Do you love yourself?
Do you know what self-love means? And more importantly, do you know how to love yourself?
In the self-development world as well as in most self-help articles and books, self-love is one of the most important concepts. We are often told we can’t love others until we love ourselves, and that developing that self-love is crucial in reaching happiness.
In my work with clients, I regularly discover that the source of most of their trouble is rooted in a lack of self-worth and self- love. And a very common question people ask me – which is very relevant – is actually How do you love yourself?
When I asked myself that question the first time, I was puzzled as I didn’t really understand what it meant. I know what it means to love someone else but I was unsure of concretely how to love myself. Hugging myself and kissing myself didn’t seem to work :-p Since then I’ve explored a lot of different avenues and after many years of practising on myself and helping my clients, I’ve come up with a few practical tips that can be useful on the journey to self-love.
1. Give yourself permission to make mistakes
One of the common trait I’ve observed is that we are often more tolerant towards other people’s flaws and weaknesses than we are towards ourselves. Have you found yourself occasionally (or more often than that, really!) beating yourself up and calling yourself names when you’ve made a mistake? Well, the good news is that you’re not alone. If we were to list to all the verbal abuse we’re giving ourselves in those moments, it would make the best insults book ever. So you’ve got my point, it’s just not useful.
How about instead learning to treat your mistakes as simply a learning experience that will allow you to improve next time? How about if you talked to yourself like you would talk to the person you love the most when that mistake is made? It’s a simple step, but one that can make a bit difference.
2. Look at your environment
Are you surrounded by people who support you and care about you? Or is there some toxicity in your environment? You can’t learn to love yourself if you’re surrounded by people who belittle you or criticise you constantly. You need a nurturing surrounding that will allow you to start believing in your own worth.
Perhaps you need to spring clean the people you surround yourself with. Easier said than done, I know 🙂 Perhaps your first step would be to set stronger boundaries with them, then, asking for respect and care rather than allowing criticism. And you could also hang out with more positive people at the same time, that would create a lovely balance.
3. Avoid comparison
If you had never been in touch with any other human being ever, how would you know if you’re good enough? Now of course that is completely unrealistic, but my point is that often our low self-esteem comes from us comparing ourselves to other people and drawing a judgement as a result. Which is often not very flattering, right?!
Everyone is unique, yes I know it’s a cliche, but it’s true. You might have seen that drawing on social media:
this is a very good illustration of what we do to ourselves when we try to compare with others. We set ourselves up for failure.
Yes, some people might be more skilled than you in some areas, but so are you. You have a set of unique traits and skills, and that’s good enough 🙂 So catch yourself when you start with those nasty comparisons, and start reminding yourself instead of your own uniqueness and capabilities. You wouldn’t think (I hope!) of telling your child that his drawing is lovely, but their friend Marc’s is nicer anyway, would you? So why would you do that to yourself?
4. Identify your needs
Whether you feel hurt, angry or anxious, those emotions are simply an expression of your unmet needs. Marshall Rosenberg, in his Non-Violent Communication approach suggests that behind negative emotions lie unfulfilled needs. So whenever you start to beat yourself up for a mistake or start to judge yourself in comparison to others, the best alternative is to identify your needs. Ask yourself “When I feel this way, what could be an important need I haven’t met”? And begin to search how to fulfil those needs in a compassionate and constructive way.
5. Practice self-compassion
Of course, if in the process of identifying your needs you start to judge yourself negatively on them, it won’t do the trick. I’ve learnt a great tip in my meditation journey, which is when I feel negative emotions, as well as breathing through them, I give myself a lot of compassion for what I’m feeling. Exactly like what I do with clients. I imagine that it’s someone else I deeply care about who’s experiencing those feelings, and I allow myself to feel compassion and empathy. After all, isn’t it what we would do for our loved ones? So why not start with ourselves? I know it might feel fake at first, but with practice it becomes easier. And more importantly, with practice you might notice that it even can become enjoyable!
6. Drop judgements
It’s not about doing things right. There aren’t any right or wrong way to do most things. There’s only your way. And if it’s different than anyone else, celebrate! It means you’re unique, you don’t blend in the anonymous mass. I’m pretty sure that great scientists such as Newton and Einstein would have had to accept at some point that they were different and embrace their ways of doing things! Otherwise they would have stayed hidden and the world would have missed on a brilliant opportunity to grow and develop!
The same applies to you. By hiding and not taking risks by fear of being judged, you might miss on a brilliant opportunity to learn and develop yourself. Yes I agree with you, it’s never pleasant to be criticised. But who said that criticism is the door to novelty?!
7. Change your approach to criticism
How about making it easier to hear criticism and receive feedback? One of the most efficient ways I’ve found is to imagine that the feedback or criticism is given to someone else who behaved like me. That allows me to do 2 essential things:
- Identify objectively if there is any truth in that feedback without taking it personally. I rationalise as much as I can to identify if the person (me) who’s been given that criticism actually deserves it.
- Secondly I also identify what might be going on for the person who gave the feedback, simply to see if that came from a place of projection or from a genuine “clean” place.
Because I’m busy being rational, it really helps to actually hear the feedback where in the past I would have simply rejected it and missed on opportunities to grow.
8. Celebrate your weaknesses
I read once someone saying “Celebrate your weaknesses as your features”. When I was a kid, complaining that I was often the odd one out, my favourite aunt would tell me exactly the same thing: “Cultivate what people criticise in you, because it’s what makes you you.” I found it quite difficult to apply as a teenager, but I must say that this is one of the most valuable lesson I’ve learnt. You are who you are anyway, and even if there’s always room for improvement, you’re good enough this way. Everyone has got different perspectives, tastes and opinions, and often criticisms are only an expression of a different model of the world.
So start embracing your weaknesses. They won’t go anyway if you fight them, so the best way to improve is to first accept who you are. Remember, what resists persists…
9. Change your past
It is quite easy to get stuck in our past. I’ve met a lot of people (and I used to be one of them) who would always draw on their past to justify or explain their current shortcomings. Even if it’s true, even if your patterns and personality are built on your past experiences, how is it useful to blame your past for it? How is that going to change the issues?
Instead I invite you to imagine what would change if you were considering your past simply as your own adventure story, and reclaim your power by deciding how it will end. Remember that your strength and qualities also come from your past as well, so you may as well embrace it and move on.
And finally, persevere. Don’t give up, it takes a while to learn to love yourself. It’s a journey made of setbacks and obstacles as well as joy and breakthrough. And yes it’s true, you can’t fully love others if you don’t love yourself. So you may as well start now and begin to build the rest of your life.
With love, 🙂