Do you know how to love yourself?
I know this may sound like a silly question, but I find that this is a topic that not enough people reflect upon. More often than not, the act of loving oneself is considered to be either vain, selfish or just plain airy-fairy. In order to understand what self-love really means, you need to know what it is not. First and foremost, loving yourself is not something that you do. Rather, it’s something that you feel.
Self-love is an unconditional feeling of love, acceptance, and appreciation for who you are. It is knowing that you are enough and that you feel okay with your imperfections. In my eyes, cultivating self-love is the greatest gift that you can give to yourself and your loved ones. Unfortunately, a lot of people struggle with self-love. They attempt to mask their fear of being with themselves by finding love and self-acceptance in another person. You cannot love someone else until you love yourself.
If loving yourself feels challenging, you aren’t alone. A lot of people struggle with low self-esteem. This feeling goes beyond just having a bad day. Unfortunately, low self-esteem can have serious negative effects on your mental, emotional and physical health. When I was in high school, I didn’t love myself. My inner dialogue was extremely negative. My low-self esteem manifested itself as extreme shyness, social anxiety, and depression.
Some days I wouldn’t even leave the house.
I would spend hours in front of the computer playing video games, in my attempt to hide from the world. These self-destructive behaviors only made me feel worse about myself. It was a toxic cycle of self-depreciation. Let’s just say that attracting someone into my life was not even an option.
After years of self-development work, I came to realize that you attract who you are. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t like the image staring back at me. I had to get real with myself and admit that there were parts of who I was that I needed to improve. Loving yourself takes work. It is possible to be comfortable with who you are, despite your imperfections.
Perfect doesn’t exist. It never did and it never will.
If you want to attract an amazing person into your life, you have to raise your personal standards and be equally amazing. None of this is possible if you don’t love yourself unconditionally. If you have low standards, your life will reflect that. In her book,, Marianne Williamson says, “Our self-perception determines our behavior. If we think we’re small, limited, inadequate creatures, then we tend to behave that way, and the energy we radiate reflects those thoughts no matter what we do.
Be honest… are there aspects of yourself that you aren’t proud of? If so, the beauty of life is that, at any given moment, you can decide to change. The first step to building my self-worth was to stop comparing myself to others and instead, focus on reprogramming my beliefs. As many of you who follow me already know, I’ve been practicing a morning ritual since I was 17 years old.
This is the part of my day when I nourish my mind, body, and soul.
If I don’t show up for myself, I am unable to show up for others. I integrate self-love practices into my routine that allows me to love and show appreciation for myself a little bit more each and every day. Over the years, I have been able to transform myself from a shy and anxious boy to a strong and confident man. I want to share with you 3 ways that you can love yourself on Valentine’s Day, and every day thereafter. I have personally integrated these self-love rituals into my life.
1. Talk To Yourself Like You Are Your Own Best Friend
We all have an inner voice that likes to show up at the worst of times and try to tell us that we aren’t good enough or deserving of love. It says things like, “You can’t handle this” or “You are ugly.” Unfortunately, a lot of people take on these self-destructive words and accept them as truth. I’ve got great news… the critic inside of your head who judges and reacts to everything that you do, is actually not you.
Therefore, this voice is entirely under your control. You can decide how you want to respond to it. The next time it looms its ugly face, stop and listen. Instead of trying to conquer your inner critic, make friends with it. Take on what Dr. Dan Siegel describes as the “COAL” attitude. This means being Curious, Open, Accepting and Loving towards yourself.
I know it sounds counterintuitive, but your inner critic is actually trying to protect you. The great news is that you don’t need him or her. How would you talk to your best friend? Speak to yourself in the exact same way. You deserve the love that you so freely give to others.
2. Celebrate Your Achievements
How often do you take the time to celebrate yourself? Rewarding yourself on a daily basis is an act of self-love. Unfortunately, a lot of people fail to do this. If you don’t recognize and acknowledge how far you’ve come, it will be extremely difficult to keep your momentum going when times get tough. Celebrating yourself isn’t about tooting your own horn. Rather, it’s about acknowledging and loving yourself.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and fall into the trap of obsessing about your to-do lists and the goals that you want to achieve. I used to subscribe to this way of life. My focus was solely on achievement. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay much attention to or celebrate my progress. My line of thinking was, “Why should I celebrate when I’ve already achieved?” After years of achieving and striving for excellence, I was exhausted. I was chasing the dream of perfection, and although I was “successful” I wasn’t fulfilled. Success without fulfillment is failure.
In short, I had failed to fall in love with the process of becoming more of who I already was. This aha moment was a game changer. Celebrating myself is now a key part of my life. At the end of every day, I take out my journal and write down all of the magic moments and successes that I experienced or accomplished during the day. The act of celebrating myself gives me a sense of pride, confidence, and joy, which in turn, makes me feel more productive. No matter how small they are, always celebrate your achievements.
Engaging in this habit helps you find the good in the small things, no matter what challenges you are going through. I believe that celebration is a critical skill to develop if you want to step into your power and achieve your life’s goals.
3. Practice Saying “No”
Acknowledging and appreciating your need for “you” time is one of the greatest gifts that you can give yourself. A key component of loving yourself is learning how to say no to others and being okay with it. How often do you say yes to the things that matter to you? Self-care and success go hand in hand. You should never feel like you need to explain to others why YOU are a priority. This is a way of showing people how you deserve to be treated.
If saying no to people gives you anxiety, you have fallen into the people-pleasing trap. In their desire to be loved and appreciated by others, people pleasers unwittingly sacrifice their own wants, needs, and desires to satisfy others. As you can imagine, they are only left feeling depleted. Research shows that the best way to fight the people pleasing syndrome is to engage in activities that make YOU feel good. When you do this, you start to realize that you don’t need others to make you feel whole.
Saying no is a way of creating healthy boundaries. It’s learning how to better manage your time and energy. Don’t get me wrong, saying yes to opportunities is great. However, there is a time and place for this. If you are constantly saying yes to others, at the expense of your health and well-being, you are only setting yourself up for a lot of pain and suffering.
Protecting your energy is a lot easier once you know what your values are. This is a process of self-discovery that looks different for everyone. It’s as simple as writing down what you need in order to feel grounded and happy. Is it freedom? Money? Health? Make a commitment to yourself to move towards things that nourish you, and then commit to making these values non-negotiable.
Learning to love yourself is a lifelong process.
Valentine’s Day should not be the only day on the calendar when you express gratitude and appreciation for who you are and how far you’ve come. Make it a habit to love yourself on a daily basis and treat it as an adventure.
In the same way that it takes time to build relationships with others, it also takes time to build a healthy relationship with yourself. Time and practice will help you learn new behaviors so that you can treat yourself with love and, in turn, treat others with compassion.
Allow the natural state of love to permeate your entire being. In actuality, it has always been a part of who you are; you may have just lost sight of it for a short while. In the words of Kristin Neff, “Love, connection, and acceptance are your birthright.”
How will you show yourself love today, and every day thereafter?