Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” – Lao Tzu
How do you feel when you hear the phrase “self-love?” What thoughts come to your mind?
For a very long time, most of my life actually, I felt aversion to the idea of self-love. You could sum it up in one word: “Yuck.” The notion of self-love often evokes knee-jerk reactions and judgments like this, doesn’t it?
Resistance, guilt, unworthiness, unease, self-indulgence, aversion, tightening – these are just a few common responses that might arise when you hear someone say, “Love yourself.”
These are the boulders blocking your way on the path to self love.
It’s likely they’ve been installed for a good reason: To protect you in some mysterious way.
But there comes a time when the pain of constant self-dislike or indifference is no longer bearable. It’s time to start moving those boulders aside.
So begin by taking a moment to consider the questions below. If you’ve already made strides in loving yourself, it might be interesting to ask them nevertheless. There might be places where you’re still holding back.
- What does the phrase “self-love” evoke within you?
- Why might that be?
Then sit with what you discover and see if any further insights arise.
Self-Love Is a Necessity Not a Luxury
If you look at self-love with disdain, consider what the Dalai Lama says about love:
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.
This includes self-love too, don’t you think?
Due to conditioning as a child or negative experiences as an adult, you may not believe you are deserving of love. So you may attempt to exist without this basic necessity. No one ever explained that your health, happiness, and even your very survival may depend upon love. You may trivialize self-love, push it into the background, and stay busy with everything else.
On the other hand, once you recognize the necessity of self-love for a happy life, you may go on a binge. You may even confuse self-care rituals for self-love. That’s okay for a while, but focusing only on yourself won’t lead to the genuine, lasting happiness you deserve.
If self-care isn’t self-love, what is self-love?
I define self-love as a mix of positive self-regard, self-acceptance, and a wish for your own happiness. On a feeling level, I find self-love brings warmth, tenderness, and relaxation. Self-love is expressed through a variety of activities like self-care, alignment with your values, and following your dreams, which we’ll explore below.
How would you define self-love?
The Attitude of Self-Love
Self-love then is a change of attitude as well as a feeling from the heart. On the dimension of attitude, here are some positive beliefs that go along with self-love:
- I am lovable.
- I am good.
- I deserve to exist.
- I count.
- My happiness matters.
- I don’t have to be perfect to love myself or to be loved.
This list is just a sample. There are many more positive beliefs that go along with self-love. What others come to your mind?
How does it feel when you read those statements to yourself? Is there one or more than one that instantaneously give rise to an inner protest? What does that critical inner voice say?
Take some time to explore any beliefs you have that keep you from loving yourself.
Why Self-Love Matters
Now lets get specific about why healthy self love matters by looking at some of the ways it can manifest in and improve your life. You can use this section as a checklist of sorts to see where you excel in actualizing self-love and which areas you could strengthen.
Healthy self-love means knowing who you are: Your needs, desires, dreams, and your personality type. If you live according to childhood or societal conditioning or someone else’s expectations, you will not fulfill your life purpose, the very reason you are on this earth. Your happiness will always be contingent upon others, so you’ll probably be constantly subjected to ups and downs. [Read more about how knowing your personality type can make a significant difference in the quality of your life.]
Healthy self-love means taking better care of yourself – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Here’s an example from my life. When I’ve done short periods of loving-kindness for myself, I’ve felt less inclined to binge on excess food because I felt nourished by self-love. If you don’t love yourself, you’ll probably cut corners when it comes to self-care or neglect it entirely. That can lead to illness, distress, and even a shorter life span.
Healthy self-love means istening to your inner voice, intuition, and the messages of your body. When you don’t listen to your inner wisdom, your life becomes a series of detours taking you down unhelpful and unsatisfying paths.
Healthy self-love means finding your own voice and expressing it with more and more confidence. It’s impossible to get your needs met, satisfy your desires, or achieve your dreams, if you’re not able to speak up and speak out. Dampening your voice will just leave you frustrated and insecure.
Healthy self love means staying aligned with your personal values, intentions, and goals. Your life is precious. You are here for a reason. A person who loves herself stays on track with her own vision so her life feels meaningful, rewarding, and complete.
Healthy self-love means establishing and honoring your personal boundaries. Weak boundaries are a clear sign of a lack of self-love. When you appreciate yourself, know yourself, and align with your own values, setting personal boundaries becomes a natural expression of a whole and healthy self.
Healthy self-love means accepting your whole self, the positive and the negatives. No one is perfect. Your challenges and weakness likely came about due to a gap or trauma in your childhood experience. So have compassion for yourself. Accept the sticky parts of yourself without judgment while you gently work on them.
Healthy self-love means speaking kindly to yourself. A strong inner critic is another call for self-love, the ultimate medicine. You don’t deserve harsh words – ever. When you speak to yourself tenderly, you will have an entirely different experience of your life. [Read more: Nurturing Self-Talk: A Kinder Voice Inside Your Head.]
Healthy self-love means prioritizing your well-being and happiness. If you don’t make your happiness a priority, who will? Will it just happen by chance? That doesn’t mean being self-centered, selfish, or neglecting the needs of others. In fact, when you love yourself, you have more love to give.
There was a time when I didn’t focus on any of this. I can now happily say I embrace every single one of these expressions of self-love, though I’m still learning how to fully bring them alive.
Creating the Ambiance of Self-Love
While there are many ways to cultivate a feeling of self-love, my favorite is repeating the loving-kindness phrases to myself:
May I be well.
May I be happy.
May I be safe.
I sometimes repeat them to myself as a practice while sitting in meditation for 5, 10, or 15 minutes. I alternate them with resting meditation or focusing on the breath. I also use them during the day when I feel I need a reminder that I’m worthy, good, and deserving of love. [Read more about meditation: 21 Meditation Tips You Need to Know As a Beginner.]
It might feel awkward to use these phrases at first. That’s one of the points. They bring up our discomfort so our wounds can be healed and our whole self restored. As you learn to love yourself, you’ll probably need to face some of your pains and hurts.
On the other hand, nothing might happen at all.
But keep with it. These phrases are powerful. They will cut through the muck so you gradually feel more kindness, gentleness, and tenderness for yourself. Without that foundation, it’s impossible to build a truly meaningful life.
Let’s End the Epidemic of So Little Self-Love
There’s an epidemic of self-doubt, self-criticism, low-self esteem, and even self-hatred, especially among women, in the West.
It doesn’t serve anyone, in any way. Please really think about that.
You don’t have to continue circling in these self-abusive states. You have the power to change your thoughts and transform you emotions entirely within you.
It may not be easy to turn around decades of unhappy patterns, but people do it by taking small steps every day. So get started now! I bet you’ll be amazed by who you become over the next few years.
Self-love, what does it mean to you? How does it feel and manifest in your life? I would love to hear. Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free resources in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always. With love, Sandra