Love Yourself In Every Language: Acts of Service
If you've been following along lately, you'll know we've been exploring what happens when we combine the idea of self-love with the genius of Gary Chapman's "love languages." (Introductions to this series, part one and part two.) In the last post, we talked about how we can use words of affirmation on ourselves just as powerfully as we can with our other loved ones, and while I didn't give a lot of concrete suggestions (because I wanted you to be able to relate in your own way), I like to think that post was a healthy exploration of how you can treat yourself with a little more love just by being kinder - to you.
In a world that is often harsh, negative, and filled with sources of discouragement, it's incredibly important for us to have influences in our lives that are encouraging and empowering, especially during the times in our lives when we feel weakest, most incapable, and most unworthy of said encouragement.
What we forget is that we're always with ourselves - which sets us up to be our own best advocates, our own best encouragers. Which is where words of affirmation naturally bleed into:
Acts of service are easy to tick off, aren't they? For your husband, you might pick up his favorite beer or specifically make his favorite dinner. For your children, you cook and clean and guide and coach and do so many other things. But what about you? What acts of service could you perform for yourself? (Stop snickering; that's not what I meant!)
Serving ourselves often comes down to the simple things we would already do in some ways - instead of rushing through a shower at the end of the day when you're so exhausted all you're thinking about is how quickly you can move to the next thing, what about running a bath and giving yourself time to soak in the heat, quietly basking in the aromas of scented oils, salts, soaps, or bubbles? Other similar things come to mind too, such as giving yourself a pedicure, painting your nails, etc.
But what about the little things we're already doing for ourselves all the time that we simply forget to appreciate and enjoy? For those of us living with children, messes are a constant familiar problem, and we often become irritated with having to either having to cope with the mess or having to clean in up. But a slight twist in perspective can change everything: I don't run the vacuum because my dog is hairy and my children are messy. I do it because I desire a relatively clean space. Will it be spotless? No - I have a big sloppy dog and two kids who are often hyper and full of life. Messes happen.
But it's not the mess that's the focus here, or where it comes from - it's about recognizing and appreciating the effort you made to clean it up in the first place. We don't often think of it this way, but even those small things are acts of service we perform every day for ourselves.
Our real power lies in taking those acts of self-service and performing them with love, congratulating ourselves on the effort, allowing ourselves to take pride in our work, acknowledging the accomplishment - even if it's a small one.
For me, going to therapy is one of the ways I can best serve myself in love - because it has been through the empowerment of choosing to go to therapy that I was able to seek official diagnosis for the PTSD I've been living with for most of my life. It was through the empowerment of being heard and understood with validation and an absence of judgment or blame that allowed me to move beyond a childhood I didn't ask for or deserve, let go of certain insecurities, and fight back against fears that had been holding me back.
I was able to pursue answers for my physical health issues as well, and I will never forget the tear-filled times I drove home from doctors' appointments, weeping under the weight of basic compassion. My doctor heard me. The next doctor heard me too, and the next one after that - and none of it would have happened if I hadn't come to a strong enough place of self love to serve myself in that way.
I could never have gotten answers if I hadn't been willing and able to finally advocate for myself. I would have continued to put myself at risk every day, just be doing basic life activities, simply because I didn't know what to avoid in order to protect myself.
Now, I serve myself mindfully, just as I make a point to serve my children and my loved ones. I don't always let me be last - because sometimes, I put me first. I take time for me, I adjust and adapt, and I give myself grace when I need it. I take care of me with decent food, with clean teeth, with nightly wound checks on my feet, legs, and back. I take care of me by serving myself with peace of mind when I fill the medication organizers my daughters and I use. I take care of me by serving myself with knowledge and empowerment when I search for answers for my daughters and I, when I create lists of things I need to remember on the fly in my bullet journal - things like our medications and doses, our list of doctors with names, numbers, and specialties, gift ideas, appointments, and to-dos.
I take care of me in the little moments too, allowing myself the pleasure of sniffing fresh, clean laundry, allowing myself the joy of my dog curled up behind my legs at night, allowing myself to take pride in my efforts without minimizing those efforts or kicking myself for what I wasn't doing.
This one is harder for me ... but I'm learning to speak this language because I want to love me better. I want to be a better, happier person. I want to be well-cared for, so that I can care well for others. But it starts with me. It starts with you.
Because you know the old saying right? "You can't pour from an empty bucket."
It's true, guys.
So take time to fill your bucket a little bit today, serving yourself in a way that feels loving, a way that relieves your mind and heart for a little while. You know that thing you wish your husband would do for you? Serve yourself. Clean the dishes - not because no one else will or there is no one else to do it, but because it feels good to have clean dishes and an empty sink. Same thing with the lawn, the laundry, the toilet, the chores, the shopping, the kids, the pets, and the countless other things you're undoubtedly doing as you juggle the responsibilities of your life. Do the things you have to do, but let them be done with a full measure of love - not just because you serve your loved ones, but because you are one of your loved ones.
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