Self-love is a fundamental component to your personal growth, evolution, and overall health.
The way we feel about ourselves impacts essentially all areas of our life. Therefore, developing a strong foundation of self-love, which in turn opens the door to a strong foundation of self-acceptance and self-respect, ensures that we are showing up in life in a way that truly honors us.
This foundation is key to optimizing our mental, emotional, and physical health, and allows us to experience the most fulfilling and happy life that we can.
Here we will explore how self-love can change your life, what is meant by the term self-love, common societal misconceptions, how self-love impacts our relationships and health, self-love exercises, and more.
What Is Self-Love?
Self-love is essentially exactly what is sounds like – it is loving oneself. It is feeling a solid sense of love for yourself which involves feelings of fondness and a sincere care for your comprehensive well-being.
With the development of true love toward oneself, comes the development of respect and acceptance toward oneself as well. A foundation of love essentially opens the door for other important mental and emotional sentiments to blossom.
Self love is treating yourself, talking to yourself, and thinking of yourself as you would someone you deeply love, cherish, respect, and accept.
A Few Important Clarifications
It is important to get something clear before we go any further…
There is a societal misconception that often deters people from the idea of self-love entirely. This is the misconception that self-love means that you are self-absorbed, “egotistical”, or selfish.
This is in fact far from what self-love truly means.
Self-love is the love, respect, and acceptance of oneself as the fully worthy, whole, wonderful individual that you are. In this sense, you love and accept yourself just as you do other people that you love, respect, cherish, and adore.
Ironically, which we will explore further below, when you truly love yourself, you are able to more fully and truly love others, because you are coming from an inner landscape that is full of love – not of lack, self-condemnation, and feelings of inferiority.
When we try to love others from this aforementioned place of lack and inferiority, it can be exhausting, because we are giving something that we do not have an ample supply of ourselves.
Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that extreme ends of the spectrum are often a true reflection of the antithesis of the surface presentation. What I mean by this is, if someone is arrogant, completely self-absorbed to the point that they don’t consider others, or cavalier, then this is usually an indication of their lack of self-love and self-worth…
They feel as though they have to make up for something that they lack, so they do this by overcompensating to the extreme end of the spectrum and present a sense of exaggerated self-importance or self-regard.
A true sense of self-love, acceptance, and respect brings about a humble, grounded, considerate, and warm disposition toward others vs. an arrogant, imposing, or negligent one.
Usually We Must First LEARN To Love Ourselves
Most of us have to learn to love ourselves instead of this being something that comes to us by default.
This is the case for several reasons.
First, within our world, there is a great deal of emotional pain that is being harbored within many many people. These people are constantly projecting this pain outwardly because it has not yet been processed and healed.
Without awareness, most people end up personally internalizing these projections as an indicator of their own self-worth. In essence, they end up taking on someone else’s pain and allowing it to alter their self concept and sense of self-worth.
Secondly, this is compounded by the fact that we live in a world that is infiltrated with a mass media message that is constantly portraying the idea that you are not good enough just as you are. That you need to look like this person, or purchase this item, or be different than you are in an endless array of ways for you to then be considered “good”…”acceptable”…”worthy”…”lovable.”
We then end up internalizing these false messages as well, which cause us to develop false and limiting core beliefs such as “I’m not good enough” or “I’m unacceptable.” I.e. beliefs that equate to a lack of self-love.
Therefore, we must first learn to love ourselves and replace these false and limiting beliefs with those that are empowering, nurturing, and catalyze feelings of worth, fondness, and overall love toward ourselves overall.
When you learn to love yourself you are essentially shaking off all of the baggage that has been put upon you by those around you and society at large. You are reclaiming something that belonged to you all along, and that is your self-love.
When you truly love yourself, your self-worth is self-evident, you are worthy because you exist. You need not fulfill certain expectations or add anything to the picture that isn’t already there to be enough…you are worthy, period, because you are you and you are awesome! 🙂
You are MORE than enough, believe me, exactly as you are today.
Developing Unconditional Self-Love + Self- Forgiveness
A big part of achieving considerable self-love is usually learning to forgive yourself.
As we go about life and its changing seasons and stages, we may make various missteps or behave in ways that upon reflection, we wish we hadn’t. A lot of the time, these feelings of regret or self-condemnation will be internalized and not processed and healed.
Due to this, they then become false and limiting beliefs which again, deter us from our own self-love, just like the projections of others and the societal messages did as mentioned above.
We also often associate our self-concept and acceptance with certain conditions. So if these conditions are not met, or we feel a sense of shame or regret, our self-image, sense of self-acceptance, and how we feel about ourselves is adversely impacted.
A big step in the process of developing true self-love is realizing that one’s self-love needs to be unconditional. That you of course hold yourself to a certain standard, but you will love and accept yourself deeply and fully, regardless of what may occur in your life or regardless of any perceived misstep.
Life involves growing pains, and having certain experiences that serve as our many life’s lessons.
You aren’t given a manual on exactly how to do everything – you must learn and this comes with experience.
As you walk through life, go easy with yourself. No one has it all figured out and we’re all just learning as we go.
Developing unconditional self-love allows you to be more gracious with yourself and have more compassion for yourself as you move through your life’s lessons.
A huge component of loving yourself is accepting yourself as well.
When you first establish the foundation of love – it is much easier to reach a place of complete self-acceptance. With this foundation, as touched on above, you feel a sense of tenderness, compassion, and understanding toward yourself which allows you to accept yourself more freely.
You are able to accept ALL of yourself: everything that makes up who you are, your past, everything.
Once your base foundation of self-love is securely in place – forgiving yourself and accepting yourself is much much easier as you move throughout your life.
Not only can you easily forgive and accept yourself, you can CELEBRATE yourself and really enjoy being who you are. You can start to notice all of the unique aspects of yourself that make up the unique and wonderful You :).
Instead of constantly finding something that you feel must change about yourself in order to be considered “acceptable,” with this foundation of self-love, you are able to appreciate all facets of yourself with full acceptance and the solid understanding that you are a work in progress and are progressively evolving into who you were meant to become.
Self-Love and Your Relationships
The most important relationship that you will ever have in your life is the relationship that you have with yourself. This is the relationship from which all of your other relationships are built upon.
That said, the way someone treats others is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves. Your actions and behaviors are an extension of your inner environment.
When you love yourself, you are kind, compassionate, and understanding toward others because that is how you feel about yourself.
When you love yourself, the way you show up in all of your relationships is a reflection of this love and respect. As an extension of this love, you know your worth, so you don’t stay in toxic or abusive relationships and you require respect and proper treatment from the people in your life.
You can easily set boundaries and uphold them because you inherently know that this is how you deserve to be treated.
When you love yourself, that is the place that you come from in life – therefore you are fully able to love others when you come from a place of self-love yourself. As mentioned above, when you come from this place, you do not feel depleted or exhausted when giving and caring for others, because your cup is already full.
Furthermore, when you truly love yourself you are freed from the superfluous concern for what other people think of you or any misjudgments toward you because you realize that as long as you know the truth…as long as you know yourself…then all is well and always will be: you can do you and they can do them.
Other people don’t need to understand your journey because it isn’t for them. It is for you.
You don’t need to over explain yourself or seek any kind of approval when you truly love yourself, because you already approve of yourself, there is no need to try to acquire this from an outside source.
People are always going to see the world around them and other people through their own subjective lens that is based upon their own personal past experiences, perceptions, and core beliefs. This has nothing to do with you.
With a strong foundation of self-love, you are able to begin to acquire a sense of emotional freedom, deep sense of inner peace, and solid sense of inherent joy.
It is our natural inclination to feel joyful, and self-love helps to bring us to this place.
Self-Love Reduces Stress
A huge health benefit of self-love is the fact that this emotional state allows you to truly relax.
From this place, your thoughts become more positive and you feel more at peace, ready, and capable.
When you remain in this space of inner peace most of the time, your body benefits tremendously, in large part because your “fight or flight” nervous system stress response is soothed and more balanced.
When your stress response is reduced, your hormones are more balanced, you experience less oxidative stress (explained here), your digestion is greatly improved, your cognitive function improves, and a whole host of other health benefits.
Our mental and emotional health has a tremendous impact on our physical health and vice versa.
Self-Love Throughout Your Emotional and Physical Healing Journey
Doing the inner work that is necessary to learn to truly love yourself is a very important and worthwhile component of your healing journey.
When you are equipped with the foundation of self-love, you are much better prepared to move through the challenges of your life, including the challenges of mental, emotional, and physical healing.
Loving yourself is essentially life self-partnering. You become your own biggest cheerleader, your own best friend, your own biggest advocate. You have full compassion for yourself as you move along, trying your best as you go.
This then allows you to come from this place in regard to meeting your life’s challenges. If we are equipped with a solid foundation of self-love as we heal from mental and emotional traumas, emotional wounds, and/or physical illnesses, we are supplied with a consistent source of inner encouragement, consolation, and support, which is tremendously valuable for healing.
As mentioned above, developing unconditional self-love is vital, throughout your healing journey and throughout your life in general.
A lot of times, people will associate their ability to love and accept themselves with their accomplishments, the way that they look, or some other such element – meaning their self-love and approval is conditional.
Having and healing from a chronic illness can impact your life in many ways: your physical appearance may change, you may not be able to accomplish as much as you are used to in the day, or various cumbersome symptoms may cause you to feel overwhelmed and disheartened.
If you have the foundation of unconditional self-love built, you are able to meet these challenges from a more solid place. Instead of feeling bogged down 100% of the time, you can more so than not, know that you are healing…that you can do this…that it will all be ok.
Having unconditional self-love doesn’t mean you won’t feel negative feelings or sometimes feel knocked down by life’s challenges, it simply means that you are better equipped to meet these challenges from an empowered and capable place.
Self-Love Exercises and Affirmations
These are a few exercises that can help to get the ball rolling in your process of developing a solid foundation of self-love:
- Look in the mirror, place your hand on your heart, and talk to yourself with compassion, respect, and love. Say things like “I love you so so much ____your name___, you are incredible, you really are.”
- Write a letter to yourself: in your letter, talk to yourself lovingly, kindly, and warmly. Explain how you are now forgiving yourself for everything you may feel needs forgiveness. That you’ve always been doing the best that you can, with the awareness that you had, at that stage in your life. How you love yourself unconditionally and always. How today is the first day of the rest of your life and it is the first day of your brand new chapter. Begin to open yourself to all of the many things there are to love about who you are (there are lots!) and write them all down. Turn your letter into a love letter to yourself.
- As a way of helping you to conceptualize what it is like to have these feelings and associations toward yourself, think of someone you love, respect, and cherish deeply. What does it feel like to love them? How do you think of them? Etc. Now, feel these similar feelings, think these thoughts, etc about yourself as well.
- Write your name on a piece of paper and draw hearts all around your name :).
Affirmations are various statements that you recite repeatedly throughout your day so as to solidify them as part of the fabric of your subconscious mind. They are a wonderful and effective tool to use when it comes to shifting into a space of self-love.
This is the science of psychology.
The subconscious mind is essentially like your storage center. It is the part of your mind that isn’t in direct conscious focus in your waking hours, but it is constantly functioning and active.
While your conscious mind involves such things as critical thinking, logic, and short term memory, your subconscious mind stores your long term memory, past experiences, core beliefs (most of which were developed in childhood), self-concept, and habits.
The subconscious mind drives the majority of your behaviors.
One of the ways to help shift our subconscious beliefs and self-concept is to use repetition in the form of carefully worded affirmations.
Affirmations can also help to create and strengthen new, positive neural pathways. Your brain is plastic, meaning it can change. This is called neuroplasticity. Affirmations help to catalyze this change.
Some examples of self-love affirmations are:
- I love myself fully and always.
- I am worthy. I am capable. I am confident. I am powerful.
- I love, respect, and accept myself exactly as I am today, and always will.
- I love you __your name___, so much.
- I deeply and completely love, fully accept, and celebrate who I was, who I am, and who I am evolving to become.
- Thank you for being you, __your name___, I love you!
It is important to word your affirmations in a way that specifically resonates with you. You will know you have worded yours well when you feel an impact upon reading them. They speak to you and you specifically.
When formulating your personal affirmations, make sure to avoid using negatives such as don’t, can’t, not, won’t, none, etc. Phrase all affirmations using positives.
These affirmations and exercises are a powerful tool to utilize in your process of learning to love yourself fully and unconditionally. You can recite affirmations silently to yourself and out loud to yourself. You can also write them down multiple times or post them in areas of your living space that you frequent such as your bathroom mirror or on your refrigerator.
Have fun with it and smile as you say your affirmations :).
Another helpful technique is to set daily reminders on your phone of your favorite affirmations, the ones that resonate the most to you. These statements will then pop up at various times throughout your day, reinforcing them into your mind.
Learning to love yourself, in some ways, is like getting rid of an old habit for a new more beneficial and healthy habit. These tools and exercises help you to establish the new habit.
As we’ve explored here, self-love is one of the most important foundational elements of building a happy and healthy life.
Learning to love and accept yourself is an absolute game changer, as this is the foundation from which true joy, inner peace, and fulfillment are built upon.
Investing yourself in the process of learning self-love is one of the best gifts you could ever give yourself.
Throughout all stages of your healing journey, and throughout all stages of your life, first and foremost: love yourself. You’re amazing, you really are 💜.