Self-love is a term we see and hear all around us, but not many people understand the power and meaning beyond the cliche of bubble baths and face masks.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love those things, but self-love is about so much more. It means challenging the way you think about yourself, surrounding yourself with support, and greeting your mind, body, and soul with compassion.
During and after a breast cancer diagnosis, as you’re simultaneously experiencing trauma, hurt, and grief, these rituals are even more important.
You may be going through feelings of anger at your body and questioning how something so horrible could be happening. Practicing self-love may help counter those negative feelings toward your body.
Here are some tips I’ve learned on my own journey that may help you be kinder to yourself as you navigate this difficult experience.
You are worthy, and no one can take that away from you.
Write that down, keep it on the wall, or set reminders in your phone. Do whatever you need to do to remember that fact - it is essential to your confidence foundation.
The more you focus on this statement as fact, the more love you will be able to show to yourself in difficult situations.
Whether it’s chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or all of the above, take a moment to stop and recognize all that you’ve been through and how incredibly strong your body is.
So often, we are so focused on recovery and moving on that we forget where we have been.
Reflecting on those hard times will help you find greater appreciation and love for your body.
So many of us hide from our bodies. We feel shame or embarrassment, and we don’t want to look at the areas of our body we see as imperfections.
What if you looked at your body with different eyes - ones that believed every inch was beautiful and worthy of love? Imagine how different you might feel.
At each stage of my journey for the past 5 years, I have taken pictures of my body. Not only does it help me see the power of what I have been through, but it helps me have a great appreciation for all of my healing.
After my mastectomy and chemotherapy, my body had changed. For a long time, I longed for my “pre-cancer” body.
With time, I realized that even if I had that same body back, I had changed and would never feel the same.
I gave up on going back to what once was and instead went down a path of acceptance with my new body.
Through exercise, healthy eating, hot yoga, and more I was able to develop new connections with my body. Yes, it had changed, but I came to love it for all it had been through.
After having a baby, I am again trying to implement that same strategy now. I’m getting back into exercise and returning to healthy eating habits. Slowly but surely, that connection to my body and the feelings of pride are returning.
Setting boundaries may not be as luxurious as a bubble bath, but it is a crucial form of self-love. It means you value your time, energy, and mental state enough to know what is best for you in each moment.
So many people think that setting boundaries is a negative thing. It sounds hard, and sometimes we’re so focused on the difficult parts of setting boundaries that we forget what we have to gain.
Making your boundaries clear gives you the freedom to contribute energy to the things that fulfill you and the confidence to operate on terms that feel healthy to you and your loved ones.
Our minds are powerful. When we feel or think something, we innately believe it to be true. But feelings are not facts.
Instead of accepting your thoughts and feelings as the truth, stop and question them. Do I have evidence to prove this feeling or thought to be true? If not, it’s just your brain spinning a story.
The more you question your negative thoughts, the easier it will become to separate yourself from them. It’s all about facing the feelings head-on and taking away their power.
This is a practice I learned about during my own cancer journey, and I still look back on the letters I have written to this day.
The idea is to write to yourself from a point in the future looking back on the moment you are in. Imagine what you would want to hear from your future self and write to yourself in third person.
For example, “Anna, I am so proud of your strength. You have navigated your cancer treatment with such grace and continued to bring joy to so many others.”
Focus on the good and show yourself the same level of compassion you would if writing to a friend or loved one. Save these letters for a day when you are feeling particularly down.