Who is most important person for you in the whole world? Who will always be with you through thick and thin? Who will love you no matter what ? This is the person who will never cheat on you and never leave you at any cost. However, if you don’t give enough love, kindness and care, that person may get upset or annoyed with you. Let me warn you. You can’t afford to offend that individual. The cost of such negligence is very high. So you better take very good care of the most beautiful person you have ever known or else be ready to face the dire consequences.
Your relationship with yourself is most important of all the relations you ever had and you will very have. The quality of your life depends on it. This article is an earnest effort to help you rejuvenate love within this wonderful relationship you have with yourself.
We will be addressing the most pressing questions about loving yourself including the following:
- How to love yourself when you have nothing to be proud of?
- How to be comfortable in your own skin, with who you are as you are?
- What are the things that stop you from loving yourself?
- How to practice unconditional self-acceptance?
- How to love yourself through the magic of forgiveness?
- How to love yourself by embracing your imperfections instead of fighting them?
- How you can learn to love yourself using the power of optimism?
Table of contents
- WHAT IS SELF-LOVE
- THE COST OF NOT LOVING YOURSELF
- WHY IS IT DIFFICULT TO LOVE YOURSELF?
- UNCONDITIONAL SELF-ACCEPTANCE
- YOUR ENERGY SPEAKS
- THE COSMIC PERSPECTIVE
- 15 PRACTICAL WAYS
- SELF-LOVING PRACTICES
- 50 THINGS YOU LIKE ABOUT YOURSELF
WHAT IS SELF-LOVE
Some people literally hate the idea of loving themselves because they identify it with narcissism, arrogance, egotism and superiority complex. This is a common misconception even in people who feel the need to love themselves but refrain from doing so because they consider it morally wrong. Aristotle also mentioned this impression that, “people criticize those who like themselves most, and call them by the deraogatory term ‘self-lovers’”.
This is an utter misrepresentation of the self-love we are talking about. Loving yourself means accepting yourself as who you are, without any judgment. However narcissism or arrogance is being obsessed with excessive admiration of oneself while at the same time considering other people inferior. Self-love is the source of self-respect, self-esteem and emotional well-being. Narcissism is the cause of egomania and absence of empathy for others. Actually, they are quite different.
Loving oneself is the starting point of the growth of the person who feels the courage to take responsibility for their own existence.Victor Frankl
Loving yourself is being kind to yourself. It is respecting the self-worth, fulfilling the needs, acknowledging the flaws and forgiving the mistakes. But it does not mean to be lazy, careless or irresponsible. Self-love does not entail avoiding uncomfortable situations, difficult conversations and undesired realities of life. It is about accepting the challenge to face the adversities and taking action to overcome them. Self-love is pre-requisite to living a peaceful, happy and fulfilling life.
THE COST OF NOT LOVING YOURSELF
Self-love is a kind of protective shield to defend us from vicious elements that keep attacking us all the time. You may be curious to know what those vicious elements are. They come in the form of criticism, insult, disapproval, ridicule, disrespect, rejection, hate, blame, name-calling, discouragement, failure, injustice, discrimination and many others. Will you be able to effectively handle even a few of these elements without loving yourself? I don’t think so. It would not be possible in the absence of healthy self-concept and unconditional self-love.
Therefore, the cost of not loving yourself is huge. The emotional impact of above challenges is intolerable for people with poor emotional management. These and similar other factors may result in depression, self-hate, unfounded fears, bitterness, shame, anxiety, resentment and inability to love and be loved. In some extreme cases, the absence of defensive system of self-love results in unfortunate incidents of suicide.
If you are too self-conscious or afraid to express your real self due to lack of self-love, you may not be able to experience life in its true spirit. The gift you can bring into this world through your authentic self can’t blossom without proper cultivation of loving behavior towards oneself. The research shows that self-love is necessary for development of authentic, emphatic and caring leadership which encourages employee engagement. However all is not lost yet. The candle of hope is still burning. You can break yourself free from the mindset of self-loathing and choose to brighten the deep chambers of your heart with radiance of love and unconditional self-acceptance.
Loving Others without Loving Yourself
Experience of love is the most beautiful feeling in the world. We all want to express love towards others and receive love in return. It is our psychological need. The question that arises here is, if you don’t feel love for yourself, is it still possible to love others?
Apparently, there seems no correlation between loving others and loving ourselves. But they are actually intertwined. If you are not familiar with the experience of true affection for yourself, other people may not feel it when you try to express it towards them. It is probably because you are feeling love towards others as you want them to love you back. In such case, this is not the expression of true unconditional love. It is not possible to love any other person until you love yourself. Loving yourself is prerequisite to loving others. How can you give something to someone which you yourself don’t have?
The quality of your relationship with other people is dependent on the quality of your relationship with yourself. This applies to all relations either romantic, professional or other personal relations. If you are deficient in self-love, you may be able to attract only those people who are as loving of themselves as you are. Furthermore, if self-love is lacking on both sides, it could easily lead to behaviors of self-consciousness, insecurity, resentment and victim attitude. A person without self love is susceptible to sabotage his healthy relationships with other people. Thus no relationship could flourish in the absence of sufficient love towards self.
WHY IS IT DIFFICULT TO LOVE YOURSELF?
As I often say, the solution to a problem starts with identification of the causes which created the problem. What stops you from loving yourself? There could be a single dominating factor or multiple reasons that are making you believe that you are not worthy of love even from yourself.
You may think “I can’t love myself because……”
- I m not attractive
- I don’t earn as much as the guy next door
- My boss thinks I am stupid
- I have not yet achieved anything to deserve self-love
- I hate my job
- I don’t want to look narcissistic
- I am not good enough
- I have disappointed my parents/partner/friends
- I have no girlfriend/boyfriend
- My partner thinks I am awkward
- My friends make fun of me
- No one truly loves me then how could I love myself
The list can go on and on. There could be as my justifications for not loving yourself as you can imagine. What is your personal favorite? No matter how long the list becomes, not even a single reason is good enough to justify your non-loving attitude towards yourself. Some of the reasons may appear partially true. But it does not mean they are justified. A burglar may have a dozen reasons including poverty and bad nurturing which compelled him to choose this profession. But his actions of robbing people can’t be deemed appropriate in any circumstances. The same rule applies for robbing yourself of love. Why are you choosing to steal and destroy your own joy and happiness by not loving yourself?
The answer to this question may be hidden under the dust of time that goes back to when you were a little kid. Actually most of the psychological issues people continue to face throughout their lives are rooted in their upbringing and mental programming by society. We are accustomed from the very beginning about the way we think, speak, behave, act and carry ourselves in the outer world. Most of the rules we are trained to follow are necessary for our survival and wellbeing. However, we are also susceptible to adopting self-damaging beliefs from our surroundings. Beliefs that teaches us we are unworthy, ordinary, unbearable and undeserving of love, respect and attention.
Have You Ever Been in Love?
If you have ever fallen in love, then you may know that how difficult it is to convince someone of your true love. It takes a lot of effort to gain their love and trust in return. It is never enough to say ‘I love you’ to your significant other only once. Even if they believe you, they want to hear it again and again and again and again…..
But when it comes to our own selves, it requires even more effort to convince ourselves of love and acceptance because we value external validation more than the internal. Loving ourselves is a continuous process just like expressing love to our loved ones. So you need to keep expressing love through carefully chosen thoughts, words as well as appropriate loving actions towards the most lovable person you have ever known that is YOURSELF.
If you don’t love yourself, how could you expect others to love you? If you don’t accept who you truly are, why are you expecting such acceptance from others? You must first give unconditional acceptance, radical acceptance to yourself.
Love yourself as you want others to love you.
Accept yourself as you want others to accept you.
You may ask, what does self-acceptance actually means?
Glad you asked. Self-acceptance is making peace with complete package of YOU with no preconditions. It is radical acceptance of all strengths & weaknesses, qualities & deficiencies and successes & failures. It is not dependent on any external factor. It is the basis of unconditional self-love. Research also indicates that low unconditional self-acceptance is detrimental to well-being and in some cases, it could lead to mental health issues and disorders.
There are two aspects of self-acceptance:
1. Physical Acceptance
It is possible that you may blame God for doing injustice of bringing you into this world in such family, ethnic group, race or country which you are not proud of. It is possible that you may dislike your genetic composition or cultural background. There are people who feel ashamed and inferior because they don’t have their desired skin color, height and other physical characteristics. You probably can’t do much about these aspects (except plastic surgery of course). So how should you deal with it?
Here comes the role of unconditional self-acceptance. But why would you accept such nasty things (in your opinion) about you when they are considered inferior and have no social worth in your specific culture? But let me ask you, if you can’t convince yourself to accept as immutable as the color of your eyes, or shape of your butt, then what is the alternate? The alternate is shame, fear, and constant effort to cover up your perceived faults by living an inauthentic and fictitious life. So you better accept this unchangeable part of your being or face the consequences.
Actually, there is nothing wrong to be born with certain characteristics. It is as natural as having your nose between your eyes and lips (you don’t complain about it, do you?). You have no role in deciding your genetic setup. The concept of beauty and importance based on physical appearance is a construct of human mind, not a divine principal. So there should never be a question of feeling shame or inferior about it. However it becomes really difficult to get rid of such emotions when we constantly compare ourselves with others and give priority to their opinions over our own. IN the end, the only viable solution is to muster up the courage to rise above the judgments of society.
2. Metaphysical Acceptance
Beyond our physical aspects, there are other factors that make 2nd half of the whole package of you. Fortunately, they are not carved in stone as your genes. They may be your personality, confidence, communication style, emotional intelligence, knowledge, skills, temperament and many other such factors that have the power to compensate the genetic shortcomings (if there really are). However, it is possible that you may not be as good in these traits at the moment as you want to be. So should you still give yourself unconditional acceptance even if you have faults that could be fixed?
Yes, you should accept yourself despite having these conquerable deficiencies. If you are waiting to be perfect in order to accept yourself, then I have a bad news for you. Your may have to wait forever because you are never going to be perfect. It is not an achievable target. No one is perfect no matter how great someone appears on the surface. All the people you praise and idealize live imperfect lives like you and me. People look like they have much better lives than they really do. They just show you their bright side and hide the dark aspects. You must accept yourself fully along with your imperfections. Accepting your flaws does not mean that you can’t or should not improve yourself. You must do everything in your power to overcome your deficiencies. In reality, this is most potent form of self-love.
YOUR ENERGY SPEAKS
A person who does not love himself emits different kind of energy from someone who loves himself. We can sense different forms of energy in different people. You may have come across someone by experiencing strong feel of their energy at some point in your life. Sometimes, when you meet a person for the first time, you immediately connect with him. Something feels mysteriously good even if you don’t know much about them. They appear trustworthy and likeable. It is their energy communicating with you.
There is no scientific instrument yet available to detect this powerful force of life. Does that mean this mysterious energy does not exist? You would not say the same about the existence of atoms before they were discovered by J. J. Thomson in 1897. Would you?
Love is contagious, so does absence of it.
If you are emitting non-loving energy, people will sense it. They will reciprocate it with similar non-loving energy through their words and behaviors. A lot of people complain why no one likes them. The question they need to ask is; do I really like myself? Do I love myself in true sense? Perhaps they don’t. That could be the reason other people also don’t like them and respond negatively towards them. People can sense their non-loving attitude towards their own selves.
Express Unconditional Love to Others
The only way to transform your non-loving negative energy into loving positive energy is through producing unconditional love within the powerful chambers of your heart. We can fully experience the feeling of love by giving it not just when we receive it. When you start to express love towards other imperfect people, it becomes easier to love and accept the imperfect you.
It’s easy to love a perfect God, unblemished and infallible that He is. What is far more difficult is to love fellow human beings with all their imperfections and defects.Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love
Send continuous, unlimited and unconditional love to everyone you meet. Express it through your words, eyes and demeanor. Feel the divine loving energy coming out of your heart and positively influencing other people. Feel a loving aura around you. Emit love through your presence to everyone your encounter with no discrimination at all. See yourself as the source of pure divine love into this world. This is the only way to cancel the negative emotional charge and turn it into positive loving force.
Pro tip: Send love to the person you don’t agree with or who disagree with you on some matter. Let me warn you, it would be far from easy, but I promise this is well worth it.
Love is the magic wand you need in order to create joy and bliss into your life. When you silently feel love for others, something mysterious begins to happen. You experience enormous amount of loving energy within your heart, mind and body. You observe that people start to respond in more loving ways towards you. Actually you create the spark of love by expressing it unconditionally and it starts spreading and influencing people in your surroundings.
THE COSMIC PERSPECTIVE
As we scientifically know that universe consists of two components; matter and energy. These two could change their form but can’t be eliminated from the universe. Therefore, your physical as well as spiritual existence will never cease to exist. Your body is composed of matter which will continue to exist even after your death. Your physical body will surely decompose and transform to other forms of matter but will remain in existence forever in one shape or another. As ironic as it may see, you are physically eternal. The same is true for your spiritual self.
Therefore when we say that ‘you are integral part of this universe and it is incomplete without you’, this statement is logically accurate. In the presence of this scientific evidence, how could you think that you are not important or valuable? You are as much important as any other person or entity in the whole world could be. The universe is literally incomplete without you. You are absolutely the integral part of this entire universe.
How can you still not love yourself knowing your status and place in the universe?
HOW TO LOVE YOURSELF
15 PRACTICAL WAYS
Loving yourself is more than just a state of mind—it also reflects in a series of actions and habits that you embed into your everyday life. Action is another dimension of loving yourself besides words. Love is noun but more importantly, love is also a verb. It is something we do, not just feel. So in order to experience love for someone else or even for yourself, you have to act. Let’s find out what specific actions you can take and what practices you can adopt to nourish self-loving attitude.
Here are 15 powerful way to help you learn how to love yourself:
1. Learn to Forgive
Forgiveness is the most beautiful gift you can give to yourself. This is true for both; forgiving others as well as forgiving yourself.
The more you think and feel about something, the stronger the brain’s neuron connections become and even more you start thinking and feeling about it. If you keep repeating the thoughts of a painful experience, those thoughts will reinforce the pain and make you angry, frustrated and hateful. The solution to free yourself from pain of past trauma and hurt is forgiveness. It is an antidote to emotional wounds. Love and forgiveness are two companions that complement each other. Where there is one, you will also find the other.
Our ego doesn’t want us to forgive. It wants to hold on to the hurt, hate and desires to take revenge. It does not know how to forgive. It also does not know why to forgive. Allow me to explain the why part.
The more you forgive others, the easier it becomes for you to forgive yourself.
Forgive for your own sake, not for someone else. It is the most beautiful gift you could give to yourself. Forgiveness can free you from the negative influence of the past. It will heal your emotional wounds and make you peaceful and calm. It carries tremendous health and social benefits. Dr. Everett L. Worthington from Virginia Commonwealth University in his extensive research on forgiveness found that it has benefits such as high self-esteem, better moods, and happier relationships. Therefore, forgive because you need to move on, not hold on to the pain and suffering of the past. This is good enough reason to crush your ego by giving unconditional forgiveness to others. You even don’t need to tell them about it. Forgive in your heart and enjoy the magical benefits of this powerful spiritual practice.
2. Silence Your Inner Critic
We are the most severe critics of ourselves. This is true for majority of us. The reason may be the culture and upbringing because we receive too much criticism and too little praise throughout our lives. If you talk to your friend the way you talk to yourself in your mind, your friendship may finish right there.
We humans are negativity biased. Negative things attract us more than the positive ones. Negative events seem more exciting. We remember criticism much longer than the praise. When it comes to evaluating ourselves, we even don’t consider small achievements and good behaviors praiseworthy. However if we do something wrong no matter how tiny it is, we keep condemning ourselves in our minds for days and weeks.
This behavior needs to change for harnessing the love of self. A little bit of inner reflection and self-accountability is required for learning and growth. However, excessive self-condemnation and constant criticism act as poison to self-love. Therefore, learn to stop negative self-talk. The best way is to be mindful of your own thinking. Meditation could be very helpful for increasing self awareness. Whenever you catch yourself thinking negative and self-depreciating thoughts, immediately replace them with positive ones.
Treat yourself like your best friend. Nudge him whenever you want. Challenge him to do uncomfortable things. Laugh at him as well as with him when he does blunders. Don’t take him too serious. Use criticism to motivate him, not to downgrade him. Practice self-compassion and be more kind to yourself just like you would be with your best buddy.
3. Let Go of Your Reputation
Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.Lois McMaster Bujold
With due apology from Bujold, I would like to alter this quote a bit. “Your reputation is how people perceive you and your honor is how you perceive yourself”. Our whole sense of reality is based on perception. The perception is most powerful tool if used appropriately and most destructive if not taken care of. So let go of your reputation in other people’s minds because it is merely their perception. It belongs to them. Their perceptions about you are coming from their own beliefs, their knowledge, past experiences & observations about you and others. They can’t define you because they have no idea who you actually are. Their judgments can only define themselves, not you. As American Cartoonist Alison Bechdel said this beautifully:
Whatever we say, we’re always talking about ourselves.
In fact, your reputation does not belong to you. It belongs to those who hold it in their minds. They may criticize you, try to embarrass you, put labels on you or may consider you an idiot. How people define you is of lesser importance than how you define yourself. Nothing matters more than your opinion about yourself. Don’t borrow your opinion from others. Try to make yourself above any of that. Remember that you are soon going to die so they don’t matter anyway. When you realize impermanence of this world, you will get to know that your reputation is not really that important.
The trick is not caring what everybody thinks of you and just caring about what the right people think of you.Brian Michael Bendis
As regards your own perception, it is within your control. Never perceive yourself as stupid, incompetent, ugly or insignificant. Stop your inner chatter as soon as you realize that you are thinking destructive thoughts. Create a powerful positive picture in your mind of a person deserving of love and respect. Visualize yourself as someone you aspire to be. Don’t be shy or reluctant to dream big about your future self and your desired place in society.
4. Keep Promises to Yourself
There are two kinds of promises we make with ourselves. First are the immediate commitments with the self; they are in the form of routines, habits, schedules, and disciplines we decide to follow on day to day basis. These could be waking up early, daily workout, reading a book every week, cleaning your room, abstaining from junk food, completing an assignment by certain date, or any short-term goal you set in your mind. The second form of promises to yourself comes from the values and principles that you decide to live by. They could be being trustworthy, respectful, abstinence from foul language, never cheating, keeping your words and any other traits that define your character.
It is critical to fulfill both forms of promises to become more loving towards yourself. You may ask, ‘why? what is the connection between love and self-commitments?’ Let me tell you the reason. Will you respect someone who does not keep his words? Neither do I. Then how can we respect ourselves if we can’t even trust ourselves to do the things we say we are going to do. When we don’t keep our own words, then respecting ourselves is out of question.
But what respect has to do with loving yourself? A lot. Respect comes first and love comes afterwards. It is not possible to love someone without respecting them. Your love implies that you have respect for the person you love. Therefore, you must build credibility with yourself by becoming self-disciplined and living by your values.
When we don’t keep promises, we not only lose respect in eyes of other people, but we also lose respect for ourselves. Therefore fulfill promises you make with yourself and others. Become a responsible human being. Never break your own trust. Do not do anything you will regret later. It could be not waking up early, missing your exercise, having casual sexual encounter or whatever it is that is against your principles. Do those things that will make you feel proud and satisfied in the long term. In short, live with integrity.
5. Take Care of Your Needs
We care for the people we love the most. So taking care of yourself comes natural if you truly love yourself. In order to become more self-loving, you need to fulfill your important needs. Our needs come from four different dimensions i.e. physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. Let’s briefly talk about each one of them:
Physical Needs: Our body is the temple where our soul resides. It is the most prominent aspect of our existence. Our body demands high maintenance to keep functioning at optimal level. Ask yourself the following questions in order to know if you are fulfilling your physical needs:
- Am I taking sufficient amount of sleep? (6 to 8 hours)
- Am I eating balanced, healthy and nutritious diet at least 5 days a week? (More veggies, fruits, pulses, less meat, less sugar/salt, 8 glasses of water)
- Am I doing enough physical activity every day? (30 minutes of: Exercise, jog, hiking, trekking or cycling)
- Am I maintaining good personal hygiene? (Basic Hygiene: Daily shower, brushing teeth, washing hands before eating & after toilet. regular trimming nails & hair, daily changing socks & undergarments etc.)
Mental Needs: Mind is like any other muscle in the body. As our body needs physical exercise, our mind also requires mental exercise to remain in good shape. If we don’t exercise our mental muscle, it deteriorates and does not work efficiently either affecting our creativity or memory. Here are a few suggestions to keep your mind active and young through continuous learning:
- Read at least one non-fiction book every month
- Listen to podcast or audio books during commute
- Take online courses & attend seminars to improve your skills
- Watch documentaries on topics that interest you
Spiritual Needs: We are more than our bodies. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin beautifully said, ‘we are spiritual beings having a human experience’. If we remain busy in fulfilling our physical needs and ignore our spiritual needs, it will take away serenity, true joy and deep satisfaction that comes with living a purposeful life. We can renew our spiritual dimension through following activities:
- Practice daily meditation for at least 20 minutes (Believe me, it is easier than you think and worth it)
- Practice gratitude for anything and everything in your life
- Connect with the higher divine power (either through your religious practices, or spend time in nature)
- Get involved with some charity to help poor and needy people
Emotional Needs: These are our psychological needs we have to fulfill in order to live joyous and fulfilling lives. The important emotional needs are love, attention, belongingness and the need to have a purpose. If we don’t recognize and fulfill our emotional needs, they are going to create enormous troubles in all areas of our lives. We can fulfill emotional needs through:
- Maintaining healthy relationship with family members
- Nurturing trustworthy friendships
- Joining social groups and communities
- Setting goals (either small or large) and making efforts to achieve them
The ultimate form of self-love is taking very good care of yourself. When you love yourself, you endeavor to grow physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. You make effort to appear and feel your best by nurturing your body, mind and spirit. These practices may seem simple, but they send a very direct and powerful message to your subconscious mind that you are worthy of being cared for!
6. Get Rid of Toxic People
You do a disservice to yourself if you remain around the people who are disrespectful, cynical, unappreciative, mocking and hateful. Don’t get me wrong. We need people in our lives who are courageous enough to show us the mirror and identify our mistakes in a constructive way. However, there should be no tolerance for the discouraging people who want to drag us down into misery and spread negativity into our minds and lives.
Delete, unfollow, unfriend, block, erase and disconnect form anyone and anything that robs you of your peace, love and happiness. Not just on social media, but in real life too. You don’t need to be around people who don’t see and appreciate your value.
Don’t let your loneliness make you reconnect with toxic people. You should not drink poison just because you are thirsty.
Besides toxic people, unhealthy and non-nourishing environments also affect your capacity to love yourself. The people in such environment may not be cruel towards you, but their thinking, perceptions and attitude about different issues may be unhealthy. They may be negative, judgmental, lazy, non-supportive, pessimistic or chronic complainers. Their negative energy will influence your thinking and behavior. Get away from those people and environment where such behaviors are dominant in the culture.
7. Send Love to Your Body
How to love yourself when you body is not ideal? How to love yourself when you don’t look the way you want to? How to love yourself when you don’t like anything you see in the mirror? Certainly, it is challenging to love and accept yourself when you have nothing to be proud of. But is it really the case? Do you actually have nothing to appreciate yourself? You probably have a lot of things to appreciate. But you may be unable to see them because the benchmark and standard you have set for beauty and attractiveness is very high.
In fact, the standard for physical appearance we have been persuaded to believe is the real culprit because it is unrealistic. It has been given to us by advertising industry and social media. You may have pimpled face, bald head, disorganized teeth, skinny or fat body. What these things tell about you? Nothing. You are much more than your body. You will be told that your body isn’t slim enough, your face isn’t pretty enough or your personality isn’t charming enough. The idea of perfect body sold by corporate advertising media is unreasonable and rooted in vested financial interests. I bet there is not a single person on this planet who does not hate something about their physical appearance, even the people we admire for their good looks.
If you are finding it difficult to accept your physique for its apparent unattractiveness and feeling embarrassed about it, then you need to learn to love your body. As you may recall that love is a verb, thus solution to your problem lies in radical acceptance. Instead of hating yourself for having an imperfect body, stand in front of mirror (yes, naked), look at the aspect of your body you do’t like, feel love in your heart for that body part and express love towards it. Gently touch that body part with your hand and transfer your loving energy into it. Do this practice daily for 30 days and see how your hate transforms into acceptance and appreciation.
But you may ask the question, what if I could overcome my flaws? Why should I send love to those aspects of my body I really hate and want to change? This becomes paradoxical that you love some part of your body and still want to change it. But contrary to popular belief, loving something does not necessarily mean holding onto it. You can love it and let it go. Instead of fighting the ugly aspects, change them with love, if possible. It is like convincing someone to do something for you by expressing your love towards them. We do this all the time. Thus express love to accept, change, improve and grow, not just your body but your whole character and personality.
8. Express Your Authentic Self
Expressing your authentic self means sharing you true feelings, thoughts, ideas, opinions and needs where it really matters. Becoming authentic also means not trying to fit in, not pretending to be someone else just to please others or to be accepted in a group or society. However, be aware that genuineness and authenticity does not endorse being blunt, loud or disrespectful to others.
When you hide you authentic self, you actually say to your true self; ‘you are unworthy, you are unlovable, you are unacceptable, you don’t deserve to be you, therefore I will keep you hidden from the world’. How can you love yourself if you are sending such messages to your subconscious mind?
Becoming authentic is no doubt challenging as we are not encouraged to be authentic. People are compelled to hide their true feelings, thoughts and opinions. There is great amount of risk of rejection, ridicule and condemnation for daring to be yourself. One of my all time favorite quotes is from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Expressing our real thoughts and feelings makes us vulnerable to judgments, criticism and disapproval. It makes us uncomfortable. It becomes even more difficult when there is pressure to conform to the norms, where conformity is considered a virtue and uniqueness a vice as if being different is a curse or a disease.
If you try to hide your true self due to shame and embarrassment, you are exposing yourself to even more shame. The best way to get rid of shame is to face it. Express what make you feel embarrassed. In this way, it will lose power over you.
The most important trait required for authenticity is courage; and courage is built by small courageous acts on consistent basis. Being authentic is a continuous process. It takes consistent tiny acts of authenticity that can transform you into a genuine and authentic person. Find the small opportunities to express your authenticity on day to day basis. It requires a lot of courage, emotional strength, patience and high tolerance for discomfort. Start challenging yourself to handle the discomfort, judgments and dislike of other people by behaving and acting in authentic ways as often as possible.
9. Give Yourself First-Class Treatment
Try to go first-class whenever you can whether you are travelling, dining out, buying new clothes or carrying yourself in a social gathering. Don’t deprive yourself of best experiences of life. Be generous towards yourself. Allow yourself to enjoy good things in life wherever possible.
Don’t get me wrong. It is not about money, it is the mindset of prioritizing yourself. This has nothing to do with flying first class when you can merely afford economy. I am not encouraging you to go beyond your means. Of course, you should take wise financial decisions and only buy things you can easily afford. If you get yourself into burden of huge debt in order to experience luxury, it will do more harm than benefit in the long run.
Most people are so cruel to themselves that if they think about and treat others the same way as they do to themselves, their relationship could get in deep trouble. The best gift you can give to anybody is time and attention. Ask yourself, are you giving enough time to yourself? Do you treat yourself the same way as someone you love? Do you fulfill your needs; do you pamper yourself when you are feeling down? Let the answers to these questions guide you because these are the best ways to give yourself first class treatment.
10. Stop Comparing Yourself with Others
When we compare ourselves to others, we are most likely to get disappointed. We will always come across someone who is better than us in one way or another. The dilemma of comparison is that we mostly tend to focus on people who are more wealthy, good looking or famous, instead of those who are less privileged than us.
You could argue that comparison is good thing because it motivates us to do better, work harder and achieve more. In theory, yes. However in reality, this comparison thing makes us feel jealous, negative and complaining. This either discourages us to make any effort or encourages us to use dubious means to reach upto the level of people we compare with.
The only comparison you should make with your past self. See how far you have come and how far you could go.
Comparison is a big NO for people who love themselves. It deprives us of the peace of mind. It demands us to suppress our authentic self and try to be someone else. Comparison is actually the worst form of non-loving attitude towards self. Although you can get inspiration from others but you cannot become exactly like anyone else. Instead of looking outward, find support, encouragement and motivation from within. Define goals and targets based on your own purpose that originates from inside, instead of adopting success criteria from other people or society.
11. Embrace Your Imperfections
I am imperfect so are you. This is an undeniable fact. We have physical imperfections, cognitive deficiencies and emotional weakness. You may not be as good looking as you want to be. You may not be as competent as needed to understand everything around you. You may see yourself emotionally weak and vulnerable.
There is no need to fight with yourself for such imperfections. They are normal. Our imperfections make us human. Accept the imperfections of life. There will be times when you will not like some aspect of your life. That is fine. No need to sweat the small stuff and be upset about it. There will be times when you feel guilt and regrets for your past behaviors. Let go of it. Embrace the part of you that is pessimistic, lazy, depressed, violent, crude and offensive. Instead of fighting it, try to change it with love and compassion.
Our imperfections make us perfect. We are perfectly imperfect.
Let me be honest with you. People will be cruel in their opinions, critical in their judgments and attacking in their responses. They will not leave any opportunity to bring you down. You have to be mentally prepared for this. Whenever someone points out a flaw or criticize you for any mistake, instead of getting angry, defensive or depressed, acknowledge their feedback. Tell them that their opinion may be valid. Afterwards, evaluate the feedback and start working on the aspects you can improve, and let go of those which are out of your control.
However, don’t judge yourself all the time. Become more compassionate towards your flaws as you would be with your loved ones. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Be at peace with your imperfect self and love him unconditionally. Accept the child within along with its blemishes. See yourself as a child looking for unconditional love, support and guidance from the adult version of you.
12. Pursue Your Goals
Our goals create meaning in our lives. When we work on our goals, we feel that we are doing something worthwhile. Our sense of self-worth comes from doing the work we think is important. Goals have magical power that fills us with enthusiasm, passion and energy.
When you will set some inspiring goals for yourself, they will make you feel alive and vibrant. These goals don’t need to be world changing, although the bigger the better. However, you can simply set small daily, weekly and monthly goals in the areas of your profession, health, relationships, spirituality, finances, hobbies and anything that deserves your time and attention. Define specific outcome, set target date and make a schedule to work on the goal.
Every time you take action and achieve something, it builds confidence in you. Whether you are able to achieve the goal or not, the mere pursuit of an important goal will create joy, excitement and inspiration into your life. The process of pursuing goals will make you love your life and ultimately make you love yourself.
13. Make Fun Time a Priority
The ultimate purpose of living a good life is to enjoy it. If you are doing everything to earn more money, achieve bigger goals and acquire respectable status in the society but not prioritizing time to have fun and enjoyment, then you are missing out big.
Keep your inner child alive who enjoys each and every moment and don’t wait for something to happen to experience the beauty of life. Do not deprive yourself of little pleasures in pursuit of grand vision. Instead learn to keep them aligned. There is a powerful concept I learned from Vishen Lakhiani of Mindvalley. He talks about the delicate balance of ‘Happy in the Now’ and ‘Vision for the Future’. You must have goals as we discussed earlier but your happiness should not depend on those goals. Actually, your current level of happiness make it more probably that you would be able to achieve your long term goals.
You may be wondering what fun time I am talking about? No, this is not about attending a grand concert or going on world tour. Although I am not ruling them out either, I am referring to subtle forms of fun and joy. This could be pursuing a hobby, playing a music instrument, watching your favorite movie, trying a different restaurant, visiting a new city, going on a long walk with an old friend, spending evening in the garden reading your favorite novel or anything that rejuvenates your spirit and refills your ’emotional energy tank’.
14. Celebrate Your Achievements
It is irony of the modern world that we are so keen on accumulating money, medals and titles that we have no time to enjoy the fruits of our efforts. There is even a bigger irony that we refuse to consider small progress, tiny successes and little gains any achievement at all. We are not ready to settle for less than the best. That looks good on surface but it is not sensible to throw out the ‘good enough’ in search of the best.
Be happy on little progress and celebrate the small achievements. Give yourself credit for tiny improvements you make in any area of your life. Reward yourself in some way every time you do something good. The little successes often become the stairs for great accomplishments. Every new achievement is built on the foundations of your earlier triumphs. Therefore, make it a practice to recognize the progress you are making no matter how small it is. If the growth remains consistent, you will receive compound effect of your small wins. These little victories could soon turn out to be astonishing success you may have never even imagined before.
15. Maintain a Complement File
Create a complement file and write down every complement you receive in this file. Review your complement file at least once in a month, especially when you are feeling down.
When someone praises you for something, don’t respond in a way to lessen it. Do not say that you are not that special, or everyone can do that etc. Learn to accept praise with dignity. Express your acknowledgment by saying ‘thank you’.
Another way to receive complement is by giving complement. But it must be genuine. Praise people generously. Make someone’s day by expressing true affection toward them. Bring smile on someone’s face and make their day. Instead of being overly self-conscious, find little things to complement others. It could be a dress, shoes, watch, or their smile. It could be their knowledge, an opinion, a presentation or any achievement. If you pay attention, you will find multiple reasons to complement others because everyone has something unique or special about them. When you try to create joy into people’s lives, it will come back to you. This is divine karma.
HOW TO LOVE YOURSELF
Loving yourself is a practice just like meditation or workout. I want to share with you specific techniques and daily practices to help you learn how to love yourself even more. These exercises will help you discover and keep yourself aligned with the deeper truth of who you truly are.
When we repeat a thought in our mind with emotional intensity, it strengthens and creates more of similar thoughts. Therefore it is very important that we continuously censor what thoughts are running the show of our mind. An effective way to get rid of negative and self depreciating thoughts is to fill our minds with the powerful positive thoughts of our choice using affirmations.
For those of you who are not familiar with this concept, affirmations are simple phrases which you repeat to yourself, loud or in the head, to create more of desired thoughts and feelings in your mind and body. As we have discussed earlier, we are the product of our thoughts. Affirmations can help us change our self-image and our perceptions about the world around us.
Everything we think or say is a form of affirmation.
You can create as many affirmations as you want, in any area of your life. Just keep in mind that they should be positive and in present tense. However, as the focus of this article is to help you learn how to love yourself, here is my recommended affirmation for the purpose:
- I love myself exactly as I am.
- I accept myself exactly as I am.
- I am enough.
Use these affirmations whenever you can and wherever you can. It is best to start and end your day by pampering yourself with these positive words. Express these affirmations with emotional intensity and feel their truth sinking into your heart and mind.
2. Daily Mirror Work
I am about to share with you a deeply transforming exercise I have learned from Lisa Nichols. The exercise is called ‘Daily Mirror Work’ where you have to complete 3 sentences with 7 different endings for each sentence. The reason it is called mirror work is that you have to complete these sentences while standing in front of the mirror and staring into your eyes.
Here are the sentences:
- Naveed, I am proud that you…………………..
- Naveed, I forgive you for …………….
- Naveed, I commit to you that…………………
You may have come across ‘fill in the blank’ questions in your school; these questions are similar. The only twist is that there is no wrong answer. Every answer is right answer. Try to create different sentences every day. You just have to awaken you imagination and create seven different endings for each questions. Here are the examples to get you going:
Naveed, I am proud that you…………………..
- Naveed, I am proud that you have done exercise today
- Naveed, I am proud that you helped the elderly woman last week
- Naveed, I am proud that you worked hard and passed that exam
- Naveed, I am proud that you realized your mistake and said sorry to him/her
- Naveed, I am proud that you are working hard to achieve your goal
- Naveed, I am proud that you persisted despite failures, discomfort and embarrassments
- Naveed, I am proud that you are learning how to love yourself unconditionally
Naveed, I forgive you for …………….
- Naveed, I forgive you for ruining your relationships
- Naveed, I forgive you for being too weak and emotional
- Naveed, I forgive you for being ignorant
- Naveed, I forgive you for getting yourself into huge debt
- Naveed, I forgive you for lying/cheating/abusing others
- Naveed, I forgive you for being coward to take action in the past
- Naveed, I forgive you for hurting his/her feelings
Naveed, I commit to you that…………………
- Naveed, I commit to you that I will full my promises with myself and others
- Naveed, I commit to you that I will love myself more than anybody else
- Naveed, I commit to you that I will work out daily
- Naveed, I commit to you that I will get rid of bad habit of smoking/drinking/drugs etc
- Naveed, I commit to you that I will work every day to achieve my goals
- Naveed, I commit to you that I will take care of my mental and emotional needs
- Naveed, I commit to you that I will never run away from my responsibilities
So, everyday, stand in front of mirror, look into your eyes with passion and communicate the these phrases to yourself in as way as if your life depends on these words.
3. Practice Gratitude
As simple and ordinary as it may seem, gratitude is the easiest and one of the most effective ways to make peace with yourself. Appreciating the good things we have is necessary to realize their value and experience the comfort they bring into our lives.
However there is another counter-intuitive aspect of gratitude that our pleasure seeking and pain avoiding lizard brain does not let us consider. It is about being grateful for everything you have experienced without judgments. Either you succeeded or failed in something, be grateful. Either someone helped you or dragged you down, be grateful. Either you achieved something or lost it, be grateful.
But why would you appreciate anyone or anything which created discomfort, troubles or humiliation? Good question. The reason of expressing gratitude for everyone and everything is because they made you who you are today. A challenging situation and a nasty person can teach us the lessons, which could transform our lives. The gratitude practice tells us to look at everything as if it was there to teach us something; It is upto you to either learn the lesson, or keep complaining for the rest of your life.
So, keep a daily gratitude journal to write down three things you appreciate in your life. They could be events, people or things you may have come across in the past or happening right now. Big or small does not matter. The thing that matters is you appreciate the good things for the happiness they bring and bad things for the valuable lessons they teach you.
50 THINGS YOU LIKE ABOUT YOURSELF
It is true that no one is perfect but it is also true that no one is altogether garbage. We all have combination of positive and negative traits. If you can’t see and appreciate the good qualities in yourself beyond a few, it is because you have not tried enough to identify and acknowledge them. You may be busy in finding faults in yourself that you don’t feel the need to accept the positive aspects of your character and personality.
In the end, I want you to complete this challenge by writing down 50 qualities (at least) about different aspects of our life including your appearance, education, knowledge, skills, career, habits, friendships, family, hobbies, talents and your past achievements. Write down everything you like about yourself no matter how small it is.
This exercise is an attempt to help you discover a beautiful, talented and lovable part of you that you may not be aware of. After going through this exercise, you will be amazed by how ignorant you were of your own self. It will give you a better understanding of your strengths, qualities and abilities. They will surely give you more reasons to love yourself.
Here are just a few questions you may ask yourself in order to discover your positive traits:
- What are the three habits I am most proud of?
- List of 5 things I am great at doing.
- What are my favorite aspects of my personality?
- What are the 5 things I like about my body?
- What 3 qualities make me unique or different?
- What are the things most people like about me?
- List of past achievement I am proud of.
- 5 people I am most grateful for in my life.
- What I like about my character and values?
- What complements I often receive from people?
FINAL WORDS OF CAUTION
As you begin the wonderful journey towards loving yourself and start showing signs of self-love by carrying yourself with self-respect and dignity, this may make some people feel uncomfortable and even threatened. They are used to a person who is self-depreciating, have no self-respect and does not stand up for himself. Therefore, it may be difficult for them to accept a transformed version of you in the beginning. They may try to ‘put you in your place’. They may criticize you, ridicule you and make you feel inferior in your own eyes, just to avoid their own discomfort.
You have to be cautious of such treatment. Don’t take any of this personal. No need to fight back. Just smile, send love towards them and know in your heart that their discomfort is coming from their inability to accept a new version of you. Overtime, they will learn to accept your new identity and become comfortable with it.
I congratulate you for embarking on this amazing journey towards discovering a wonderful, worthy and lovable person within you.