Not loving yourself is like trying to fight a battle on two fronts. Not only are you faced with life’s inevitable storms, you’re simultaneously fighting your own mind.
And if you’re not in your corner, fighting alongside you, who will?
Because as the saying goes, wherever you go, there you are.
You’re the only one who’s with you all the time. That means you get to decide whether your life will be a bloody battle, or a wonderful adventure with your BFF.
But what if you’re more frenemies with yourself than best friends right now? How do you learn to love yourself when you were never given the skills? Where do you even begin?
I’ve been there, and it’s tough. But I can’t stress the importance of self-love enough. I can categorically say that learning to love myself has made a massive difference in the quality and trajectory of my life – more so than any other life skill. And, like any other skill, it can be learned.
Here are some super practical tips for cultivating self-love and becoming your own greatest ally.
Don't Wait For Others To Do it - Learn to Love Yourself
Do you find yourself always seeking the approval of others? Does it feel like they’re never quite willing to validate your feelings, thank you for your hard work or praise you for your accomplishments?
Maybe you already know this deep inside, but that approval you seek? That validation? You can give it to yourself.
The single best gift you’ll ever give yourself? Becoming your own best friend.
1. Why You Should Be Your Own Best Friend
Scientific studies highlight the importance of self-love over and over again, showing that people who love themselves:
- Are happier
- Enjoy a better sense of well-being
- Are less stressed
- Have better relationships
- Are less likely to procrastinate
- Are more likely to reach their goals
- Find adjusting to change easier
- Are better equipped to weather life’s storms
Yup, self-love is simply smart science.
The good news is – you absolutely can learn to love yourself. And it’s never too late. Repeat after me: It’s not too late and I’m not too old.
I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Learning to love yourself and be confident is an ongoing process, especially in a world that’s constantly telling us we’ll never be enough.
There will be bumps in the road. But learning how to practice self-love and care is a crucial part of the puzzle when you want to build a great life.
With lots of patience and practice, and armed with these sure-fire ways to love yourself, you can become your own best friend.
2. Is Self-Love Selfish?
In order to be a good person, we need to put others’ needs above our own, right?
It’s an idea most of us have internalized in our time here on planet earth. We were all taught some version of the golden rule, after all – to treat others as you want to be treated.
But what if you treat yourself really badly? What if you’re being held hostage to your negative opinions of yourself?
And speaking of golden rules – doesn’t the meaning of ‘love others as you love yourself’ changes entirely when you secretly hate yourself?
We can only treat other people as well as we treat ourselves.
Yet so often we end up sacrificing our own health and sanity in order to take care of others. We end up stressed out, frazzled and resenting ourselves – and others for their ‘demands’. This is why learning to love ourselves is so important – and so hard.
3. Overcoming Resistance When Learning To Love Yourself
You have to love yourself before you can love someone else. Society, sadly, has been slow in accepting this fundamental truth.
So while you’re learning to love yourself, you can expect to come up against resistance – not least of all from your own conditioning.
You will ask yourself, how do I learn to love myself when I don’t know how? You don’t know how I grew up. My family just doesn’t do self-love. So what do self-love actions even look like? I’ve never been shown! And who am I to think I’m worthy of love? It’s way easier for other people. Those rich, thin, successful, beautiful people. I mean, how do I love myself when I have a list of flaws as long as the equator? Besides, isn’t learning to love myself just an excuse to be self-absorbed?
Loving yourself is not:
- An over-inflated sense of your own importance
- Thinking you’re better than others
- Absolutely crucial if you want to love others
- Showing compassion for yourself and others
- Taking care of your own well-being
- Your best ally in life
Rate Your Relationship: A Self-Love Exercise
Open a new document or grab some writing equipment.
Now close your eyes and picture this: When the door is closed and the lights are off and it’s just you and your own thoughts – how would you rate your relationship with yourself?
Write down the first word that comes to mind.
Annoying roommate? Frenemy? Nemesis? Whatever it is, write it down.
Now ask yourself: What if you were to become your own best friend? Picture how your life would be different – would you be happier, more adventurous, more at peace?
Write down how your life would change once you become your own best friend. Refer to it often throughout your journey towards self-love.
Drop The Drill Sergeant Act
When your uncle makes a jibe about your weight at the family dinner, do you feel like thanking him for his unique insight? Nah – you probably want to run to the nearest fast-food restaurant and dive into a pile of cheeseburgers.
Shaming people or yelling at them in a bid to ‘help’ them reach their goals is the mother of all bad ideas, science proves.
The only thing shaming and yelling begets is anxiety. And once you’ve been anxious for a long time, your system crashes. Now you’re depressed.
Feeling anxious and depressed are hardly conducive to reaching your goals. So do yourself a favor and stop acting like you’re at boot camp.
Start treating yourself with compassion instead. Here’s how.
1. Watch How You Talk To Yourself
We can’t lie to ourselves. That makes our inner voice pretty damn powerful.
So start noticing how you wield that self-talk weapon.
Are you being hostile? Back up and reframe!
For example, if you notice yourself saying: ‘I never finish anything’;
Replace it with: ‘I had a tiring day and compensated by not working on my project. I’ll set aside two hours to work on it tomorrow’.
Do this every time you notice yourself talking smack about yourself.
2. Learn The Life-Saving Art Of Self-Compassion
Been on social media lately? It’s a bloodbath as anonymous trolls compete with each other to leave the meanest comments on that video of a budgie playing the piano.
People like that? They seem confident, but they all have one thing in common: Poor self-esteem. Their confidence is fake.
Fake self-confidence is:
- Trying to boost our self-esteem by proving to our own brain that we’re better than others. This leads to narcissism.
- Striving to be nice to others while being Mean Girl Number One to ourselves. We come to see ourselves as ‘less than’.
Having self-compassion is a much better alternative than trying to fake self-confidence.
- Treating ourselves like a BFF – with kindness, empathy and gentleness.
- Having a soft and soothing inner voice, not a critical and harsh one.
- Having a generous spirit towards others – accepting that we’re all imperfect and that we’re linked in this common humanity.
So as each situation arises, ask yourself: How can I view this through the light of compassion – for myself, and for others?
Don't Let Your Feelings Hold You Hostage
Experiencing our feelings can be overwhelmingly painful. So we try to deal with them in all the wrong ways – and become a prisoner to our emotions.
Common mistakes include:
1. Ignoring your feelings
We’re so afraid to deal with our feelings that we suppress them. We keep busy, doing anything possible to avoid dealing with our emotions.
But feelings have a way of popping up – in our dreams, or in addictive behaviour like substance abuse.
2. Thinking Your Feelings
When we feel hurt, sad or fearful, we tend to spend our energy focusing on the thought that accompanies that emotion, e.g. I’m never going to amount to anything.
Sometimes this thought will start playing on repeat, becoming all we can think about and leading to self-destructive behavior
3. Linking Your Feelings
Ever had one of those feeling chains? You know the one – you start with something semi-logical like, I got stood up, then link it to the next thought that pops into your head: No-one is ever interested in me, and along floats the next one – I’m going to die alone, so you link that one to the others, and on it goes…
Before you know it, all these feelings are linked into a heavy chain of emotion that’s dragging you ever-downwards.
This is your brain indulging in pointless and false pattern-seeking behaviour, based on old habits. And when we view every negative event as part of a continual pattern of failure, it’s very hard to ever feel good about ourselves.
When you notice yourself linking or thinking your feelings, imagine a great big stop sign. STOP! Now, do this self-love technique instead:
A Mindful Approach To Feeling Your Emotions
Move your attention away from your thoughts. Instead, focus on your body.
Feel the sensation in your body, wherever it is – maybe it’s a constriction in your chest, a heavy feeling in your heart or a throbbing feeling in your brain.
Don’t try to fight the sensation you’re experiencing. Just breathe and allow yourself to lean into the feeling. Feel it – whatever it is, however intense.
Keep breathing, keep staying with the feeling.
Notice the body sensation gradually change, then move away.
Notice that you’re still here, still present, still you. You are not your thoughts or your feelings. You’re always you, whatever feelings come and go.
Master the art of self-care
If we’re truly to love ourselves and others, we need to learn to put ourselves first.
It’s the old oxygen mask analogy – you can’t take care of someone else unless you’ve got air to keep yourself going.
1. Get To Know Your Fuel Tank
Self-care is about knowing yourself – and your energy levels.
We all have only so much energy to expend each day, and if we’re running around trying to give from an empty fuel tank, chances are we’re not doing a great job of helping anyone.
Getting to know what your energy fuel tank looks like is one of the best things you can do to start taking care of yourself.
Check Your Fuel: A Self-Love Exercise
Picture energy levels as a fuel tank: Some things add to your tank, others draw from it. If your entire day is filled with things that detract from your tank, you’ll be trying to give from an empty bucket soon.
Make a list of things that use up fuel from your tank. These will be unique to you, so be honest with yourself – no one is looking over your shoulder. Extroverts might be fueled by social interactions, for example, while introverts are depleted by them. Or maybe you’re only fueled by one-on-one interactions that don’t involve small talk.
Now make a list of things that use up fuel from your tank.
Once you have your two columns down, assess how you currently fill your time. Are there more things drawing from your tank on a daily or weekly basis than things that fuel you? Adjust accordingly.
Keep this list handy. You can use it when organizing any chunk of time, from your daily routine to an upcoming event or trip.
2. Learn To Say No
To properly take care of ourselves, it’s crucial that we learn to say no sometimes.
This can be extremely hard because:
- Growing up, we were taught to be selfless – but not that we have a limited supply of energy
- Women are often raised to be everything to everyone at all times – while looking flawless.
- Men are often raised to be a ‘success’ in the financial sense – and never to ask for help getting there
- We genuinely want to be helpful
- We think we need to say ‘yes’ to everything in order to be liked and included
So we end up:
- Saying yes out of obligation
- Saying yes before we know what our schedule looks like
- Attending every party
- Helping out at every event
- Not charging for our professional skills
- Being at everyone’s beck and call, day and night
- Spread thin, with very little patience left
- Losing the capacity to truly help anyone or enjoy their company
Learning to say no is one of the best life skills we can learn in the process towards learning to care for and love on ourselves.
Of course you don’t have to be rude about it and just give a blunt ‘no’
Here Are Some Helpful Ways To Say No
- ‘Let me think about that’ or ‘let me check my schedule’ (do come back with an answer – send an email or text if saying it in person is too hard)
- ‘That sounds like such fun, but it’s not in the budget at the moment.’
- ‘I wish I could, but my schedule is full at the moment.’
- ‘I don’t have time this month, but let’s catch up next month.’
Change Your Mind About You
1.Stop Seeing Yourself As Fundamentally Flawed
Sure, you could make an Olympic sport out of piling up the dirty dishes, then go on to win a gold medal in couch surfing. We all have behaviours we could work on improving.
Problem is: Many of us come to believe that we’re rotten to the core, with no redeeming qualities at all.
This kind of thinking can lead to the worst kind of self-loathing. Why would you apply for that promotion, start marketing your art or ask your partner to marry you if you’re an inherently flawed person?
If you only remember one thing, make it this: You may have flaws, like every other human being on the planet, but you’re not fundamentally flawed.
2. Forgive Yourself
Sometimes we simply can’t forgive ourselves for things we’ve done in the past. So we play that tape over and over in our heads until is paralyzes us. Our identity becomes linked to that ‘terrible’ person we believe ourselves to be.
But when we realize that we make mistakes, just like everyone else, and that that’s OK, we allow ourselves to let go of this painful past. We allow ourselves perhaps the biggest gift of all – the ability to move forward.
3. Believe In Yourself
Buried under layers and layers of self-doubt and loathing, you’ll find a small kernel of self-belief.
It’s there, if you search hard enough. It’s the one thing that’s gotten you as far as you have – developing your skills and talents, learning to sing even after your mom told you you couldn’t keep a tune, or getting that degree even though you were petrified most of the time that you would fail.
So every time you find yourself doubting your own abilities, close your eyes. Find that kernel of self-belief. Let it bring you strength.
4. Start Valuing Yourself
It’s easy to get into a pattern of thinking others are better, more worthy, more deserving.
We’ve come to base our value on incredibly random stuff like how straight our teeth are, how high from the ground our vehicle of choice makes us appear when we’re racing to get to work, and how shiny our office is once we get there.
Truth is, you have as much inherent value as every other person on this planet. Your value is not defined by anything other than the fact that you exist.
One of the biggest gifts you can give yourself is to stop seeing others as better than you and start seeing your true value as a person.
Know That You Can Grow
I’ve never been any good at numbers, so don’t ask me to do a budget.
I have two left feet.
I was at the back of the line when they handed out talent.
Do you catch yourself making blanket statements like this? Do you believe that you were dealt a bad hand when it comes to the talent department? That you were born with a limited number of skills, and those are the ones you’re stuck with?
This called a fixed mindset, and it’s a sure-fire recipe for:
- Feeling stuck
- Becoming resentful
- Stopping your progress in life
- Developing a lack of self-esteem
- Never achieving your goals
The good news is, you’re not limited to a puny number of skills and talents. In fact, research shows that those who thrive are the ones who reject the notion of a fixed mindset, adopting instead a growth mindset.
People with a growth mindset:
- Know they can learn just about any new skill
- Don’t beat themselves up when they can’t do something straight away
- Embrace the challenge of learning something new
- See learning and improving as an adventure
- Are great at problem solving
- Know when to ask for help or sign up for a course
- Are constantly reaching their goals and setting new ones
So how about it – is it time you started growing?
Get To Know Yourself - Then Love Yourself For Who You Are
Hey you. Yes, you! You have some amazing qualities that make you a unique, wonderful person with a bounty of riches to offer the world.
The more you get to know yourself, the more you’ll discover these special qualities. Here’s how to start.
1. Focus On What Makes You YOU
We all have unique gifts that we bring to the world.
But when we’re used to doing certain things well, they come so naturally that we don’t even realize that there are people who marvel at our ability to think on our feet, knock together a great dish from three random ingredients or deliver a great speech.
So learn to love yourself for who you are. Focus on your unique talents and skills – and take pride in them.
Build A Skyrocket: A Self-Love Exercise
Start a new document or pick a nice scrapbook or notebook – something just for this purpose; something you can fill up over time.
Now make a list of your unique skills and talents. What is it you can do better than most people you know?
Ask your friends and family for their perspective – you might be surprised at what they come up with.
Go through your email inbox and record every time a client, friend or relative complimented you on your work, skills, attitude or personality.
Record everything – every last bit.
This is your monument to your successes. But your monument isn’t static. It’s a vehicle. It’s a red hot sky rocket. Because your unique skills, talents and personality traits are what will launch you out of your comfort zone and into the stratosphere.So look at your skyrocket every time you need an extra boost. You’re on your way towards reaching your goals and these qualities are the vehicle that’s going to get you there.
2. Realize That You're Not a Space Alien
A lack of self-love often stems from feeling like the odd one out. Maybe you were the only artistic one in a family of scientists, or the only bookish one in a sports-mad family. Things got worse when you went to school and the other kids began labeling you. If you’ve been told all your life that you’re weird or a nerd, it’s natural to feel like a square peg in a round hole.
There are various personality theories out there that allow you to get to know yourself on at a core level. My favorite is the Myers-Briggs personality type theory, which is supported by neuroscientists like Dario Nardi.
Learning about your type of personality allows you to realize a bunch of exciting stuff about yourself, including:
- How your brain is wired
- That there are others just like you
- That you fulfill a crucial role in society
3. Stop Labeling Your Character Traits
Once you delve into personality type, you’ll soon realize that character traits aren’t even necessarily ‘good’ or ‘bad’– it’s how you apply them that matters.
Say you’re someone who’s good at sticking to a routine. This is great – most people who achieve anything in life tend to have some sort of routine in place. But this same quality can become rigidness, stopping you from trying anything new, having fun or being spontaneous.
By the same token, an adventurous person might become addicted to the thrill of the new, hopping from one novel experience to the next, never sitting their bum down in a seat long enough to achieve any of their life goals.
In each case, it’s not the set of characteristics each person comes with, but how they choose to apply those qualities that matters.
When we stop beating ourselves up about our ‘weaknesses’ and accept that our character traits are there to use wisely in each situation that arises, we give ourselves enormous power over our own destiny.
Your inner voice is crucial in shaping the picture you have of yourself. Here’s how to improve the way you speak to yourself.
1. Say It Out Loud
Many people notice a profound change in their self-esteem when they start telling themselves ‘I love you’.
So why not make a habit of, every time you look in the mirror, saying a very simple, but effective phrase to yourself, like ‘I love and accept you’.
We’re unable to lie to ourselves, so sooner or later, what you say and how you feel about yourself will start to align – in the best way possible.
2. Make 'I' Statements
Did you know you can change the way you perceive yourself just by tweaking your words a little bit?
Instead of saying, I’m going to make my bed every day, go ahead and fine-tune that sentence. How about, I am someone who makes my bed every day. Notice the difference?
When you frame something as an ‘I’ statement, it becomes part of your identity. It becomes a core value. You’re essentially dressing for the job you want rather than the job you have right now.
There’s only one of you on this entire planet – and that’s your superpower.
Stop being so afraid of being yourself that you try to be like everyone else – and end up like no-one at all.
1. Start Being Authentic
Authenticity is a bit of a buzzword lately. Millennials seem to like it. Consumers crave it. Marketers are eager to outdo each other in proving how authentic their particular brand of toilet cleaner is.
But what exactly does true authenticity look like?
It’s when we act in accordance with our values. It’s when what we say and do on the outside matches what we believe to be true on the inside.
So often, we fear the repercussions of speaking our mind. So we pretend to agree with every opinion and laugh at every joke.
We end up hiding our true selves, compromising our values, and finding it hard to respect ourselves.
Want to be more authentic? Set yourself a task. Start small, like respectfully saying, ‘I disagree,’ instead of pretending to go along with something you fundamentally disagree with.
Once you realize that you can be yourself and people will adjust, choosing to show up as your authentic self becomes so much easier.
2. Learn To Trust Your Intuition
Has your gut instinct ever gone, ‘bad news, run away!’ when meeting someone new? Did your intuition ever tell you to say no to doing a project with a certain person, but you said yes anyway?
We were all born with the remarkable gift of intuition. Yet we don’t trust ourselves. So we bury our gut instinct under layers and layers of rationality and reason. We reason ourselves out of what our brain is telling us. We tell ourselves it’s wishy-washy when it’s our body’s incredibly fast-thinking way of protecting us.
Women especially feel they have to be nice and accommodating to everyone, even when their gut instinct is telling them to run away as fast as they can. I would recommend every woman read The Gift of Fear by security expert Gavin de Becker.
Learning to trust your intuition can be an incredible step in your journey towards loving and respecting yourself.
Here, Gavin de Becker explains why listening to your intuition a crucial skill to add to your toolkit:
Let Go Of Perfectionism
When we hold onto perfectionism instead of to self-love, we set ourselves up to fail. Perfectionism drags us down, while self-love gives us wings.
When we have perfectionist tendencies, we set ourselves up to fail. Because no matter how hard we try, we will never do it perfectly. And, as the misguided saying goes, ‘if I’m not going to do it perfectly, I’m not going to do it at all.’
And when your self-worth is linked to meeting some unachievable ideal, you’re never going to feel good about yourself. So instead of aiming for perfection, simply allow yourself to try.
Here’s how to stop perfectionism from killing your self-esteem and dreams.
1. Give Yourself Permission to Fail
Sometimes we try so hard to avoid failure that we don’t try at all. But failure is a crucial part of life. Making mistakes is how we learn.
So go on – write yourself these permission slips:
- I allow myself to struggle when learning a new skill
- I allow myself to make mistakes
- I welcome mistakes as a way for me to learn and grow
2. Do It Anyway
Just do it.
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
These are great slogans because they capture something fundamental about human life.
So go on – adopt those slogans as your personal life mottos, or write some of your own.
3. Know the Difference
You absolutely must have high standards, work hard and strive to be better.
But you cannot ever be perfect.
When we strive to be perfect, what we’re really saying is, I don’t feel good enough. I’ll never measure up. People will judge me. It’s best to be as quiet as possible so they don’t get to know me for who I really am.
In this discussion with Oprah, shame researcher Brené Brown sums up the difference well:
Reconsider Who You Spend Your Time With
Our partners, friends and families are never perfect. But sometimes you can get caught in a situation where you’re constantly belittled. This is emotional abuse and is not something you have to tolerate.
Loving yourself becomes incredibly difficult if all you hear is what a terrible person you are. Here are some signs that it’s time to cut certain people out of your life:
- You’re being emotionally or physically abused
- You become the scapegoat – they blame you for everything that goes wrong.
- You’re constantly belittled and criticized
- Your friend is never happy for you, is always critical of your choices or gossips behind your back
The people around us have an enormous impact on how we feel about ourselves, so it’s best to be vigilant about whom you surround yourself with.
No one person can even be anything to us, so it’s good to have a circle of friends, but do look out for some of these qualities in the people you surround yourself with:
- They celebrate your victories
- You’re both committed to knowing yourself and growing as people
- You have similar interests or goals
- They enjoy spending time with you
- They’re emotionally supportive
1. Start Reaching Your Goals
It’s hard to love yourself when there’s nothing in your life that gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment.
We all have hopes and dreams for our lives. Don’t let fear stop you from achieving yours.
Here are some sure-fire ways you can start achieving your goals:
- Set aside an hour a day to work on your project
- Practice, practice, practice
- If you notice any skills gaps, enrol in a course
- Put yourself out there – enter your short story into a publication, list your artwork on Etsy or start a Facebook group for your small business.
- Join a group of like-minded people to keep you motivated and inspired
- Find a mentor whose opinion and guidance you trust
2. Go With the Flow
We have a staggering capacity for doing just about everything except what we know in our hearts to be the thing we were put on this earth to do.
But buckling down and getting the work done is one of the best self-love actions we can possibly take. Because it puts us into that magical thing called a flow state.
When we’re in flow, we forget about the clock ticking and the dinner that has to be cooked and for that blissful moment, we’re fully immersed in our work. We feel fulfilled.
Whenever you find yourself looking for this sense of bliss elsewhere – like a shopping spree or movie marathon, remind yourself that it can only be found in doing the work you love and slowly working towards your goals.
Because self-love comes easily when you’re doing the work you were meant to do.
Self-Love Quotes To Inspire You
Become Your Own Best Friend
Picture yourself fully loving and accepting yourself — exactly the way you are right now.
Imagine the peace of mind that comes with knowing that, as the saying goes — ‘wherever you go, there you are’ — and it filling you with a sense of peace and security, rather than a desperate hope that you could be the only person on earth to somehow escape this reality.
You absolutely can learn to love yourself. You’ve already come a long way with this self-acceptance thing and you can go the distance if keep practicing self-compassion and loving yourself as if your life depended on it. Because it absolutely does.
You’re in it for the long haul. And you know how to make things easy on yourself — by loving yourself unconditionally, every day.