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  • BY DR. KALPANA SUNDAR

Self-Love Swagger: 5 Sass-tastic Ways to Embrace You

My life seemed pretty amazing - successful career in medicine, buzzing social life and tons of degrees, wall plaques and achievements. But deep down inside, on the rare occasion, when I had peace and quiet, I knew something was off. Despite all the good stuff, I was pretty bad at loving myself.


The impact of self-love on one's life can be profound and multifaceted. At its core, self-love influences how we perceive ourselves, thereby determining our relationships, career choices, and overall well-being. When we nurture a loving relationship with ourselves, we set the foundation for stronger, healthier relationships with others. It

boosts our confidence, enabling us to chase after our goals with determination and resilience. Additionally, self-love plays a crucial role in mental health, acting as a shield against anxiety, depression, and stress. By accepting and appreciating ourselves for who we are, flaws and all, we cultivate a sense of inner peace and contentment that radiates outward, positively affecting every aspect of our lives.


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Where does your self-love stand?

Society’s misconception about self-love is that it equates to self-absorption or narcissism. This couldn't be further from the truth. Self-love is about acknowledging your worth and value without detracting from others. It's about healthily caring for oneself, not at the expense of others but as a foundation for being able to contribute positively to those around you. Another misunderstanding is that self-love means you're always happy with yourself. In reality, self-love involves recognizing and accepting your imperfections and understanding that growth and mistakes are part of the human experience. Lastly, there's a belief that self-love doesn't require effort, that it's a natural state of being for everyone. This overlooks the reality that self-love can be challenging for many and often requires intentional actions and thoughts, especially in a world that constantly tries to compare and undermine individual worth.


The journey to self-love is not an easy one, but it is a necessary one if you want to live your life to its fullest expression. Embarking on this path demands a deep exploration of our inner selves, confronting uncomfortable truths, and challenging long-held beliefs that no longer serve us. It requires patience, resilience, and the willingness to forgive ourselves for past mistakes. This process, though daunting, is incredibly rewarding, as it leads to a profound understanding and acceptance of who we are. It allows us to break free from the chains of self-doubt and societal expectation, giving us the liberty to pursue our true passions and dreams. The pursuit of self-love propels us towards a life marked by authenticity, joy, and fulfillment.

This overlooks the reality that self-love can be challenging for many and often requires intentional actions and thoughts, especially in a world that constantly tries to compare and undermine individual worth.

My self-love journey started 6 years ago after my divorce. I experienced what I can only describe as a mid-life awakening, coming to the realization that if I were to lead a joyful and fulfilling life, it was imperative to cultivate a loving and forgiving relationship with my one and only–ME. Through trials, errors, and many introspective moments, I've discovered five key practices that have been instrumental in my quest for self-love.


1. Self-Care is Your Foundation to Start to Embrace You

I was great at talking myself up to others, making it seem like I was my own biggest cheerleader. But in my head? It was like a non-stop roast session. I was constantly picking myself apart, focusing on everything I thought was wrong with me, from my looks to my smarts. It was as if I believed I had to be perfect, and anything less was a huge fail.


And let me tell you, this wasn't just a me problem. It's something a lot of women struggle with, silently battling these impossible standards we set for ourselves. Real self-love seems like this mythical concept, right? But it's more than just treating yourself to a spa day or repeating positive affirmations. It's about truly respecting and valuing yourself, no matter what life throws at you.


Take it from Sia's song "Titanium" - real self-love makes you bulletproof. Not in a way that you won't ever get hurt or face criticism, but in a sense that you're so solid inside, those external voices just don't hit the same. It's about owning who you are, flaws and all, and not letting anyone's opinion shake your confidence.


The quest for external validation is like being on a never-ending treadmill. No matter how fast you run, you're always chasing after that next word of praise or nod of approval. But here’s the thing – it’s a chase with no finish line. Breaking free from this cycle means starting to validate yourself. It's not an easy shift, especially in a world that's constantly telling us we need to be more, do more, and have more. However, the reward is immeasurable.


When you stop depending on others to affirm your worth, you begin to discover your own depths. You realize that your value doesn't fluctuate based on someone's perception or the number of likes on a social media post. This isn't about becoming indifferent to the opinions of others but rather about not letting those opinions dictate your self-esteem or your decisions. It's empowering to reach a point where you can graciously accept a compliment without needing it to feel good about yourself—because you've already affirmed your own worth.


When you stop depending on others to affirm your worth, you begin to discover your own depths.

2. Boundaries are Your Battlements

Setting healthy boundaries is like telling yourself and everyone else, "Hey, my wellbeing matters!" Don't worry about what people might think if you don't want to take on too much, step back from toxic relationships, or say no to things that drain you. Your boundaries protect the awesome person you are.


Navigating life's complexities requires recognizing and establishing various types of boundaries. These limits can be broadly categorized into several key types:

  • Physical Boundaries are all about your personal bubble – your space, privacy, and what happens to your body. It's about what kind of touch is okay, how close someone can get, and who gets into your personal spots like your room or your stuff.

  • Emotional Boundaries are about handling your feelings and the emotional stuff you take in or dish out. It's making sure you know your emotions are yours, and you're allowed to feel them without getting judged or brushed off.

  • Intellectual Boundaries deal with your thoughts and ideas. It's about respecting that people think differently and that's okay. You can have healthy chats and share what's on your mind without shooting down someone else's thoughts or pushing them to think the same way you do.

  • Time Boundaries help you figure out how to split your time between work, friends, taking care of yourself, and doing what you love. It's about saying no when you're already swamped and making sure you get some downtime.

  • Material Boundaries are about your stuff and what you're okay sharing – be it money, your car, clothes, or even your home. It's setting the line on what and with whom you share.

  • Sexual Boundaries are super important and about what you're cool with in the realm of sexual touch and activities – what, where, when, and with who. Setting these boundaries is key for respecting yourself and ensuring your relationships are healthy.

  • Digital Boundaries have become a big deal with all of us being online so much. They're about your privacy settings, who you interact with online, and what personal info you're cool with sharing on the digital front.


Recognizing and communicating these boundaries clearly is fundamental to maintaining your mental health and building respectful, fulfilling relationships.

Sometimes, having healthy boundaries even means walking away from people. I have a zero tolerance policy regarding my boundaries. When a boundary is breached, I express it in a kind, loving way. If the person continues to violate my boundary, then I remove myself from the situation. It's not always easy to do, especially when it involves people we care about or have long-standing relationships with. However, prioritizing our mental and emotional well-being is crucial. It sends a clear message—not only to others but to ourselves—that we value our peace and respect above all. This act of self-care is empowering and sets a precedent for how we expect to be treated. It’s about understanding and acknowledging that we have the right and the power to control the environment we choose to be in.


3. Forgiveness is Your Freedom to Self-Love

Making mistakes is part of being human. But forgiving yourself is like breaking free from the chains of past blunders and moving towards a brighter future. You're definitely more than just your mistakes. So, give yourself a break and let go - those slip-ups aren't a life sentence; they're lessons packed with wisdom.


The real deal is about learning from our oops moments to get better, not hanging onto them forever. Think of every mistake or stumble as a step up in getting wiser and tougher. Resilience? It's that quiet power that helps us bounce back from tough times, turning roadblocks into stepping stones for growth. It's about facing challenges head-on, not with fear, but with a whole lot of determination, grace, and the ability to adapt. Building resilience doesn't mean we'll never face hard times; it means we're better prepared to deal with them, learn, and come out stronger. It's all about keeping a positive vibe, being mindful, and having people around who lift us up. By boosting our resilience, we're not just getting by; we're thriving, ready to tackle life's ups and downs with confidence and style.


However, forgiveness doesn't stop with just ourselves; forgiving others is equally liberating. Holding onto anger and resentment towards others can be a heavy burden, draining our energy and joy. Choosing to forgive those who have wronged us isn't about condoning their actions but about freeing ourselves from the weight of negative feelings. It's a gift to oneself, a way to move forward unencumbered by the past. This act of letting go allows us to open our hearts and minds to the present and the future, fostering healthier relationships and a more peaceful life. Truly, forgiving others isn't just an act of kindness towards them; it's an act of immense strength and self-love.


Choosing to forgive those who have wronged us isn't about condoning their actions but about freeing ourselves from the weight of negative feelings. It's a gift to oneself, a way to move forward unencumbered by the past.

4. Your Circle Reflects Your Worth

Surround yourself with people who see and cherish you for who you are at your core. You deserve relationships that are rooted in genuine love and mutual appreciation, not contingent on what you've accomplished or can provide. Such people lift you higher and reinforce your intrinsic worth.


For those individuals who only seem to bask in your glory or bond with you during your lows, it may be time to reconsider their place in your life. The thought of letting go can be daunting,  but releasing these connections opens up space for new ones—relationships that will mirror and celebrate the evolved, improved version of yourself. Trust in the process of change; it is often in the moments of release that we make room for new growth and opportunities. Remember, you are worthy of a circle that supports, understands, and genuinely celebrates you, through every high and every low.


5. Mirror Talk is Power Talk

Daily affirmations in the mirror might sound cliché, but there's power in looking yourself in the eye and vocalizing your love. It builds a formidable connection with yourself, dismantling the internal critic and replacing it with a cheerleader. 

The first time I ventured into self-affirmations in front of a mirror, I committed to trying it out for a week. However, it proved more challenging than I anticipated. For days, whenever I stood there, trying to speak words of love and affirmation to the person staring back at me, I found myself overwhelmed by emotion. It was as if I was truly seeing myself — the essence of my soul — for the very first time. Each attempt ended with tears, not out of sadness, but from a profound sense of discovery and release. This emotional response was unexpected but deeply cathartic. It signified the breaking down of walls I had unknowingly built around my heart and marked the beginning of a more compassionate and loving relationship with myself.


Learning to love yourself is a journey, not a straight line. Think of it like putting together a big, beautiful puzzle, one piece at a time, with lots of kindness and patience. Every woman's journey is unique, but we all have this amazing potential to not just love ourselves but to truly fall in love with who we are.


It's not about hiding behind what we've achieved; it's about fully embracing who we are. Sure, this kind of change doesn't happen overnight, but remember, every little step matters. You're worth it. And as you start to really believe that, let yourself dance to the beat of self-love, with all the confidence and flair in the world.


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Meet the expert:

Dr. Kalpana Sundar is a true powerhouse in medicine, entrepreneurship, and personal coaching who is all about empowering women and living life to the fullest. Life threw her a curveball with thyroid cancer, making her rethink everything and focus on what truly matters—balancing career and wellness. She came back stronger, ready to realign and reinvent herself. Dr. Sundar isn't just about credentials; she's a living example of turning challenges into opportunities.


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