How To Love Yourself: 26 Ways To Cultivate Self-Worth
Why is it that we have such a hard time loving ourselves?
Even when we know in our heads we are worthy, we don't feel it in our hearts.
We don't believe it when a loved one says, “You're beautiful, smart, and capable.” Instead, we believe that little inner voice whispering, “You're ugly, stupid, and unlovable.”
But don't you think that's just crazy? I mean really it's beyond crazy — it's kind of warped. We say things to ourselves we would never say to those around us, even those we don't like.
We berate ourselves in ways we'd never consider berating anyone else. We hang on to our failures for years, sometimes for a lifetime, and replay them over and over.
It makes me sad to think about all the people in the world who don't even like themselves, much less love themselves. Maybe you are one of them. I hope not.
But the odds are that some of you reading this would like to trade yourself in for a better model. Or at least trade in parts of yourself.
Maybe you . . .
- don't like the way you look;
- don't like your personality;
- don't like your lack of (fill in the blank here — intelligence, creativity, motivation);
- don't like your life choices;
- don't like the way you are in relationships.
Quite often we don't like ourselves because of our perceived inability to follow through, achieve goals, earn enough money, or reach a certain level of success.
Much of our self-loathing comes from looking at what others have and viewing ourselves as inadequate because we don't have it.
I could go on and on about the reasons we don't love ourselves. Our tortured childhoods. Our devastating relationships. The lack of opportunities or luck. The less-than-perfect body or face we've been given.
These things all may be true. They may feel painfully real. They may legitimately hold you back in some regards.
But they don't matter.
When the rubber meets the road, there is only one person who will be with you for a lifetime.
There is only one person whose good opinion really matters.
There is only one person whose love can transform you.
There is only one person who deserves your unconditional love most of all.
Underlying most of the emotional challenges we face, from depression to relationship problems, is the struggle for self-love.
When we don't feel worthy and can't accept our flaws and weaknesses, we either shove down our feelings (which manifests in depression and anxiety), or we express them in unhealthy ways (through anger, passive-aggressive behaviors, or dysfunction).
What is self-love?
Self-love has often been confused with conceit or arrogance. But real self-love has nothing to do with conceit.
Having an internal positive view of ourselves and strong self-worth allows us to accept ourselves as we are and appreciate what we offer to the world.
Self-love is essential for being a fully-actualized individual.
Regardless of all of your perceived flaws and failure, you are the only you you have. Now you could wait to love this you until you reach some level of perceived accomplishment, beauty, or perfection.
But as you've probably learned, it's damned near impossible to become a better person when you don't care for the person you are.
When you can't see or embrace your inherent value, beauty, and uniqueness, you don't have much to offer yourself in the way of energy or motivation for continuous self-improvement.
When we don't love ourselves or have a negative view of our self-worth, we compromise our relationships and every other part of our lives. We simply can't function at an optimal level and fulfill our potential for happiness and success.
Low self-love undermines our happiness with a variety of self-sabotaging behaviors, such as:
- Neediness, insecurity, and people-pleasing
- Defensiveness and hypersensitivity
- Difficult, chaotic relationships
- Eating disorders
- Hypervigilance, extreme fear of making mistakes
- Poor personal boundaries
- Poor communication skills
- Poor social skills
- Sexual dysfunction
- Workaholic behaviors
- Inauthenticity, wearing a mask
Self-love is so difficult because the world often doesn't reflect back to us what we'd like to believe about ourselves. We may accept the concept that we are worthy, and hopefully, loving family and friends reinforce that.
But out in the harsh world, we encounter criticism, comparisons, and judgments. We are told we aren't good enough, and eventually, we believe it.
We've forgotten how to trust ourselves and rely on our own beliefs and judgments. Instead, we look to others to build us up and manufacture our self-esteem. If others don't like the person we are, we struggle to become someone else who meets the world's approval.
Also, we get trapped in “the negativity bias,” an evolutionary adaptation in which we pay much more attention to negative beliefs and events than positive. We are simply wired to focus more on our flaws and shortcomings than on our positive qualities.
With all of these challenges undermining our efforts for worthiness, it's no wonder so many people suffer from low self-esteem.
In order to embrace our true worthiness, we have to learn new ways of thinking and responding to the input we receive from the world around us.
Here are 26 ideas on how to love yourself:
1. Embrace the concept of self-love.
Acknowledge the life-altering importance of loving yourself. Recognize that everything good in your life hinges on seeing your own unique beauty and worthiness.
Accept that all of your life successes, all love, and acceptance, all happiness, begins with embracing and loving who you are right now.
2. Define worthiness for yourself.
Examine your own values. Define your integrity. Get clear on what YOU believe, what kind of person you want to be, and how you want to live your life — within the context of what is realistically attainable.
Create your own personal operating system for life, without relying on what others think is best for you.
3. Create a vision of who are want to be.
As you define your own worthiness, you can also define the best version of yourself that isn't yet fully expressed.
This ideal self should be based on who YOU are authentically, not crafted from the influences of peers, parents, the media, or anyone else.
Who is your best self? How do you want to look, feel, think, act, and operate in the world? Write a “character study” of this yet-to-be-expressed self.
4. Become aware of your thoughts.
Start paying attention to the nature of your thoughts and how often you think negative things about yourself.
Simply this awareness will help you disengage from the thoughts, if only for a few minutes. Diminish the reality and power of your negative thoughts by identifying them.
Say something to yourself like, “There are those negative thoughts again. Look at what they are doing to me.”
5. Filter your perceptions.
As you become more aware of your thinking patterns, begin to filter your thoughts by applying the light of reality to them.
Ask yourself, “Is my thought really the truth? Is it the entire truth or just my perception of the truth?”
Challenge all of your negative thoughts, and seek out evidence that contradicts your negative beliefs. Do what you can to loosen your grasp on self-limiting beliefs.
6. Become your own best friend.
Envision yourself as your own best friend. Begin to see your higher self as the best friend taking charge and talking to your wounded self.
As your higher self, think or speak only the words that you would say to your best friend in times of crisis or self-doubt.
Use words of approval, support, reinforcement, and praise. Don't let your wounded self act as the spokesperson for your psyche.
7. Become curious about yourself.
Set aside time to learn more about yourself — your personality, aptitudes, interests, etc. Take assessments, workshops, courses, read books and blogs.
See yourself as an interesting multifaceted package to open and explore. Go beyond how you look, what you've achieved, how much money you have, etc.
Find out what moves you, what brings you deepest joy, what true intimacy feels like. Find pockets of creativity, areas of untapped intelligence, pathways to potential passions.
8. Create new environments.
If certain environments or situations highlight or reinforce your feelings of low self-worth, change your environment.
Put yourself in situations more often where you feel successful, confident, accepted, and happy.
Play to your strengths, and focus on your natural aptitudes rather than struggling against something that constantly brings you down.
9. Find the right tribe.
If you are surrounded by critical, judgmental people, this will further entrench your feelings of low self-worth.
Find supportive friends who are easy to be around, caring, fun, and happy. Let go of people who put you down, try to manipulate you, or treat you poorly.
This isn't always easy to do, but letting go of just one negative person can have a huge impact on your day-to-day feelings.
10. Practice realistic optimism.
When you really don't believe you're lovable, affirming that you are lovable feels false. Rather than making blanket statements about yourself, identify more honest, but optimistic affirmations you can say to yourself.
For example, you might say, “Today I'm not as accomplished as I want to be, but I know I can improve and feel better about myself.”
Improvement is always possible, and working on an improvement goal will make you feel better about yourself.
11. Learn the power of acceptance.
Accept what you cannot change about yourself. Everyone has parts of themselves they can't “fix” or alter — aspects of our appearance, personalities, our past experiences or choices.
There are only two options here. You can forever struggle against those unchangeable things, or you can grow beyond them and choose the path of self-acceptance.
Having these unchangeable parts of yourself doesn't have to condemn you to a lifetime of unhappiness.
The opportunities for happiness in life are so vast, but our flaws are infinitesimal inky droplets in a sea of potential for joyful living. They will dissolve and dissipate if you don't focus on them.
12. Change what you can.
If positive change is possible, then do whatever you can to change your behaviors, choices, and actions to support your feelings of self-love.
Just remember that outward change alone won't make you feel more lovable.
You'll feel better about yourself for taking action, but that action must be supported by inner work on your thoughts and beliefs.
13. Celebrate your differences.
Sometimes the very thing we loathe about ourselves is considered our best, most unique quality by others.
If you were the black sheep of your family, you might believe you are the “odd” one. But as an adult, other people regard your personality or lifestyle as interesting and attractive.
Don't strive to fit in. Celebrate being unique.
14. Practice gratitude.
During the times when you catch yourself in negative thinking, switch gears entirely and focus on gratitude.
Make a list of everything you are grateful for in your life — from the most insignificant to the most important. Don't just jot things down quickly.
Really focus on each item on the list, and think about how you'd feel without it. Study after study has shown that the regular practice of gratitude helps improve your outlook and feelings of happiness.
15. Show compassion for yourself.
Show the kind of compassion to yourself you would show to someone you care about.
Rather than putting yourself down, use words of encouragement and support. You are as deserving of kindness as anyone, so set the stage for that by treating yourself kindly.
16. Learn healthy communication skills.
Being able to communicate your feelings and fears in mature, non-confrontational, healthy ways is critical to self-esteem and improved relationships.
Everyone has insecurities, but rather than hide or diminish them, improve your emotional intelligence so you are less reactive and more authentic.
17. Be willing to set boundaries.
When we don't love ourselves, often we let others take advantage of us. Sometimes we don't even know this is happening because we haven't created firm boundaries.
Decide how you want to be treated and what you will and won't tolerate. This may be difficult if you're accustomed to letting others have their way.
Start by communicating one new boundary at a time and practicing holding firm to it.
18. Speak up for yourself.
Part of creating and following through on your boundaries is learning to speak up for yourself.
If others say or do things you don't like, or if you have ideas or input you previously held back for fear of offending someone, try stepping out of your comfort zone and speaking your mind.
You can do this calmly but decisively, even if you have to pretend at first.
19. Take care of yourself.
You show love and compassion for yourself when you treat your body, mind, and emotions with care.
That means eating healthy foods, exercising, getting enough sleep, going to the doctor, taking care of your hygiene, having a support system, and finding ways to stimulate your mind.
When you treat yourself as someone with value, you'll feel more valuable.
20. Find your passion.
When you find something you love as your career or even as a hobby, you'll have a new purpose for your life.
A passion gives you a reason to get up in the morning, as you're eager and engaged in what you are doing.
You'll find you use your natural skills and aptitudes with your passion, and this reinforces a positive self-perception.
Finding your passion allows you to be authentic and express yourself through your interests and endeavors. You don't have to pretend to be something you aren't.
21. Simplify and create balance.
A complicated, overly scheduled life drains your energy and creates anxiety.
Decide how much order and balance you want in your life, and begin cutting back on the tasks, obligations, and material things that don't add to your life.
This will give you breathing room to pursue your passion, work on yourself, and redefine how you want to spend your time and energy.
Giving yourself this space is a way of showing love to yourself.
22. Deal with past wounds.
If there's something from your childhood or more recent past that has impacted your self-esteem and restricted your ability to love yourself, then take action to heal those wounds.
Find a professional counselor who can help you navigate through the past pain and work with you to learn new ways of relating to yourself and others.
23. Practice forgiveness.
To love yourself, you must first forgive yourself and forgive others who have hurt you. You forgive yourself in the same way you forgive a loved one who genuinely seeks forgiveness.
You offer it freely and with compassion. Beating yourself up over and over again is an exercise in futility.
Do what needs to be done to right any wrongs and regain your integrity, and then let it go.
If others have wounded you, offer the same forgiveness to them — even if they don't seek it. The ability to forgive is a huge step toward self-respect and wholeness.
24. Show the love you want to others.
If you want love, understanding, and compassion, treat others with the same. Become the kind of person you want to surround yourself with.
Don't offer love in order to be validated or get something in return. Offer unconditional love with no expectations. The more you can give love freely, the more love you have for yourself.
25. Have patience.
Learning to love yourself requires patience. If you've spent years disliking or even hating yourself, it will take time to turn the ship around and forge a new direction.
You will likely have times of slipping back into old beliefs and negative self-talk.
But remember, if you see how the entirety of your life experience hinges on self-love, you will be tenacious and determined to love yourself.
26. Practice self-love consistently.
I know this all sounds lovely and inspiring, but I also know this is the real world with real pain and problems. And in the real world, loving yourself doesn't happen overnight.
It takes time to embrace the notion that loving yourself is your highest calling, your most important work, the most life-changing thing you can ever do for yourself.
You must remain actively mindful of it every day. Maintain your focus on your unique and beautiful qualities.
Continue to make small and purposeful steps toward who you really are. Acknowledge and celebrate those steps.
Reflect gratefully on all that you have and all that you are in process of becoming.
Learning to love yourself is a process. As you begin to trust yourself and define your needs and desires, you'll find you need less and less validation and reinforcement from others.
You'll create experiences and relationships that match your values and authentic desires, reinforcing your essential worth and lovability.
With every mindful effort and shift in thinking, you'll find you respect yourself and see yourself as deserving of your own love.