When you love yourself, you don’t rely on others for your self-esteem or self-image. When you love yourself, you feel comfortable in your skin and accept yourself for who you are. When you love yourself, you don’t turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Teaching teenagers self-love is an important step in preventing substance abuse and other self-destructive behaviors. Simply put: self-love saves lives.
What self-love isn’t
Self-love isn’t narcissism. Teens are naturally self-absorbed – their hormones are raging, their bodies are changing and they think almost entirely about themselves and the present moment. Self-love isn’t posting a hundred bathroom-mirror selfies on social media just to get “likes,” because self-love isn’t about other people. True self-love exists even in the absence of others’ approval.
Self-love isn’t instant gratification, and it isn’t hedonism. For example, substance abuse may make you feel good in the moment, but the feeling doesn’t last, and the repercussions can be devastating.
What self-love is
True self-love involves taking care of yourself in the long-term. Self-love is self-nourishment. It’s about taking care of yourself like you’d take care of a child or best friend. Self-love means you regard your own wellbeing and happiness highly. It means not being self-destructive, or putting the welfare of others over your own health. If your teen is someone who always worries about pleasing and taking care of others, it’s important to help them realize that their own health and happiness should come first. The only person whose approval your teen needs is their own. This isn’t selfishness. It’s selfish to demand your teen to put the needs of others above their own wellbeing.
Teenagers who love themselves take care of their own needs, treat themselves kindly and don’t criticize themselves too harshly. So-called shortcomings are areas for potential and possibility, not personal failings. They don’t compare themselves to others or look to others for an idea of who they should be. To cultivate self-love, teens need to stay away from people who make them feel poorly about themselves, and surround themselves with those who support the things they are passionate about. Teens should spend time doing what they love, what they believe they’re good at and what makes them feel good about themselves.
The more your teen feels capable, the easier self-love will be. Your teen also needs to know you think they’re capable of success and taking care of themselves. To teach your teen self-love, you can’t do everything for them, but you can support them.
Try this self-love exercise with your teen: