In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to love yourself.
What to do.
What not to do.
(And most important of all) how to believe in yourself when you feel like the world is telling you different.
1. You are the most important person in the universe
If there is only one lesson you learn this entire year, it’s this: You are absolutely the most important person in your entire universe.
Your entire life is lived through your eyes. Your interactions with the world and those around you, your thoughts and how you interpret events, relationships, actions, and words.
You might just be another person when it comes to the grand scheme of things, but when it comes to your understanding of reality, you are the only thing that matters.
And because of that, your reality depends on how much you love and take care of you.
Your relationship with yourself is the most defining factor in shaping the kind of life you live.
But when you begin and continue to love yourself more, the more everything you see, everything you do, and everyone you interact with, starts to become a little bit better in every way possible.
2. Loving yourself starts with your daily habits
Think of the people in your life that you love and respect. How do you treat them?
You are kind to them, patient with their thoughts and ideas, and you forgive them when they make a mistake.
You give them space, time, and opportunity; you make sure they have the room to grow because you love them enough to believe in the potential of their growth.
Now think of how you treat yourself.
Do you give yourself the love and respect that you might give your closest friends or significant other?
Do you take care of your body, your mind, and your needs?
Here are all the ways that you could be showing your body and mind self-love in your everyday life:
- Sleeping properly
- Eating healthy
- Giving yourself time and space to understand your spirituality
- Exercising regularly
- Thanking yourself and those around you
- Playing when you need it
- Avoiding vices and toxic influences
- Reflecting and meditating
How many of these daily activities do you allow yourself? And if not, then how can you say you truly love yourself?
Loving yourself is more than just a state of mind—it’s also a series of actions and habits that you embed into your everyday life.
3. Accept the pain
No one is perfect. Some of us confuse self-love with endless positivity and endless optimism.
There are those who go about their day singing the praises of God no matter how bad they might be feeling or how horrible their predicament might be.
And we think this is the right thing to do; after all, shouldn’t positive vibes simply attract more positive vibes?
But the truth is that your endless optimism is a giant lie. You’re lying to a part of yourself, ignoring the needs of half of who you are.
Because we all have a dark side; we all hold anguish, hatred, and pain. Ignoring these realities eats us up, and forces us to cave-in spiritually and mentally.
Allow yourself to be honest with who you are. Forgive yourself for your past deeds, those things you are ashamed of.
Accept that you are sometimes a carrier of negative emotions, like disgust, rage, and jealousy. And learn to embrace the silence when you need it.
4. Find and open your heart
While step 3 is about acknowledging and accepting the pain, step 4 is about reconciling with a cold and unopened heart.
Ask yourself this one question: do you fully love yourself?
Accepting your flaws and your faults is one thing, but loving a person who can have your thoughts, your emotions, your vices, and your mistakes? That’s a completely higher level of self-love.
Discover your life story. Trace your path from childhood to the person you are now.
Understand yourself in the most intimate way possible, and find the reason for every negative emotion, every shameful act, every word and deed that you now regret.
Take the skeletons out of your closet and try to remember why they are there in the first place.
Perhaps the most important thing you will discover is that most parts of our personality have a cause, and those that don’t can be learned away.
Maybe you have false understandings of reality, or trauma, or feelings of victimhood.
Maybe you see the world differently than it actually is, and because of that, you did things you now know to be wrong.
Find the causes and trace your past. Learn to love yourself in a way that only you can. Stop being ashamed of your past and start understanding it.
When you hide away past emotions, you essentially put yourself in a cage of your own making.
The only way out is to push through the uncomfortable truths you’ve been repressing. If you go near the edge of the cage, you feel extreme discomfort. In that place of discomfort, you can finally deal with past trauma and pain.
5. Don’t believe your thoughts
The reason loving yourself is so difficult is because most of us are inherently negative.
After all, fears and worries are necessary for us to protect ourselves.
But this survival mechanism can work against us, which is why you’re experiencing self-doubt and self-criticism right now.
So, what can you do?
Well, what you need to realize is that while your thoughts can’t necessarily be changed, you can stop believing them:
According to spiritual guru Eckhart Tolle, this means mastering the art of learning to not identify with your thoughts.
“What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.”
6. Share yourself
On this path of self-discovery, you will discover truths about you that will terrify and shock you.
But the goal is to work your way through them and begin to love yourself more through understanding and acceptance.
And only after you have worked out your own personal bumps can you begin to see the diamonds in the rough: your gifts.
These are the qualities about you that survive the journey. The empathy, the spirituality, the humor, the love: everything you have cleaned off after wiping away all the rest.
And when you love yourself and the things about you, only then can you properly share yourself to the world.
Give your true self to the world and those around you. Now that you love yourself, it’s time to begin helping others find the highest form of self-love of their own..
7. What are you appreciative for?
Being grateful is a powerful attitude that can shape your mindset for the better.
According to Psychology Today, mentally strong people choose to exchange self-pity for gratitude.
But I’m sure wondering:
How do you develop gratitude in the first place?
According to Unstuck, one of the easiest ways to practice gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal.
Every morning you could write down a few things that you’re grateful for in your life. Get in the routine of doing that and you’ll be more appreciative by the day.
8. It’s time to get out of your comfort zone, step-by-step…
I’m sure you’ve heard that progress can’t be made in your comfort zone.
And as annoying as it is, it’s true.
If you’re struggling to love yourself, then I’m also going to guess that you’re staying in your comfort zone as well.
But you don’t have to do something immensely scary to get out of your comfort zone. You can take little steps to expand it and make progress.
So, how can you break through that comfort zone? First, write down activities that make you feel slightly nervous.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be something big. It can be small, just as long as it’s something relatively new and it makes you nervous.
Then go about knocking those tasks off. Once you get through them, you’ll start to believe in yourself and everything that you can achieve.
9. As you make progress, people will try to pull you down
You know what happens when you start to improve?
Your friends, colleagues and maybe even family members may start to put you down.
Because it’s the natural order of things. They’ve put you in a box and it messes with their mind when you start to change.
So you’re going to have to summon up some courage and ignore criticism from others.
If you’re becoming more confident and happy, then that’s all that should really matter…
10. Get out there and exercise
You might not like to hear this one, but it could be one of the most powerful things you can do.
Not only will you start to be healthier, but you’ll feel better about yourself as well.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there’s usually an instant mood-enhancing effect about five minutes after you start a workout.
And when done consistently, exercise could help reduce long-term feelings of depression and anxiety, and in turn, can help you maintain a healthy sense of self-confidence.
“There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people. And people who were active and stopped tend to be more depressed than those who maintain or initiate an exercise program,” says James Blumenthal, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke University.
So whether it’s aerobic exercise or weight lifting, get out there and get it done! You’ll start to feel better about yourself in no time.
11. Who are you surrounding yourself with?
This is an important cog in loving yourself that often goes unnoticed.
We’re all influenced by who we spend most of our time with.
Consider this quote from Tim Ferriss:
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
True, isn’t it?
So if you think that some of your friends are toxic and have a habit of putting you down, you might want to find some new ones. People you actually like and admire.
If your friends are positive and uplifting, you’ll begin to feel better about yourself as well.
12. Accept your emotions without judging them
Whenever we experience an uncomfortable feeling, such as sadness, fear or anger, our first instinct is to ignore it, reject it or push it away.
However, when we reject our emotions, we may actually make things worse off. Emotions give us useful information about our lives.
A much better tactic that may help your emotional health is to practice acceptance. This means allowing your emotions to just be without negatively judging them or trying to change them.
It’s understanding that you don’t need to “control” your emotions. They cannot do any damage to you.
In fact, the things you do to get rid of negative emotions, like alcohol or eating cake, can do more damage to you.
In the end, if you’re able to accept yourself and all of your emotions, you’ll be more easily able to love yourself.
13. Get rid of these 5 toxic beliefs
Your beliefs shape your perspective on life. But if your beliefs aren’t accurate, they could be negatively affecting you.
Here are some common toxic beliefs that may sabotage our life:
1. The present is indicative of the future
This is a self-fulfilling prophecy and it’s bad judgment. The truth is, change is the only constant in the universe. Nothing remains fixed. So when things are going bad, realize that eventually, it has to change.
2. Being vulnerable is dangerous
No one enjoys feeling uncomfortable. But the truth is, progress can only occur when you step out of your comfort zone.
Embrace who you are and what you’re feeling. You might find that it leads to insights that you never thought were possible.
3. Being alone is a problem
If you can’t be comfortable spending time with yourself, how can you love yourself?
This is a dangerous belief because in life, the only person we can rely on is ourselves.
As Buddhism says, happiness can only come from within yourself, so stop seeking external factors to make you happy.
4. Fitting in is a good thing
We’re taught to believe that we need to fit in if we want to be happy. But the problem with this is that you don’t embrace the idea that you’re unique.
Instead, you try to fit inside a limiting box society has created for you to be ‘normal’.
Embrace who you are. The happiest people are authentic people.
5. What everyone does to you is personal
Some of us tend to think that anything happening to us is a direct assault on us. But when we start seeing the world this way, it can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The truth is, the world isn’t out to get you and neither are other people. What people think about you says more about them than it does about you.
We all have a lens with which we see the world, so choose yours to be optimistic and hopeful. Your mind will thank you for it.
14. Do what you’ll say you’ll do
If you want to be proud of yourself and who you are, take action when you say you’ll take action.
How do you feel when someone says they’ll do something and then they don’t? They lose credibility.
So build your own credibility with yourself. Live with integrity.
Every time you take action and achieve something, you build confidence in yourself.
15. Write down what you’re feeling (15 prompts to get you started)
Journaling is one of the best ways to get to know yourself in an intimate way.
It provides a private place for you to get all of your thoughts and feelings out in a way that you are able to make sense of them.
Writing is not only therapeutic, but a great opportunity to ask yourself some tough questions so that you can get your mind wrapped around the things that are bothering you.
When you can master your mind through writing, you’ll be better able to love yourself and let yourself live a better life.
To begin journaling, here are 15 prompts you can use.
Choose a new prompt each day to focus on in your journal. Try and write as much as you can about each prompt.
Let your mind free and just write.
1) What are the three personality traits you love most about yourself?
2) If your body had the ability to talk, what would it say?
3) What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received? Why is it true?
4) What are 5 things you’re great at doing?
5) I feel happiest when I’m _
6) Between great, good, fine and bad my mental health is ___I believe this is because ____
7) Between great, good, fine and bad my physical health is ___I believe this is because ___
8) Who are you loved by most? Describe them and what you love about them.
9) Make a list of 20 things that make you happy.
10) What are 10 things you can start doing to take better care of yourself?
11) What are the common negative things you say to yourself? What can you say instead?
12) What qualities make you unique?
13) List the favorite parts of your appearance.
14) Where do you feel most safe and loved?
15) If you could back in time to when you were 15, what would you tell yourself?
Another strategy I like to use when it comes to journaling is to write about what’s happening in my life and what my goals are.
This helps my mind get focused on what I want to achieve and what I really need to focus on.
Also, by taking a step back and reflecting on my life, I can rationally see how meaningless all the little worries are. It’s only the big things, like family and my overall purpose, that really matter.
16. Do things you like.
If you find that life doesn’t bring you joy, it might be time to take a long, hard look at the things you are doing with your time..
You shouldn’t put off until tomorrow what could be done today. It’s vital that you are in tune with what you like because how silly does it sound when you hear about people who do things they don’t want to do?
We all declare, “I would never do that” yet, here we are, doing things we don’t’ want to do all the time.
So write down a list of activities that give you joy. Then make a plan to do them each week.
17. Do things differently.
If what you are doing isn’t working for you and you are having a hard time letting go of the past, try to do things differently from the way you usually do them.
We all know people who do the same things over and over again and expect different results.
Don’t be one of those people.
Do things in a new way on purpose and see how that feels.
When you try on different ways of doing things, not only do you discover things about yourself, but you also figure out what you like, what you don’t like, and who you really are inside.
There’s nothing more telling than fear and if you put yourself in enough situations that you’ll feel fear on a regular basis, you’ll find that you were able to create a new life for yourself just by doing things…differently.
Here are 10 ideas to do things differently:
1) Try a different exercise routine.
2) Brush your teeth with a different hand.
3) Sleep more than you usually would.
4) Take a different path to work.
5) Spend time with friends you haven’t seen in a while.
6) Get outside more.
7) Make an effort to help others more than usually would.
8) Practice smiling more.
9) Plan a trip…to somewhere you’ve never been.
10) Start meditation if you haven’t already.
18. Be fair but firm with yourself.
When it comes to loving yourself all the way to a better life, you need to be careful not to let yourself off the hook when the going gets tough.
Look, we get it. It’s easy to throw in the towel when you are feeling like things are getting difficult, but those are the moments when you change and grow the most.
So if you are trying to love yourself into a new role, new life, or new relationship, you need to be firm, but fair with yourself.
When things really are too much – and you aren’t just trying to escape the hard stuff – it’s okay to change directions.
Ask yourself at every turn, is this going to make me a better version of myself? If the answer is yes, proceed.
19. Get to know yourself with this technique
It’s a tough spot to be in when you don’t like yourself or your life, but it’s one worth getting out of.
Working on getting to know yourself puts you in a place of control.
When you don’t know anything about yourself or you refuse to face the demons, you end up in a place where you lose control and that’s when things feel like they aren’t as good as they could be.
Take back control and learn to love yourself into a better life by turning the lens inward, instead of looking to others to make things better for yourself.
The best way to get to know yourself is through VITALS. This is an acronym for the 6 building blocks of self.
Here’s what the letters stand for and how to find it in yourself:
V = Values
What are your values? This can include “helping others” or “health” or “being creative”. Think about it and write down 10 important values that describe you.
To figure out your interests, ask yourself these questions: What do you pay attention to? What are you most concerned about? What gets your mind really curious?
Answer these questions to figure out your temperament: Do you restore your energy by being alone or with other people? Do you prefer to plan or be spontaneous? Do you make decisions based on facts or feelings? Do you prefer big ideas or details?
A= Around-the-Clock Activities
When do you like to do things? Are you a morning or evening person? What time of day does your energy peak?
L = Life Mission and Meaningful Goals
What is your purpose in life? What have been the most meaningful events of your life? What’s your main motivation for getting up in the morning?
What are your strongest abilities? Skills? Talents? What are your greatest character strengths?
20. Acknowledge what makes you different.
On your path to discovering who you really are in the world, it will be important that you take time to identify and celebrate what makes you, you.
What makes you different from everyone else on the planet?
It’s hard to tell sometimes, especially because we are often so critical of ourselves in comparison to other people.
But rather than feeling weighed down by your differences, celebrate them and put them front and center in your exploration of yourself.
If you allow yourself to be happy about who you are, you’ll find that you are much happier in all areas of your life.
A practical exercise to find out what your unique characteristics are is to list down 10 traits about yourself that you’re proud of.
This could be your kindness, your loyalty, or the fact that you’re skilled at knitting!
Keep in mind:
Before you can do any kind of work on your future self you need to reconcile who you are right now.
It’s easy to discount the good things you think about yourself and let the negative thoughts take over.
But understanding what your positive traits are and what makes you unique will help you banish the negativity and accept yourself.
And if you’re going to find yourself, you need to accept who you are right now.
Change, whatever that might look like for you, is really going to come from a place of understanding and love.
Here’s a beautiful passage from Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh on the power of self-acceptance:
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don’t try to be a magnolia flower. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.”
21. Focus on others
This is perhaps the biggest tip of all when it comes to loving yourself. It sounds counter-intuitive to focus on other people when it comes to love
But by shifting your focus from your own problems to helping others, you’ll begin to feel better about yourself.
A person that helps others is easier to love, right?
Mahatma Gandhi says it best when he said that “the best way to find yourself is to love yourself in the service to others.”
Sometimes when you focus so much on yourself and all your problems, you lose perspective. You tend to blow things out of proportion and become neurotic.
I know because I’m naturally like this. But when I choose to focus on others and not myself, it reduces my natural self-critical voice.
You realize that you’re not the center of the universe. There’s a beautiful world out there for you to explore and experience. You’re missing out if you’re focusing on yourself so much.
This self-love technique is rather easy to implement. All you have to do is notice when you’re focusing on yourself too much and instead focus on other people. Think about things from their perspective. When you’re having a conversation with someone, think about what they’re saying from their perspective.
A study from Columbia University found that when helping others with their stressful situations, we are actually enhancing our own emotion regulation skills, and therefore, benefitting our own emotional health.
Loving yourself is crucial for your own emotional health and ability to reach your potential.
The good news is, we’re all capable of believing in ourselves and living the best life we possibly can.
The trick is to find what you’re really passionate about, what your purpose is and to appreciate what you have right now, rather than wanting things to be different.
Once you’re grateful for what’s in your life, you’ll be able to accept who you are and what you’re feeling – a crucial tenet of being able to truly love yourself.
How this one Buddhist teaching turned my life around
My lowest ebb was around 6 years ago.
I was a guy in my mid-20s who was lifting boxes all day in a warehouse. I had few satisfying relationships – with friends or women – and a monkey mind that wouldn’t shut itself off.
During that time, I lived with anxiety, insomnia and way too much useless thinking going on in my head.
My life seemed to be going nowhere. I was a ridiculously average guy and deeply unhappy to boot.
The turning point for me was when I discovered Buddhism.
By reading everything I could about Buddhism and other eastern philosophies, I finally learned how to let things go that were weighing me down, including my seemingly hopeless career prospects and disappointing personal relationships.
In many ways, Buddhism is all about letting things go. Letting go helps us break away from negative thoughts and behaviors that do not serve us, as well as loosening the grip on all our attachments.
Fast forward 6 years and I’m now the founder of Hack Spirit, one of the leading self improvement blogs on the internet.
Just to be clear: I’m not a Buddhist. I have no spiritual inclinations at all. I’m just a regular guy who turned his life around by adopting some amazing teachings from eastern philosophy.