How Do You Love Yourself, Let Me Count The Ways: The Ultimate Guide to Self-Love
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“How do I love thee,” writes Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “let me count the ways.”
This is one of my favourite poems and it talks of one’s love for another – a deep and abiding love that lasts forever.
Have you ever noticed that many of us know what it feels like to fall in love with someone – a romantic partner or a spouse – but hardly anyone talks of falling in love with himself or herself?
I find it really strange because I believe that before you can really love someone else, you need to love yourself first. How else would you be able to give if you don’t have it in you in the first place?
This incredibly long post is the ultimate guide to self-love – a sort of expansion to my paraphrasing of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem and will answer every question you’ve ever had about loving yourself.
Side Note: This post is about 7,000 words so you’ll want to bookmark it for later reading. I’ve also added a table of contents for your convenience.
What is self-love?
This all-important question, of course, is the first question we need to answer.
What is self-love exactly?
Is it selfishly putting yourself and your own needs first and ignoring everyone else’s?
Or is it the reverse? Does it mean loving other people with no regard to your own wants because “it’s better to give than to receive”?
Is self-love all about getting massages and beauty treatments every day? Shopping compulsively for every single fashion trend so you’re never left behind? Or travelling from one end of the world to the other, hopping from exotic beach to the next?
Will self-love see you going to an ashram in India and spending your life in quiet meditation?
Is self-love marrying the man of your dreams and having 2 kids whilst living in a nice house in a nice suburb with a nice and very white picket fence?
None of these is self-love.
Whilst these activities feature prominently in many self-care activities checklist on Pinterest (there are thousands!) and do indeed help you feel good, the truth is simple.
To paraphrase Christie Marie Sheldon, “it doesn’t work the way you think it does. You have to love yourself first and then you do these activities.”
In other words, you don’t do these things and then expect them to get you to fall in love with yourself. You fall in love with yourself first.
So, what does it really mean to have self-love?
Like bliss, self-love is not simply feeling good with yourself or doing things that make you feel good. Such activities are usually fleeting.
Instead, it’s a deep sense of appreciation for yourself that both nurture and is nurtured by your actions.
You love yourself and so you follow your bliss. And because you follow your bliss, you love yourself even more.
It’s a beautiful cycle that, once begun, can gather momentum. This is precisely why, according to Psychology Today, “self-love is dynamic; it grows through actions that mature us.”
Why is self love so important?
Self love seems to be gaining a lot of popularity these days as more and more people begin embracing the concept and realise exactly how important it is.
But why is self love so important anyway?
I’ve compiled a few pertinent reasons below that I hope will show you exactly why you need to start loving yourself.
Self-love is the root of all love.
Many of us were raised from early childhood to expect all the best things to come from outside us.
Punishment and rewards work synergistically in conditioning us to look outside of ourselves for many, if not all, of the important things in life – yes, even love.
And whilst that may have “worked” when you were 3 years old and your parents were trying to get you to stop a certain behaviour (it really didn’t!), it’s not at all effective once you’re an adult who is now trying to navigate the murky waters of romantic relationships.
The truth is that until you start providing yourself with the love you’re looking for from others, you’ll end up in a relationship with someone who can’t give you the kind of love you’re looking for.
In fact, you very likely will end up with a partner who gives you the kind of love you give yourself.
Side Note: Obviously, there are exceptions to every rule. One example is if you find yourself in an abusive relationship. Although the Laws of Attraction and Manifestation state that we attract everything that we manifest, I haven’t quite reached that point of enlightenment yet where I can say that I attracted an abusive relationship.
If you’re farther along on this journey, please email me. I would absolutely love to discuss this further! 🙂
Anyway, this message will be repeated again and again in this post (actually, in the blog): if you can’t fully love yourself, you cannot really love someone else. Neither can you properly, selflessly, accept love from others.
Maya Angelou said it best, “I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me “I love you.” No. If they don’t love themselves, not, uh-uh. There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
And it’s true.
After all, how can you know if the love you feel for someone is true if you don’t know what love feels like?
Imagine a cup containing water (not the most elegant of analogies, I know, but it works). If you try to pour from an empty cup, nothing will come out – no matter how hard you shake it. But fill and refill that cup and its ability to quench thirst will seem never-ending.
You are the cup and the water is love.If you have no love for yourself, if you don't fill your own cup, you won't have anything to give others. Click To Tweet
You’ll drain yourself dry until nothing is left for you or anyone else.
Finally, how can you expect other people to love you the way you want to be loved if you don’t show them how?
If you wish to be treated with respect and dignity, for example, you cannot tolerate disrespect and indignity from others.
You’ll need to stand your ground and address their behaviour. Just remember that you need to do so with (yep, you guessed it!) respect and dignity.
Do you see? It comes full circle and it all begins with self love.
Self-love allows us to live a blissful life.
Your external world is a physical manifestation of your internal world.
I can’t quite remember who said that but it’s one of the most important tenets of the law of attraction.
Side Note: If you’ve never heard of the Law of Attraction before, I recommend watching The Secret (available for free with an Amazon Prime Video trial) to quickly get you up to speed.
This simply means that self-love, being the root of all love, and love, being the most powerful force in the universe, can bring to life your grandest dreams.
All you have to do to trigger the process is to fall in love with yourself.
Once that happens, your self-love will spread like wildfire until your entire life is changed.
Self-love develops empathy and compassion
When you love yourself fully and completely, you begin to realise that you have both strengths and weaknesses and that they are both important parts of yourself. And whilst it’s admirable to (wish to) change these weaknesses or make them better, they don’t make you any less worthy.
As you begin to become more accepting of yourself, you inevitably become more accepting of other people’s mistakes and weaknesses.
Self-love, in other words, grants you the empathy and compassion required to view everyone – yourself and others – with less judgment and to treat them with understanding and compassion at all times.
Self-love allows us to feel complete – regardless of relationship status.
Who can understand you better than you?
Who knows best how you wish to be treated? Cared for? Loved?
Who knows your heart in the depths of despair and the heights of joy?
You, of course.
When you take the time to listen to yourself with acceptance and compassion (ie: without judging yourself), you’ll begin to know yourself in a way you probably never had before.
And this is crucial because no one else can fully understand yourself the way that you can.
Other people might be empathetic. They might commiserate. They might be happy for you. But the truth is, they’ll never quite experience life the same way you do.
Only you can do that.
So, don’t wait for someone to complete you. Complete yourself and then look for someone to share their completeness with you.
Remember Ungenita Prevost, “There’s nothing wrong with being treated like a princess, but don’t look for Prince Charming to rescue you. Rescue yourself. Make your own happy ending.”"There's nothing wrong with being treated like a princess, but don't look for Prince Charming to rescue you. Rescue yourself. Make your own happy ending." – Ungenita Prevost Click To Tweet
Loving ourselves helps us make better choices.
Your choices will change as they begin to reflect a more loving, peaceful frame of mind.
You’ll automatically choose to eat healthily, exercise more or be involved in healthy relationships where you are treated as an equal.
You’ll take the time to appreciate yourself, celebrate your accomplishments, do things that make you laugh.
When you love yourself fully, you’ll begin to have a greater appreciation of your value and you’re more likely to choose things that nurture your well-being.
Self-love sets the tone for all other relationships.
As I previously wrote, self-love is the root of all love. and therefore, sets the tone for all other relationships.
When you treat yourself with love and respect, you show others how you wish to be treated. You know that you have the right to express and set boundaries. As a result, you’re more likely to have more fulfilling relationships.
When you don’t love yourself, however, you begin to overvalue the needs of others and relegate your own needs to the background.
Instead of meeting your needs, you begin to expecting someone else to do that for you. You expect this special person – The One – to see straight into your heart and give you your deepest desire.
Because you become so invested in this idea of The One, you become susceptible to the whims of other people and may make decisions out of guilt, a need to please or simply to avoid conflict – regardless of what you want.
This shows other people that you don’t value yourself and actually invites them to treat you in the same way.
You want to be loved and loved without condition?
Guess what? You’re gonna have to love yourself without condition first.
It all begins with you.
Self love helps prevent burnout.
If, like me, you have a tendency to work hard until your body gives out, then self-love will work magic in your life.
Because it requires you to slow down and take care of yourself, it will help prevent the burn out that inevitably occurs when you keep pushing beyond your physical limits.
As a mom living in today’s chaotic society, I need to find a way to balance my business, family, social and financial responsibilities.
It’s not easy to do and sometimes, I keep going even when all I really need is to take a step back and rest.
Unfortunately, if we keep denying ourselves the time to rest, we experience overwhelm and even burn-out.
Do you know the feeling? That physical or emotional exhaustion that makes you just want to give up?
It’s awful, isn’t it?
Luckily, self-love is the key to curing – and actually, preventing – burn out (more on how you can do that later).
Self love frees us from the myth of perfection.
Society tells us that perfection equals happiness.
So, we need to be the perfect parent with the perfect children and live in a perfect house with the perfect partner.
We need to look perfect too, with perfect hair, perfect skin and perfect figure.
And to top it all off, we should have the perfect career, perfectly balanced with perfect parenting and perfect hobbies.
The problem with this scenario is not only that perfection doesn’t exist anyway, but also that we need someone else to tell us that we’re perfect.
External validation becomes far too important.
And because we know that not everyone will love us, we can never really be at peace.
What’s the antidote to this brand of society poison?
Self love, of course.
By freeing us from the belief that we need external validation to determine our value, self love gives us the freedom to stop caring about other people’s opinion of us and releases us from the myth of perfection.
I honestly don’t have words to describe exactly how freeing that feeling can be.
So, let go of this drive for perfection and just be yourself.
Self-love allows us to be at peace with ourselves.
Many of us look for happiness. Not many wishes for peace.
How do I know this?
Just look at the message that the media is bombarding us with. And I’m not just talking about the news. It’s all over the magazines, films, TV shows.
Drama is everywhere – in all its gut-wrenching glory!
The dark emotions of anger, lust, jealousy seem to attract more people than inspirational, feel-good themes.
It’s strange – considering we all say that we want better. But I suppose it’s like driving past the scene of an accident, you can’t help but slow down and take a peek.
Thankfully, self love allows you to be at peace with yourself.
Because everything we feel is influenced by the way we view ourselves.
In Train The Trainer Online, Jack Canfield talks about this very thing and says that you are in control of your own reactions, no matter what other people say.
For example, if someone tells you that “you’re the worst friend ever”, do you feel sad, hurt or angry?
If yes, why is that?
According to him, people only really feel sad, hurt or angry when criticised if they have a deep-rooted belief that they really are the worst friend ever.
If you know that it’s a lie, you won’t feel such negative emotions, right?
It’s like if you have black hair and I insist that you’re blonde. You know I’m wrong so instead of feeling angry at me, you’re probably wondering what’s wrong with me.
So, imagine what could happen if instead of thinking that we’re bad, we viewed ourselves with love and recognised our own worth.
When we recognise that we’re unique and valuable, when we give ourselves the love that we’re so willing to give others, everything in life begins to flow to us with hardly any effort at all.
We finally achieve inner peace.
What does it mean to have self love?
So, what does it mean – exactly – to have self love?
It means you’re self-centred, but not selfish.
You’re conscious of yourself and your needs, without neglecting those of others.
You’re gentle with yourself.
And you value yourself enough that you can set and stick to your boundaries.
As you can probably guess by now, self-love doesn’t mean you’re a self-centred narcissist with an ego the size of Scotland.
In fact, being self-centred doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being selfish.
I love how Neale Donald Walsch explained this in Conversations with God, Book 1, Chapter 8. And this is why I believe that the first meaning of having self love is being self-centred.
Pretty radical concept, isn’t it? Read this excerpt from Book 1, Chapter 8 below.
Side Note: If you’ve not read this series before, don’t hesitate. Get it now. It doesn’t matter what your religious orientation is. I honestly think that every single person in the world should read it. Even if you don’t agree with what he wrote, I guarantee you, it will still be an eye-opener.
God: The most loving person is the person who is Self-centered.
Neale: That is a radical teaching…
God: Not if you look at it carefully. If you cannot love your Self, you cannot love another. Many people make the mistake of seeking love of Self through love for another. Of course, they don’t realize they are doing this. It is not a conscious effort. It’s what’s going on in the mind. Deep in the mind. In what you call the subconscious. They think: “If I can just love others, they will love me. Then I will be lovable, and I can love me.”
The reverse of this is that so many people hate themselves because they feel there is not another who loves them. This is a sickness—it’s when people are truly “lovesick” because the truth is, other people do love them, but it doesn’t matter. No matter how many people profess their love for them, it is not enough.
First, they don’t believe you. They think you are trying to manipulate them —trying to get something. (How could you love them for who they truly are? No. There must be some mistake. You must want something! Now what do you want?)
They sit around trying to figure out how anyone could actually love them. So they don’t believe you, and embark on a campaign to make you prove it. You have to prove that you love them. To do this, they may ask you to start altering your behavior.
Second, if they finally come to a place where they can believe you love them, they begin at once to worry about how long they can keep your love. So, in order to hold onto your love, they start altering their behavior. Thus, two people literally lose themselves in a relationship. They get into the relationship hoping to find themselves, and they lose themselves instead.
This losing of the Self in a relationship is what causes most of the bitterness in such couplings.
Two people join together in a partnership hoping that the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts, only to find that it’s less. They feel less than when they were single. Less capable, less able, less exciting, less attractive, less joyful, less content.
This is because they are less. They’ve given up most of who they are in order to be—and to stay—in their relationship.
Relationships were never meant to be this way. Yet this is how they are experienced by more people than you could ever know.
Neale: Why? Why?
God: It is because people have lost touch with (if they ever were in touch with) the purpose of relationships.
When you lose sight of each other as sacred souls on a sacred journey, then you cannot see the purpose, the reason, behind all relationships. The soul has come to the body, and the body to life, for the purpose of evolution. You are evolving, you are becoming. And you are using your relationship with everything to decide what you are becoming. This is the job you came here to do. This is the joy of creating Self. Of knowing Self. Of becoming, consciously, what you wish to be. It is what is meant by being Self conscious.
You have brought your Self to the relative world so that you might have the tools with which to know and experience Who You Really Are. Who You Are is who you create yourself to be in relationship to all the rest of it. Your personal relationships are the most important elements in this process. Your personal relationships are therefore holy ground. They have virtually nothing to do with the other, yet, because they involve another, they have everything to do with the other.
This is the divine dichotomy. This is the closed circle. So it is not such a radical teaching to say, “Blessed are the Self-centered, for they shall know God.” It might not be a bad goal in your life to know the highest part of your Self, and to stay centered in that.
Your first relationship, therefore, must be with your Self. You must first learn to honor and cherish and love your Self.
You must first see your Self as worthy before you can see another as worthy. You must first see your Self as blessed before you can see another as blessed. You must first know your Self to be holy before you can acknowledge holiness in another.
If you put the cart before the horse—as most religions ask you to do— and acknowledge another as holy before you acknowledge yourself, you will one day resent it. If there is one thing none of you can tolerate, it is someone being holier than thou. Yet your religions force you to call others holier than thou. And so you do it—for a while. Then you crucify them.
You have crucified (in one way or another) all of My teachers, not just One. And you did so not because they were holier than thou, but because you made them out to be.
My teachers have all come with the same message. Not “I am holier than thou,” but “You are as holy as am I.”
This is the message you have not been able to hear; this is the truth you have not been able to accept. And that is why you can never truly, purely, fall in love with another. You have never truly, purely fallen in love with your Self.
And so I tell you this: be now and forever centered upon your Self. Look to see what you are being, doing, and having in any given moment, not what’s going on with another.
It is not in the action of another, but in your re-action, that your salvation will be found.“
This book is one of my favourites because of this particular excerpt alone (there’s a lot more there!).
It is absolutely essential that you love yourself before you even attempt to love anyone else.
Being conscious of yourself
Being self-centred in the way described above means delving deep into what makes you you.
You become conscious of yourself and your needs, the boundaries you need to keep, when to say yes or no.
Life begins to take a deeper meaning as you start honouring your own well-being and happiness, giving yourself time to do the things that make your heart sing and not simply acting or being the martyr – sacrificing your own well-being simply to please others.
In other words, loving yourself completely means not settling for anything less than you deserve. And you deserve more than you think you do.
Being gentle with yourself
As you start finding out more about yourself, you’ll begin to see things you may have never noticed before.
And as you come face to face with the highs of your strengths and the lows of your weaknesses, your inner voice will likely ignore one in favour of the other.
At this time, you need to be gentle with yourself and remember that you have character traits that are both admirable and abominable.
Remember too that we each have them.
So, acknowledge both inner cheerleader and inner critic.
They each have something important to say.
Show yourself some compassion and remember the flip side of the Golden Rule: “Do unto yourself what you wish others do unto you.”.
There are many people who take better care of their friends than they do of themselves.
Don’t be one of these people.
There are many people who run roughshod over others in their pursuit of hedonistic pleasure.
Don’t be one of these people too.
Strive for balance.
And look after yourself as you would a most beloved friend. Treat yourself with love, care and devotion. Talk to yourself with respect.
Because you are worthy.
Side Note: If, like most people, you grew up in a family where punishment and rewards were the norm, where love was withheld when a rule was broken or you were threatened with abandonment anytime you didn’t comply with what your parents wanted, then you might find the act of falling in love with yourself a bit difficult. Fortunately, self-love can be learned and nurtured (more on that later).
The thing with finally falling in love with yourself is that you slowly begin to realise how badly you’ve been treating yourself before.
You’ll notice how often you let others run roughshod over you.
If you’re like most people, you’ll begin to see just how you force yourself to “grin and bear it” even when you’re disrespected or taken advantage of.
Sometimes, you even force yourself to pretend to like something you really don’t, just because someone you love does.
Obviously, I’m not now suggesting that you just ignore their wishes in favour of whatever tickles your fancy all the time – especially if you have a tendency to be flighty (ahem, like me). BUT surely, it wouldn’t be wrong if you were to communicate your feelings and your dreams?
In fact, does the other person even know how you really feel or what you really want?
Most people love helping others fulfil their dreams and would undoubtedly be ecstatic when you ask for help or express what it is you really want.
This was actually a revelation to me.
I remember once, 7 years ago, when I was still at university. I had just moved to the UK and thought it best to sign up for a mentorship programme because I had so much problem with networking and socialising. These are two skills I knew even then were essential for success but I just couldn’t get past the fear that I might be inconveniencing someone if I were to approach them.
My mentor basically said that most people want to help and actually feel honoured when asked so actually, it’s a win-win.
Conversely, most people don’t want to be perceived as rude, disrespectful or inconsiderate and when you don’t tell them how you feel, they may keep breaching your boundaries without even knowing what they’re doing. Give them the chance to correct their behaviour.
Trust me when I say that you do not want to wait until you’re exploding with rage before you set a boundary. That’s a recipe for broken relationships.
So, the next time you feel that your boundaries are being disrespected, follow Max Ehrmann’s advice and “speak your truth quietly and clearly.”
Side Note: Again, self-love isn’t selfishness or narcissism. It isn’t about the instant gratification of every little wish you have. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you neglect your responsibilities to other people. It isn’t you buying a new pair of boots simply because you want it, never mind that you don’t have enough money to buy both new boots for yourself and food for your family.
Self-love simply means honouring and nurturing your needs – body, mind and soul.
How do I love myself now?
Now that you’ve read what self love is (and what it isn’t) and why it’s supremely important, you’re next question is probably, “how do I love myself now?”.
How do you know if you have self love? What exactly are the specific signs you love yourself?
Take a look at the checklist below, which will show you how to develop self love.
Side Note: This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive. Self love, like many others, exists in shades of grey. What might be self love for you in one particular instant may cross the line and end up selfishness in another.
Nourish your body.
Without health, you can do nothing and enjoy nothing.
So, self love demands that you sleep well. If you have a sleep deficit, you make it up.
You take the time to move your body regularly – even if all you do is skip the bus and walk to work.
Add Reiki self treatment to your daily routine.
Food is both fuel and nourishment so you eat well and do not miss a meal.
We all know what it takes to keep our body healthy so I won’t go into greater detail on how to do that but I’d like to emphasise here that when you love yourself, you automatically nourish your body.
And you do so because you want to not because you have to.
Nurture your mind.
You know that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. So, you take the time to do little things that nurture it, like sitting in the silence and just witnessing the thoughts that come and go in your mind.
Listen to uplifting music.
Learn some quick and easy strategies that will help you practice self-love. And implement them.
Meditate – even if you’re a beginner.
Read inspirational words and watch inspirational videos filled with hopeful visions of the future.
There are many ways to nurture your mind. You just need to find the one that works for you.
Live a life free from worry.
Remember what the Dalai Lama once said: “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”
And as Mary Schmich wrote in her now-famous poem, “Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindsides you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.”
In other words, self-love demands that you free yourself from worrying about the future or the past. Neither are helpful or even useful. Remember that whatever will happen will happen whether you worry about it or not.
Fortunately, you can learn how to stop worrying. It’s a skill that simply gets easier the more you practise it.
Own your power.
You say YES when you want to and NO when you don’t.
You make decisions for no other reason than this. You don’t say yes when you want to say no. Or vice versa.
You don’t pretend to be okay with something when you’re actually not.
And you certainly don’t force yourself to do something when all your instincts are screaming at you to not do it.
Of course, there are some things that you may choose to do that you’d rather not but it’s because you know that the alternative is something worse. And there may be some things that you choose not to do even if you’d prefer to do them because the alternative is something better.
In the end, you know that you have the power to choose and you exercise this power judiciously.
Appreciate your worth.
You know that you may not be perfect – you have both strengths and weakness, after all – but you are worthy.
Maybe you wish you were more intelligent, capable or courageous than you think you are. Maybe you’d prefer that you didn’t have much of a temper. Perhaps you’d prefer to be a lot better than who you are just now.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter because no one is perfect. Not me and not you. And that’s okay. You’re worthy of love regardless.
Children, for example, are born not knowing how to walk. Are they any less lovable because of something they don’t currently have, something they can change?
Of course not! They are loveable just as they are. And so are you.
I refer you again to Max Ehrmann: “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
Welcome the good things that happen to you.
Know that you have an inherent right to the good things in your life.
No, I don’t mean that you should feel entitled to something in life just because you want it. You do still have to take massive action if there’s a goal you wish to meet.
But have you ever felt like an impostor when something good happens in your life? Have you ever thought to yourself that you don’t deserve it?
I know I have. And that is rooted in a deep sense of lack, of inferiority, of not loving yourself.
Marianne Williamson once wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
So, why should other people have every good thing life has to offer but not you?
Why not you?
You are as worthy as everyone else around you and you deserve to be loved, just like each and every one of us.
And if you find yourself unable to believe this, then more inner work is required.
In cases where I’m battling with my own mind, I listen to subliminal recordings instead of guided meditations. That way, I don’t have my mind scoffing at everything that doesn’t quite match my mind’s limiting beliefs.
I recommend you try Real Subliminal’s Boost Self-Esteem album if you haven’t already.
Live both sides of the Golden Rule.
We all already know one side of the Golden Rule: we should treat others the way we want them to treat us. And that is important.
Equally important but much less common is the flip side of the Golden Rule, which is to treat yourself the way you want to be treated by others.
After all, as I keep saying (and sorry if I seem to keep beating a dead horse over here), you cannot give what you do not have. You cannot be kind to others if you do not know how to be kind to yourself. You cannot love others if you don’t love yourself.
So, apply both sides of the Golden Rule.
Treat yourself the way you treat the people you love – and treat everyone else the same way.
Give yourself presents just as you give other people presents.
Talk to yourself with kindness, the way you would a dear friend.
And most important of all, you do not ever tolerate abuse – of yourself or others.
Get to know yourself.
You’ve done and continue to do inner work and are intimate with your deepest desires and highest dreams – and you take these seriously.
It’s virtually impossible to fall in love with yourself if you don’t take the time to get to know yourself first – just like with other people.
You won’t marry anyone you just met because you don’t really know him, would you?
That is why Elsa is a Queen and the rest are Princesses. from r/disney
The premise is the same when you’re getting to know you.
So, get to know yourself.
Go out on a date with yourself and, not just any date, make it a date to remember.
Ask yourself questions – both silly and serious.
Commit to exploring yourself, your relationships and the world around you. Suspend any judgement whilst you’re doing it and notice what you seem drawn to.
Eventually, you’ll discover how different things, jobs, events, values, views, people, places and relationships make you feel. You’ll begin to see what you’re good at and what you’re not. And finally, you’ll find whatever it is that makes your heart sing with joy.
If you do this without judging yourself for your feelings and instincts, you’ll begin to discover who you really are and what you really want.
This is your first major goal: to discover and create a purpose for your life and then to live your life according to that purpose.
Once you know what you want your life to be about, you can write your dreams down – complete with a timeline and a plan detailing how to achieve them.
When would you want them to come true? And how?
Goals are dreams with a deadline, they say. And it’s true. Once you have a plan to achieve your dreams, you can start executing it, which can eventually encourage the people around you to follow their own dreams.
Use your self love as a guiding light in the darkness.
Remember, the more love you have, the more you can give.
As I mentioned before, this list is not exhaustive. Neither is it set in stone.
Things change. Life throws us curveballs. Sometimes, the most loving thing you can do for yourself may be to do the opposite of what’s on this list.
As far as I know (which I admit, probably isn’t much), it doesn’t happen too often but often enough that I need to remind you that this list isn’t here to make you feel guilty because you don’t meet each item 100%.
For example, if you want to sleep 8 hours a night but you have a sick child who wakes up every hour, then love – of yourself and your child – obviously requires that you sacrifice your sleep to tend to her.
Remember, when you love yourself and when you act in ways that expand that self-love in you, then you have more love to give others.
Take the time to just breathe.
I guess this advice is inevitable in a blog about lifestyle design.
The mind, as I mentioned in The 4 Areas of Blissful Living: What Is A Blissful Life?, is the first step to changing your life for the better.
And one of the best ways you can work on the mind is by meditating and the cornerstone of meditation is breathing.
So, take the time to just breathe.
Focus on your inhale and your exhale.
Concentrate on the feeling of your breath as it comes in and goes out.
It doesn’t need to take too much time – 10 minutes could be enough if you’re just starting out.
If you need tools to help you focus, you can listen to some guided meditation. I personally love Lisa Nichols’ Discover Your Worthiness Guided Meditation.
If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you might prefer to move whilst you’re doing this exercise. In which case, you can do yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, the more traditional martial arts (although you might find them a bit too vigorous) or my current favourite, Qi Gong.
Taking the time to just breathe can help quiet your mind, which in turn, can help you think clearly.
Eliminate toxic relationships.
Loving yourself is extremely difficult if you’re surrounded by people who treat you like garbage.
As you start to live your life in quiet observation, you’ll notice – maybe for the first time – that there are people in your life who treat you with disrespect, who abuse your kindness and who consistently ignore the boundaries you set.
These are people who create drama wherever they go, drain your energy with their toxic negativity and who could, if you let them, make you question your own worth.
Walk away from these people.
Sever such relationships.
And if you can’t cut them off completely, then minimise your interaction as best you can.
This isn’t cruelty, abandonment or vengeance.
This is you showing yourself with the same love you would shower your best friend.
This reminds me of Oriah Mountain Dreamer‘s poem The Invitation: “It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.”
As I wrote in a previous post, comparing steals your joy and breeds resentment because there will always be someone better than you.
What I hadn’t mentioned is that someone will also always be worse off than you, which can make you arrogant and conceited.
Whichever way it goes, one thing is certain. It’s impossible to completely fall in love with yourself when you’re forever looking to see how you measure up against other people.
Besides, what is the point of comparing your journey with others? No one can live your life but you. And no one can live their lives but them.
Once you really understand that, you’ll realise that you deserve kindness, compassion and understanding. And so does everybody else.
Engage with your inner critic but don’t believe everything it says.
According to Psychology Today, we’re wired for unpleasantness due to our brain’s negativity bias.
In other words, unless we work hard at being positive, our inner critic will trump our inner cheerleader all the time.
And when we let our inner critic do most of the talking, we could very well believe that we don’t deserve what we want.
Or that we’re incapable of great things and that there’s no point in setting goals because we’ll fail at whatever we try anyway.
Worse, we might not only beat ourselves up over our every little mistake, but we might also even go so far as to actually try and harm ourselves.
That said, you can’t just ignore your inner critic when it rears its ugly head.
It’s there for a reason after all (hello, evolution!) and it’s possible that your inner critic is raising some valid points that you need to consider.
So, yes, do engage with your inner critic. Just make sure to take everything it says with a grain of salt.
To recap, self-love is not only important but is actually essential to living life because it:
- Is the root of all love.
- Allows us to live a blissful life.
- Develops empathy and compassion
- Allows us to feel complete – regardless of relationship status.
- Helps us make better choices.
- Sets the tone for all other relationships.
- Helps prevent burnout.
- Frees us from the myth of perfection.
- Allows us to be at peace with ourselves.
But what exactly does it mean to have self love? How do you know that you’re on the right track?
Believe it or not, it’s actually quite simple. Having self-love simply means that you’re being self-centred. Not that you’re selfish but that you know your true self and you stay centred in it.
It also means that you’re conscious of yourself.
Having self love means being gentle with yourself as well as being firm enough to set and enforce the boundaries that are important to you.
Finally, there are a few concrete steps you can take to cultivate a love of self, if you’re not already doing these:
- Nourish your body.
- Nurture your mind.
- Live a life free from worry.
- Own your power.
- Appreciate your worth.
- Welcome the good things that happen to you.
- Live both sides of the Golden Rule.
- Get to know yourself.
- Take the time to just breathe.
- Eliminate toxic relationships.
- Stop comparing.
- Engage with your inner critic but don’t believe everything it says.
What do you think? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!
Self Love is the root, the inner core, of life to me. I love how you reference perfection and external value. I struggled with that for years. I felt like I had to be at a certain level in my life by age milestones or I was not doing well. Today I am content in my skin exactly where I am. I do not seek others’ approval. That did not mean I quit having dreams or goals. I still move towards what I want in life. I have initiated some boundaries – which was a foreign word to me – for a long time. I was passive and did not speak how I felt or what I needed. I was a people pleaser and am so glad that has left me. It took time and a lot of practice. Thank you for sharing self-love from all the angles. I really learned some things I need to look at.
Thank you for sharing your experience, Lisa. I too was a people-pleaser and to a certain extent, I still am. It’s so difficult to get rid of and I need to always be on guard. I’m happy you found this post helpful.
I can relate to this because many times I have suffered because I thought I was doing those things out of my love for others that I have sacrificed my own happiness for the welfare of others. There were instances where I forced myself to do extraordinary things just to prove to a girl that I love her to the point that I went weird and not likable. In the end, I suffered the consequences. This article is an eye-opener to me, as it opened a new view of how to start loving others by starting with myself. Thanks a lot and more power with you.
You’re welcome and thank you for sharing your experience. It’s not easy to put yourself first when everyone keeps telling you that doing so is selfish. I think we could all benefit from loving ourselves the way we’re supposed to love other people.
Self-love is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. For a decade now I’ve been battling my own demons in the form of depression and social anxiety. How do I love myself? I have absolutely no idea. I’m only about one third of the way through your article but it’s impressive. Thank you for writing such a comprehensive guide on how to love yourself, much appreciated.
You’re welcome. Self-care is essential but certainly not easy. I hope you find it useful. 🙂