How To Practice Self-Love: A Step By Step Guide

Love. It is infinite, boundless, and an essential part of our human experience. So why do we find it so hard to love ourselves? The funny thing about love is that we give it to others unconditionally, yet impose a whole list of conditions on ourselves. 

We accept someone else’s flaws, weaknesses, and imperfections because we love them, but cannot forgive our own. We support our partners, children, family, and friends through bad times but beat ourselves up when we make a mistake or fail.

We can be the most caring, compassionate woman in the world but hate many aspects of ourselves. It’s a paradox that we seem to accept, without digging a bit deeper to see why we are such bad self-lovers.

I think, by now, you have realized that a lack of self-love is linked to several things such as low self-esteem, lack of self-worth, and negative patterns of behaviour that we have simply gotten used to. The truth is that it’s not easy for us to love ourselves because we don’t believe we deserve it.

You may even feel that the only way to experience self-love is when you are loved by someone else, and that’s a slippery slope because what happens when that person withdraws their love? 

Relying on other people to regulate your emotional state is like walking on quicksand — you never know when you are going to sink. No doubt, if you have suffered from a romantic heartbreak or parental rejection, you will know what I am talking about. It hurts and makes you feel unloved and unlovable.

You can pour out as much love as you want to others, but when that glass is empty, how do you refill it?

The practice of self-love is the answer. When I say practice, I don’t only mean treating yourself to a spa day or buying a new pair of shoes (all great ways to give yourself a quick fix). It has to be more than that and begins from deep within yourself, at the core of who you are. 

In this article, you will find some ideas on how to achieve that, as well as practical tips that will help you to form daily self-love habits.

Self-love isn’t about being selfish, egotistical, or self-centred. If you have any feelings of guilt when considering self-love, leave them here, because they will only sabotage the process. And if your negative inner voice is still trying to put you down, switch it off. Come with a real desire to embrace all that you are and don’t forget self-compassion, which is an essential part of your emotional well-being.

Self-love is an appreciation for yourself that grows when you support your physical, psychological, and spiritual growth. It means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. It means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing them to please others. It means believing that you deserve more. Whatever is important to you can be included in your self-love agenda. For example, you may feel the need to:

  • Be true to yourself
  • Prioritize yourself
  • Stop self-judgment
  • Trust yourself
  • Be nice to yourself
  • Set healthy boundaries
  • Talk about yourself with love
  • Forgive yourself more often

As a love quote says, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

Hence, these are internal thought patterns that you need to work on if you want to reach a level of self-love that makes you feel more content, balanced, and fulfilled. No one else is capable of giving you this— not your partner, best friend, parent, or even your children. It’s down to you to nurture those feelings of confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth because if you leave it to anyone else, it just isn’t going to work.

Being praised by your boss for a job well done is great, but that has nothing to do with how you really feel about yourself. Being surrounded by people who love you is a blessing, but they can’t make you love yourself. It’s up to you.

My friend Debbie had a wonderful husband who loved her more than anything else in the world. He was supportive, caring, and affectionate, telling her how much he loved her every day. I thought she was so lucky because this man obviously idolized her. 

Unfortunately, Debbie had grown up in a very dysfunctional family and had never been able to overcome her feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem. No matter how much her husband loved her, she didn’t feel that she deserved it. 

In reality, he loved her more than she loved herself. It wasn’t until she started to work through her issues with a therapist that Debbie was able to start on a path of real self-love. It took her some time, but the process of self-reflection and facing her inner doubts slowly helped her to reclaim a happy, fulfilling life.

You may be just like Debbie or know someone who is suffering from the same problem. Although it is always advisable to seek professional help if your life is being seriously affected by negative feelings, there are some things that you can do now to help yourself. Here are a few basics for you to consider:

  • Practice mindfulness. Tune in to how you feel at this present moment and reflect on the thoughts that come into your head. What are your needs and wants?
  • Stay focused. Consider what behaviour is a repetition of habits going back to your past. Do you need to continue to behave like this? What purpose does it serve?
  • Nourish yourself. Daily exercise, eating nutritious food, and getting a good night’s sleep are numero uno.
  • Be vulnerable. Being open to intimacy and developing more social connections can bring you joy
  • Do things with enthusiasm. Responsibilities and obligations aren’t always fun, but if you approach them with a positive mindset, they won’t feel like an extra burden.
  • Say no more often. Be selective about when you say yes to someone and make sure you are not compromising your own well-being to please others.
  • Practice self-care. Listen to your body, look after your appearance, pursue your passions, and eat healthily.

Self-love is nurtured when you practice self-care, looking after yourself physically, emotionally, socially, and even spiritually. Going to the gym every day is admirable, but if you neglect the other aspects of yourself, you aren’t going to feel that all-embracing self-love. Giving in to your friends’ needs may make you popular, but that does nothing to raise your self-esteem.

A combination of all these elements is needed if you want to develop a deeper sense of self-love and below you will find some useful points concerning each aspect of your needs. 

These are daily habits that you can begin to apply now. You may not be able to do all of them at once, but there are definitely quite a few that you can add to your daily routine relatively easily.

Self-Love Daily Habits

Emotional Self-Care

  • Schedule some ‘me’ time into your daily routine
  • Reward yourself when you complete small tasks
  • Learn something new to upgrade your skills
  • Develop a ritual of relaxation before you go to bed
  • Allow yourself to express how you feel
  • Use mindfulness exercises to bring you to the present moment
  • Release stress or anxiety with jigsaws, crosswords, or adult coloring books
  • Make a gratitude list of all the things you are thankful for
  • Allow your feelings to be present without judging them
  • Don’t listen to the harsh inner critic inside your head
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes

Physical Self-Care

  • Do some stretching exercises when you wake up in the morning
  • Go for a daily walk
  • Drink more water
  • Give yourself a good physical workout
  • Go for a massage
  • Spend 10 minutes under the sun if you can every day
  • Spend some time in nature by hiking, walking, or cycling
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep each night
  • Eat nutritious food and cook more often if you have time

Social Self-Care

  • Avoid toxic people. This is a high priority!
  • Ask for help. It’s OK to admit that you aren’t superwoman
  • Talk to a friend or family member who you can trust
  • Spend your time with people who are enthusiastic and positive
  • Reconnect with an old friend and arrange to meet up
  • Join a support group for people with whom you may share the same problems
  • Schedule a regular night out with friends
  • Invite siblings or other family members for dinner
  • Have some fun

Spiritual Self-Care

  • Put meditation on your daily schedule, even if it is just for 10 minutes at a time
  • Do a 10-minute body scan to check in with each part of your body
  • Do something nice for someone in secret
  • Donate to your favorite charity
  • Help someone in any way that you can
  • Find a niche for your strengths or skills that benefits others

Once you realize that you are important, you will be more likely to adopt habits and behaviors that nurture your well-being and this, in turn, deepens your level of self-love. Be patient with yourself and accept you failings without feeling that you are worthless. Instead, shower yourself with understanding, compassion, and kindness, just as you would with anyone else you care about.

As a love quote says, “Put yourself at the top of your to-do list every single day and the rest will fall into place.”

Self-love and bad behavior

We are all guilty of making one huge mistake: we judge ourselves based not on our inner being but on how we behave.

Instead of accepting ourselves, warts and all, we measure ourselves by what we did or didn’t do. Full self-acceptance is unconditional: it means that we love ourselves regardless of how we behave, whether or not people approve of us or love us. We don’t feel any less for our

weaknesses and failures, nor do we feel better than others because of our successes. Self-acceptance is at the core of our relationship with ourselves and we should be more aware of that as we progress.

Evaluating our behavior is something quite different, but it seems that we pay far too much attention to it. We immediately believe we are a bad person if we don’t help a friend or are too busy to visit a relative. 

It’s not that we are masochistic (although sometimes you would believe so). We are simply too eager to berate ourselves when we make a mistake and take this far too personally.

Acting badly does NOT make you a bad person and condemning yourself to damnation is very self-destructive.

The other day, I accidentally scratched the fender of another parked car when leaving the office. Being in a hurry and with no owner in sight, I took a note of the registration number, intending to call later to exchange insurance details. 

Unfortunately, by the time I got home, I had lost the piece of paper and didn’t know what to do. Apart from feeling frustrated, I also began to sense a feeling of complete disdain for my actions, telling myself that I was a terrible person. Yes, I converted my innocent accident into one of self-loathing in a split second, unaware that I was doing so until I stopped to think.

It’s often a snowball effect, where one mistake can build up into a very damaging avalanche of self-hate. In reality, I know I am an honest and caring person, and I try to keep that at the forefront of my mind when self-doubt attempts to creep in. 

Regardless of any mistake or shortcomings, I aspire to self-love and tell myself every day that I am worthy. (Eventually, I did find the piece of paper in my bag and contacted the owner to settle the accident.)

So, how can you differentiate between rating the ‘self’ and rating your behavior concerning any past mistakes or regrettable actions?

1). Understand that you are not a bad person just because you act badly.

2). Identify your weaknesses without being defined by them.

3). Accept you have faults that you can work on correcting.

4). Don’t attach blame or be over-critical of yourself when you make mistakes.

5). Know that you are ‘enough’ and worthy of love, despite any shortcomings

We all make mistakes and are often far too hard on ourselves. Part of learning to love yourself is about letting go of those feelings of inadequacy, incompetency, or unworthiness because beating yourself up is actually bad for your mental and emotional health. Instead of feeling flawed in some way because you failed to do this or that, see it as an inevitable part of being human.

One way to get into this train of thought is to make a list of 5 things that you are not proud of from your past. It could be anything from forgetting your mother’s birthday to snapping at another driver or being bad-tempered with a friend. When you have listed 5 past events, make an evaluation of yourself as a person based on each of the examples you have noted. 

Then, make a list that evaluates both you and the behavior.

What personal characteristics would explain your behavior? Your list should look something like this:

  • Past mistake/event
  • Evaluation of self
  • Evaluation of behavior
  • Forgot mom’s birthday
  • I’m a terrible daughter
  • That wasn’t very thoughtful of me
  • Snapped at driver
  • I’m a nasty person
  • My reaction was over the top
  • Bad-tempered with friend
  • I’m a lousy friend
  • My behavior was uncalled for

Once you remove yourself from the equation and focus purely on your behavior, you can develop a much healthier perspective on things and not feel that you are a terrible person or a lousy friend. 

While you may strive to always behave the best you can, there will be times when you react badly and this is normal. It doesn’t make you a lesser person, as long as you realize that your behavior was wrong and learn from your mistakes.

This is an important aspect of developing self-love: the ability to stay true to your inner core and not be pulled into negative self-talk just because you were out of line or behaved badly. And, you know something?

Those people who were at the brunt of your bad behavior will probably forgive you very easily. You should do the same with yourself.

10 habits that will make you feel better about who you are

Being good to yourself should be on your daily list of things to do. It’s not a luxury or a selfish act. It is an essential requirement if you want to lead a happy and fulfilling life. 

Below you will find 10 key habits that will make you feel better about who you are and help you to love yourself unconditionally:

Be someone who loves

Let yourself be open to loving others around you and loving doing specific things. Think about why you love being with certain people or why you love to walk in nature. Focus on what you appreciate about eating out, or going on vacation and let those positive emotions run through you. Feeling love is a truly empowering emotion.

Think about what it is to be loved

Bring to mind a close friend or relative who loves you. If they were asked why, what would they say? Maybe they would mention your great sense of humor or your ability to show compassion. Whatever it is, hold on to that and enjoy being loved for all the reasons you can think of.

Stop comparing yourself to others

Instead of magnifying your imperfections in comparison to someone else, accept that you are who you are and that’s good enough for you. You may want to be 1,75 meters tall but you are only 1,65 and always will be.

Comparing yourself to taller women is only going to make you feel miserable and I’m sure you don’t want to feel like that. Instead, spend your time and energy nourishing your own sense of pride and worth.

Reset your emotional navigator

The next time you feel bad about something, stop and ask yourself, “Why do I feel this way? What can I do to move forward?” Once you ask these questions, you may be surprised at the answers that come up. 

Our emotions can quite often be triggered by seemingly trivial events and are merely the outer layer of something much deeper. When you ask questions, you set off a process of investigation and very often discover that it’s the underlying cause that you should be focusing on. 

By resetting your emotional navigator to what is really bothering you, you can learn to address the issue directly, instead of letting reactive emotions run away with you.

Be with positive people

Spend time with those who you enjoy being with; those who make you feel good about yourself. Hang out with friends who are supportive and inspire you and if they don’t, there’s no need to devote all of your free time to them. 

It’s better to surround yourself with positive acquaintances than friends who have nothing to offer you. Choose who you spend your free time with wisely and make sure it is because you want to be with them, and not just out of a sense of duty or obligation

Don’t kick yourself when you are down

You wouldn’t do it to someone else, so be kind to yourself when things aren’t going your way. This is the time to be more loving and forgiving with yourself than ever and if you are feeling hurt, rejected, disappointed, lift yourself up instead of saying, “I told you so.” Tend to your needs and be kind, just as you would with a stranger who needed your help.

Develop healthy habits

This is a biggie and I don’t need to explain to you the benefits of developing healthy habits for mind, body, and soul. Eat well, take daily exercise, and look after yourself. Although all three sound so easy to do, they are often the things that we neglect the most often. 

Eating well is a no-brainer and your body will thank you for it. Daily exercise may not sound very enticing, but even a walk around the block is better than nothing. Looking after yourself includes everything from personal hygiene to a top-to-toe beauty treatment and everything in between.

Accept your imperfections

If you can love your imperfections, you are heading in the right direction. Dislike your lack of patience? Fair enough, but unless you can change that, it’s not going to go away anytime soon. 

You may do well to remember that perfection lies in imperfection and that’s what makes each one of us unique. Self-love isn’t about having blind spots when it comes to your good and bad points. It’s about accepting them and still being able to say, “I’m amazing.”

Let go of the past

You can’t move on if you are dragging around a weight of emotional baggage from the past. As difficult as it may seem to let go, you must.

Sometimes, past traumas are so deeply embedded within us that they feel like a part of who we are. They are not. They are dead weight dragging you down so the sooner you decide to let go of them, the better.

You may need professional support or guidance to achieve this and it’s perfectly OK to seek that out. You aren’t a donkey and don’t need to burden yourself anymore with events that happened long ago. You can be free.

Be grateful every day

When you express gratitude for all of the good things in your life, you will feel happier. It’s a well-known fact that people who focus on all the good things they have are more likely to be positive and optimistic, and exhibit a high level of well-being and self-esteem. 

Use gratitude as a daily tool if you are suffering from depression, a bad break-up, a career failure, or even in recovery from an illness or addiction and you will soon restore faith in yourself again.

Life is a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs and things never go in a straight line. One day we may be up in the clouds and the next, down in the dumps. Life just happens, from being healthy to falling ill, being head over heels in love to being broken-hearted. It’s all part of the journey. 

But whatever happens, self-love is vital because when your foundations are rock solid, life is much less of a struggle.

You can be happy with what you have and loved for who you are. It’s not something complicated but it does need practice. And, as you know, practice makes perfect. Spend more time on ‘you’, treat yourself to some tender love and care, and be compassionate when you fall short. Feel the love inside you and nurture it every day, letting it lead you to happiness and contentment.

Be the love of your life and live the life that you love. You have the power!

Affirmation:

The more I practice loving myself every day, the more love I receive in my life.

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