As Caribbean women, we are naturally conditioned to nurture those around us. We learn at a young age that the way to a man’s heart is through his tummy and, as a result, an emphasis is placed on knowing how to cook. We also know that keeping the yard clean and taking care of the children are #1 on the list in preparing for life. But where was our lessons on self-love? When were we ever told to treat ourselves often and to look in the mirror and say “I love you”?

Self-love is the foundation to the most important relationship in your life – the one with yourself.  And in all truth, it is with this foundation that we are able to move forward and love those around us. The root of this self-love is not arrogance or ego. The root lies in the understanding that YOU are the very essence of love. And as you unconditionally love yourself, you will unconditionally love others. You may be wondering, “What does loving yourself really look like?” Is it a walk in the park or an evening out with friends? A moment of silence or deep meditation? These 10 easy steps to self love will help you on your journey to self-discovery.

1. Take a moment to think of those things you most need to hear from others.

Whether it be that they love you, admire you, accept you just as you are, appreciate you, forgive you or anything else. Take a piece of paper and write them down. Make sure to exhaust your list. You will find that what you most want to hear from others is what you most need to tell yourself. You should now have a list of positive affirmations tailor made for you. Repeat them every day, morning and night. You will soon enjoy a sense of self love and inner peace that you never had before.

2. Spend some time with nature.

The soothing sounds of the ocean roaring or an afternoon in the grass under the sun will bring an inner peace to you. Maybe a book, a journal or just a quiet moment is all you need to get those positive thoughts flowing. The time alone will bring a sense of self that you will definitely enjoy.

3. Evaluate what you’re feeding yourself  & I’m not talking about food!

I regard all the media we consume like food for the soul. What you really have to ask yourself is whether the television shows, movies, books, music & art you indulge in are enhancing your life or detracting from it.

4. Change your eating habits.

It may sound crazy, but the foods you eat can affect your mood and maybe even slow you down. Take a look on whether you’re eating fresh fruits and vegetables and try to nurture your body the best way possible.

5. Do something good for somebody else.

Radical self love is about getting yourself to a loving, beautiful baseline, & then taking what you’ve learned & transferring it to the external world. It’s about helping other people, leading by example, & contributing your time or skills to anyone who needs them.

6. Listen to your ideas.

Do you ever find yourself ignoring your instincts or avoiding your gut reaction? Don’t do that anymore. If you want to love yourself, you have to believe yourself. You have to trust yourself. It’s not always easy to listen to yourself, but recognize that your thoughts and ideas are always valid (no matter how ridiculous they might seem). You don’t always have to act on your ideas, but always listen to them.

7. Focus on the things you are passionate about (with no apology).

If you love to dance salsa, take a salsa class. Or, listen to salsa music and move to the beat. It’s okay to do what feels good to your soul. You are your own unique individual, honor this.

8. Write yourself a love letter.

I know you’re thinking this is crazy, but is it? Think about it, positive words to yourself in the form of a note? Maybe you could add a little something to it every day. Maybe you could read it aloud to yourself every morning. Whatever it is, write something true — something that resonates. Make it truly yours.

9. Live in your moment.

While it’s not always easy to live in the moment it’s important that you do so. Why? Because to live in the moment is to accept what is and to accept what is is the best way I’ve found for truly loving yourself. If you focus on the past or present, you’re not loving yourself now. Love yourself by being present.

10. Appreciate your life.

Okay, so there are some things you want to change about yourself, about your body, about your relationships, about your life? That’s okay. We all want to change things. But what if you stopped focusing on the things you want to change and, instead, focused on the things you want to stay the same. Appreciating all that you have in your life is one of the very best ways to remember that you’re so very lucky to be YOU.

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Siddhartha Gautama Buddha.

This article was written by Keachia Bowers, a mother of 2 and a Social Worker constantly seeking ways to say “I Love You” to herself. She’s committed her life to the well-being of others through community activism, dance, and laughing as if there was no tomorrow.