per se, I certainly think it can contribute to the problem. We follow people on Instagram for fitness inspiration – often because they have a body that we aspire to have. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself – I have people that I follow because they motivate and inspire me – but the problem begins when we lose sight of the bigger picture.

Social media is a highlights reel of someone’s life.

A single post might show their defined abs, shiny hair and golden tan – but it doesn’t show the fight that they just had with their boyfriend, the issues going on in their family, or the sickly flu they had last week. These people are human too and they struggle with the same things we do – they fail, they fall, they doubt themselves, they more than likely have moments when they worry about what other people think of them. In the same way, the photo of their abs doesn’t show their kindness, generosity, or really anything about who they are as a person.

It’s easy to forget what’s really important. In the moments when you doubt yourself because you’re carrying a few extra kilos, your arms aren’t as defined as you might like, or whatever the case may be, remind yourself that those things don’t define you, and they’re not the things you’ll be remembered for. For example, if you asked me what I love about my partner it wouldn’t be his six pack, it would be his big heart and sense of humour. I’m not friends with my girlfriends because of their boobs or booties, I’m friends with them because I love and respect them for who they are as people, for their support and companionship.

When you’re trying to make healthy changes in your body, like losing body fat or gaining muscle, it can be especially easy to get absorbed by aesthetics and outward appearances. However, health and fitness goals should enhance your life – your relationships, confidence, performance and happiness – not detract from it!

Like everyone, I have down days (sometimes a few in a row!) but I can say that I genuinely love myself and my body – and that’s not arrogant or conceited. It just means that I love and respect myself as a person. I strive every day to practice the same compassion and kindness towards myself that I would to the other people in my life that I love. When I doubt myself, I try to remind myself of my good qualities I have – in exactly the same way that I would comfort a friend. My health and fitness are a priority in my life, but they aren’t more valuable than who I am as a person. Sure, sometimes I have stomach rolls, cellulite on my butt, stretch marks on my boobs, or a less than delightful breakout, but so what? So do plenty of other women in the world and it doesn’t detract from their value or worthiness.

Next time you notice that negative chatter in your head; the voice that’s telling you that you aren’t thin enough, fit enough, smart enough, successful enough, good enough, whatever the case may be, I challenge you to practice a little self-love.

Write yourself a list of all the qualities you love about yourself.

Today of all days, do something to treat yourself and show yourself love – whatever that means to you, be it taking time out to paint your nails, reading a book, having a bath, going for a walk or run. If this is unfamiliar territory to you, imagine a friend sharing the same thoughts with you about themselves. How would you comfort them? How would you talk to them? What would you do to remind them how special they are and to shower them with love?

The point is, you have to love yourself now – right now, exactly as you are. If you don’t love yourself now, then you’re not going to when you lose that 5 kilos. That’s conditional love and it isn’t sustainable over a lifetime, which is exactly how long you have to live with yourself for.

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Ashleigh Went

Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. She’s currently furthering her studies in nutrition, but also has a Bachelor of Communication and is a qualified fitness instructor with over five years experience working in a gym. Among other things, she’s a lover of great food, coffee and fashion. She can usually be found shopping for activewear, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue More about the Author