When I think of self-care, I think of a garden that’s under my care. In my mind, it has the potential to become this magical place, but it’s not always rainbows or butterflies to begin with. To grow a lush green garden, we must be willing to get our hands dirty and put in the work. Planting seeds and pulling out weeds won’t be pretty, but real self-care involves paying attention to what’s stunting your growth and developing healthier habits.

There’ll be a lot of blood, sweat and tears when it comes to self-discipline, painful healing and behaviour correcting. But your garden requires regular maintenance and constant growth in order to thrive. If you neglect it, or forget about it for too long, it will wither. Start with these 5 steps to grow real self-care:

  1. Plant your purpose
    We all have our own reasons for wanting to practice self-care. Imagine the best version of yourself and write down what you need to do to become that.
  2. Prioritise your mental health and happiness
    These should be the pride and joy of your garden. Set healthy boundaries to protect your emotional space when it comes to work and personal relationships.
  3. Focus on growth
    Give yourself permission to grow. Commit to practicing real self-care on the daily, and make a conscious effort to maintain your mental health and happiness.
  4. Address root issues
    Dig deep into the root of your problems. When we ignore our issues, we allow ourselves to get stuck in bad habits and negative thought patterns instead of finding a solution.
  5. Go at your own pace
    Don’t compare your progress to anyone else’s. Give yourself all the time and patience needed to grow and blossom.

In order to flourish, you must nurture and support yourself. Start small, take responsibility and reflect honestly. You’ve got this!

Growing up, most of us were taught to work hard and respect others. ‘Tiger’ parenting and ‘kiasu’ culture pushed some of us into the direction of high-ranking universities and reputable companies, with no regard for our mental health. As millennials, the relentless pressure to succeed continued in adulthood with the rise of hustle culture on social media (being busy is now considered ‘glamorous’).

We’ve spent almost our entire lives listening to others, and comparing ourselves to others, when we should actually be prioritising ourselves. Boundaries can help us do this – they protect our health and wellbeing, and provide us with a sense of self. It’s not going to be easy, and you will feel guilty at first, but here’s why we must allocate time and space for ourselves: 

What are boundaries?

Boundaries are the rules we create to protect our needs. They can be applied within our relationships, career, and even online to communicate our limits and ensure our safety.

Why do we need boundaries?

How can we set boundaries?

  1. Identify your limits

What makes you feel uncomfortable? Check in with your body as well – what makes you tense up?

  1. Be assertive

When it comes to communicating your limits, be direct, but avoid being aggressive. Use ‘I’ statements, such as, “I feel overwhelmed when the house is a mess because I already spend so much time cleaning it. What I need is help to keep it clean”. This allows you to express your feelings without blaming anyone.

  1. Give yourself permission to say no

It can be hard to say “no”, especially in Malaysia where there is a face-saving culture. Let go of the fear of looking selfish or coming off as rude – you don’t owe anyone an explanation.

  1. Develop a support system

Boundaries take determination. If you’re having a hard time with them, turn to your family and friends for support – you can practice asserting boundaries together and hold each other accountable.

When we’re able to define our boundaries, we’re able to have more respect for ourselves. Boundaries can protect us from physical and emotional intrusion, and empower us to make healthy choices and take responsibility for ourselves. Setting boundaries is a process, but don’t let fear and guilt prevent you from taking care of yourself!

With love comes hate, even on Valentine’s Day. You’re either all for the love-fest, celebrating it with your special someone, or against it – rolling your eyes at every heart-shaped reminder. Despite what many people believe, you don’t have to be in a romantic relationship to embrace a day dedicated to love. Celebrate your friends, your family, and even yourself! After all, the most important relationship you’ll ever have is the one with yourself.

We tend to shy away from self-love because we’re afraid of coming off as vain, but as self-care becomes normalised (finally!), self-love is becoming the new #relationshipgoals. Shower yourself with the same love you give others! Make it rain because love isn’t just for those with someone to love. Even if you are in a relationship, loving yourself can help you be a better partner and set healthy boundaries.

Kickstart your self-love journey this Valentine’s Day with stories from these inspiring individuals!

 

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“Self-love is so important because you can’t pour from an empty cup. I believe to truly be able to love and care for others, we have to first love and care for ourselves. I think self-love is also important so that we don’t seek validation and affirmation from external sources. You are complete on your own, and truly loving yourself eliminates a lot of the unnecessary expectations we tend to put onto our romantic partners.”

Bay Doucet is Instagram’s ‘Self-Care Sweetheart’! Her calming, aesthetic, fun-filled feed showcases the graphic designer genuinely expressing herself, and documenting her life as a content creator, model and writer as well. What we love about Bay is that she always keeps it real, especially on her Instagram Stories where she shares her honest feelings and the truth about self-care.

What are 5 things you love about yourself?

When did you start you self-love journey?

How do you practice self-love?

Connect with Bay on Instagram where she shares her favourite local brands, cat-mom life and other daily musings!

 

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“Self-love is important because to be the best, in anything, we have to love ourselves first. Other people can’t always help us when we’re in difficult situations – sometimes in life we will only have ourselves.”

We were first captivated by Hikmah Razlan when she was featured as one of the beauties in BeauTyra’s campaign. The model turned content creator uses her social media feed for good – inspiring confidence and compassion in others with her bright smile and positive attitude. What we love about Hikmah is the heartfelt letters she writes to herself in her captions, proving that when you’re your biggest fan, no one can bring you down!

What are 5 things you love about yourself?

When did you start you self-love journey?

How do you practice self-love?

Follow Himkah on Instagram for product reviews and all-round good vibes!

 

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A post shared by Catherhea Potjanaporn (@catherhea)

“When you love yourself, you start wanting better for yourself, and you make better choices for yourself. You advocate for your needs and boundaries, which empowers you as an individual to not only show up for yourself, but for others too.”

You’ve probably come across one of Catherhea Teoh‘s powerful portraits on social media. The photographer and activist is known for capturing the beauty of diversity and directing the spotlight on underrepresented communities in Malaysia (she even won an MTV EMA award for this!). What we love about Catherhea is her dedication to growth – she actively shares what she’s learning, unlearning and relearning on her Instagram Stories.

What are 5 things you love about yourself?

When did you start you self-love journey?

How do you practice self-love?

If you’re looking for a photographer or content creator, check out Catherhea’s ‘MCO’ promotion here – it’s specially designed for small business owners!

 

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“In a society where everyone wants you to be someone you are not, cultivating self-love gives you the courage to be authentically and unapologetically you.”

Jeslinda Paul is on a mission to bring awareness towards the disabled in Malaysia by sharing her recovery and self-love journey! The model and Persons With Disabilities advocate is not afraid to be herself on social media, reminding everyone how special they are through her Instagram posts. What we love about Jeslinda is how empowering her feed is to help others feel just as strong and confident as she does.

What are 5 things you love about yourself?

When did you start you self-love journey?

How do you practice self-love?

For more content on self-love, mindfulness and gratitude, follow Jeslinda on Instagram!

 

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A post shared by Von (@von115)

“Self-love gives me courage and confidence. It is also an act of self-respect, appreciation and acceptance. When I truly love myself, I no longer care about what others talk about me or how they see me. I’m the only one that matters. It makes me happier and healthier.”

Von Chong‘s been taking TikTok by storm with her fashion-forward looks! The content creator shares her confidence, advice, and daily adventures on social media to empower others and herself. What we love about Von is how welcoming she is, making her the ultimate TikTok bestie and go-to for Instagram fashion inspo!

What are 5 things you love about yourself?

When did you start you self-love journey?

How do you practice self-love?

Follow Von on Instagram and TikTok for style advice and fashion inspiration!

Finally, self-love and self-care have started to be normalised as everyone becomes more aware of their significance during these difficult times. They helps us healthily manoeuvre through life – taking care of our mind, body, and soul. But what exactly is self-love? It’s loving ourselves by genuinely appreciating our strengths; accepting our weaknesses; and showing ourselves kindness and compassion, unconditionally.

Human beings are complex social animals – there is no average human, we are all different in our own ways. However, due to sociocultural pressures and expectations of the ‘ideal’ individual, we often succumb to the anxieties of idealism instead of acceptance.

Self-love is accepting all parts of yourself – especially the darkest parts, which is your shadow side. It is knowing when to walk away, setting boundaries, honouring your worth, allowing room for mistakes and working your way towards being the best version of yourself (not someone else). It is remembering that you are, indeed, human – not a robot.

But fully accepting who you are does not equate to enabling your problematic behaviours.

You may have had a tough week and want to take some time to relax – which is fine, go ahead and do it! However, it does not mean that you should stray away from reality for too long and ignore all your responsibilities. Abandoning your workstation to binge watch movies for days on end (while being well aware that you have deadlines to meet) because you feel stressed is not what self-love is – it’s actually the opposite!

Protecting ourselves from the stressors of harsh realities may seem like the easiest way to deal with things because it makes us feel safe and comfortable. In turn, we get used to this and call it self-love – when it is actually a form of ego-love.

Choosing the path of achieving instant satisfaction and indulging in denial may seem like the next best thing we know for ourselves. Yet, this path does not help us grow into the person we want for ourselves. In hindsight, you’ll start to realise that this just might be the cause of your own suffering and lead to self-deprecating thoughts; feelings of inadequacy; expectations of perfection; and the root of your lack of self-love.

Taking accountability for our actions may seem difficult, but it is essential for taking the first step in fully accepting ourselves for who we are. Understanding the difference between self-love and ego love is vital to build the life we want to live in. When we love ourselves, we want what’s best for ourselves, and we do things that make us happy (even if it’s not immediate).

We know self-love isn’t as simple as it seems – we all struggle to give ourselves the love, compassion, and kindness we give others on the daily due to a myriad of factors and past experiences. But despite the complexities of it, self-awareness is key to shifting our mindsets in accepting the self as it is – whilst working towards being a better version of ourselves than we were yesterday <3

Do you beat yourself up when things don’t go according to plan? You may find yourself turning internally and judging yourself for not reaching your own expectations. If this sounds all too familiar, read on to see how you can start treating yourself with the kindness and compassion you deserve! 

According to counseling experts, Dr. Kim & Dr. Hill, by showing ourselves kindness, the brain starts creating new “mentalities” and habit patterns that will transform our thoughts from seeing black and red to seeing joy and opportunities instead. Try these out:

You would only talk to a child with understanding and love, right? What if we told you there’s an inner child inside all of us and by extending the same love and forgiveness to that child, it would help you greatly. Never underestimate the power of positive self-talk! 

 

Dedicate “me time” to yourself every day. It can be as short as 15 minutes, but in those 15 minutes, fill it with activities that bring you joy such as meditation, journaling, drawing, playing your favourite instrument, or just dancing and vibing to your favourite music. By doing this, you are proving to yourself that your needs are important too. 

 

Rephrasing your thoughts and removing judgment from your actions will help cultivate self-compassion. We’re all human, it’s normal to make mistakes. Here are a couple of examples you can try the next time this happens:

Negative Thought Pattern

 

New Thought Pattern

 

I feel like I didn’t do anything today. Why am I so lazy?

 

I’ve been feeling unmotivated recently. Let’s try to figure out why I’ve been feeling this way.

 

I made a mistake, why am I always messing up? I made a mistake. It’s okay. I’ll keep going and be better next time.

 

After doing something you’re proud of or achieving something, give yourself a moment to celebrate and praise yourself! It could be that you finally submitted an assignment or a proposal, finally went to the gym or even just making your bed in the morning. Compliment yourself and give yourself a high-ten! Thank yourself for completing the chore. Shifting your focus on the good won’t leave any room for the bad. 

 

Forming and maintaining good habits can be draining, so treating yourself is actually necessary. When we reward ourself, we are more likely to feel cared for, contented, and empowered. This boosts our self-command, which helps us continue our healthy habits. According to the author, Gretchen Rubin, who studies happiness and good habits, giving yourself treats is a Secret of Adulthood: If I give more to myself, I can ask more from myself. Self-regard isn’t selfish”.

And you don’t even have to spend much to feel like a million bucks – here’s how you can treat yourself without breaking the bank!

 

Apply these tools into your daily routine to develop your self-compassion muscle. Remember, we are all humans who are prone to make mistakes, but our mistakes don’t define who we are. You deserve all your kindness, love, and affection.

 

In China, 11.11 is recognised as ‘Singles’ Day’ – an unofficial holiday that honours being single with empowering events and celebrations. What started out as a university tradition, has now grown into the biggest shopping day in the world with exclusive discounts and offers for you to spoil yourself like it’s Valentine’s Day. All of these deals can act as a reminder that you can show yourself love – you don’t need anyone else to. But alas, we know how tough breakups can be, especially during a time where you’re either stuck together or left completely alone to recover – quarantine breakups have been harder to cope with.

If you’re recently single, here are three tips for reinvesting in yourself after a breakup:

  1. Choose yourself
    It’s time to start prioritising yourself – move on to a healthier relationship with…yourself. If you find yourself wanting closure, it’s totally normal, but if you’re still hurting – those conversations won’t be that helpful, and may even make things harder. Focus on yourself instead and take this time to connect with your wants and needs. You would be there for a friend during a breakup, right? So show up for yourself! You have more energy now to give to yourself, as well as attention.
  2. Remember who you were
    We are constantly changing, and being changed by everything and everyone around us. When getting into a relationship, your priorities will naturally shift along with your interests – less nights out at the club, more day trips to the grocery store. Remember who you were before your relationship – what were your goals, what did you enjoy doing. Rediscover what you liked to do and try out the things you’ve always wanted to.
  3. Focus on growth
    Unlearn any bad habits you developed during the relationship. Did you find it difficult to set boundaries? Or maybe it affected your self-esteem. This is your chance to focus on yourself and your future. Start setting goals, they can be as small as repeating positive affirmations in front of the mirror everyday to securing a set amount of clients by the end of the month. Use your free time to join an online course, read, journal, workout, or listen to podcasts. Be hopeful for what the future holds, and start hyping yourself up!

Don’t be discouraged if you still find yourself having bad days – we all experience them. Healing is not linear. You’ll have good days, but it’s important to not ignore what you’ve lost and give yourself permission to grieve. When you’re properly healing, you don’t forget the pain but instead work with it to truly overcome it.