Love Languages as Self-Care
You may have heard of the love languages concept, developed by Gary Chapman, which describes five different pathways of expression in which we tend to receive and show care in our relationships with others. However, did you know that these love languages can not only apply to our relationships with others – but also to the relationships we have with ourselves? In fact, when we experience shame or other painful emotions, we may find we end up depriving ourselves of the primary language in which we receive love. Therefore, it is imperative to determine how to best care for ourselves through our unique love language.
Acts of Service
Acts of Service is a love language characterized by recognizing needs and following through in honoring those needs, often making life easier or more structured. When in a relationship, acts of service might look like someone running errands for us because they know we are overwhelmed or preoccupied with other tasks. For ourselves, it might look like taking action ahead of time to help our future selves from day to day. For example, you can prepare a healthy meal for yourself because you know it’ll provide the energy you need. You can create an organized home environment not only because you deserve a nice space to rest but also because it will aid in helping you recenter so you can focus on what’s important. You might schedule mental and physical health check-ups as part of preventative care in order to send the message to yourself that you are worthy of consistent attention even when you’re not already struggling with symptoms. Choose to reframe chores,grooming yourself, and organizational tasks as acts of self-love and self-care. The overarching message is to do self-love by engaging with it through various action items.
When we punish ourselves and neglect acts of service, we may find we are no longer meeting these needs. We may stop buying nutritious foods and cooking nutritious meals. We might stop showering, brushing our teeth, or doing laundry. Perhaps our home becomes dirty and cluttered, our appliances no longer work because we haven’t kept up with maintaining them, and we avoid going to the doctor for annual check-ups or even when we’re sick and need medicine. We must pay attention to how we are showing up for ourselves in this area and reframe these acts as not mere necessities, obligations, or chores but as acts of love because we deserve to be taken care of.
Quality time as a love language looks like prioritizing meaningful space and time. In a relationship, we schedule quality time with another person where each person is present and engaged. Nevertheless, we can also honor quality time in the relationship we have with ourselves. Consider setting aside time for mindfulness and meditation each day. Reconnect with your hobbies, interests, or other passion pursuits. When we value how we spend our time, we in turn learn to value ourselves. Overall, honoring quality time sends the message that we are present with self-love.
However, when we neglect quality time as our love language, we may isolate ourselves from others or – on the other end of the spectrum – we may even overcommit ourselves so we are always on the go, busy, and never able to check in with how we actually feel. We may notice we feel less grounded and less connected to ourselves as a result. Our sleep may also suffer in addition to not creating space and time for the things that bring us joy. You might ask when was the last time you allowed yourself to engage fully with a hobby, passion project, or other fulfilling interest.
Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation is a love language characterized by written or verbal language that makes us feel valued, seen, and heard. We see this show up often in relationships where we express gratitude for our loved ones. However, we can also implement this with ourselves through using daily affirmations, writing a letter to yourself, journaling about your strengths, or generally using more positive self-talk. As self-care, this love language revolves around the way we think about ourselves and our self-love.
When we punish ourselves through shame or guilt, however, negative self-talk may show up instead. It can take immense conscious effort and practice to not only build awareness around our negative self-talk and triggers for when we are more likely to spiral into negative thoughts but also to challenge those thought patterns with more helpful, encouraging, and compassionate language. It can be easier to detach from harmful or unhelpful thought patterns when we unhook from those thoughts by creating an element of separation, build curiosity about the root of the thought patterns, and reframe the thoughts into more realistic, neutral cognitions that rework our neural pathways. Try telling yourself “I am having the thought that…” and then identify a more helpful thought or affirmation that also feels genuine to refocus on instead.
Physical touch as a love language is all about showing affection physically and can range from hugging our loved ones, nurturing our senses, and taking care of our physical wellbeing. Identify physical sensations that are soothing you can engage with on your own such as stretching your muscles, massaging yourself with a foam roller, taking a warm bath with epsom salts, bubbles or pleasant scents, developing a skin-care routine, dressing in comfy clothing, using soft blankets, or giving yourself a spa treatment. This love language centers around feeling self-love.
When we are not feeling deserving of self-love, we may neglect ourselves not only by depriving ourselves of physical affection from others but also by not being present with the physical sensations we experience in our bodies. This can show up as ignoring sensory overload, being disconnected from the signals our bodies are communicating to us, or simply not engaging in physical comfort at all, including moving our bodies in ways that feel good.
Gift-giving as a love language revolves around identifying interests, wants, or needs and honoring those through visual symbols of love. When we think of gift-giving, we think of giving and receiving gifts from others. Nevertheless, we can incorporate this love language into our own self-care by recognizing the importance of the symbolism or the thought behind each gift. So you may choose to buy only what you love that reflects your values, gift yourself a meaningful experience or travel excursion, and invest in yourself through education, career advancement, and personal growth opportunities. This love language is about truly absorbing self-love and knowing you are worthy of receiving symbols of care.
When we deprive ourselves of this love language, we may send and receive the message that we don’t deserve thoughtfulness, attention, or meaningful investment in ourselves. We may neglect to give ourselves permission to take on meaningful opportunities and experiences as well as to honor our values through symbolic gifts.
If you are struggling with withholding love from yourself, consider reaching out to Embrace Therapy for additional support and resources. We are honored to walk alongside you and help you to identify the unique ways you receive care through acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, and gift-giving as well as how to build a self-care practice that reflects not only your values but also your distinct self-love language.