Self-love 101: how to keep more promises to yourself
BY MORGAN GREENWOOD
LAST UPDATED JULY 9TH, 2021
Search for the definition of self-love and Google will return a simply-defined noun: regard for one’s own well-being and happiness.
The thing is, self-love is a verb. In action, self-love is a tricky balancing act of two efforts that seem to be at be completely at odds with one another. Those two efforts are:
- 1a commitment to personal growth and development
- 2acceptance of yourself just as you are
In this post, you will learn four habits - and assign yourself one project - that will help you find a healthy balance between growth and development and self-acceptance. When you are done here, you will have planted a self-love seed by making one small promise to yourself and crafting a plan that makes keeping it easy and enjoyable.
Know exactly what you came for? Use the table of contents below to quickly jump to a section of interest.
Want to learn how to self-love? Shadow THIS person in your life. (It's not your mama.)
You know that friend of yours who never flakes on plans? The one you can always count on to show up when she says she will? The one who is always there for you? Let’s bring that friend’s sweet face to mind and think about a few words we might use to describe how her consistent follow through makes you feel.
Maybe her consistent 'show-up' makes you feel respected. Or valued. Maybe it makes you feel like you...you know...matter. Generally, having someone in your life who doesn’t shy away from making and keeping commitments to you feels pretty good, yes?
In addition to keeping their promises to you, there is another way this person probably demonstrates the entirety of their love to you. In this second case, they show their love by what they DON’T do to you.
love = promise-keeping + x
What’s the other half of the self-love equation?
It is unlikely that this friend sets metric-bound goals for you that they would like you to achieve by a certain date. (Unless this friend is your boss, I suppose?)
Why does this friend not set goals for you? Because they accept you as you are. This does not mean that this friend will not root for you as you invest in your own personal growth and development. It means you have their love regardless. This friend is expertly teaching you how to self-love.
love = promise-keeping + acceptance
Here's what happens when you fall in self-love.
Imagine if you were to become this promise-keeping, self-accepting friend to yourself. On repeat, would send yourself these messages:
“I respect you.”
“I value you.”
“What you need is important to me.”
“I love you as you are.”
This feels really good – and has a positive, long-term and loop-like effect on how you feel about yourself. Making and keeping promises to yourself can improve your self-confidence and self-esteem. This habit can also help you create a steady stream of new self-knowledge as you make discoveries about:
If you are out of practice with making and keeping promises to yourself, that’s okay. We’ve rounded up four habits that serve as warm-ups to get you read to start your promise-keeping project.
How to set the mood for falling in self-love? Practice these 4 habits.
Habit No. 1: Start treating your finite resources like the investments they are
Your time and energy are finite resources. One way to practice self-love is to start drawing a parallel between time and money. When you invest money, the goal is to get a return. It is no different with your time. Your time and energy are investments in your quality of life. You need to be smart about where you spend them, so, before you invest, ask yourself what the return is. Let’s take a look at a few examples of this in action.
Before saying, yes to an invite, ask yourself:
How do I feel after I spend time with that person? Inspired? Deflated? Energized? Depleted? Soothed? Agitated?
Before saying, applying for or accepting a new opportunity, ask yourself:
Does that goal/job/relationship align with my core values? Yes? No? Not sure?
Before taking on a risk, ask yourself:
If things do not go as planned, will I regret spending the time and energy? Yes, the effort itself is valuable to me. No, the time and energy would be wasted.
What's the benefit of asking questions like these?
The benefit of making a habit of asking these kinds of questions before you invest your time and energy is three-fold:
- 1it is foundational work for boundary-setting
- 2it will help you clear any confusion between self-esteem from other-esteem, which is something we talk about at-length in other posts
- 3it will help you make more confident decisions that align with your well-being, happiness and personal development
If you are not sure of what your core values are, we’ve written a post that can help with that.
Habit No. 2: Create a new – supportive and loving – environment
It is easy to stick to a new habit when your environment supports that habit. A few small, but effective environmental changes that can support onboarding a new habit include:
3 types of “environment” elements that can impact your ability to self-love
There are three areas of your environment that you should consider making changes to if you are serious about self-love. They are:
The people that you hang out with are a dynamic part of your environment. Surround yourself with people who care for your well-being and love you just as you are. For extra credit, seek out new relationships with more kind, happy, loving people.
Your physical living space can support your self-love efforts. A good goal is to make your living space equal parts soothing and inspiring. To do this, keep it clean and clutter-free and add pieces of art that inspire you. You don’t have to overhaul your entire place; start with your bedroom or even a small bathroom.
What you have can reflect who you are – or not. Keep the things that bring you joy and donate what does not.
Habit No. 3: Extend yourself more trust, i.e., try new things.
Best-selling author Lissa Rankin, captures the essence and benefit of this “extend yourself more trust” habit well:
We are all equipped with an intuition that is potent, trustworthy, and impeccably attuned to our true path. Whether you use it or not is up to you.
Recognizing the value of your intuition as a guide for good decision-making and happiness-building and using it is a deep act of self-love. It tells your inner voice, “I’m listening.” And, by acting on your intuition, you are telling yourself, “I trust you.”
This habit involves listening turning up the volume on your inner voice and we’ve written an entire post on how you can do it. For now, start with the basics. If you are out of sync with your intuition, you can quickly begin to rekindle the relationship in two ways.
Try new things. Try a new dish. Listen to a new band. Visit a museum for the first time in however many years.
Have more fun. Is there something that you’ve always found to be just plain fun? That’s your soul at play. For godssake, do more of whatever that thing is. Is there something you’ve never done, but think sounds fun. Do it.
The gist: Give yourself some new material to form original thoughts about and listen to those thoughts., captures the essence and benefit of this “extend yourself more trust” habit well:
Habit No. 4: Make and keep more promises to yourself
This fourth and final habit involves becoming more like that friend who loves you so much. It consists of making and keeping promises to yourself and it’s so important that the remainder of the post is dedicated to how to do it.
First, we’ll cover the four secrets to keeping more promises to yourself and we’ll wrap things up with a how-to template that you can use and download for free.
Want to keep more promises to yourself? These are the 4 secrets to learn
Secret No.1 Don't confuse promises with goals.
Promise-keeping is not the same as goal-setting. It's not.
When you promise your grandmother that you will visit her at her assisted care facility on Friday, you just show up, right? There is no “percent increase in impressions” or customer satisfaction rating to measure. You show up for the joy of being with her and nothing more.
A critical element of self-love is self-acceptance that you are already enough. Whipping out the measuring stick - a fundamental basic of goal setting - indicates you are not already enough.
Typically, the purpose of goal setting is to gain more control in an area of your life, to make a change, or to demonstrate productivity. Self-love (i.e., acceptance) has nothing to do with control, or the need for change, and it certainly is not about assessing your value based on how productive you are.
And here’s another reason you should keep your personal goal setting separate from your self-love life: If you set a goal and don’t reach it, then you might be left grappling with the “fail”. Especially if your self-love meter already tends to run a little low!
And even if you DO reach a goal, there is always another one in waiting. You will hustle from your current state of imperfection to find yourself living in another. Always chasing. Bigger. Better. More. Faster. This approach to life powers that ‘never enough’ hamster wheel a lot of us were plunked on as kids.
You might have a long history of relentless expectations coming at you from multiple angles in your life, the worst of which may or may not be self-imposed. You don’t need my permission, but I’m going to give it to you anyway: undo that to yourself. It’s not self-loving.
Goal-lovers, hang in there - I’m not saying you shouldn’t set personal goals, I’m saying you shouldn’t expect self-love to come from them. Instead of setting personal goals and calling them promises, I suggest…
Secret No.2 Root your promises in projects.
Want to start showing yourself some love? Start a project. Yes, a project. Projects are an excellent avenue for promise-keeping. They give us a way to grow and develop without the measurable, time-bound elements of traditional goal setting. A few examples of projects as labors of self-love:
- 1For two years, my neighbor has been restoring a rust orange Bronco. For two years. At night and on weekends, he tinkers away in his garage. He’s no mechanic, so this project forces him to learn how to do things he’s never done, to save up money for parts, to patiently wait for parts to arrive, etc. And he loves it. Over the course of two years, my husband would occasionally ask him how much longer he’d expect the restoration to take. Every time he'd smile and reply, “I suppose about as long as it takes.”
- 2My grandmother is a talented woodworker and painter. Decades ago, she built a two-foot-long replica of Noah’s Ark. Now, as she pleases, she adds animals to her ark - in sets of two, of course. If you ask her how many more animal pairs she plans to make, she’ll tell you: “I just start carving a set whenever I feel like it.”
- 3My friend Andrew sings and plays guitar for no one but himself. He once shared with me that he’s been writing and recording an album of thirteen songs based on the 13 Principles of Jewish Faith. I asked him when he plans to finish and he said, “I didn’t put a set deadline on myself. I’m still learning a lot, so I’m just letting it come together.”
“As long as it takes.” “Whenever I feel like it.” “I’m letting it come together.” That is acceptance of what is whilst growing. That is self-love.
Projects like these give you something to show up to, something you can touch, something you can lose - and maybe even find - yourself in.
Secret No. 3 Make a pure promise.
Pure promises are those that you pursue for yourself and no one else.
If part of you is angling to use a potential promise or project as a tool to earn claps or to win the approval of anyone else, it’s not the right promise for you. As an aside, this is also one way people tend to go wrong – way wrong – with their goal setting. They choose goals based on opportunities for increased Other-esteem, not Self-esteem or Self-love. More on that in a moment, for now here is an important rule-of-thumb: the “right” promise or project is one that you would still do it even if no one knew you did it.
How can you tell if your promise is pure? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to make sure the promise is pure –
An important note about promise-making...and goal-setting, too.
James Clear, Author of New York Times bestseller Atomic Habits, has written an incredibly interesting piece on goal setting. There’s a particular concept of Clear’s that I think is just brilliant. It’s called Rudders and Oars. With it, Clear explains goals are for providing direction, much like a rudder does for a boat. But, the rudder only steers, it doesn’t move the boat. That work is done by the oars. Clears point is that, when goal setting, most people only take the time to envision the “glamorous outcome” of the goal is like, but not what the actual grunt work of paddling is like.
To set a really good goal – on our case, to make a really good and pure promise – you must consider what the paddling looks and feels like. If you enjoy the paddling, it’s a good promise.
My neighbor made a great promise because he loves working with tools, the smell of grease, and he’s willing to sort through dozens of garbage YouTube videos to find the one that actually helps him iron out his latest kink.
My grandmother? She’s loves the feel of sand paper, enjoys pouring over paint colors to find “just the right orange” for a giraffe spot, and doesn’t mind a nick or two on her fingers.
My co-worker Andrew? His faith is a very big part of who he is. The iterative process of writing lyrics based on The Thirteen Principles has been a spiritual journey for him. He also loves to play the guitar.
The paddling itself is a joy.
Here are a few more examples of potentially joyful paddling:
Learn to play the guitar.
Give myself easier access to healthy food.
Learn how to rock climb.
Start writing that book.
Explore the journey of selling my handmade dog bowties.
Secret No. 4 Make a grain of sand plan.
Our fourth and final secret to keeping a promise to yourself is to put together a “grain-of-sand” – or very detailed – keeping plan. Details to include are:
Basically, in making a plan, you are proactively brainstorming the process – and envisioning the paddling to see if it’s the right promise for you. You are taking a mental inventory of your resources and your potential hiccups, so that you know what you’ve got going for you and what you need to get going for you.
You know what’s even better than a mental inventory? A visual inventory. Speaking of…
Fall in self-love fast with this promising keeping plan template
To help you organize your thoughts and bring the key elements of your plan to the visual forefront, I’ve created a free Promise Keeping guide and template. It features:
You can get your copy of the template by entering your details below.
Neon Soul Supply helps readers make meaningful self-discoveries, build self-confidence and find the guts to self-express through a series of semi-guided paper-and-pen based projects and plans. Learn more...
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What self-love is and what it isn't
Loving yourself doesn’t mean you think you’re the smartest, most talented, and most beautiful person in the world. We’ve defined self-love as a balance between:
- 1a commitment to personal growth and development
- 2acceptance of yourself just as you are
Start working on the four habits we’ve discussed and you will begin to feel that balance. And, if you haven't already, don't forget to .
PS – Self-acceptance, that second part of self-love can be particular challenging for a lot of us. For this reason we expand on two key elements of self-acceptance in other posts on the site. You can learn how to stop caring what people think of you here and how to be more patient in your personal development progress here.
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Hello! I'm a recovered Type-A+ people-pleaser and praise-seeker. Through Neon Soul Supply Co., I share the same habits, exercises, projects and tools that I used to start self-defining success and happiness so that you can do the same.
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