Self-love is the name of the game these days, but what does it actually mean? Is it treating yourself with a bright and shiny new something you’ve been coveting, or something as simple as embracing compassion? We caught up with LÄRABAR ambassador, author, and holistic wellness coach Alex Elle to unpack the deeper significance of self-love and break down six common barriers women face when it comes to truly loving themselves.

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What I’ve been up to: creating a resource that will support your writing + self-care practice. It’s called @TodayIAffirm. . . I am very proud and extremely honored to have birthed something that will assist you in finding your voice. Writing saved me, and if I had a tool like this years ago, perhaps I would've nestled into my story without shame or guilt sooner. Maybe I would've learned to self-trust and cope, and grieve in a way that was healthier. With that in mind, I created Today I Affirm: A Journal that Nurtures Self-Care, for me, for you, for us. . . What you can expect from T.I.A: 1. 3 sections of guided writing prompts: journal questions, affirmation charting, and self-love letter writing. 2. An unintimidating approach to finding your voice through introspection. 3. A place to explore your writing and encourage your stories to come to the surface without self-judgment. 4. 174 unique + beautiful pages, a gorgeous embossed cover, a lay-flat design, and a bookmarker to hold your page. 5. Stunning calligraphy by @loveoffering. 6. Unraveling negative self-talk and turning it into positive self-affirmation. 7. Cultivating your answers and walking away with the confidence to show up, speak up, and stand up for yourself. . . I am giving away 5 of these before the 1/1/19 release date. To enter for a chance to receive an early copy: -like this post. -leave a comment below answering the question: What has change taught me about my resilience? -follow @todayiaffirm Deadline to enter is 11/22. . . I am so looking forward to you all getting your hands on this workbook! It is my 5th published project and one that I am most proud of. You can pre-order at the link in my bio. T.I.A will be available worldwide on January 1, 2019. . . Big Love, Alex Edit: This giveaway is now closed. The winners are: @emilyyy.hope @amber.darden @laura_macleod @kaitbproctor @_ceerose_

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Elle says self-love can be especially hard to master because it goes against what many women are taught when they’re young. “Personally, I was raised to take care of everyone else and put myself last, but that’s really devastating to the self,” she says. “I’ve since found that relationships of all kinds — with family, friends, colleagues and romantic partners — can’t thrive without a healthy foundation of self-love.”

Elle notes that for her, staying full is the key to sharing her wealth with others. “I look at self-love like water,” she explains. “I want to be a full pitcher so that I can pour into my girls’ cup, my husband’s cup, my friends’ cups. So that’s how I look at it, not in a way that’s selfish, but in a way that’s self-sustaining.” Preach.

Barrier #1: You nix your own needs. “Believe it or not, your boss, significant other, best friend, neighbor, sister… they’re not mind readers,” Elle reminds us. “Loving yourself means advocating for yourself in every kind of relationship. Being able to identify and share your individual needs is vital to all relationships.” Yes, this includes the one you have with yourself.

Barrier #2: You don’t fuel up. Eating junk food might make satisfy your taste buds on a stressful day or even help mend a broken heart (wine ice cream, anyone?), but Elle warns that it’s always a temporary fix. “It’s so important to feed your body what will make you feel good, inside and out,” she affirms. Break through this barrier by fueling yourself with more good-for-you ingredients, rather than roadside eats, unhealthy takeout, or sugar-laden treats. You’ll notice the difference!

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I had a moment last week where I was questioning my calling, thinking twice about my life-work, and not sure if the work I'm doing was reaching anyone in real life and real time. I kept asking myself, is anyone listening? Does anyone care or are we all on the wave of instant + fleeting gratification? Where is the longevity of the soul work? Where is the community that says: I am ready to heal, grow, show up, and change? Not just online, but in person. Face to face, heart to heart. I texted @valencia_valencia in the midst of my questioning and she poured so much love, reassurance, and encouragement into me. I needed that. We all do at times. . . My main intention as I move through the world is to make space for women to find their voices through writing and storytelling. I want everyone who reads one of my books, buys one of my journals or comes to a retreat or workshop, to leave feeling like self-care can be a ritual and daily accessible practice w/o guilt or shame. As a black woman in the wellness and literature space, it's important for me to show up, even if it's just for one person. I feel like it's my duty to use my voice and platforms in ways that uplift and create community-centered conversations that facilitate a sense of understanding, belonging, and love. There are days when I feel like, does anyone care? Does anyone want to authentically connect and do the work in person, or is everyone just focused on the superficial-surface level- look good for the gram stuff. Today, I got my answer: people care. . . Transitioning back into cultivating and teaching workshops after being off for so long brings a lot to the forefront for me. The group of women who showed up at today's @selfcaresessions class came prepared to dive deep, create sisterhood, and manifest their truth. Their presence reassured me that this is the work I am to be doing. Their commitment to themselves made it clear to me that we all must keep showing up and doing the work, even in our moments of uncertainty. We are all truly in this together. Today, sisterhood was self-care. . . Thank you to everyone who showed up, my co-teachers: @ajolique + @loveoffering, @pandaheadmorgan + #theLINEdc.

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Barrier #3: You don’t make time for yourself. Spending QT with other people is a legit way to show them you care, but carving out time for yourself should be held in equally high regard. “I call one practice I teach ‘Stop, Drop, and Self-Care’,” Elle explains. To pull this practice off, set your alarm to ring early a few times each week and allow five to 15 minutes to do something good for yourself.

“I have a lot of clients who work the traditional nine-to-five and I tell them to scoot back from their desk, take a few minutes to breathe, listen to a meditation, stretch or walk,” Elle explains. “Just acknowledging your physical presence can be a healing technique.”

Barrier #4: You allow negativity to overpower what’s good. “In our hectic everyday lives, it’s easy to fixate on the frustrations: a bad day at work, a seemingly impossible goal, or a situation that might be out of our control,” Elle acknowledges. “In these moments, I try to focus on what I have and am grateful for instead.”

Still struggling to find the positivity? Try Elle’s go-to meditative writing practice. First, write down the lies — the negative self-talk, doubt, etc. Next, jot down the truth about yourself next to each lie, like what you’re capable of. “Putting this on paper helps to surface the negative, rather than just ignoring it,” she promises.

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Notes on Writing + Truth: Charting my affirmations helps me see things clearly. There’s a different type of understanding that goes along w/ this journaling exercise—as a visual learner and information absorber—I like charts, pictures, diagrams, AND words. Those things combined help me find clarity on what I’m working on + taking in. . . The journey through grief isn’t linear. Neither is healing. They both come in waves, and they both require awareness, acknowledgement, and acceptance (what I call the 3 As to my students and clients). . . I’m writing a collection of essays that will read like a memoir. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. And it’s bringing things to the surface that I unhealthily buried—because forcing traumatic memories to the bottom is way easier than facing them head on. But, I’m ready. I’m excited for this next step toward the direction of evolution. . . The eraser marks are me acknowledging that I was trying to edit the truth. To make it look and sound pretty. I did a self-check in, and rewrote line 2, because self-accountability has to be a thing in my mental wellness + self-care practice. It is up to me to be the truth in work. To give my words, thoughts, and feelings safe pastures to run freely through on paper. . . So, @todayiaffirm, to honor my grief with honesty and duality. If you’re stuck on journaling, use this chart as a prompt.

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Barrier #5: You gloss over your fears. Fear is powerful, but it doesn’t have to prevent you from living the kind of life you dream about. “You have to unpack the fear,” Elle says. “It’s something that my clients are always nervous about at the beginning, but by the end, they’re like ‘Wow, I can do this!’” Bust through this barrier by deciding to go for it. Address what troubles and frightens you; bring it up, talk about it, and find solutions for each worry or cause or concern. The more you practice, the more natural moving through fear will feel.

Barrier #6: You tell yourself that “now” is “forever.” “It’s so easy to feel ‘stuck’ — stuck in a job that isn’t what you want it to be, a relationship that doesn’t feel right, a city where you don’t want to stay. We’ve all been there,” Elle notes. “A strategy for me to overcome this barrier is simply knowing that it will pass.” Repeating or writing down positive affirmation can help your belief that better times are on the horizon. We especially love one of Elle’s favorites: “I am thankful for my struggle because, without it, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon my strength.”

What has helped you show yourself more love in the last year? Tell us what’s working on Twitter @BritandCo.