Have you ever felt like no matter what you do you just don’t feel happy, or worthy of love and success? Maybe you’ve felt like if you just lost 15 pounds, or organize your closet the right way, or earn that promotion, or got your mothers approval, then you can love yourself.
We’ve been trained to think that self-love comes from doing or having things. If I just look a certain way, or I just accomplish this goal, then I can love myself. If I just earn approval from this person then I will be worthy of love.
Achieving these things might make you feel good for a time, but they aren’t the real ways to cultivate self-love.
Are you ready to learn how to start a self love journey without having to do all these external things?
It doesn’t have to be hard, we just have to make some mental shifts to develop that self-love mindset.
In my own life I’ve found that redefining self-love as something that is internal, instead of external, I have a better body image and I’m less afraid of failure. This has relieved so much mental anguish.
Self-love is so important because it determines not just your happiness but the quality of your relationships. A healthy relationship with yourself will automatically create healthy relationships with others because you won’t accept anything less.
What if you didn’t have to do, be, or have anything to deserve self-love? What if you could develop self-love without changing a single thing on the outside?
What Does Self-Love Look Like?
Self-love is unconditional.
It means no matter what other people think or say you know you are worthy of love, happiness, and success.
No matter how many times you fail you know you did the best you could and you’ll keep trying, and eventually you will succeed.
No matter how many mistakes you make it’s ok, they do not define you and you love yourself anyways.
No matter how your body looks you love it and appreciate it for all it does for you.
Of course learning to love yourself unconditionally is a process. A self-love journey doesn’t start and end in a day, though you can quickly have huge shifts, but it’s a practice that you do over time.
Why is Self-Love so Hard?
It seems like it should be easy but it’s not.
The world throws a lot of demands and expectations at us. We’re suppose to be this way and do that thing, but then we blink and the goal posts are moved. Social media tells us daily that our lives are supposed to look picture perfect, but it doesn’t show the mess that’s out of frame or hidden in the closet.
We carry our parents’ baggage. We adopt their messy patterns and bad habits without even knowing that we can have better.
We’re taught at a young age to be critical of ourselves. People we look to as children for guidance on how the world works inadvertently teach us that we are lacking in some way.
We don’t learn fast enough at school, we’re too loud or too quiet, we don’t fit the mold that our patents create for us, we don’t look the right way, we don’t like the right things, the list goes on and on.
We’re sent so many signals that what we do and are is not enough. It’s no wonder so many of us struggle to love ourselves.
The great thing though is that you don’t have to become a different person, all we have to do to find self-love is shift our mindset.
How to Cultivate a Self-Love Mindset
Be Ok with Not Being Ok
Life has seasons. There are periods of effort and ease, of joy and sadness.
No one likes to be uncomfortable. We’ll try everything we can to push away unwanted emotions, or run from them, or find distractions. That never really solves the problem though and eventually those unresolved issues come right back.
Sometimes when you’re going through a hard time you just have to go through it. You have to sit in your discomfort and feel it. You have to face your inner demons and choose to deal with them.
It’s not that we have to be happy about it, we just have to be ok with these challenges and love ourselves even though we’re feeling lousy and struggling with something.
To learn how to be ok with your discomfort change your perspective on challenges in general. We can sometimes make a bigger deal of things than they deserve, giving them too much importance in the moment but when we look back it’s like oh, that wasn’t actually the end of the world.
When you realize that in a day, week, or whenever this challenge your facing is over, that you’re going to be ok it makes it a little easier to deal with those feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, or hopelessness.
Begin your journey to self-love with acceptance.
Take some deep breaths. Tell yourself, “even though I’m struggling in this moment, I’m going to be ok and I love myself no matter what.”
Keep a List of Wins
A great way to boost your confidence and cultivate self-love is to make a list of your accomplishments.
We’re all given different tools by our life experiences, which means that we all progress at a different pace.
Sometimes we’re so busy comparing our achievements to other people or berating ourselves for not being at their level of success that we forgot about all the things we’ve accomplished.
We’re not wrong, lazy, bad, or stupid because we haven’t done what our peers have done, or we haven’t met someone else’s expectations.
Make a list of all your wins, big and small, and look at it when you feel like you need a little self-love.
Redefine Self-Worth & Success
Maaaaybe the fault lies not with YOU, but with how you (and the rest of the world) have been defining success and how that ties to your sense of self-worth.
Self-worth isn’t looking a certain way, driving a certain car, living in a certain zip code, having a perfect relationship, or never failing.
In my self-love journey (it’s been a long one) I’ve come to realize that self-worth is built in. You are worthy of happiness and your dreams simply because you exist. We are all created out of the same material (stars that exploded millions of years ago and sent dust across the galaxy), no one is more worthy than anyone else.
Worthiness does not come from what you do, and no one gets to decide that someone else does or doesn’t have it.
Success doesn’t have to mean that you got perfect grades or you have a six figure income. Just getting out of bed and facing the day can be success. Trying when you’re afraid can be success, even if your result isn’t perfect.
Also realize that your best today isn’t necessarily going to match your best from last week. Be flexible with your expectations.
Ask yourself what your definitions of self-worth and success are and see if they need to be changed.
Perfectionism something many of us reach for and is often praised in society, but the truth is it does more harm than good.
It creates impossible standards that inevitably lead to us feeling like failures.
How can we cultivate self-love when we put our self-worth on a pedestal so high we can never reach it?
Perfectionism comes from a desire for acceptance from other people. Maybe it’s your parents, your friends, or the whole world but you’ve got this belief that you have to do everything right so that those people will like you and only then can you fully love yourself.
The problem is, no matter what you do someone will still find fault in you. You can bake the most perfect cake and someone in the world still won’t like it.
Instead of trying to be perfect just do your best, whatever it is that day. Don’t worry about what other people think, because there is always going to be someone who will find a flaw in you. You can’t please everyone.
Have you ever spent time replaying a moment in your head and beating yourself up for not doing something differently?
Maybe you made a mistake and you tell yourself things like, “god I’m so stupid, how did I mess that up? Why didn’t I do it this way instead? What’s wrong with me?”
You might spent nights tossing and turning with these thoughts in your head.
Or maybe you failed at something in the past, so you’re too afraid to try again, or try something new, because you couldn’t forgive yourself if you failed again.
We can’t develop self-love if we beat ourselves up all the time for mistakes from the past.
Learn how to have compassion for yourself. We’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got. No one is perfect.
Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes
Mistakes are part of the human experience. They are how we learn and grow. When you make a mistake you’re learning what way doesn’t work, and you can choose not to take that path again and instead try something else.
Even people who have done something the right way one hundred times can mess up the one hundred and first time. That doesn’t negate all their successes.
Do your mistakes make you a bad person? Did they cause the world to end? Do they make you less deserving of love? Or do they teach you something? Can they be a vessel for life lessons instead of a measure of your worth? Can they make you wiser and help you in the future?
I used to be so afraid of making mistakes that I wouldn’t try new things, even if I knew they could lead to a result I wanted. I just stayed in my little box, dreaming big but staying small because I thought if I messed up that meant I wrong in some way.
When I changed how I view mistakes and failure suddenly so many more doors were opened up to me. I could try new things and if it didn’t go perfectly that was ok! I just learned and moved on, instead of beating myself up endlessly and keeping a painful tally of all my failures that reduced my self-worth.
When you learn to accept your mistakes and develop a more positive perspective on them you are practicing self-love and freeing yourself.
Thank Your Body
Do you ever thank your body for all it does for you? This is an incredible way to practice self-love and acceptance.
Right now your heart is beating, your lungs are taking in air, your blood is taking oxygen to your brain, your eyes are reading this or your ears are hearing it. Your legs probably took you to the fridge at some point today, your arms opened the door, your jaw and teeth helped you chew food so you could digest it, and a million other things have happened just today without you even thinking about it.
Our bodies do incredible things for us each minute of the day, even while we’re sleeping. Yet, we rarely take time to thank our bodies.
Instead we criticize them for not being enough of this or that. We spend hours and countless dollars trying to change them. We abuse them. We starve them. We push them. We stare at them in the mirror and wish for someone else’s body, even ones that have been so photo shopped or surgically altered that they don’t even look human.
Too many of us are not kind to our bodies, and we should change that.
Gratitude is the most important tool in the self-love journey.
Every night after I do a short yoga routine I take a moment to close my eyes and appreciate my body.
I think “thank you heart for beating for me, thank you lungs for breathing for me, thank you legs and feet for taking me where I want to go, and thank you arm and hands for helping me create what I want to create.”
Before you continue reading I want to you to close your eyes, put your hand on your chest, and tell your body thank you for what it does for you. Make this a daily practice.
Take Time For Yourself
It can be very easy to get lost in the hustle, or to give all our time and energy to other people at the expense of our own well-being and self-care.
If you know that you tend to be a giver, or you find yourself feeling worn out often, designate time to just caring for yourself in some way. Put it in your weekly planner if you need to.
Here are 30 ways to practice self-care if you need ideas, but self-care is whatever feels good to you and makes you feel a bit restored or rested. Sometimes just watching a good show for an hour can be self-care.
Others might need to get physical in some way when they word a sedentary job.
If you need to write down a list of activities that make you feel good, so you can reference it when you need self-care but you’re too mentally drained to come up with something.
Challenge Your Inner Critic
Most of us have a voice in our heads that is constantly talking, otherwise known as our thoughts. It’s commenting on things we see, what we’re doing, what other people are doing, it’s remembering things from the past and making plans for the future. Our thoughts are chattering away all day long.
I think it’s safe to say that we all experience that voice as being very critical of ourselves at times. We berate ourselves for saying this, not saying that, what we did in the past, things we’ll do wrong in the future, things we’re doing the wrong way right now.
The first thing to realize is that we are not our thoughts, we are the one thinking our thoughts. Just like we are not the clothes we wore today or yesterday, we’re just the one wearing the clothes. So those critical thoughts are not your identity.
One critical thought is not bad, but we create patterns of thoughts that do harm. They cause low self-esteem, guilt, shame, anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, etc.
To cultivate greater self-love, you have to challenge those thoughts.
Is, “I’m so stupid, I’ll never be able to graduate college” a true statement? No, because there are things you can do to ensure you pass your classes like study more, get a tutor, or join a study group.
So when you notice a critical thought ask yourself is this actually true? Where did it come from? Whose voice is it? Are you viewing yourself through someone else’s filter? Does it make sense to keep thinking it when it’s not true and it’s not you?
Just start challenging those thoughts. When you start to do this they lose power.
Develop Nurturing Self-Talk
As you start to notice and deconstruct your critical thoughts, start to cultivate nurturing thoughts.
When you noticing that you’re thinking “I can’t do this, I always fail,” immediately respond with “that’s not true, I can do anything as long as I keep trying. I’ve succeeded at so many things and I’ll succeed at this too.”
Become you’re own cheerleader. Encourage yourself the same way you’d encourage your 5 year old self if they were standing in front of you.
You don’t need to judge your negative thoughts, just notice them and then flip them around.
If you were talking to your best friend and they said “no one will ever love me, I’ll never find a good partner,” how would you respond? “Of course you’ll find a good partner, there are so many things to love about you and you’ll find the right person when the time is right.”
Create a positive dialog with yourself. Adopt daily affirmations, make positive self-talk part of your daily routine.
Decide Whose Opinion Matters
There’s a primitive part of our brain that cares deeply about being accepted by society, because thousands of years ago being in a group meant safety. If you were rejected by the group you’d be killed or kicked out and left to fend for yourself in the wilderness where either you starved to death or got eaten by a predator.
So it makes sense that we value the opinion of others, but in modern times we shouldn’t base everything we do on this need for acceptance.
Does it make sense to measure our self-worth on what other people think of us? Does it make sense to base all our action around what will make other people like us?
Should the opinion of your nasty co-worker matter? Should you just stick to the life plan your parents mapped out for you? Should you change your body so that men will love you (NO!)?
Stop living your life to please other people. This doesn’t mean that you turn into a jerk with a ‘only I matter’ attitude, but that you pursue things that bring you happiness instead of worrying about if it’ll look good on social media or make your parents finally accept you.
Write a ‘Things I Love About Me’ List
Take some time to think about all your good qualities and write them down.
It can be things like: I’m always there for my friends, I’m good with kids, I’m a great artist, I always put in 100%, I really care about other people’s well-being, I try to be a good person, I have amazing biceps, my nose is really cute, I do my job really well, I have a great smile, dogs love me, I’m always willing to try new things, I’m a great cook.
Literally anything you like about yourself can go on this list. If you’re really struggling write down qualities you want to have or that you’re working on.
Write down 10 things today. Tomorrow write another 10. Look at this list every once in a while and celebrate how amazing you are.
That concludes this list of techniques to develop a self-love mindset. If you put these suggestions into action you will start to see a shift in how you feel about yourself and how you interact with the world.
You’ll find that you stop looking outward for approval and validation. You won’t need someone else to tell you you’re worthy of love, success, or happiness because it will just be part of your identity.
I’m wishing you all the best on your journey to self-love.
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Love and light.