Are you struggling to accept who you really are? Are you constantly comparing yourself to other people or feeling inadequate?
“Self-love” has become a bit of a buzzword lately. People are talking about self-love more often than ever before.
It’s all about loving yourself unconditionally. This means being kind to yourself no matter what.
Sure, self-love is something that everyone should strive for. But let’s face it, it’s also easier said than done.
I mean, how do you love yourself when you don’t know how? Can self-love be taught? Yes, absolutely.
This article will walk you through how to learn to love yourself and offer up some practical tools to help.
How do you begin to love yourself?
1) Acknowledge your feelings
If you want to know how to start loving yourself it’s important to appreciate that it doesn’t begin with force-feeding yourself “good vibes only”.
Pushing away your emotions is a toxic way of handling perfectly natural and normal feelings. As with everything in life, you can only start from exactly where you are.
The number one rule of self-love is compassion.
That includes compassion towards any pain, disappointment, anger, loneliness, frustration, or negativity that you may be experiencing towards yourself.
Rather than running from it or trying to bury it, you must acknowledge it is there.
You cannot tackle emotions that get in the way of stronger self-love, self-worth, and self-esteem as long as you refuse to accept their existence.
So instead of pushing away these feelings, start to pay attention to them.
Simply becoming mindful of negative feelings towards yourself is enough to shed a lot of light on them. This alone can be quite transformative.
2) Accept your flaws
Every single person on this planet has imperfections. It is an unavoidable truth. Self-love will always involve accepting the fact that you aren’t perfect and that’s ok.
There is nothing wrong with admitting that you have faults, shortcomings, and weaknesses. In fact, it’s essential to create a healthy self-aware relationship with yourself.
The problem arises when you believe that your so-called “flaws” make you unlovable or unworthy.
Rather than see them as flaws, it’s useful to reframe them simply as being what makes you, you.
To help you embrace imperfection:
- Avoid comparisonitis. You are unique and you can’t be directly compared to anyone else, so why bother.
- Recognize how your negatives are often inseparable from the positive things about you too. For example, you may be “overly sensitive” at times but it is also what makes you a deeply caring person.
- Learn to laugh at yourself. When you make a mistake or get things wrong, realize it’s not as big a deal as you think.
- Don’t dwell on the bad. If you find yourself lost in negatives, make a conscious effort to shift your thinking towards your positive characteristics.
3) Take an outsider’s view
We should be our own best friends, but so often we end up being our own worst enemy.
Why is it difficult to love yourself? One of the reasons is that we tend to judge ourselves far harsher than we do those around us who we love.
When you look at someone you care about, you’ll notice they’re usually much more forgiving, understanding, and compassionate towards you than you are to yourself.
It’s easy to forget that you’re human just like everyone else and that you deserve the same level of kindness and support.
In these moments it can help to step outside of yourself and try to see yourself from someone else’s perspective.
Think of your best friend, a close family member, or someone who loves you dearly.
How would they describe you? What do they love most about you? How would they speak to you when you are feeling low? What would they tell you when you think you’ve messed up?
When you are struggling to show yourself kindness, make an effort to approach the situation as a loved one would. It will help you to build the habit of kinder self-talk.
4) Forgive your mistakes
“To err is human to forgive is divine”
— Alexander Pope
Forgiveness is one of the most remarkably transformative gifts we can bestow upon anyone, and that goes doubly for yourself.
We all carry around a lot of guilt and shame inside. We can beat ourselves up over and over again for things that have gone wrong in life.
But if you want to change your life for the better, forgiveness is one of the first steps.
You don’t need to feel guilty about making mistakes. Instead, focus on learning from them. Forgiving yourself means letting go of the past and moving forward.
If you’ve made an error in life, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You’re still worthy of love and respect.
Try to remember to give yourself a break.
5) Release yourself from the burden of expectation
I have a question for you:
If you lived on an isolated island far from other people, do you think you would find it easier to love yourself?
I’m not saying you would want to. Obviously, it would be pretty lonely. But the reason I ask is that the environment around us contributes to the self-image we develop.
Self-love does come from within, but external factors can play a role. Society and the pressure of expectations do impact the way we feel about ourselves.
From an early age, we worry about what others think of us. Worry about getting a parent’s approval. Worry about the rejection of a love interest. Worry we need to be a certain way to receive love.
In the wonderful words of Dita Von Teese:
“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”
We’re so busy trying to live up to the expectations of others, we don’t even know what we want.
But so much of what we believe to be reality is just a construction. We can actually reshape that to create fulfilling lives that are in line with what matters most to us.
The truth is:
Once we remove the social conditioning and unrealistic expectations our family, education system, even religion has put onto us, the limits to what we can achieve is endless.
I learned this from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandé. In this excellent free video, Rudá explains how you can lift the mental chains and get back to the core of your being.
A word of warning, Rudá isn’t your typical shaman. He’s not going to reveal pretty words of wisdom that offer false comfort.
Instead, he’s going to force you to look at yourself in a way you have never before. It’s a powerful approach, but one that works.
So if you’re ready to take this first step to greater self-love and autonomy, there’s no better place to start than with Rudá’s unique method.
6) Call out your inner critic
“You can’t wear that, you look ridiculous”
“You just made a total fool of yourself”
“He’s never going to be interested in someone like you”
Imagine if a friend made these kinds of comments to us.
Well, they obviously wouldn’t be much of a friend and we’d likely cut them out of our life pretty quickly.
But thoughts like this run through our own minds about ourselves all the time. In fact, it’s easy to fall into a pattern where we constantly criticize ourselves.
We berate ourselves for any perceived shortcoming. And this constant negative feedback loop creates a vicious cycle of low self-esteem.
It’s not helped by the fact that research has shown we are hardwired for negativity. This means we’re more likely to fixate and hold on to the negative stuff.
It also makes it hard to build confidence because we become convinced we don’t deserve anything good. And when we don’t feel deserving of something, it’s very difficult to take action towards achieving it.
Killing off your inner critic is about as likely as you not thinking of a pink elephant now I’ve told you not to.
But what you can do is call it out.
- Watch out for it. Try to notice it when it pops up and says something mean.
- Disagree with it. Slightly crazy sounding I know, but argue back. If that little voice inside tells you something cruel or rude, tell it why it’s wrong. Counteract the negativity by saying something kind.
Your inner critic will always come along for the ride but it doesn’t have to be in the driving seat. With practice, you can let a kinder and wiser voice guide you.
7) Take full responsibility for yourself
The fact that you are here and have sought out ways to build your self-love is a great sign. It shows that you are taking initiative for your own happiness.
Knowing that the responsibility lies solely at our door is not only liberating but essential when learning to love yourself better.
Everybody faces challenges and has had negative experiences which dent their self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.
But blaming anyone else for the way we feel is a slippery slope. It’s not that external factors don’t have an influence. It’s more that using these as an excuse actually gives our power away.
It says “I don’t love myself because I was bullied at school”, or “I don’t feel worthy because my partner ran off and left me”.
And if the problem lies with another person or event, then we are at the mercy of life for the relationship we create with ourselves.
Saying to yourself “I am the only person responsible for improving the way I feel” is a powerful step towards cultivating more self-love.
8) Get to grips with your false self-beliefs
Most of what drives the way we feel, think, and behave has been programmed into us. These longstanding self-beliefs are overwhelmingly subconscious and so silently call the shots.
The problem is that a lot of these beliefs can be totally false. They are based on short cuts your brain once decided to take from very limited information (blame the lazy brain).
Maybe your dad was always too busy to help you with your homework, and a few times he had to work and so missed important events in your life. You may have started to form the belief that you are not worthy of time or attention.
A lot of false beliefs are created from early childhood experiences. So, we end up believing things about ourselves that aren’t true.
False self-beliefs are essentially a story we tell ourselves and the script that we stick to for the future.
If learning to love yourself feels extra challenging, then perhaps it’s because one of your false beliefs is that you are not loveable.
Identifying the stories we tell about ourselves and the unfounded assumptions we make is vital for greater self-love.
9) Say “no” to people
A key component of self-respect is boundaries.
That means creating a protective bubble around yourself and not putting up with people or behaviors that undermine your sense of worth.
This is self-love in motion. You are putting your own needs and wants in front of others.
Rather than being “selfish”, think of it as stepping away from people-pleasing.
It doesn’t mean you can’t do nice things or favors for people. It just means putting your needs on a par with others, rather than lesser.
When you let someone walk all over you, you are signaling to yourself that it’s okay to treat you poorly.
10) Take practical steps
A lot of self-love may be an inside job, but it’s also important to take practical steps.
We get better at anything by doing. So when it comes to building your self-confidence, your actions speak louder than words.
Those practical actions might be deciding to get help and investing in a course, coach, or therapist to work on building your self-love.
It could be taking a step to push your comfort zone by taking up a new hobby or joining a meetup group.
Rather than simply asking yourself ‘how can I feel better about myself?’, think about asking ‘what can I do to feel better about myself?’
Start by identifying 3 action steps (no matter how small) that you could take to build your self-esteem, self-worth, and self-love — and then commit to actually doing it.
How can I practice self-love?
Let’s get even more practical for a moment. Because yes, self-love is a feeling. But, as I’ve said, we learn best by doing.
So if you’re in need of some inspiration and some practical tools for cultivating self-love, then here is a good place to start.
Self-care is admittedly quite a general term. It encompasses giving yourself the time, love and attention you need (and deserve).
Think of self-care as a literal act of service towards yourself.
That’s going to be different for everyone.It can be bubble baths and candles, getting dressed up and hitting the town, or doing something fun and adventurous.
We all have a different idea of a good time. But self-care is about nurturing yourself in the way that best supports you.
Importantly, self-care is also about covering the basics too. It’s things like eating better, getting enough sleep and exercise.
Never underestimate the power of these simple things in your life for regulating hormones, building self-esteem, and feeling good in your body.
Research has proven that gratitude increases self-esteem — which is an essential aspect of greater self-love.
Having a gratitude practice makes life that little bit lighter and helps you to feel happier by training your brain to focus on the positives.
Remember how we said the mind is hardwired for negativity? Well, gratitude literally rewires your brain and so is a great way to counteract that.
Introduce it quickly and easily into your daily routine by:
- Writing a list every morning of what you’re grateful for.
- Saying to yourself what you are grateful for in front of the bathroom mirror.
- Talk about what you are grateful for from your day with your partner, family member, or friend every night before you go to bed.
One of the tricky parts of improving your self-love is that self-love exists within the mind. But you cannot try to control the mind with the mind.
This is exactly why for centuries people have used their breath as a way of calming and controlling the ramblings of the brain.
Breathwork is powerful as it can be used to help deal with difficult emotions and mental struggles.
I’d recommend checking out this unusual free breathwork video created by the shaman, Rudá Iandê, which focuses on dissolving stress and boosting inner peace.
I was first introduced to breathwork at a time when my self-esteem and confidence hit rock bottom. I had nothing to lose, so I tried this free breathwork video, and the results were incredible.
Rudá hasn’t just created a bog-standard breathing exercise – he’s cleverly combined his many years of breathwork practice and shamanism to create this incredible flow – and it’s free to take part in.
If you feel a disconnect with yourself due to a lack of self-love, I’d recommend checking out Rudá’s free breathwork video.
4) Meditation and mindfulness
Meditation is one of those practices that can work for everybody.
Loving-kindness meditation (also known as Metta meditation) has been proven to promote feelings of compassion and love towards yourself and others.
Whilst sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing, you actively try to open your mind to receiving loving-kindness. You also can send out this love too, to people, groups or places in the world you choose to send a message of love to.
Mindfulness is also a good technique to try to adopt in general life.
It is all about being fully present in the moment — not thinking about the past or worrying about the future.
It’s about focusing on the now and learning to notice the small details around us. It’s a great way to keep your mind focused on the positive aspects of life.
A lot of people find writing a very healing medium to work with. I personally swear by it, and as an overthinker it keeps me sane and is an outlet for built up thoughts and feelings.
Journalling isn’t like a diary. It’s less events-focused and is more about self-exploration and organizing everything down on paper.
Journaling is a good way to get to know yourself better by asking yourself questions. For promoting self-love it can be a handy tool to direct yourself to focus on your positives.
Some powerful self-love journaling questions to ask yourself are:
- What am I proud of myself for?
- What makes me special?
- What are three things I’m uncomfortable with but accept about myself, and why?
- What is my biggest obstacle when it comes to self-love, and what can I do about it?
- The best thing about me is…
- I am worthy of happiness because…
6) Shadow work
I mentioned at the very start of this article how important it is to not try and skip over, bury or run away from emotions, and qualities we all have which make us feel uncomfortable.
Shadow work is about acknowledging the darker sides to life and ourselves and learning to embrace it. That way we can work with it, rather than it working against us.
Rather than suppress parts of yourself you wish didn’t exist, you equally need to learn to love these parts, as much as you do the “best” parts of yourself.
It might mean facing up to traumas you have experienced in the past, in order to heal. But you cannot fully embrace self-love without being prepared to love all of you — warts and all.
If you are curious about shadow work, then check out this article on the shadow self to learn more.
In conclusion: The journey of learning to love yourself
Learning to love yourself is an ongoing process, not something that comes overnight. So don’t beat yourself up if you slip up once in a while.
Remember that self-love is something you can practice every day. Try to make time and space in your life for yourself, so you can feel happy and content inside.
There are many ways to learn to love yourself, and each one of them works differently for different people.
Try out some of these techniques and see which ones resonate with you.