We hear it all the time – you have to love yourself. Sounds a little self-centered, doesn’t it? We’re bombarded with images and posts on social media and hear the chatter about loving yourself before you can love someone else, loving yourself so that you can feel good about who you are, and other platitudes. The images project smiling happy faces that must belong to really happy people. But, what does loving yourself really mean? You don’t feel that way every single day. Does this mean you don’t love yourself? Or that you’re somehow not worthy of love? Of course not. It’s not about perfection.

Loving yourself is more about the way you think about, value, and care for yourself. It is a way of being. It’s not about being conceited or selfish or self-centered. It’s about taking responsibility for yourself and making yourself a priority in your own world. Having a positive regard for yourself and doing things that are nurturing enhance your well-being and the way you interact with your world. It’s a quality you can learn to embrace and strengthen. Let’s take a closer look.

What Does Loving Yourself Even Mean?

Loving yourself means that you are able to accept yourself as you are and for who you are. You accept every aspect of yourself, even those things that you cannot change. In other words, you are able to have an unconditional positive regard and acceptance for yourself. You can embrace your strengths and acknowledge your limitations without judgment or diminishing your self-worth.

Loving yourself is not an all-or-nothing thing. There will be days when you’re super positive and proud. There will be days when you’ll struggle and don’t feel the love quite so much. And, there will be lots of days in between that you feel ok about being you.

The key to building a loving, accepting, and positive sense of self lies in laying a foundation of positivity and self-nurturance. In other words, you extend kindness and caring to yourself. You do things that send the message that you are valued, that you matter, that you are loved and worthy of love. It’s up to you to discover and nurture all the unique strengths and talents that you have. Loving yourself is learning to accept yourself instead of waiting for acceptance from others.

What Does Loving Yourself Look Like?

When it comes to loving yourself, it’s the little things that matter most. You don’t need complicated behavior plans or grand gestures.

Think about how you’d show love, appreciation, or respect to your best friend.

  • What are the things you might do for them?
  • What kinds of things would you say to them?
  • How might they feel receiving such kind words and deeds?

Now think about how it would feel to receive that same kindness and care? That’s where loving yourself begins. And, you can start where you are.

Loving yourself can take many forms and manifest in many ways. Here are my best tips to get you started:

Invest in yourself – Commit to doing what you need to do to keep yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. When you invest in yourself, you are sending a powerful message that you are all in and that you are worth the effort. Make the decision to extend the same loving care and kindness that you would to another person.

Practice self-compassion – Self-compassion means that instead of judging or criticizing, you extend kindness and understanding to yourself when confronted with personal failings or limitations. Self-compassion expert Kristin Neff describes successes and failures as simply things that “come and go—they neither define us nor do they determine our worthiness.”

Set healthy boundaries – Boundaries set guidelines for how you expect to be treated by others. They help you to stay aligned with your values, beliefs, and needs. Boundaries help to foster a positive self-concept, becoming less concerned about how you are viewed by others and more satisfied with the perceptions you have of yourself.

Practice self-care – Self-care can be many different things. Essentially, self-care involves doing things that help you to maintain your health and wellness. Health and wellness include caring for yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. How you approach self-care is very personal. A few of the many ways to practice self-care include:

  • Eating well
  • Getting good restorative sleep
  • Exercising regularly
  • Relaxation/stress reduction
  • Yoga or Tai Chi
  • Meditation
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Gratitude practice
  • Keeping health checkups
  • Engaging in pleasurable activities/hobbies
  • Spending quality time with friends and loved ones

Do your work – Doing your work means working through the emotional baggage that you carry. Unresolved issues, even those deeply buried, have a way of working their way back to the surface when you least expect it. This unfinished emotional business can make it hard to allow yourself to live fully and authentically in the present. Doing your work allows you to set those bags down and move forward in healthy ways. Depending on what’s in those bags, you might need some help working through those issues. Counseling can help.

Be accountable to yourself – If you commit to something, keep your promise to yourself. And, if you fall short, own it. No one is perfect and there will be challenges. It is part of life and they will come and go. Learn what you can from each experience and move forward.  When you honor your commitments to yourself, you are sending a powerful message to yourself that you matter. And your mind is listening.

Honor your truth – This is a hard one. It’s one thing to speak your truth. It’s quite another to live it. When you speak your truth you tell your story and express what you want and need. Honoring your truth means that you put action behind those words. Your actions reflect your words. You say what you mean and mean what you say. When you allow your words to guide you, your actions will support those words.

Nurture your spirit – Your spirit, or soul, is your life-force. It is what allows you to connect with something larger than yourself. Some people view it as connection with nature, the universe or even a higher power. It is your spirit that helps you live in harmony and in balance. Caring for your spirit is relaxing and rejuvenating. It can help you deal with the stresses of the day. People nurture their spirit in many ways including meditation, journaling, prayer, or getting out in nature.

Psychotherapy icon Viktor Frankl probably said it best: “Loving oneself is the starting point of the growth of the person who feels the courage to take responsibility for their own existence.” Loving yourself is something you do for you. When you love and care for yourself, you give yourself permission to live authentically and unapologetically.

Are you feeling courageous and wondering what truly loving yourself could mean for your life? Call me and let’s explore the possibilities!

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Until the next Opening the Doors post.

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