After going through some unbelievable ups and downs and maybe even serious heartbreak in your life, you might be struggling to learn how to love yourself. You know that you need to have compassion and patience for yourself, but either your own personality or the way men have treated you in the past has seriously dinged up your self-esteem. But now you’re ready to take control of the situation and learn how to love yourself so that others can love you even more.
Why You Absolutely Need to Learn to Love Yourself
If you’ve ever been stuck in a downward spiral of doubt and self-criticism, I ask you: is that how you want to live your life going forward? Or would you rather learn to accept your flaws and be a happy person in general?
Here are some reasons why learning how to love yourself is so critical for a fulfilled life:
Self-Compassion is Important.
When you learn how to forgive yourself, you learn how to respect yourself. Let’s say you dropped your favorite cup and it shattered into a thousand pieces. You’re cursing yourself for doing it. But you know what? It was an accident. You didn’t mean to. Learning to have self-compassion allows you to treat yourself the way you would others.
According to Dr. Kristin Neff, an associate professor at the University of Texas Austin, there are three components to self-compassion:
- Self-kindness: being supportive of yourself; treating yourself as you would someone you care about.
- Common humanity: understanding that everyone makes mistakes and you’re not the only one to make them; recognizing that everyone suffers.
- Mindfulness: observing your thoughts and emotions with no judgment; being present in the moment even when negative feelings come up.
It Builds Confidence.
The more you learn how to love yourself, the more confident a person you become. When you learn how to shut out that negative voice in your head, you start to see that you’re actually pretty wonderful. You were the whole time, of course, but sometimes it takes a significant mindshift to see it for yourself.
You Have to Love Yourself Before You Can Attract Someone Else’s Love.
Research shows that if you have self-doubts, you’re more likely to be dissatisfied with your relationship. You may be more insecure and questioning your partner’s every move, fearing that he will leave you. On the other hand, if you’ve learned to love yourself and gain self-confidence, you will be surer in your relationship.
17 Proven Strategies to Learn to Love Yourself
“Adam, I’ve always struggled to love myself. How is it possible that I can change this late in life?”
I understand that this may be a pattern you’ve carried with you your whole life — or since a string of bad relationships — but please understand that if you want to learn to love yourself, you can. The tips I’m about to give you aren’t complicated. You won’t need a therapist. You just need to work on it a little every day. Trust me.
1. Cut Yourself Some Slack
Are you hard on yourself? Do you often feel like you can’t live up to your own expectations? Ask yourself why you hold yourself (and probably no one else) up to such high standards. Who are you really trying to please? Maybe your parents, who always wanted you to thrive in school? Or a past partner who constantly criticized you?
Realize that you are the only person you need to please, and if you’re being hard on yourself, you need to lighten up.
Here’s an example. Maybe you push yourself so hard when you work out that you end up injuring yourself. You want to make a five-minute mile so you push, push, push…and then end up being unable to run at all after you tear a muscle.
Why is it important that you hit that goal? Is it even feasible? Instead, set more realistic goals. Maybe you slowly reduce your time goal by five seconds. This is achievable. Over time you may end up at that five-minute point, but you have to be compassionate enough with yourself (not to mention your body) to get there when you’re ready.
2. Stop Comparing Yourself to Everyone Else
In yoga class, you’re so busy looking at how flexible the woman next to you is that you fall over during crow pose. You’re constantly sad that your friends are paired up with great men and you’re still single. You feel like everything is a contest…that you most definitely are losing.
Here’s the thing — and it’s something you learned watching Sesame Street all those years ago — we are all different. You can’t compare yourself to anyone else because you’re not like anyone else!
The next time you realize you’re comparing yourself to anyone, stop, acknowledge what you’re doing, and let it go. Accept what you’re doing as the best you’re capable of.
3. Forgive Yourself
In that example I gave about breaking a glass and getting mad at yourself, did that resonate? Do you criticize yourself and stay frustrated about something you did (or didn’t do)? If a relationship ends, do you blame yourself, even if the reason has nothing to do with you?
If you make a mistake, accept that mistakes happen. Breaking that glass (or a relationship ending) won’t ruin your life. But you may have an inner critic who starts berating you as soon as you make a mistake. How can you shut it off? Gently acknowledge the voice and turn the message into something more compassionate. For example:
Inner voice: I can’t believe you scared that guy off! It was too soon to sleep with him! Now you’re alone again!
Compassionate voice: The relationship ended because we weren’t right for each other. Nothing I could have done would have changed that.
4. Don’t Set Parameters for Your Love
If I could lose 10 pounds, I could learn to love myself…
When I find a boyfriend, I’ll feel better about myself…
If you find yourself setting parameters around what you need before you can learn how to love yourself, you never will. You are constantly looking to indefinite ideas about the future and basing your own self-worth on them.
Instead, try the mindfulness practice of being in the moment. All you have is this moment right now; no past, no future. What can you love about yourself right now? Maybe you just finished a great workout and you’re feeling good. Maybe a man checked you out when you were crossing the street. Maybe your friend sent you a note to say she’s thinking of you. If you step back from your life and stop looking toward the way you think it should be, you’ll probably realize it’s pretty great.
5. Make Self-Care Part of Your Routine
Do you make a habit of doing things for your health and wellbeing, like getting massages, getting your nails done, or even just taking a long uninterrupted hot bath? Many women don’t, especially if they have children (and being a single mom ain’t easy!). But self-care is so critical for all of us. It makes us healthier, emotionally balanced, and stress-free.
And just like on the plane when they tell you to put your air mask on before helping others, you need to nourish your own soul before trying to help anyone else.
6. Buy Yourself a Gift Now and Then
You’re quick to buy a $30 candle for a friend’s birthday but would never dream of spending that money on yourself. Part of learning to love yourself is to put as much value on treating yourself as you do the people you care about.
You don’t have to spend $30 on a candle to treat yourself. How about a splurge on an afternoon maple latte, or a pedicure?
7. Treat Yourself the Way You Treat Your Friends
You’re known for being an amazing friend. You give your time and energy to the people in your social circle. So why can’t you do the same for yourself?
It’s kind of the opposite of the Golden Rule: treat yourself the way you treat others. Be kind. Be understanding. Be sympathetic.
8. Accept Your Faults (and Work on Them)
Here’s a secret: people who love themselves aren’t perfect. They’re just as flawed as you are. But they accept those flaws and try to improve upon them, and that’s what makes them different.
Do your faults seem like giant red blinking signs? Are they all you see about yourself? Step away from them and focus on all the amazing things about you. Sure, maybe you are quick to anger and you hate this, but you’re also quick to ask forgiveness from a friend you fight with. Maybe you come on strong with a guy you really like, but that’s because you’re so full of love.
Yes, you have faults. And you should work on improving them. But you will never be 100% fault-free, and that’s okay.
9. Stop the Negative Self Talk
Ugg! You’re so stupid.
I can’t believe you did that.
Of course you screwed that up. What else?
If you feel like there’s a little goblin who lives in your head who constantly criticizes your every move, you’re not alone. Most people have one, though they all tune in or out to that voice to varying degrees. The key is not letting that goblin dictate how you feel about yourself and how you live your life.
It takes effort to mute that voice. When you hear it, talk back to it.
Yes, I made a mistake today. But it’s not the end of the world. Leave me alone, goblin!
It seems silly, but after a while, he’ll quiet down.
10. Don’t Get Stuck in the Past
It’s hard to not carry our pasts with us, especially in terms of past relationships. Maybe you were cheated on during your marriage. Maybe your ex-boyfriend always criticized you. It’s hard not to carry that baggage forward into future relationships.
But if you move forward expecting the same bad things to happen, you limit yourself and your happiness. If you expect that your next partner will cheat or emotionally abuse you, you’ll never relax and open up to the possibility of love.
What’s done is done. Let go of the past and look forward to a better future.
11. Know What You Need from Other People
When you haven’t learned to love yourself, you may let others dictate how you live. Here’s an example: maybe you don’t feel comfortable telling people no, so whenever a friend asks you to babysit her kid, you say yes…even though you don’t want to.
Or you let people walk all over you.
Until you define what you need from others, it’s difficult to get it. You need to establish your boundaries and be firm about them. Tell your friend you can’t babysit anymore. Life will go on, I promise!
12. Don’t Settle
I’ve worked with women who haven’t had a lot of self-confidence, and I’ve seen them settling in many ways in relationships. Maybe one moved across town into a house that was a 5-minute commute for her boyfriend…but an hour commute for her. Maybe another did all the housework even though she worked 60 hours a week, and her boyfriend had plenty of time to help out.
When you learn how to love yourself, you also learn not to settle. Your desires are just as important as anyone else’s, so find a way to get both of your needs met at least a little, instead of you doing all the sacrificing.
13. Find What’s Good in Your Life
It may be in your nature to focus on the negative, but I encourage you to find the silver lining. Even if you’re completely broke and your car is in the shop…you have time to catch up on your reading. Even if you’re single…you have plenty of time to spend with your friends.
There’s always something positive…you just have to find it.
14. Surround Yourself With Positive People
Have you ever stopped to look at the people you spend time with and wondered what it said about you? It turns out, the flaws we see in others, we often possess. If someone is angry all the time and that gets on your nerves, you might have your own anger issues. You don’t want to nurture those flaws, do you?
Surround yourself with people who have a positive outlook, who support you no matter what. Stay away from people with negative energy, because they’ll only bring you down.
15. Give the Love You Want to Get
Just like you should treat yourself the way you treat others, you should also give the love you want to receive. What do I mean?
If you’re constantly sad that you haven’t found love yet, look to see if you’re putting love out there. You can love friends, family, even pets. It’s like a boomerang. Throw it out there and it’ll come back.
16. Be Authentic, Not Someone Else
You may look at a friend and think she’s got such a great life. Then you might try to emulate her. Dress like her. Act like her. Whatever. But the fact is: you’re not her. You’re you. And even if right now you aren’t confident in who you are, over time, you will be. The key is being authentic and not trying on another persona.
Embrace who you are, both the good and the less good. We tend to see only the negative, while others see the positive. Think about the last person you dated. Maybe he was blown away by how smart and accomplished you were…but you didn’t feel special at all. Try to see yourself through others’ eyes and you won’t have any problem being yourself.
17. Learn from Your Mistakes
You will make mistakes in life, but if you do things right, you can learn from them so you never make them again. Rather than criticize yourself after making a mistake, ask yourself why you made it and how you can avoid it in the future.
Don’t be overwhelmed with the idea that learning to love yourself might take years. Every day that you work on it, you’ll start to see more self-compassion and self-respect. You will begin to accept your flaws and eventually love yourself unconditionally.
And here’s the really amazing thing that happens once you learn how to love yourself: someone else will love you too. Once you have become 1000% okay with who you are and your place in the world, you will attract the most wonderful man you could ever have hoped to meet. Guaranteed.
Kickstart your journey to learning to love yourself with my book, Men Love Confident Women. You’ll build up your confidence before you know it!