When we think about love, we don’t usually think of self love.

Yet it is the most important kind of love.

By self love, I don’t mean that entitled “what about me” self centeredness.

What I mean is honoring your own values, desires and needs even when you have other responsibilities, like working and taking care of others.

Self love goes much deeper than just self care. Self love is making time to nurture and nourish your soul, the deepest most intimate part of you.

Self love is seeking joy and peace from an inside out perspective. It is treating your body, mind and spirit with loving kindness not just once in a while but on a regular basis.

Self love is about acceptance.

Self love is not a destination; it’s a discipline. It is the practice of spending time by yourself, with you.

Of course, this is easier said than done. It requires a shift in both mindset and routine. Like many things, it starts with a habit that needs practice and repetition before it can be embraced. One way I practice daily self love is through meditative journaling.

It has taken me years to learn this. Or rather to put it into practice.

As a mother of two girls, one with autism, I didn’t like it when people used to tell me to take care of myself. They’d said it would make me a be a better mom and wife. What?  I wondered. Was I not already capable or good enough? Besides, I didn’t believe a manicure, massage or shopping were solutions to the stress I felt from the chaos.

During those difficult years, I had one goal and that was to make sure my two girls were happy, healthy and knew they were loved. If that meant sacrificing my own health and happiness, I did. In fact, I completely lost touch with myself and my emotions.

Looking back it is easy to see that my insides were all coiled up in a tight knot of physical and emotional toxicity.

One thing I did do for myself was go to therapy. For a while that was a gift.

But what really turned things around for me was learning to take care of my body, specifically healing my gut. Then everything else flowed from there. My perspective totally shifted, and I learned how to be my happiest, most alive self. I learned how to be my own hero.

The thing is that sometimes we don’t know how badly we feel until we feel better. I didn’t know my body was dealing with toxicity from things like antibiotics, toxic mold in our home, pain meds, and inflammatory foods like too much sugar.

While I was toxic inside, I could not find happiness, clarity, peace or presence. I honestly do not believe it was possible. I was playing the victim and martyr all at the same time. I resented other people for my unhappiness. I felt burdened instead of blessed and abandoned instead of loved.

My journey of healing started because of my daughter. Her autistic symptoms – trouble with transitions, insomnia, obstinate behaviors, rigidity, hitting, yelling and perseverations – all improved when we changed her diet and started healing her gut.

That magically opened the door for me to learn about healing my own body.

She can’t be the only one, I realized as I learned the true power of food. I also learned first hand that the body has the ability to heal itself given the proper love and attention.

Becoming her partner in her healing journey, making it ours, was the best decision I’ve ever made (besides marrying my husband and deciding to have children). Though we had each other, I did it for me. Not because I wanted to be a better mommy, wife or person. But because I wanted to feel like me in my body. The quiet whisper of my intuition guided me and showed me how to love myself. That voice got louder and louder the more I listened.

So self love is not selfish. It is about the most important relationship we have, the one with our self.

Read more about our journey in my memoir On The Bright Side: A Mother’s Story of Love and Healing Through Her Daughter’s Autism.