“Self-love is an ocean and your heart is a vessel. Make it full, and any excess will spill over into the lives of the people you hold dear. But you must come first.”
― Beau Taplin
Loving yourself is an inside job.
“When I achieve this, I’ll feel better about myself.”
“When they love me back, I’ll love myself too.”
“When I obtain the ideal weight, I’ll love myself.”
Have you found yourself having the above thoughts? However, according to Hannah Rose LCPC (2019), loving ourselves does not work like that.
So, how to learn to love yourself completely? Let’s check out the 8 steps below:
- Learn and know yourself, your worth and your own value
“To know, know, know him
Is to love, love, love him
Just to see that smile,
Makes my life worthwhile.”
Think for a moment about the love that you have towards your partner. How do you fall deeply in love in the first place? True, deep love may not exist when you first meet someone, but your love deepens as you get to know more about your significant other. According to a social psychologist, Dr. Theresa E. DiDonato (2018), the degree to which people in relationships describe feeling intimacy, commitment and passion toward their partners significantly surpasses reports of these emotions by people who experience love at first sight.
Similarly, it is impossible to love yourself if you don’t even know who you are. Invest in discovering your value, what you believe, your strengths and even your weaknesses. All of us possess gifts, talents and skills that other people may not have. Acknowledge your strengths. Apart from that, you need to also screen yourself for your weaknesses and flaws. Accept yourself as who you are. Acceptance is something you dig within for it is solely coming from you, it never supposed to be something that you get from everyone. You should learn to own both your strengths and weaknesses; only then you will love yourself completely (Wilson Jr., 2015).
2. Incorporate favourite traits from the one you love
Now, I want you to contemplate on someone whom you respect and admire the most. That person can be anyone; a close friend, a family member, a fictional character, or even a celebrity. Then, think about the traits that the person has, which make you admire him or her. Is he very humble? Is he polite? Does he like to help people without bragging about it? Or…do you find him endearing when he is able to show empathy towards other people?
By pondering upon the good traits that you love in this person, you are actually opening the Pandora box of how to love yourself. See…the reason we don’t love ourselves is because we have traits that we don’t like. Maybe you think you are lazy, socially awkward, maybe you think you’re not someone that others can depend on. All you would have to do is take the trait from the person whom you love and add it to your character and just like that you would start loving yourself more. For instance, when you start doing good deeds and never brag about it, you would start loving yourself more.
3. Focus on long-term goals instead of short-term pleasure
At the beginning of the year, you confidently stated that your New Year’s resolution is to be on a healthy diet and regular exercise, and therefore, gaining an ideal and healthy weight. However, that resolution has been put on the back burner.
Have you ever found yourself falling prey to such a situation? You initially are determined to follow through a plan, however, it never turn into a reality.
Our brain is intricately designed in such a way that we as humans will prioritize our own survival by steering us towards two directions:
a. Avoiding short-term pain
b. Chasing short-term pleasure
There is an obsession in our society with short-term pleasure. Most marketing companies take advantage of this obsession, they will offer you a promise that you will feel better after overeating if you just buy and consume their pills. Have you ever wondered why do they not just recommend stopping overeating altogether? It’s actually pretty simple, it’s because it does not serve our short-term gratification.
People who indulge in such instant gratification normally focus on what they want “in the moment” rather than what they need in the long run. Consequently, this will lead to debt, clutter, bad health and mindlessness. You will not appreciate all the gifts of life, instead you will start to learn to hate yourself.
Therefore, one of the ways to love yourself completely is to turn away from something that feels good and appealing to what you need to stay strong, rational and moving forward in your life. When your focus of attention is on what you need, you will abandon the automatic behaviour patterns that imprison you with what has gone. This shift in focus will definitely make you love yourself more (Khoshaba, 2012).
4. Forgive yourself
“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”
A marriage and family therapist, Dr. Andrea Brandt, Ph.D (2020) stated that the baggage of guilt and shame that you carry make it impossible to feel good about yourself. Self-forgiveness is often eclipsed by literature, articles or topics of how to forgive others (Rose, 2019). However, when you learn to forgive yourself, there is a sense of redemption and liberation (Brenner, 2020) and you will feel the heavy burden of guilt and shame lifted and consequently your feelings of self-worth increases (Brandt, 2020).
Hannah Rose LCPC (2019) believes that self-forgiveness begins and ends internally. When we wronged someone, he or she may never fully forgive us, but that definitely does not mean that we cannot forgive ourselves to reach inner peace. Since we are only human and innately imperfect, we have to acknowledge where we fell short, forgive ourselves, learn from the mistakes and set the intention to change. Even just one step at a time.
5. Set healthy boundaries
Your friend always calls you asking for advice or a favour. You definitely feel over the moon since the favours are not a big deal, but it is never reciprocated. She does not do anything for you ever, and she never seems to be interested in listening to anything about your life.
What does the above situation tell you? It tells you about your personal space, your values and your needs. According to a book “I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better” written by Gary Lundberg and Joy Lundberg:
“Personal boundaries define you as an individual. They are statements of what you will or won’t do, what you like and don’t like, how far you will or won’t go, how close someone can get to you or how close you will get to another person… they are your value system in action. Having a strong, comfortable belief in your own value system means you have choices and must take responsibility for your thoughts, beliefs, and actions.”
Remember, you will find that you love yourself more when you clearly define your boundaries or say no to work, love or activities that affect you physically, emotionally and spiritually, or poorly represent who you are (Khoshaba, 2012).
6. Positive self-talk
“Wildflower; pick up your pretty little head, it will get easier, your dreams are not dead.”
― Nikki Rowe
Each of us has a set of monologue or personal commentary that plays over and over in our minds which eventually shapes our response to life and its circumstances (Jantz, 2016). Our response to risky moments influences our thoughts. For example, to improve your performance game, you can refer to the sports psychology field for some much-needed coaching (Wu, 2021).
Now, what does science say about positive self-talk?
A positive self-talk is an athlete’s secret weapon. A 2020 study reported that three 800-meter runners were able to run faster and feel mentally tougher when they used self-talk. This was shown in their performances, even if the athletes did not think their speed had changed in the moment (Wu, 2021).
7. Carefully choose who you spend your time with
You may be unable to choose who you work with, but you undeniably have a choice for your personal relationships. If you choose to spend your free time with abusive people, then you are actually abusing yourself. Bring the right people into your life and harvest in relationships which are nurturing, non-judgmental, supporting and accept you for who you are (Wilson Jr., 2015).
Get rid of those “frenemies” who relish and devour in your downfall rather than your happiness and success. Notice those who are truly happy for you when you are happy and will do anything to put that shine on your face that says, “I genuinely love myself and life.” By doing this, you will love and respect yourself more (Khoshaba, 2012).
8. Live intentionally
You may ask, “How do I live intentionally?”
Living intentionally is by living with purpose and design. Your purpose does not have to be evident and obvious to you. You may plan to live a meaningful and healthy life, and thus you will make choices that support this intention, and you will accept and love yourself when you succeed in this purpose. You will feel good about yourself when you accomplish what you set out to do. In order to do this, you need to set up your living intentions (Khoshaba, 2012).
Above all else, the nature of us human beings is not to build connections via the social media highlight reel of our lives but via our flaws and imperfections. You may repeatedly ask yourself, “Am I worthy? Am I enough?”
Yes. You are worthy. You are enough. You are special just the way you are. Even if you feel that you do not fit in, sometimes what makes you different is what makes you beautiful. The world may not know what you have within, but remember, you are like a stalk of rose that can grow anywhere. Be humble enough to admit that there is room for improvement within you. Stop seeking outside of yourself for validation, only you can fill the gaping void inside of you, not anyone else. The more you love yourself, the more you will attract people and circumstances that support your wellbeing.
Brandt, A. (2020, June 3). Healing Guilt: 7 Steps to Self-Forgiveness. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-anger/202006/healing-guilt-7-steps-self-forgiveness.
Brenner, G. H. (2020, April 5). How to Forgive Yourself. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/working-through-shame/201908/how-forgive-yourself.
DiDonato, T. E. (2018, January 27). Is Love at First Sight Real? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/meet-catch-and-keep/201801/is-love-first-sight-real.
Jantz, G. L. (2016, May 16). The Power of Positive Self-Talk. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hope-relationships/201605/the-power-positive-self-talk.
Khoshaba, D. (2012, March 27). A Seven-Step Prescription for Self-Love. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/get-hardy/201203/seven-step-prescription-self-love.
Lundberg, G. B., & Lundberg, J. S. (2000). I don’t have to make everything all better: six practical principles to empower others to solve their own problems while enriching your relationships. Penguin Books.
Rose , H. (2019, August 15). How to Forgive Yourself. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/working-through-shame/201908/how-forgive-yourself.
Rose, H. (2019, September 27). How to Start Loving Yourself Now. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/working-through-shame/201909/how-start-loving-yourself-now.
Wilsons Jr. , R. E. (2015, December 14). Loving Yourself: a How-to Guide. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-main-ingredient/201512/loving-yourself-how-guide.
Wu, J. (2021, March 25). 5 Ways to Use Positive Self-Talk to Psych Yourself Up. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-savvy-psychologist/202103/5-ways-use-positive-self-talk-psych-yourself.