“You can be helping many people, but if you are not helping yourself, you have missed the one person you were born to heal.” — Alan Cohen
You see it in the news, on Youtube, social media. You see it pop up on your Facebook page, Instagram feed and on the latest “awareness” site. You see empowerment. You see healing. You see growth. You see people who appear to have it “all together” and are beacons of positivity and optimism. But how does one empower others, if first, they have not empowered themselves? How does one love others, if first, they do not love themselves? Just as Cohen says, you were born to heal and help yourself; if you don’t do that, you are missing out on saving the one person you were born to save. Moving on from that point, how do we foster empowerment? How do we foster a mindset of growth and freedom which turns positive, instead of negative?
As important and vital it is to empower others through different ways and on different topics, unless we empower ourselves first, we cannot facilitate growth to others. What does empowerment mean? It is defined as: “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.” From this definition, we see that it’s about making you stronger first, and with that self-confidence, it will transfer to others. Especially for mental health, we cannot empower others and help others until first, we have helped ourselves. In many cases, we try to take on the world’s issues. But I’ve learned the best way I can aid others and help them in their recovery is by helping myself first. Self-reflection and confidence leads to the ability to empower others.
We also tend to forget that, as Cohen says, we must prioritize self-care and self-love. Many times we get caught up in friends, relationships, family and other responsibilities, but self-care and self-love is paramount. We cannot teach and foster love of others, if first we do not love ourselves. Self-love in turn, actually builds self-confidence. Self-love is not a cliche term, but a vital habit that must be made part of daily routine. We can empower others when we first, love ourselves. A growth mindset is one that self-evaluates and reflects inwardly, thus, being able to take control of one’s situation and making a change.
Also, if we do not prioritize self-care, we cannot fully care for others. When our brain and body are both run down and tired, you are not able to put others first and care for their needs and fully support them. Self-love is crucially important — without self-love, we lose the ability to grow all the traits needed to have confidence, passion, care for others and most importantly, the ability to love and care for yourself. Once we love ourselves, only then can we empower others to do the same.
Some steps for self-love and self-care can be put into an acronym:
L: Listen. First and foremost, listen to your body and your brain to see what it needs/wants. Are you tired? Take a nap. Thirsty? Grab some tea or water. Feeling stressed? Try a hike or a relaxing bath. Mind racing? Pick up a book or a podcast.
O: Optimism. Part of having a growth mindset is having optimism. At first, this is very difficult if you are naturally a pessimist, but each day, try to find two to three things you can be optimistic about. Whether it’s about finishing a book, working towards hitting your first 5k or merely waking up on time.
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V: Valid. Yes, while it may seem strange to have this word in a “self-love” acronym, it indeed is very fitting. You are valid for not being able to achieve the first two words. You are valid for whatever struggle you have. You are valid for whatever thing you are trying to handle and power through. And it’s OK to not be here yet. If you are reading this article, even that in itself is a step to self-love and self-empowerment. Remember: you are always validated and make sure to validate yourself.
E: Empowerment. Each of you can be empowered in your own way. It doesn’t have to be through social media, a blog, or a TED Talk. Self-empowerment is gaining confidence in oneself and feeling confident in your ability to control certain areas of your life. You do in fact drive the course of your life.
Self-care and self-love are paramount to fostering love and care to others.We cannot love if we do not love ourselves first. We cannot empower if we do not empower ourselves first. And many times, this comes with being a bit “selfish.” Do not be afraid to cut off relationships that are draining, saying “no” to things that cause undue stress or taking some time each week to be alone and recharge. The only way we can empower others and share love is by fostering that love in ourselves first. The first step to spreading love is by kindling love within ourselves. Prioritize yourself and your body’s needs before adding one more thing to your busy schedule.
Remember to love the person you were born to love. Help the person you were born to help. Comfort the person you were born to comfort. That person is yourself.