It can happen at any time.
Maybe after months of confusing feelings and denial, or maybe after a challenging life event, something inside of you finally snaps and you say to yourself, “I don’t love myself”.
It’s a tough realization to have.
Is there something wrong with you? Do other people hate themselves as well? Is the universe conspiring against you? What does it mean to not love yourself, and why has it happened to you?
In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about why you don’t love yourself, and how you can turn the wheels of love in your favor.
You might not love yourself today, but it isn’t the end of the world. By implementing the suggestions in this article, you’ll learn to love and believe in yourself again.
Before we start, let’s first talk about what self-love is and why so many of us get it so wrong.
Self-Love: The Truth Behind This Buzzword
People tend to talk about self-love a lot online.
It’s a kind of buzzword that gets thrown around in Tweets or Instagram hashtags, but no one really explains what loving oneself actually means.
This may be the reason why our cultural perspective on self-love is a little warped and conflicted.
So let’s take a step back and try to understand what self-love really is.
Think of how you treat friends and loved ones.
You’re most likely supportive, kind, and generous.
You don’t nitpick or criticize them harshly.
On especially good days, you appreciate their company and what they bring to the table as an individual.
You admire them for their talents or skills, forgive them for their quirks or shortcomings, and always tell them they deserve the best.
In a nutshell, self-love is when you apply these practices to yourself.
Self-love is the state of appreciation for ourselves, which stems from actions supporting our physical, psychological, and even spiritual growth.
It means accepting yourself fully and having a high regard for your own happiness and well-being.
We can think of self-love coming in two components: self-care and self-compassion.
Self-compassion really isn’t that different from having compassion for others.
In fact, being compassionate towards other people can feel a lot easier because it was drilled to many of us while growing up.
However, we weren’t really taught to direct that compassion towards ourselves.
What does self-compassion look like?
Here are a few examples to give you an idea:
- Talking to yourself and about yourself positively and lovingly
- Not allowing others to take advantage of you or abuse you
- Prioritizing your health, needs, and overall well-being
- Forgiving yourself when you mess up
- Surrendering anger or grudges that hold you back
- Setting realistic expectations and boundaries for yourself
- Recognizing your own strengths, feelings, and progress
Self-compassion is about giving yourself a break from self-judgment, high expectations, resentment, and other negative things that hinder you from growing and being happy.
It’s about becoming your own best friend.
Positive thoughts and feelings towards yourself are a big part of loving yourself.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to feel positive about yourself all the time.
It would be too unrealistic to think self-compassion means you’ll never be disappointed or angry with yourself.
However, self-compassion does allow you to forgive yourself and move on whenever you stumble.
It’s about building resilience that leads to lasting growth.
Another concept related to loving yourself is self-care.
This may be more familiar to you as it is always thrown around by lifestyle gurus and influencers.
Any activity we do deliberately to take care of our physical, mental, and emotional health is considered self-care.
Self-care is key to improving your mood, reducing anxiety, and maintaining a good relationship with oneself and others.
Caring for yourself includes doing things like:
- Listening to your body
- Taking breaks from work
- Doing something creative
- Connecting with people face-to-face
- Getting enough sleep everyday
- Eating healthily (but indulging in your favorite foods every now and then)
Some common signs that you’re overlooking self-care would be skipping meals, sleeping at odd hours, or even neglecting basic personal hygiene.
Even if it’s such a simple concept, many people become so busy they forget to take care of themselves. Without self-care, it’s easy to burnout and crash.
On the other end of the spectrum, some people misinterpret self-care as a selfish or hedonistic feel-good pursuit.
It’s important to understand that self-care is something that should refuel you, rather than take away from you.
Proper self-care is addressing your needs in a healthy, non-self destructive way.
To summarize, loving yourself means accepting yourself at this very moment (warts and all), then making the conscious effort to put yourself first.
It’s all about maintaining a healthy balance in your life: room for you, then room for others.
Popular Myths You Might Have Embraced About Self-Love
It’s easy to misinterpret the meaning of self-love.
A lot of people misunderstand the concept but constantly promote it anyway.
Many of us are hearing more and more about self-love and how our problems come to be because we don’t love ourselves enough.
It is time to debunk the myths surrounding the mystery that is loving oneself.
Myth #1: Self-love is the same as narcissism.
One common belief people have about self-love is that it’s narcissistic and egotistical.
This misconception probably brings up images of a person who is obsessed with themselves and spends a lot of time in front of mirrors.
However, self-love is not falling into an unhealthy, obsessive self-admiration.
Loving yourself also doesn’t mean isolating yourself from others out of a feeling of superiority.
Rather, self-love is giving yourself a reasonable dose of self-appreciation.
You see yourself in a better light and extend compassion towards yourself.
As you nurture this kinder, more generous mindset, you can better extend the same understanding to others as well.
Myth #2: Self-love is selfishness.
It’s not selfishness to give priority to your own health and happiness.
Can you pour water into someone else’s empty glass if your own glass is empty?
The same principle applies to self-love.
You can’t make others happy if you aren’t happy.
Well, maybe you can but it will cost something dear — like resentment or frustration that bubbles into a fracture on the relationship.
Selfishness is when you take actions without thinking about the feelings of other people.
Ironically, your efforts to make sacrifices can actually make you vulnerable to being selfish.
When your emotional reserves are drained and your energy is depleted, you’re more likely to lash out at someone.
Your healthiest, inspired, 100%-energy self has much, much more to give the world in comparison.
Myth #3: Self-love is doing anything that pleases you.
Part of loving yourself is caring for yourself.
Caring for yourself means making room to do things you enjoy so you can refuel.
However, bad habits like overindulging on food and alcohol, binge-watching TV shows, and being glued to your smartphone are the opposite of self-care.
Loving yourself requires building up good habits that support your health and wellness.
They shouldn’t be compulsive, addictive, or harmful to your mind, body, and bank account.
Myth #4: Self-love is something we have to earn.
In some ways, society seems to tell us that we need to accomplish certain goals before we’re free to love and take care of ourselves.
Our lives are organized in three parts: beginning with education, then career and family development, then finally leisure – towards the end of our lives.
But self-love should be practiced at an early age, otherwise you won’t live a meaningful life until much later on.
Self-love also enables us to cultivate and practice the self-respect we need in order to achieve great things.
When we neglect to love ourselves, we lose out on personal development and fulfillment.
Myth #5: Self-love is something that requires resources we don’t have.
Self-love goes beyond surface-level luxuries packaged as self-care.
You don’t actually need to do spa days or tropical vacations to love and care for yourself.
While pampering is one way you can nurture yourself, self-love practices could be as simple as a quick break in between work or three minutes of self-reflection before bed.
These small but impactful habits can help you through stressful times and refresh you inside and out.
They also don’t require a lot of time from your busy day.
The trick is to purposefully add self-care time into your schedule and plan your routines around it, which is much better than squeezing it in during your rare idle moments.
Myth #6: Self-love is the same for everybody.
Love comes in different forms for everyone – so the same goes for self-love.
Each of us have our own challenges and stressors in our lives that we handle differently.
Loving yourself also requires a deep and empathetic knowledge of who you are.
And since no two persons are alike, the way you love yourself is unique to you as an individual.
You can discover the best way to love yourself after you explore all your facets.
It’s much easier to accept who you are once you reflect on your strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and quirks with open arms.
Myth #6: Self-love is a sign of weakness.
There is no weak or strong when it comes to love because everyone needs it.
Every single person on earth will benefit so much if we were true to ourselves and lived authentic lives.
Far fewer people would be walking around bitter, lonely, or sad if we all cultivated self-love in our lives.
Everyone would feel more joy as they relax and unwind, get the help and support they need, and bring out the best in themselves.
When someone knows that someone cares about them (even if it’s just themselves), they can live a good and happy life.
4 Reasons Why You Might Not Love Yourself Now
Extending love, compassion, and understanding towards other people is never easy.
Somehow, feeling love and compassion for ourselves can be even more challenging.
Sometimes, we treat ourselves in ways that we would never treat others or allow others to treat us.
Why is loving ourselves so difficult? There are a few reasons why this problem persists:
1. Who you are doesn’t match with your ideal self.
Each of us has a self-image we have in mind.
A person’s self-image consists of their physical description, social roles, personal traits, and abstract, existential statements such as “I’m a human being”.
We also have an ideal self in mind or the version of ourselves that we would like to be.
When a person’s ideal self and actual experience are similar, there is a state of congruence.
Most people experience a certain amount of inconsistency between the ideal self and the real experience.
The greater the mismatch, the more likely it is that you value yourself less – which makes self-love quite difficult to achieve.
2. Your brain is experiencing negativity bias.
Science suggests that our brains have a bit of a bias towards negative thoughts.
Our ancestors needed to be on guard against danger in their environments at all times to avoid injury or death.
They didn’t find a lot of value in relishing beauty or finding outlets for happiness – and that survival instinct passed onto us.
This is a message that is reinforced by society because we are often told that we aren’t deserving of happiness yet or that we need to meet a certain criteria to become someone worthy and valuable.
Self-love is the opposite: it is the recognition that we have the right to be happy and loved.
3. You have had a difficult life experience.
Loving yourself is definitely a challenge when your trust of others has been shattered.
Maybe you spent a period of your life with someone critical and abusive or you were deprived of physical and emotional safety in childhood.
Not only does this prevent you from fully being yourself in front of others, but it could also cause you to struggle against yourself.
When you have had a tough past, learning to love yourself is an internal battle you need to fight.
It’s important to clear out negative opinions someone else cultivated inside you and to make sure your internal voice is kind, rather than critical.
4. You’ve built your identity around helping others.
If you are a naturally empathetic person or someone who has spent most of life catering to the needs of others, you most likely put your own needs behind and pour yourself into others.
Cultivating self-love would be a struggle for you because you’ve spent all this time thinking you shouldn’t.
Maybe you feel guilty when you take some time for yourself or feel selfish when you don’t immediately respond to the needs of everyone else.
While helping others is obviously not a bad thing, it becomes unhealthy when you neglect yourself.
You become more prone to abuse and people taking advantage of you.
You need to fulfill your personal needs first so you have more to give to others.
The Role of Self Love In Your Life
Among all the types of love you can receive, loving yourself is the most underrated and underappreciated form.
There are four benefits you can attain when you cultivate and practice self-love in your life:
A person who genuinely loves themself is willing to accept their life in any stage or situation and can take responsibility for their actions.
They are open to various sources of love, passion, happiness, and authenticity – but they don’t necessarily need to rely on external factors to be content.
Self-esteem is the positive feelings you have about yourself, your opinions, and your abilities.
People who love themselves can draw on this self-love for self-esteem and assertiveness.
They are also more likely to have a resilient attitude towards failure because they know it doesn’t diminish who they are.
3. A healthy lifestyle
Healthy habits are a hallmark of self-love.
You give your body everything it needs: food, water, sleep, exercise, leisure, reflection – in the right amounts.
With a healthy lifestyle, you will have enough energy to complete fulfilling activities and projects.
Strength against adversity: Without self-love, it’s easy to become a self-critical, people-pleasing perfectionist.
This makes you more likely to tolerate mistreatment or self-sabotage because you don’t value yourself.
People who love themselves can face hardships because they won’t compete or compare themselves to others.
Tips On How To Love Yourself
Everyone has different needs and ways to care for themselves.
Figuring out how to love yourself as an individual is a critical part of your development as a human being.
These tips serve as a general guide on how to cultivate self-love.
1. Be more mindful
People who love themselves are more attuned towards what they think, feel, and want.
Rather than letting anyone else dictate their opinions, people with self-love know who they are and act upon this knowledge.
2. Have a lot of fun
Life is too short to deprive yourself of joy.
Having fun and doing what you love makes the harsher parts of life more bearable. It also encourages you to stop taking yourself (and everything around you) too seriously.
3. Focus on needs rather than wants
You know you’ve reached a certain level of self-love when you can turn away from the exciting things you want in favor of what you need to stay strong and moving forward in your life.
When you make the choice to prioritize your own needs over feel-good whims, you turn away from problematic behaviors and self-sabotage.
4. Cultivate healthy habits
Aside from proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise, a person with self-love also knows how to nourish themselves through intimacy and social interactions.
Basic healthy habits that respond to your physical and psychosocial needs are key to living a balanced life.
5. Set up boundaries
There is more room to love yourself if you set boundaries with work, love, or other activities that deplete you.
Forming limitations protects you from overexerting yourself or burning out, even emotionally and spiritually.
Just make sure you’re clearly defining and communicating these boundaries, not building walls that shut other people out completely.
6. Cut off toxicity in your life
There are many people who enjoy your pain over your happiness or success.
Similarly, there are probably several well-intentioned people who love you but are poisoning your life through the relationship.
Loving yourself means keeping the right people in your life and cutting off those who are not bringing you any happiness.
7. Learn to forgive yourself
Humans can be hard on ourselves.
As a consequence of being accountable for our actions, we punish ourselves when things go wrong.
Before you can truly love yourself, you must accept that you are imperfect as all other humans are.
Be patient and forgiving with yourself whenever you slip up. Learning from your mistakes is a part of growth.
8. Live with intentionality
You will love yourself more when you embrace the choices you make unabashedly.
This means living your life with a purpose, design, and good intentions.
Although your life’s mission may not be clear to you now, you have to make decisions that will satisfy you at the end of the day.
9. Care about yourself as you would for others
We are always taught about the golden rule: treat others as you would want them to treat you.
Let’s flip this over and instead, treat yourself as you would treat others.
It’s not selfish to care for yourself.
Your needs and feelings are just as valid and important as everyone else’s.
10. Be comfortable with doing you
Becoming more aware of how you feel when you perform certain activities will allow you to identify what makes you feel good.
And feeling good is all the permission you need to be happy and do what you love.
It doesn’t matter if people think your interests and hobbies are weird – you’re living your own life for you, not them.
11. Silence your inner critic
Part of loving yourself is stopping the little voice inside your head that mocks you for slipping up, compares you to other people, or simply tells you that you aren’t good enough.
Your inner critic is usually not very helpful anyways with its unrealistic standards and expectations, so it’s perfectly okay to shut it up.
12. Commit to self-love now
There is no better time to make a conscious decision to love yourself than right now.
You don’t have to wait for anyone’s permission nor do you have to wait until you become “worthy” of love.
Loving yourself right now will make all those personal development goals you’re waiting on much easier to achieve.
Practice Self Love Everyday
Learning to love yourself is a process; self-love is not something you can automatically do with just a snap of your fingers.
You have to choose to be kind to yourself every day as you live your life.
Although it may be a challenge to balance loving yourself and others, the struggle is worthwhile if you want to live a happy, healthy, and abundant life.
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