I know it sounds crazy, especially because this whole thing only started three or four months ago, but for the first time in my life, I am in love… with myself.
Not to be corny, but it's true: That self-love thing you hear mentally healthy people talk about? I think I've actually figured it out. It didn't come without a price, of course. In the past, when I'd see Pinterest quotes and magazine articles talk about self-love, this notion of being as kind and compassionate to yourself as you would with a best friend resulting in a feeling of overwhelming appreciation for your positive qualities and acceptance of your faults, I was like, yeah, like that exists. It's not as if I'm an especially self-hating person (at least not since I was a teenager); it's simply that for my whole adult life, I've just sort of tolerated myself, passively, as opposed to actively digging the person that I am. But a few months ago, inspired by a series of earth-rocking events, including the breakup of a long-term relationship, which challenged my self-esteem like never before, I realized that self-love only seemed impossible to me because I was approaching it with the attitude that the few who had it were just lucky—somehow born confident—and for the rest of us, it simply wasn't in the cards.
But having my life involuntarily turned upside down inspired me to want to take control of my happiness for the first time ever. It made me realize that self-love doesn't just happen to you, like a lightning strike; it's something you have to seek and create for yourself, chipping away at it every day. Of course, everyone's journey to genuinely digging yourself will look different. For some, it will involve therapy or a new exercise routine or meditation or taking up pottery. But for me, it involved a few simple props and exercises that allowed me to shift my perspective on myself and my life in a positive direction. And because I am so much nicer to myself now than I've ever been, I wanted to share those helpful objects with you. Read on to check out my self-love haul: six self-care products that help me remind myself, hey, I'm kind of great.
Perhaps the number one technique that's helped me shift from a general ambivalence about myself and my life to a full-on lovefest is developing a journaling habit. It started when I went on a trip to Italy in January, just to have as a record of my travels, but the second my pen hit paper, I started spilling out all these feelings and analyses I didn't know were in there. Experts say this can be a really healthy exercise.
"Journaling confers a sense of agency over your thoughts and feelings," Heather Silvestri, Ph.D., a New York City–based clinical psychologist, explained. In many situations, journaling can help you sort out and understand why you're feeling upset about a certain problem, and that can provide closure. But in my case, it also forced me to recognize how lucky and beautiful my life is. It provided a space for me to express appreciation for (and even secretly brag about) all the cool experiences I was getting to have. And you know how happy, gracious people are more likable? That applies to yourself, too. This new, fully present, gratitude-filled version of myself was way easier to like.
I don't journal every day or anything. To me, that would feel like homework. I just do it when I have time or when the muse strikes. Silvestri says that's totally okay. "The best way to start journaling is to view it as an active choice that you can exercise at any moment and one which you deserve to engage in," she said.
I've been getting really into aromatherapy lately (incredible how scent can so directly influence your mood—that olfactory system is impressive, no?). So far, the essential oil that has been doing the most for my mood has incidentally been one of the fanciest ones you can buy: Rose Absolute. The scent of rose oil might sound way too intense, but oddly enough, I've been addicted to it, especially since it's shown to improve depression and naturally increase libido. Feeling sexier and less sad has been helping my post-breakup state immensely as of late, but as I mentioned, everyone's mood is different. Whether you're looking to relieve anxiety or boost your energy, check out this guide to essential oils to find the blend for you.
In the past, I used to get really down on myself for failing to take care of "simple adult tasks," like doing laundry when I should, drinking enough water, and taking vitamins. I fell into this unhealthy spot where instead of being patient with myself and letting myself get around to these tasks on my own time, I'd write myself off as an irresponsible grown-up, and that decision enabled me to never do them at all. Recently, however, I've taken a few steps to make things like laundry and vitamins easier, for instance, using a cute hamper and convenient detergent pods (I like these earth-friendly ones from Honest), as well as these tasty little vegan vitamin gummies. I keep them on my desk and snack on them like candy in the late afternoons. These might not sound like major life changes, but they make me feel like a more together, accountable person, and that makes me like myself more.
Witches say that smudging a space (with sage, not eyeliner) can help clear it of bad energy. I don't know if this is literally true, but in recent months, I've developed the ritual of floating a bundle of sage through places in my apartment where old or bad memories (from my past relationship, for example) once took place. This helps me mentally clear the emotional baggage of those events. Then I follow up by filling the space with palo santo as a symbol of new, positive energy taking its place.
This is probably going to sound really sad, but whenever I'm going through a phase when my self-worth is really low, it becomes physically painful for me to be surrounded by pretty things. When I feel undeserving of beauty, everything from a sunny day to a nice hotel room to a delicately crafted candle is hard for me to be around. It's almost as if I want my surroundings to match how I feel about myself. But as I've started to make my way to a place of self-love, I've been trying to surround myself with lovely objects I once would have shuttered at as a reminder that I do deserve beauty. For me, this has involved lots and lots of candles. Like, dozens. At the moment, my favorites are by Paddywax, which are not too expensive but have the most heart-stoppingly beautiful packaging, as well as Otherland, which are also affordable and smell divine.
Another simple adult activity I was once terrible at which made me like a total failure was being able to keep my home stocked with healthy snacks. Grocery shopping is not something I enjoy, and when I do get around to it, miscellaneous healthy snacks aren't something I think to buy, so when I would inevitably feel hungry in between meals, I'd either starve or pick up something icky and processed from the corner store near my apartment. Not a good pattern. However (and this about to sound sponsored but it's totally not), last year for the holidays, my brother got me a subscription to this monthly delivery vegan snack service, and it has changed everything. Once a month, a dozen scrumptious plant-based snacks, from dark chocolate coconut balls to edamame noodles, arrive at my doorstep, and they always save me when I find myself famished and snack-less. Obviously, the connection between happiness and being well-fed with healthy food is not news, but this vegan snack service was to me, and I'm so much better for it.
Are there any self-care products that help you be really nice to yourself? DM me on Instagram @amanda_montell so I can learn about them and give them a try!
This post was published at an earlier date and has since been updated by Sarah Yang. Next up: Taking 15 Mins for Myself Every Day Made Me a Kinder Mom, Wife, and Friend