How to Love Yourself: A 5 Step Guide
As we grow and experience challenges associated with social, personal, and employment relationships, we often receive advice from those peers and others in our lives who have shared similar experiences. One of the most common pieces of advice often focuses on self-love or loving yourself. You may have heard bits of wisdom such as, “You have to love yourself before you can love someone else” or “the most important relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself.”
Self-love and self-compassion are key ingredients when it comes to fostering your mental (and physical) health and overall well-being. Often, we are far too hard on ourselves because people, primarily due to the influences of their environment and social circles, are driven by the desire to excel at whatever they take on. The need to achieve perfection brings about a lot of negative self-talk and unwarranted criticism as our “inner voice” attempts to tell us how we could have done better.
Striving for perfectionism, although common, is not always healthy. Studies have shown that the constant need to achieve perfection day in and day out puts people at a higher risk of illness, both mental and physical. Psychologists indicate that self-love may be one way to protect you from the various pitfalls and challenges of a perceived failure to be the best.
As easy as it may sound, learning to love yourself is not as easy or quick as flipping a switch. It takes a little practice and commitment to caring about your own needs. Below are a few tips to help you get started.
Find a Hobby that Brings You Joy
When you feel down, it is easy to feel like you are spinning in circles, and every day is a repeat of the one before. It can be highly beneficial to find something outside of your day-to-day obligations that is “yours,” and that brings you joy. When you feel joy and satisfaction with what you are doing (creating, experiencing, trying), it can lead to increased feelings of self-esteem and self-love.
The goal is to find something that satisfies you. Examples include pottery, dancing, yoga, baking, painting, working in the garden, etc. No rule defines what your hobby or enjoyable pastime needs to look like and what is enjoyable for someone else may not be the least bit pleasurable for you. No matter what it is, make sure you are working to please yourself and no one else.
Keep Yourself Healthy
Nutritional psychology studies how diet and mental health relate. Current research indicates there may be a connection between eating better and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety while improving overall mental health. A 2010 study in the American Journal of Psychology found that women who ate more processed, fried, or sugary foods were more likely to experience anxiety and depression than those who focused their diet on healthy options such as meat, fish, whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. Another 2016 study showed that those who increased their daily intake of fruits and vegetables reported feeling happier and satisfied with their lives when compared to those who maintained their current diet.
Maintaining your overall health through diet and exercise will inevitably improve your sense of feeling good. A healthy diet ensures your body maintains sufficient nutritional intake to keep you moving each day. Although snack foods are ok from time to time, the body does not do well when processed foods are a primary source of nutrition.
A hidden benefit to a healthy diet is a healthy mind. When you eat well and take care of your body, your self-image and self-esteem will likely improve. This can lead to reduced feelings of anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.
Appreciate and Accept Compliments
When we struggle to love ourselves, we also struggle to imagine how anyone else could love or look at us with affection and praise. A study in the Harvard Business Review indicated as many as 70% of people felt embarrassed or uncomfortable when given recognition or praise. Although there are several potential reasons for this, and they will certainly vary from person to person. However, one primary reason could be that embarrassment reflects your own feelings about yourself. In short, it can be hard to accept that someone else thinks highly or positively of you when you feel negative about yourself. Psychologically, this helps to explain how those who struggle with low self-esteem often experienced increased negative emotions after receiving a compliment from someone.
To increase self-love, it is important not only to hear and accept compliments or praise but to allow yourself to absorb them. Although you may disagree, it can help to simply take their word for it and consider that it may be true. Take compliments to heart and save them for a moment when you are down and need a pick me up.
Change Your Negative Self-talk
We are our own worst critics, and often, our inner monologue can do more to harm our abilities to love ourselves than anything an outside influence may say or do. It is natural to have some degree of negative self-talk or negative emotion from time to time. In many cases, we are unaware of the depth of our personal negatively towards ourselves. That is why it is vital to consciously make an effort to become aware of your internal thoughts. Learn to understand and recognize when you are unintentionally tearing yourself down and instead work to build yourself up. Take pride in your accomplishments, no matter the size, and allow yourself to feel the intense emotions that lead to greater self-love.
One way to do this is to turn negative self-talk around. For example, if you find you are often thinking things like “wow…that was pretty stupid of you,” change the message. Consider acknowledging a mistake when you make one and remind yourself that everything you do is not a mistake. Changing how you talk to or about yourself can increase your self-esteem and ability to love yourself for who you are inside and out.
Reach Out for Help
If your self-esteem is low, you may not feel confident. Finding the ability to lift yourself up and encourage self-love may seem impossible. Fortunately, you do not need to find it on your own. Sometimes, reaching out to someone outside your immediate circle can provide the unbiased and highly beneficial insight you need to turn the negative into something positive. A member of the team here at Meadowglade can work with you to learn healthier coping skills, which can improve your self-esteem. The therapy model used to address self-love and self-esteem struggles is called person-centered therapy. The idea of person-centered therapy is to work from the inside out because once you feel whole and happy inside, it will show on the outside.
Popular person-centered, evidence-based therapy models, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), help you examine the root emotions and feelings behind negative self-talk. Once you understand the source of negative emotions, it is possible to change those emotions into positive affirmations of self-worth and self-love.
Another effective therapy model is dialectical behavior therapy or DBT. Using elements of the dialectical behavior therapy model, you will work with your treatment team to learn a healthier, useful approach to steps you can take each day to improve your self-esteem.
Seeking help from the caring and compassionate team at Meadowglade can help you take the first steps towards improving self-esteem and self-love. Working to change your beliefs about yourself can improve how you feel and how you see yourself. Many people struggle with low self-esteem and self-love from early childhood into adulthood. Because they have experienced these emotions for so long, it can be difficult to challenge their beliefs and change their thoughts without help. If left untreated, low self-love could lead to new or worsening (sometimes severe) mental health issues, physical health issues, struggles with personal relationships, and even self-harm.
In addition to individual or one-to-one therapy sessions, you can try other self-care activities to improve your self-esteem. Activities including yoga and mindfulness meditation can help to slow your mind and allow you to listen to your thoughts. Mindfulness skills are highly beneficial in helping to alleviate anxiety and depression symptoms in addition to having a positive impact on your physical well-being. Also, consider activities such as journaling, gratitude lists, and peer activity groups.
If left unaddressed, persistent poor self-esteem and lack of self-love can lead to other mental health and physical health consequences. Seeking help from the team here at Meadowglade can help you learn more about the roots of your emotion and how to change them for the better. Through therapy, you can identify and understand the source of low self-esteem and how it continues to impact you today. You will also have the opportunity to process past negative experiences in a safe and supported setting. Often, past negative experiences play a role in low self-esteem today and in the future.
If struggles with low self-love are having a negative impact on your relationships, work responsibilities, social interactions, or other everyday situations, seeking help from the team at Meadowglade can help you start your journey to positivity and improved self-love. Our caring and compassionate team is here to help you learn more about our programs and how an individually designed treatment plan can help you better understand the roots of your struggles with self-love and self-esteem. If you or a loved one are ready to find a positive, healthier way to achieve self-love, contact our admissions team at Meadowglade today.