If you had asked me before if I loved myself, I’d say yes. I liked myself, I think I’m pretty, smart and interesting.
But when I lied in my bed in a severe depression continuously tormenting myself with thoughts like “I’m not good enough”, “I don’t deserve it” or “I hate myself,” I realized that I was far from truly loving myself.
So what is “self-love?” It took me a few months to fully understand it.
Self-love is one of these concepts that you just get. You don’t logically understand it. You feel it.
In my case I read about it, I practiced what was suggested in books and articles, and then one day I just got it. My mindset shifted. And I started loving myself. Just like this.
How to get to that point?
Learn. Read. Discover. Keep searching, and one day you will just get it. It’s like yoga. You practice for a long time trying to get into that one pose. It seems very tough. And then one day you do. And you realize how easy it is once you get it. You’re in perfect balance. And from that moment, you remember how to do this pose. Occasionally you might lose your balance, but you know what it feels like to be in the pose and you can go back.
Same goes for self-love.
What is NOT self-love
Many people (as I used to) think they love themselves, but what we feel is rather the liking of self.
When you manage to lose a few pounds, when you do your hair and make up and look great, you like yourself.
When you achieve something big, you like yourself.
When you help another person, you like yourself.
But what when the opposite happens?
If you put on a few pounds, would you still look in the mirror with the love and appreciation? Do you like yourself even when your hair is messy and you got a few pimples on your face??
Or when you acted really mean to somebody, do you still like yourself then?
What we often take for self-love is a conditional liking of the person we are.
Instead of pure love, we judge ourselves. If we do something right, we reward ourselves with love. But when we do something bad, we punish ourselves by taking that love away. We become the harshest punisher in our lives.
So what is true self-love?
True love in an unconditional feeling of love, appreciation and acceptance for yourself. What does unconditional mean? That no matter what you do, you always love yourself with the same strength.
Now I know it might make sense when you read it, but you might be wondering, how do you get to that point? How can you “get” it?
I found these steps to be helpful in my journey towards self-love:
1. Become aware of your inner voice
First thing you need to do is be aware how you treat yourself. We all talk to ourselves in our minds, but we are not always fully conscious of that voice.
So first step – become conscious of your inner voice. Pay attention to what it’s saying.
Notice what you tend to tell yourself most often. What do you say when you do something amazing, and what when you fail??
Here are a few situations in which you should keep awareness of your inner voice:
- When you wake up and look in the mirror
- When you get scolded by your boss
- When somebody is mean to you
- When you are mean to someone
- When you act on your anger
- When you see a person in need but you keep walking without helping them
- When you put on weight
- When you make a mistake at work
- When you eat some unhealthy food
- When you skip your work-out session
- When you lie to somebody
- When you make someone cry
- When you feel lazy
- When you rest
Are you still loving and caring towards yourself in all these moment?
If not – go to Step 2.
2. Take control of your inner voice
The things you hear in your head now have been there your whole life. You might have not paid attention to it before – in which case you might be shocked to hear some of the things you say to yourself.
But the truth is, that you’ve been feeding yourself these messages for years. And the more we hear something, the more we believe in it. Which means that all those negative things you say to yourself have become your strongly held beliefs.
But you can change them. Step by step.
Now that you are aware of your inner voice, next time you catch yourself saying something nasty to yourself, pause, and say “cancel, cancel”. Little trick, but it actually sends a message to your subconscious mind to ignore what you just thought.
After cancelling, say a new thing to yourself – this time a supportive, loving and caring message. And just keep doing it.
I know that at first it will seem like a lie. You won’t believe in that new nice message. That’s ok.
Keep doing it and over time, you’ll become neutral to the message and finally you will believe it.
3. Treat yourself like a child
People often ask how should they talk to themselves. After being so harsh on ourselves we don’t know what that new voice should be like.
So to help you change the tone of your inner voice, imagine yourself as a child. Some people call it your inner child. Tuning into that inner child allows you to look at yourself without judgement.
You see yourself as this little, vulnerable creature, that simply wants to be loved.
The moment you envision yourself as a child, you’ll notice that the harsh judgement melts away. It’s that simple!
After all, we all have inner children in us. There are needs that were never met when we were very young, and we carry these needs into our adult lives. We might suppress them, push them into subconscious and not even realize they are there but I guarantee you, there are.
Treating yourself like a child allows you to cater to those needs.
4. Love yourself emotionally and physically
This is my favorite part of the whole process.
What do you do when you love someone? Think of your parents, siblings, a lover or a best friend. Do you get them gifts? Do you take them out on a date? Do you pay for them? Do you spend quality time together?
Love is a feeling, and love is a verb. Love is just as much about feeling as it is about doing!
So now is the time to do something loving for yourself.
Think of all the things you enjoy, that bring you pleasure. And simply do them with yourself.
If you’ve never tried it before the idea of doing something alone might scare you a bit, I know that’s how I felt.
My healer at the time suggested I took myself out on a date once a week. And she suggested to go for a nice dinner.
Dinner alone? I felt like the biggest loser sitting at the table all by myself!
But you know what, if you do, it’s a clear sign you don’t yet love yourself. Because once you do, you’ll start enjoying spending time with yourself.
And this is a whole point of this exercise. It’s to befriend yourself and feel completely happy and whole even when there is nobody else next to you.
We need to stop depriving ourselves from things that we like and that make us happy.
From now on, give yourself a permission to do things you enjoy. You don’t always need to do things that make sense or that build your career. Spending time doing things just because you like them should be just as important.
Here are a few ideas how to start “doing” self-love:
- Take yourself out for a nice dinner
- Paint (or do any other type of art that you enjoy and that allows you to express creatively)
- Write (you can write poems, a book, or a keep a daily journal)
- Take photographs
- Visit museum
- Cook something healthy
- Drink a green smoothie
- Read your favorite book (and yes, it can be that love story you love)
- Watch a romantic comedy
- Buy yourself a nice dress
- Get a manicure
- Go to SPA (massages are my favorite things for self-love!)
- Go for a yoga class
- Dance (and you can perfectly go crazy in your house)
- Listen to your favorite music
- Play with animals
- Stay in nature
- Go for a walk
- Do nothing (yep – just sit, or lie down and do absolutely nothing)
The more you practice acts of self-love, the stronger message you send to yourself: “You deserve it.” It’s an essential, and a fun way to practice self-love.
So just start. Follow these 4 steps. And know that if you do, one day you’ll just get it. You’ll wake up and you’ll feel different. You’ll be in love. With yourself.