It’s Valentine’s month and just about everywhere is filled with notices about love and being in love. But what about us? What about learning to love yourself first above all else?
Self-love has become such a popular term that it’s practically part of our everyday conversations. We offer a friend advice, telling them to “love yourself”. We hear songs telling us the greatest love is to love ourselves or that we can’t love anyone else unless we love ourselves first. The list goes on and on.
But isn’t “self-love” just a nice way of saying conceited or cocky? If not, what is it exactly? We’re all entitled to our own explanation, after all, it wouldn’t be self-love if I told you what you had to believe.
What is self-love & how can you learn to love yourself?
Knowing what you’re worth and understanding that you’re enough is the best definition of self-love I can give you.
It shows up in having a deep sense of confidence regardless of whether life is going as planned or not. It’s not conceited. Rather, it’s knowing that the combination of both your strengths and weaknesses is what makes you human. With intimate knowledge of who you are and zero interest in hiding behind facades or pretences, comes inner-peace and profound contentment.
Conceit and cockiness are rooted in fear. They stem from the need to feel superior to others to validate one’s worth. Instead of embracing their faults, conceited people deny they have them or blame others if they admit to them at all.
With self-love comes freedom from crippling fears.
Freedom from fear of rejection.
This isn’t the same thing as freedom from rejection; it’s the absence of fear of it. In other words, you’ll be rejected at one time or another. Plan on it. The difference is that you’ll be willing to take risks to step closer to your dreams and not be paralyzed by anxiety, wondering “what if…”
Freedom from financial insecurity.
This doesn’t mean you’re going to get rich. What it does mean is that a chronic panic about money will leave you. Now you might be thinking that you don’t have money problems and there’s no chronic panic about money. That’s great news, but hear me out. Most fears boil down to two root causes:
- Fear of not getting what we want,
- And the fear of losing something we have.
In my experience, when it comes to finances, most of us on the journey to self-love either worry about not having enough security or losing any sense of security we have. When you love yourself, you have faith in yourself and your spending habits.
Freedom from fear of failure.
By now, you know this isn’t promising wild success. It’s promising that you’ll have the willingness to step outside of your comfort zone to try new things. You’re resilient; you look at all outcomes as learning experiences, not failures. Besides, you intuitively know that the worst-case scenario seldom comes to pass anyway. If you choose not to take a calculated risk, it will not be a fear-driven decision.
Five steps to learning to love yourself.
Learning to love yourself takes time and possibly the hardest part is forgiveness. Both yourself and others. Guilt saps self-love, confidence, and self-esteem. Everyone has a story. Regardless of where you are, where you’ve been, who you are, or what you’ve done, if you’re holding on to guilt or shame from the past, you need to let that $#!T go! Sometimes it’s hard to say we’re sorry or amend a situation if we did wrong, but holding on to the guilt is far more harmful to our happiness than the pain of walking through it.
Give yourself permission to live free of remorse because no matter what you think you should or should not have done, you did the best you could with what you had to work with. Life isn’t always fair, and some things bring out the worst in us.
Self-love is based on who you are, not what you do. Self-esteem comes from what we do. If you want to boost self-esteem, do self-esteem-able things. Eat well, get some exercise, help someone in need, and be kind to others even if they aren’t kind back! Feeling good about the things you do will progress into feeling good about who you are.
Celebrate your successes.
Stop focusing on the things you don’t have or didn’t do. Make a list of everything you’ve succeeded at and let yourself feel the joy. Feel it in every bone in your body. Consider who you had to be to make it happen, what challenges you overcame, and what sacrifices you made. Believe that you can use those talents to take on new challenges. If you find yourself thinking of your weaknesses, consciously find five things positive about yourself for every one negative. Share that courtesy with the people around you too. What you see in others (good or bad) reflects what you see in yourself.
Believe in yourself!
There’s no magic formula to having real confidence and love for yourself. Having self-love doesn’t mean life’s all unicorns and rainbows. They’re still going to be bad days, disappointments, and wounded pride. Things will sometimes go awry, and when they do, it stinks. You’re not a mythological god or goddess, you’re human, and some stuff just feels yucky. Don’t try and deny the feelings, feel them. Feel them fully, but don’t become them. Think of them as unexpected company stopping in. “Visit” with them but don’t invite them to “move in”.
Set boundaries and stick to them!
Boundaries are so important for maintaining your mental and emotional health and wellness. While it might not seem like an obvious way to show self-love, setting boundaries allows you to decide what you do and don’t allow in your life.
It can be challenging and uncomfortable to start setting boundaries, so start small. This could be something like going to bed at a specific time each night and not letting anything or anyone interfere. You can also set boundaries for how people speak to you about your illness, who you follow on social media, or how often you’re able to socialize.
You’ve likely heard all about the benefits of a gratitude practice and that’s because they really do work. Each morning or night write down one or more things that make you happy or that you’re thankful for. Like with cooking, this gives you a moment to slow down and focus on yourself. It helps to shift your mindset to a more positive one. This is especially great to do when you’re feeling low.
While all feelings are valid and you should feel all the feels, taking a moment to write down or think of what you’re grateful for can pull you in a new, more positive direction.
How are you learning to love yourself?
It can take time but learning to love yourself is one of the most life-changing things you can do. So, how are you going to practice self-love today?