'You are worth the time and energy it takes to look after yourself'instagram: @florencegiven

I am all for self- love. Self -care has been all over the media recently in the form of boundary-setting advice, help-to-sleep podcasts, and bath bombs. And while the commercialisation has hollowed out the movement somewhat, the founding principle is still one I can, and do, get behind wholeheartedly: you are worth the time and energy it takes to look after yourself.

I am one of the many young women infatuated with Florence Given: an Instagram influencer who broadcasts daily encouragements of self-love and self-promotion, often leading by example. Her trademark selfie videos regularly include solo footage of her boogying down to her favourite ‘bops’ (that is ‘songs’), before finishing with an outburst of her infectious laughter. Her regular Instagram updates are often shared eagerly between my best pals and serve as a regular reminder to know our self worth and act accordingly.

When I enrolled as a brownie in primary school, we had to recite the brownie-guide law; a section of which went something like ‘I promise that I will think of others before myself’. I remember this section in particular because a fellow brownie-to-be had memorised the guide-law incorrectly, and happily chirped, “I promise that I will think of myself before others” to awkward shuffling from the gathered parents and teachers. While Florence would be proud of this errant brownie, I can’t help but thinking that the (original) brownie guide-law might have had some merit of its own. While self-love is undeniably important, I’m slightly wary that this persistent prioritisation of ourselves might lead to unhindered selfishness.

I understand that it is often essential to put yourself first in your decision making. But it also strikes me as important to understand the worth of putting yourself out there for other people, and of honouring commitments.

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Part of the self-care movement has grown from the notion that people, and particularly women, have been taught and socialised to always put other people first, resulting in these people over-stretching themselves and ending up exhausted. The phrase ‘learn to be selfish’, has been coined as an attempt to combat this phenomenon, and it’s obviously important to acknowledge the need to sometimes put your own needs first, and to be able to say no.

The key for me is that this ‘selfishness’ doesn’t come at the total expense of the time and energy you put into other people. It is key that this counter-movement doesn’t get carried away from its roots: the idea was to balance the scales between self and others, not throw all the weight from one side to the other. While it’s crucial to draw up boundaries for yourself, is it not also important to draw them up for your relationships? Should we be asking: where do I draw the line in terms of looking after my relationships, as well as looking after myself. If you are too exhausted to go out with a friend, you need to be able to say no. Conversely, if you are leaning towards being too lazy to honour a commitment with your friend, you need to be able to say yes. I suppose it comes down to being honest with yourself about your needs and state of mind, something which is easier written than done, I know!


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It strikes me that caring for the people around you can in itself be a form of self-love. Family and friends are so important, and nurturing those relationships can bring great fulfilment to our lives. An amazing friend of mine shared a Dolly Alderton (praise be) quote with me a few years ago, And it’s really stuck: put more friendship in your romances, and more romance in your friendships. Putting romance into friendship may seem an odd concept, but in practice, it’s extremely fulfilling and rewarding. You get all the benefits of a romantic gesture - love, joy, connection - without the cringiness, awkwardness, or paralysing fear that you’ve gone too far. Giving little gifts, leaving handwritten notes, or planning fun days out require little effort to arrange, yet result in buckets of joy for the people who mean bucket-loads to you. The best part is that these people are going to be in your life forever (perhaps unlike potential romances), so it’s such a worthwhile investment.

As always, a healthy balance seems to be the happiest way forward. After all, looking after our own needs and ensuring that we stay well-rested and healthy puts us in the best stead to be thoughtful, happy and supportive friends. My inner brownie will therefore sometimes think of others before herself, and enjoy doing so, but other times prioritise herself. Face mask anyone?

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