Welcome to the 30 Days Self-Love! Starting on the 1 May and over the next 30 days this program will focus on developing and fostering your self-love, as loving yourself is probably the most important thing you can do. Without loving yourself, it is hard to develop and keep good relationships, stick up for yourself and support others.
But loving yourself is not as easy as it sounds: with the stresses of modern, daily life, especially as gay men, it is hard to find time and motivation to look at yourself and see how beautiful you really are. But not only time and motivation are a problem: all too often, it can be the environment in which we live, too. Sometimes even supposedly safe spaces, such as the gay scene, can make it really hard for people to love themselves. With constant demands for being perfect, being young, fit, the perfect lover… the scene, the media and people around us can have a seriously detrimental effect on our self-love. With all the demands and stresses related to these constant demands for perfection, it is no wonder that gay men are three times more likely to suffer than straight men.
In fact, the statistics when it comes to gay men and mental health, especially confidence and self-love are truly shocking: in a recent survey by London gay group GMFA, more than half of the men questioned had suicidal thoughts. Almost a quarter of the men surveyed had actually attempted to take their own lives. 70% of the men talked about low self-esteem, with relationship issues, isolation and not feeling attractive major factors. And while for straight men things get better as they age, sadly, this isn’t the case for gay men: Older gay men suffer significantly more from depression and low self-esteem than both their straight and younger counterparts.
So what can we do about this? The first step is to recognise the issue, and to learn and look at ourselves more objectively, and see how we really are. Just think: if you go into a gay bar, would you think that over half of the guys there think that they are not attractive? Probably not. But that is exactly what the statistics tell us. And I’m not talking measuring men about an abstract beauty ideal here. In fact, more than half of gay men think they are unattractive to all or the majority of other gay men. Is it really surprising then, that so few would even think about themselves as loveable?
But luckily, you have decided that it is time to love yourself. And that is, after all, the first and probably biggest step to a develop a happier, healthier, sexier and more attractive you, no matter what your body looks like. Because, as the saying goes, there is nothing as attractive as someone who actually loves himself.
I should briefly add here that loving yourself shouldn’t be confused with narcissism, arrogance or self-centredness: These are the exact opposites of self-love. Mostly they are behaviours developed to hide crippling self-hate. This is a fact worthwhile remembering when you come across someone like that next: behind a facade of criticising and belittling others, mostly hides someone desperately trying to hide his real self from anyone else.
But enough of the backstory, let’s begin with some points about how the program will work:
The program is divided into days. 30 days exactly (hence the name!). Every day will consist of a brief introduction of the topic or concept and how it helps to create real and lasting self-love.
Each day, there will also be an activity to perform. Most of these will be reflective, but some will be actual physical activities. Some of these activities are designed to be a one-off, like making a list of things you like. Others are activities that you can repeat daily if you want. Each activity will tell you about this.
After each activity there are three questions to help you reflect on the activity and to deepen your learning. If you are following the program online or using an eBook version, I suggest you invest in a small note book to keep the notes for each day. If you are using the printed/PDF version of the program, it will have the boxes to put your notes in printed for you.
Importantly: please don’t skip these questions! They may seem trivial and it is often tempting to just focus on the activity. But it is only by reflecting on the activity by using the questions that you can really create actual change.
The program is divided into three parts:
The first part of the program introduces a few basic principles, such as gratitude, kindness, positive thinking and some skills, such as reframing. These form the basic tool kit for the main program.
The second part then uses this tool kit to develop self-esteem and confidence, and identifies strategies for longer lasting, positive change in the way you see yourself.
The third part focuses on developing a realistic body image and identifies strategies and ways to deal with body image issues, including assumptions about the perfect body and challenging negative thinking. In the round-up, the program focuses on developing resilience for the future.
Before we start though a little word of caution: much can be achieved in 30 days. In fact, many people who have followed a 30 day program are often like changed people. However, change doesn’t just happen in 30 days. Keeping up the hard work and sticking with a few of the tools that you’ll be introduced to in the next few days and strategies you’ll develop during the month will help you to really make the change permanent.
And now… sit back and relax. On Monday (Day 1), we will be looking at the concept of self-love in more detail.
To follow the full program, remember to check back on every day from Monday, 1. May. You can also subscribe to the newsletter (sent weekly) here. I’ll be making the full program, including all activities available for free on this website until 31 May. During May, you can save all the daily activities or print them for your own personal use. After this date, you will be able to download all activities and the full text as a PDF-file – or a printed book.
Take-home message for today: It’s not easy to love yourself, but it is probably the most important investment you will make and the basis of a happier future.