We hear it almost everywhere: just love yourself. The phrase has become more or less cliche and, while we know it’s true, it seems pretty daunting to actually do.
What does loving yourself actually mean? And why is self-love so difficult to do?
What ‘Love Yourself’ Means
Loving ourselves means fully accepting who we are, shortcomings and all. Too often we mentally beat ourselves up for not being good enough. While it’s great to have goals for self-improvement, loving ourselves means that we are willing to care for and accept who we are even if we haven’t yet reached our goals. It means applying the concept of unconditional love and always holding deep compassion for ourselves.
What ‘Love Yourself’ Isn’t
Most of us put conditions on what we are required to achieve before we’ll finally accept ourselves. These conditions tend to be lofty goals that are difficult to achieve, so we tend to put off self-love indefinitely.
We say things like, “I’ll truly accept and love myself once I lose all this excess weight or finally get a promotion and a raise.” If we are able to achieve these goals, we then place new goals in our path blocking us from self-love. We put off complete self-acceptance almost indefinitely.
The truth is that our goals will be easier to achieve and more satisfying when they come from a place of loving ourselves first.
Why ‘Love Yourself’ is so Hard
Everyone tends to have a lot of mental chatter going on inside their minds. A significant chunk of this chatter is about things we don’t like about ourselves or our lives, and how we want things to change. We’re far harder on ourselves than we are on others and we have higher expectations.
We also might be carrying around past shame and hurt from others that we haven’t fully processed or healed. When we’ve been emotionally hurt in the past, we often store that memory as something we did wrong that made us deserving of what happened. Our ego tells us that we’re not good enough to deserve unconditional self-love.
So how can we overcome all of this pain and get to a place where we can fully embrace loving ourselves? What can we do to love ourselves better?
Putting ‘Love Yourself’ Into Practice
Luckily, loving yourself isn’t some abstract thing always floating just out of reach. It’s something that is actionable and learnable. By committing to certain behaviors and embracing the process of transformation, you can begin to put self-love action into place in your life. Over time, you’ll realize that you love yourself more and more. And you’ll see the benefits begin to change your life and make you feel more at peace than ever before.
Here are a few things you can work on to help move your inner world to a space of more love for yourself.
1. Let go of past hurts.
It’s really easy to hang onto the past when it has been such a hurtful experience. The problem is that when you hang onto hurt, you also tend to have a lot of negative self talk happening in your mind. It’s really hard to fully love yourself when there’s so much negativity, anger, resentment, and shame circling around in your head.
It’s time to learn how to let go of the past, learn what you need to from it, and move on to a more positive mental space. How can you do that?
Letter-writing is a really effective way to process feelings and find ways to forgive others. You can either write a letter to yourself offering acceptance for who you are now, despite your past experiences. Or you can write a letter to someone else offering your forgiveness. Or do both!
You don’t need to send the letter to the other person for it to work and often it’s probably not the right thing to do. You could symbolically burn or bury the letter to show your mind that you’re letting go. If it is appropriate for you to send the letter, it might help the other person heal too.
2. Stop trying to be perfect.
It’s so common to fall into the trap of trying to be perfect. It’s an admirable goal to try to do your best, but it’s impossible to do things perfectly. Trying to be perfect is a trap and sets you up for failure since perfection isn’t a real thing.
In addition, when we’re aiming for perfection, we tend to push others away and try to do it all ourselves. By shunning support from those we love and care for, we also create distance in our relationships. Perfection is a road toward pain and frustration.
When you truly love yourself, you can open up to receive support from others and you’re willing to accept yourself no matter what. You start to see beauty in imperfection and are willing to get comfortable with making mistakes.
3. Truly begin to practice self-care.
Sometimes you have to start acting as if you love yourself before the feelings kick in. That means dedicating time and energy toward giving yourself all the love you need to feel renewed and at peace. Make yourself a priority. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or ideal (remember you’re letting go of perfection), but you can plan out times during the week when you get to do something you love or that deeply relaxes you. Your relationship with yourself is your most important one throughout your life. Take the time to show yourself the kindness that you give to others.
4. Start a self-love journal.
Just like a gratitude journal helps you to feel more grateful for what you have and focus on abundance, a self-love journal can help you grow what you love about yourself. See this as an exercise in building up your positive perspective about yourself so you can feel more of it on a daily basis.
Write down the things that you love about who you are. It doesn’t need to be impressive or something someone else would admire. You can write down anything that comes to mind, even if it’s tiny or you’re still in the process of developing it.
5. Do things you love.
Many of us get to a point in our lives where we realize we’ve created a life that doesn’t feel right. Maybe we hate our jobs or we’ve gone down a career path that isn’t a good fit. Or we need to redirect our relationships so we can find health and balance. Or maybe we’ve just gotten so busy with being an “adult” that we’ve forgotten how to play and to take time for our passions and hobbies.
Showing yourself love often means reinventing your life. Don’t be afraid to change paths if you find yourself somewhere that isn’t right for you. Trust your gut. If you’re working as an accountant but you’ve discovered how much you love health and wellness, perhaps training to be a Wellness Coach is the right move for you.