Self-love is a way to appreciate yourself, stemming from actions that support our psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual growth. Loving yourself means holding yourself in high regard, taking care of yourself, and being happy with where you are in life. It also means putting your needs first and not sacrificing your well-being to make sure others are happy. In other words, you don’t settle for less than you deserve!
Loving yourself can also mean something different for everyone because we all have different ways of practicing self-love and self-care. Figuring out your definition of self-love plays an important role in your mental and emotional health. Self-love can look like:
- Taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health
- Trusting yourself
- Setting healthy boundaries, such as learning to say no
- Acknowledging and validating your feelings
- Asking for help
- Avoiding comparisons
When we struggle with self-love, negative emotions may be more prevalent. Whether these emotions manifest internally or externally depends on the person, but they can include feelings of shame, guilt, loneliness, inadequacy, and anger.
When we don’t love ourselves, we may choose to engage in unsafe or risky activities – things that make us feel good at the moment but can be dangerous or have long-term consequences. Think gambling, drug and alcohol use, over-and undereating, and shopping beyond your means.
Is self-love the same as self-care?
Self-love focuses on the thoughts and feelings we have about ourselves, while self-care usually involves the actions we take. However, self-love is not – and should not be – a prerequisite for self-care. We must care for ourselves, whether we love ourselves or not. Loving ourselves isn’t a one-and-done process but rather a lifelong commitment to ourselves and our well-being.
How to Practice Self-Love
Create healthy habits.
Establishing healthy habits is imperative for loving yourself, but healthy habits need to involve more than just a morning routine or eating beneficial foods a few times a week. Implementing small changes throughout the day, every day can add up over time. Some options to consider include:
- Drink one extra glass of water
- Incorporate one plant-based meal
- Take a 10-minute walk
- Get ready for bed 30 minutes earlier
- Eat a healthy breakfast
Make yourself a priority.
Prioritizing yourself is an essential form of self-love because it demonstrates to others that you (and your time and energy) deserve and expect respect. This means putting your needs before the needs of others.
It isn’t selfish – it’s an act of self-love. Although we’re often taught from a young age to put our needs last (this is especially true for women), forgoing our own needs in lieu of helping others isn’t really helping anyone, least of all ourselves. We can’t pour from an empty cup.
Mindfulness doesn’t involve just meditation, although the two are closely intertwined. Yoga teacher and IIN graduate Ellen White explains that “one of the fastest, most direct routes to self-awareness and learning to truly love ourselves is meditation, which teaches us about mindfulness, forgiveness, compassion, and acceptance.” Practicing mindfulness can improve your health, too. Research shows that when weight-loss studies include mindfulness techniques, participants are more likely to lose weight and keep it off.
Learn your own love language.
Self-love is the building block of our health, our relationships, and our happiness. The five love languages are one way to learn how you like to be loved: Do you prefer surprise flowers or quality time doing nothing? A sweet “good morning” text or forehead kisses? Think about how you like to be loved and do those things for yourself.
Have compassion for yourself.
Self-compassion focuses on our relationship with ourselves and the desire to alleviate our own pain and suffering instead of putting our needs on the back burner. While being compassionate toward others typically has a positive connotation, self-compassion, on the other hand, can sometimes have a negative connotation by seeming narcissistic, self-pitying, or selfish. Practicing self-compassion can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and allow us to connect more deeply with ourselves.
Why Is Loving Yourself Important?
When we practice self-love, we learn to appreciate and value ourselves. Learning to love ourselves means that we don’t look for affirmation and affection from others – we don’t need friends, family, or strangers to tell us we’re good enough, attractive enough, or smart enough. We simply know it. This translates into higher self-esteem, since the value is coming from within instead of relying on external validation.
That being said, the idea that you must love yourself before anyone else can love you is not true. Because there’s no “final destination” in loving yourself – it’s truly a lifelong commitment that will ebb and flow as you go through the different phases of life – you can still find external love!
In fact, having others express their love for you can help you learn what love is (for you) and how to give and receive love. Ultimately, you must find the balance between loving yourself and loving others so that you don’t give up your sense of self at the expense of caring for others.
The Bottom Line
Although improving your self-esteem and learning to love yourself isn’t the easiest thing to do, it is possible! Building skills like gratitude and practicing mindfulness can be effective first steps to learning how to love yourself. Often, the journey to self-love starts with recognizing that you are worthy of love. It’s getting to that point that many of us struggle with – but the outcome is so worth it.