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) What you need to understand first
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.
But self-love isn’t easy. As they say: you are your own biggest critic.
We’re programmed to have bouts of self-loathing, and for many of us, these phases of self-hatred can turn into our entire lives.
It’s when we spend more time hating ourselves than we do loving ourselves that we adopt a more negative disposition of the world.
So begin to love yourself first. It might not be the easiest thing in the world to do, but it’s definitely the most important.
2) Your Daily You
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.
You have to show yourself that you love you, from the beginning of your day to the end.
3) Accepting 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.
5) 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.
6) Your thoughts are just thoughts – nothing more
The first thing you need to realize is that most of us are inherently negative.
We have about thousands of thoughts every day, and shockingly, 70 percent of them may be negative.
Because 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 you stop believing them.
Thoughts are just thoughts – nothing more. Here’s an inspiring quote from Allan Lokos:
“Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that – thoughts.”
7) What do you really want to do with your life?
Do you have a purpose?
Understanding what you want and where you want to go is crucial to being happy and finding meaning in life.
However, you probably already know that.
So if you don’t know what to with your life, how in the hell can you figure it out?
There is a way.
According to Ideapod, these thought-provoking, weird questions may help you unlock the purpose that has been hidden from you until now.
Check them out:
- What were you passionate about as a child?
- If you didn’t have a job, how would you choose to fill your hours?
- What makes you forget about the world around you?
- What issues do you hold close to your heart?
- Who do you spend time with and what do you talk about?
- What is on your bucket list?
- If you had a dream, could you make it happen?
Remember, if you want to learn how to love yourself, then you need to have a purpose that unlocks that love.
(If you’re looking for a structured, easy-to-follow framework to help you find your purpose in life and achieve your goals, check our eBook on how to be your own life coach here).
8) 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.
In fact, a white paper by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkely says that people who consciously count what they’re grateful may have better physical and mental health:
“Research suggests that gratitude may be associated with many benefits for individuals, including better physical and psychological health, increased happiness and life satisfaction, decreased materialism, and more.”
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 and you’ll be more appreciative by the day.
(If you’re struggling to think of things you can be grateful for, check out our list of 16 things to be thankful for here).
Here’s a great quote from Roy T. Bennett:
“Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals. If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more.”
9) 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.
10) 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 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…
11) 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.
12) Who are you surrounding yourself with?
This is an important cog 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. You know, people you actually like and admire.
If your friends are positive and uplifting, you’ll begin to feel better about yourself as well.
13) 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. And this fair enough, we don’t really want to walk around feeling emotional pain all the time.
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.
Learning to accept your emotions may lead to stable emotional resilience.
However, it is important to not confuse acceptance with self-imposed suffering. When you are treated unfairly by a superior, that doesn’t mean you should accept it.
Acceptance is about balance. Western society encourages us to be positive all the time, but that’s not realistic. Instead, we must live our lives with both the negative and the positive, which helps us live a life of contentment.
In the end, if you’re able to accept yourself and all of your emotions, you’ll be more easily able to love yourself.
[To learn mindful techniques to help you accept your emotions, check out our eBook on the art of mindfulness here].
14) 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
When life isn’t going well, it’s common to believe that your life will always be like this. And when things are going great, we think it won’t last long.
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.
And the only way you’ll be able to do that is by embracing imperfection and accepting that you’re going to feel uncomfortable.
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.
15) 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.
After all, life is about taking action, engaging in new experiences and achieving goals. And these goals don’t have to be big. The smaller ones are perhaps more important. If you say you’re going to clean the house, do it! It’ll make you happy.
In fact, according to Psychology Today, by setting small goals and achieving them, your bran may receive a spike in dopamine – a neurotransmitter that makes us feel good. This is why people benefit from to-do lists.
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.
If you’re looking more specific techniques to learn how to love yourself, we’ve also prepared 5 exercises that may help you below.
Check them out:
5 practical exercises to love yourself more
Life’s hard enough without being hard on yourself about it. It’s tough to get through the day sometimes, but when you decide to love yourself before anything else, life can suddenly become better.
Sometimes it’s not about changing what you see on the outside or the circumstances surrounding your life, it’s about changing what you think and feel on the inside.
Loving yourself provides you the opportunity to learn about yourself and when you know more about yourself, you’ll live a better life.
1) Write it out.
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.
Sometimes, we turn to the outside world to place blame for our unhappiness, but the truth is that much of what is making us unhappy is within ourselves. Writing allows you to get clear on those thoughts, take control of them, and then change them over time.
In the Harvard Health Blog, Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH says that when people write about what’s in their hearts and minds, they better make sense of the world and themselves:
“Writing provides a rewarding means of exploring and expressing feelings. It allows you to make sense of yourself and the world you are experiencing. Having a deeper understanding of how you think and feel — that self-knowledge — provides you with a stronger connection to yourself.”
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.
I tend to do this naturally without needing prompts, but if you’re struggling to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), here are some questions you can ask yourself:
1) What do I really want in life?
2) What am I no longer willing to accept?
3) What makes me happy?
4) Are my current habits enabling me to live the life I want?
5) How can I add value to this world?
2) 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.
Life is short, there’s no doubt about that, but sometimes we don’t really understand how short it is until it is too late.
Rather than wait for lightning to strike, commit to doing things that you like and that brings joy to your life.
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.
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) Get to know yourself.
Easier said than done, right? But it’s not impossible. After all, if you don’t know who you are, how can you expect someone else to know who you are?
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?
6) 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.”
7) Don’t believe your negative thoughts
Most of us are inherently negative.
We have about 65,000 thoughts every day, and shockingly, 70 percent of them are negative.
But problems start to arise when we believe our thoughts, or we identify with our thoughts.
Eckhart Tolle says that identifying with our thoughts leads to a false identification of self:
“As you grow up, you form a mental image of who you are based on your personal and cultural conditioning. We may call this phantom self the ‘ego’. It consists of mind activity and can only be kept going through constant thinking. The term ego means different things to different people, but when I use it here it means a false self, created by unconscious identification with the mind.”
How do we rise above our thoughts and not be so attached to them?
According to Eckhart Tolle, we need to become an observer of thoughts so we can live in the present moment:
“The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not “the thinker.” The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken…The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind: the witnessing presence.”
Once you stop identifying with your mind, you can live in the present moment.
And as Eckhart Tolle says, it’s in the present moment that you can find out who you really are.
Published in the Journal of Brain and Behavior, the study found that silently repeating a positive personal mantra “quiets the mind and reduces self-judgment”.
It’s no secret that most of us have a tendency to dwell or ruminate on negative thoughts.
However, this only serves to strengthen those connections in the brain, and the more you dwell on negativity, the more the brain becomes negative.
But repeating a positive mantra to yourself puts a stop to negative thought patterns, and the neurons that fire when you repeat a positive mantra become strengthened.
According to the research study:
“The pattern of neural activity that constitutes your silent thought becomes easier to conjure over time and becomes increasingly effective in countering negative thoughts or feelings.”
The question is:
How do you pick a personal mantra that works for you?
It’s not rocket science. You just need to think of a line that invokes positivity and hope within you. It should also feel truthful.
Here are some examples of personal mantras:
“I love myself.”
“Nothing bad is happening.”
“I meet limited circumstances with limitless thoughts.”
“I am willing to see this differently.”
“I am doing all that I can.”
When is a good time to use a personal mantra?
You can use a personal mantra anytime you feel doubtful, negative or angry. It’s important to use it when you feel negative energy brewing within you.
A good rule of thumb is to repeat the mantra for at least 5 minutes, 3 times a day.
It’s also a good idea to use it when you wake up. This will get your day started with the right mindset for the day ahead.
8) 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.
NEW EBOOK: Buddhism can teach us a lot about emotional resilience and learning to love ourselves again. My new eBook, The No-Nonsense Guide to Buddhism and Eastern Philosophy, is now Hack Spirit’s #1 selling book and is a highly practical, down-to-earth introduction to essential Buddhist teachings. If you want to become more emotionally ‘bullet proof’, check out my eBook here.
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