The Five Love Languages, Applied to Self

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By Kristen Riordan (Schneider), grad intern, White Picket Fence Counseling Center.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the five love languages, first coined by Gary Chapman. The five love languages outline the ways we communicate love to others. Love languages can be applied to romantic partnerships, friendships, and family relationships. Yes, of course relationships with others are important. But more important, perhaps, is the relationship we have with ourselves.

When we show ourselves acceptance and compassion, we increase the quality and quantity of love within us. The love we show ourselves can enhance all areas of our lives. Now, let’s look at the five languages of love and how you can apply them to the relationship you have with yourself.

1. Words of affirmation

The first love language is words of affirmation. We all have thoughts. These thoughts animate in our minds, creating inner narratives. Our inner narrative is the script for how we speak to ourselves. When we talk to ourselves, we listen. We hear it. We reinforce it. We believe it. That’s why it’s important to deliberately select words that elicit the positive.

Words of affirmations can be encouraging and empowering. As we recite these affirmations, either silently or aloud, we strengthen the quality of our inner narrative. You can practice words of affirmations with yourself daily, for example, “I am doing my best. I am human. I accept myself as I am.” It’s important that your affirmations feel genuine and ring true for you.

2. Quality time

The second love language is quality time. Spending time with ourselves provides us with space for peace, reflection, creativity, and insight. You may live a busy life, crowded with people, noise, stimulation and demands, but even the busiest of people can afford to take some time for themselves. In fact, it’s often the busiest of people who need it the most.

Alone time isn’t just numbing out by scrolling social media, or sitting on the toilet while mentally running through a to-do list. For alone time to be effective as a language of love, it needs to be quality alone time. For example, a few minutes of deep breathing or journaling in the morning, an intentional walk around the block after work, or a bubble bath on Sundays.

3. Receiving gifts

The third love language is gift giving and receiving. This does not necessarily mean going out and buying yourself a thing. To give yourself a gift is to show yourself appreciation. Gift giving is a way of saying, “Hey, I was thinking of you and I thought you might like this. I want you to have it because you matter to me.”

We can get creative in this department. You may choose to give yourself the gift of time by saying no to something you don’t want to do. Or you may give yourself the gift of beauty by going into nature and admiring the colors of the landscapes or the fragrance of a wildflower.

4. Acts of service

The fourth love language is acts of service. In relationships with others, this implies that we do something nice for someone else. Maybe we bring in the garbage bins for our neighbors, pick up a coffee for an exhausted colleague, or help our children with their homework. The same kind of energy that is employed to help others can be accessed to help ourselves.

Again, we can get creative: an act of service towards ourselves may be to ask others to do service for us, such as asking the kids to help with laundry, or asking our partner to take out the dog. Another act of service towards ourselves is to give ourselves permission to do less. To acknowledge when we’re tired and choose not to power through, but rather to rest—this is an act of service.

5. Physical touch

The fifth love language is physical touch. Physical touch not only improves emotional bonds, it strengthens our immune system, reduces the risk of heart disease, and lowers blood pressure. We can communicate love through touch to ourselves by placing our hands on our bellies while we take deep breaths into the abdomen. We can apply a small amount of coconut oil to the soles of our feet and knead the oil through our arches.

We can let our hair down and give ourselves a little scalp massage at the end of the day. We can also bring our first two fingers to our temples and draw slow little circles to release pressure from around the eyes. There are a myriad of ways to touch ourselves, and in doing so we express a language of love.

The original intent of Gary Chapman’s five love languages was to help people bolster their relationships with others. Yet as we know, our relationship with ourselves is our primary relationship, directly influencing the way we engage with the people and world around us. Applying the five love languages towards ourselves promotes balance and self-compassion, while the advantages echo into all arenas of our lives.