Advice on how to love yourself is everywhere these days. When you visit a gift shop you like, you might see candles that promote self-love with pretty stones, decks of cards with positive messages, and pillows with quotes about being kind to yourself.
On social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, you might come across people who call themselves influencers giving self-love tips. However, their advice often oversimplifies things and ignores the real reasons why someone might struggle with feeling good about themselves.
How to Love Yourself
This kind of advice can sometimes be unhelpfully positive, like what was shown funnily in a TV show called Euphoria.
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably looking for some help on how to love yourself. Keep reading for practical tips on how to genuinely love yourself — without needing to read inspirational quotes (but they’re okay if they help you!).
Think of self-love as something you work on regularly, not a place you reach and stay forever
It’s not about being constantly in love with yourself, and you can define it in a way that feels right for you. If the word “love” doesn’t fit, you can aim for feeling okay with yourself or simply neutral.
According to experts, we often imagine love as perfect and then try to make self-love the same way, but that’s not realistic. Whitney Goodman, who wrote a book about staying real in a world focused on happiness, says it’s okay if we don’t love every part of ourselves all the time. Just like in long-term relationships, some days will be easier than others.
Sometimes, loving yourself means being committed, accepting, or just neutral, says psychologist Alexandra Solomon. And remember, changing how you think about yourself won’t happen overnight. Being kinder and more accepting of yourself is like building a habit – it takes practice.
Remember, you don’t have to love everything about your life to love or accept yourself
Think of how your loved ones support you even when you’re not at your best. Would you show the same kindness to yourself? Many of us struggle with this. Adia Gooden, a psychologist, suggests that when we realize we don’t need to be perfect to be loved by others or ourselves, we can start accepting and maybe even loving ourselves.
Accepting your mistakes and imperfections can be tough. When working with clients, Whitney Goodman, who practices dialectical behavior therapy, sees that much suffering comes from wishing things were different.
To truly accept ourselves, we should first acknowledge our reality. Ignoring reality can keep us stuck in negative self-talk. Instead, acknowledging what’s happening without judgment can help us accept and move forward. Remember, acceptance doesn’t mean liking everything, but it prevents self-blame.
Forgiving yourself is also key to self-love. Dr. Gooden suggests finding wisdom in tough situations, rather than dwelling on mistakes. Self-love doesn’t mean avoiding mistakes; it means taking responsibility and learning from them.
This process might bring sadness, but that’s okay. It’s normal to feel this sadness and then work on accepting the past so you can look ahead to a different future.
Change your negative mental story by focusing on facts
Imagine suffering as two arrows. The first arrow is the event that hurts you, something you can’t control. The second arrow is the tale you tell yourself about the event, causing more suffering. Dr Solomon says self-love is avoiding that second arrow.
For instance, the first arrow might be a loved one dying from COVID-19. The second arrow could be blaming yourself for not convincing them to see a doctor sooner or not spending time with them during holidays. While situations hurt, the stories we tell ourselves make it worse. The good news: we can work on stopping this negative narrative.
If regrets or negativity about a painful event creep in, Goodman advises looking at the facts. Ask, “Is there proof against these thoughts? Can I find something that lessens the bleakness?” Facing reality, but also highlighting multiple aspects, is key.
Losing your job doesn’t mean you’re incompetent. Maybe external challenges affected your performance, or the job wasn’t a good fit. Analyzing the facts helps you see what you control and prevents an event from defining your self-worth.
Another way is asking where negative thoughts come from. For instance, do social media posts trigger self-comparison? Challenge their origin and truth.
Those thoughts often stem from conditioning, not facts. Sometimes, we adopt a parent’s hyper-critical voice, like a mother with low self-esteem or a father fixated on flaws. Breaking these patterns empowers you, showing negative cycles can end.
Self-love isn’t about blaming parents. They did their best, but you might not have received what you needed as a child. Dr. Solomon explains we’re not accountable for childhood hurts, but as adults, we must address and adjust our coping strategies. Accepting the past, maybe with professional help, brings you closer to self-love.
Recognize that self-love can be tougher when dealing with oppression and trauma
If you’re part of a marginalized group, you might internalize the idea that you’re not valuable due to societal messages. Even if you reject these messages for your group, you might feel pressure to overachieve to prove your worth outwardly, neglecting your well-being in the process.
Survivors of trauma, particularly interpersonal trauma like sexual assault, can struggle to believe they deserve love. Such experiences often lead to self-blame and feelings of unworthiness.
Facing these challenges alone is difficult. Seeking therapy is recommended by both Dr. Gooden and Dr. Solomon. They offer guidance on finding culturally sensitive therapists and affordable options.
Taking steps to be kinder to your body can be a starting point for healing. Reshaping your relationship with your body from judgment to care is vital. Dr Gooden suggests simple acts like enjoying a warm bath, dancing to favorite songs, going for a walk, preparing a tasty meal, or wearing comfortable clothes. These actions honor your body and promote self-love.
Establishing boundaries, both in real life and online is key to building self-worth
Creating healthy boundaries within relationships is a crucial step toward nurturing self-love. Dr Solomon advises against investing your time and energy in people—whether they’re parents, friends, or partners—who evoke feelings of unworthiness.
“Practicing self-love means not seeking sustenance from an empty source,” she explains. She suggests making relationship choices that prioritize pleasure, comfort, safety, and open communication.
Sometimes, this might mean ending a relationship with someone who consistently makes you feel negatively about yourself, especially in romantic contexts.
If completely cutting off communication isn’t possible due to work or family dynamics (like a demanding boss or critical parent), Dr Solomon recommends practicing radical acceptance and setting smaller boundaries.
For instance, you could end a phone call with a loved one who’s dragging your mood down or decide not to check work emails after a certain evening hour. These steps contribute to your overall well-being and self-worth.
Remember that embracing — or at least acknowledging—yourself is a valuable pursuit.
Earlier, we mentioned how social media influencers might present self-love as superficial or even problematic using it as an excuse to avoid accountability or to credit success solely to self-love rather than acknowledging privilege.
However, self-love can profoundly impact your life when it’s defined as accepting who you are and committing to personal growth. Dr Gooden explains that self-love isn’t about self-centeredness or disconnecting from the world. Instead, it’s the foundation for healthy relationships, parenthood, and sharing your talents in the world.