Self-love… We hear about it so often, but what even is it? What does it mean to “love yourself”? And how many of us can say that we actually love ourselves?
For me, love is one of the hardest things to describe and sometimes even to understand because it can be so subtle and intangible. Where’s the line between ego and arrogance coming from the mind vs true love and self-acceptance coming from the heart?
Many writers, poets, philosophers and other smart people have talked about this, but it still remains such a delicate and sometimes even a mysterious topic. I can’t say that I have the answer to that, but I can share my journey towards understanding what self-love is and what I do, to cultivate it towards myself.
So without further ado, let’s get started 🙂
What is Self-love?
So, let’s start with a simple but, at the same time, difficult question – what is self-love? Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that self-love is something unique for each of us. There really is no “right” or “wrong” way to define it. And everyone must find this out by themselves.
But I’ll share my view and what I think self-love means.
I believe that self-love is a process. A process that takes time and effort. It’s not something that just appears. It’s not like you one day wake up and magically love yourself (if this does happen to you, congratulations, you might be one of the luckiest people on Earth).
For me, self-love means accepting yourself with all the flaws and quirks you have. With all your shadow sides and weaknesses. With all those past experiences where you look back and cringe at yourself thinking: “omg, how could I do that” or “why didn’t I do it differently back then” and so on. I think you get the point.
I don’t think that self-love (just like love towards others) is simply a feeling or just one thing that you do. I think it comes in layers and consists of multiple parts.
For me, self-love consists of kindness and tenderness toward myself. Of self-acceptance and respect. Letting myself feel all these ugly and unpleasant emotions like envy, anger and negativity, AND not judging myself for feeling them. Letting myself be weak and vulnerable. Being there for myself, no matter what’s going on in my life.
Knowing my worth even when things are not going great. Especially when I make mistakes and fukk it up big time.
It might seem easy, but for me this is something new to accept and integrate my “not-so-good” side.
I find it quite easy to “love” myself when things are going great. I succeed in my career, I work out, everything in my relationships are going great, and so on. What’s there to be sad about, right?
But the thing that I’ve realized is that this is conditional love. I “love” myself, because I’m good, successful, winning at life etc.
The real test is when things are not going that great. When you are facing struggles and challenges. When the negative thoughts and patterns start to creep in. When you get doubtful and anxious.
I think these are the moments when being there for yourself and being kind and supportive matters the most. These are the moments when you can actually experience unconditional self-love. Love without requirements or conditions (that so many of us are used to).
But isn’t self-love selfish? Shouldn’t we love others first?
The way I see it, self-love is not arrogance or thinking that you are better than everyone else. And it’s not selfish. It’s about believing in yourself, trusting yourself and being there for yourself. Knowing your worth even if others don’t agree with you.
And you don’t need to prove anything to anyone, because you know that the most important thing is what you believe in. And it’s not coming from the ego where you are like: “fukk yall, I’m right, I know it and I don’t care what you all think”.
I see it like: “alright, you can have your opinion and I’ll have mine. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone because I know what’s right for me”.
And it is such a deep, unshakable and calm feeling. It’s hard to explain it because you have to feel it to know it. Many people tend to confuse this with some kind of selfishness or arrogance simply because they have never experienced it themselves.
And that’s okay too. We all grow at our own tempo.
And I also believe that you have to love yourself first to truly love others. How can you give someone something that you don’t have? It’s like trying to give money to someone without having any.
Alright, now you know what self-love means to me. But why does it even matter? Why is it important? And this brings us to the next part of this article:
Why is it Important?
Well, why does self-love even matter? Well, I think it’s the basis for everything else. I truly believe that without loving oneself to at least some extent it’s not possible to have a fulfilled life.
Yeah, it’s possible to be temporarily happy or think you are happy, but I don’t think it’s possible to be content and truly happy without loving yourself.
How can you be content and deeply happy if you don’t respect yourself? If you don’t accept yourself? If you blame, shame and criticize yourself when you make mistakes? How can you truly love someone else unconditionally if you love yourself conditionally?
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very realistic to achieve big things in life even without actually loving yourself. And I think it’s possible to love others to some extent as well. But here I’m talking about the deepest level of fulfillment.
That you are content with who you are RIGHT NOW. You don’t NEED anyone or anything to be happy. You don’t need to get better, smarter, get that college degree, the perfect partner, better job, nicer house or more money. It’s that moment when you realize that you are worthy as you are RIGHT NOW.
And yes, you can have all these things. But you WANT them, not need them. They do not define who you are. These things and other people expand your happiness and fulfillment, but they can’t fill it if there’s a void within you. And I think that’s the biggest trap there is when it comes to self-love and happiness in general. We all look for things OUTSIDE of us, while the answer always lies WITHIN us.
That’s why I think self-love might be the most crucial thing to focus on. It’s the foundation of your house. If you don’t have a solid foundation, every wall and roof will be shaky, no matter how well-built they are.
If you don’t have a solid foundation, it will be very, very hard (if not impossible) to build a solid house that won’t collapse sooner or later.
So, tell me…
How to Love Yourself?
Ahh, the million-dollar question. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I think that this differs from person to person. But I will gladly share some methods that I have found useful for myself.
Below you will find a list of things and practices that I do to cultivate love towards myself. By no means this is an “ultimate guide” on how to love yourself.
Just take whatever resonates with you and add anything else you feel might work. After all, only you know what works for you 🙂
Here’s a list of things that I practice. They are NOT arranged in any particular order.
1) Self-love meditation every morning. I do a simple & short meditation every morning where I focus on generating positive feelings and kindness towards myself. I use a mix of self-improvised meditation listening to calm music and sometimes I use guided meditations. Here are my 2 favorite guided meditations so far:
2) Cultivating self-acceptance when I fail and things are not going as planned. Or when I have some uneasy feelings like anxiety. I try to take a few minutes for myself and ask myself, “How do I feel? Why do I feel like that? Where is it coming from?” Just taking time to actually check in with myself and my inner child.
This might be one of the most important practices that I’ve discovered so far. Since I’ve been practicing it, my anxiety and stress have reduced significantly. I have to thank Mel Robbins and Dr. Russel Kennedy for this life-changing episode.
The key is to be patient with yourself as at the beginning it might feel like “I don’t know why I feel like this” or “this is stupid” and so on. But the more you do this, the better results you will have.
Once you know the cause of these emotions, simply give your inner child what he/she needs. Reassurance, acceptance, explaining the situation and so on. Sometimes all you need is a self-hug and kind words.
The unpleasant feeling won’t always go away or disappear completely, but almost always, it gets much more manageable and less intense.
3) Accepting my past and integrating it. Whenever I remember something from my past where I did something wrong or stupid, where I made a mistake or failed, I focus on accepting it.
Yes, it happened. Yes, I did it. Yes, maybe it wasn’t a good choice, or it wasn’t fair, but it doesn’t define me as a person. I still choose to love and accept myself.
The key here is to see it for what it truly was – just an experience. Trying not to label it as bad or good. It just happened. If I need to process it and let it out, I let myself do that. But now it’s up to me if I’m ready to let it go or not.
And I think that it doesn’t matter how awful or terrible the past experience has been. To truly heal it, you need to accept it, integrate it and know that no matter what, you are just as lovable and worthy as if it had never happened.
4) Encouraging and supportive words and thoughts to myself. This one is pretty much straightforward. Just thinking or saying something good to myself whenever I remember.
5) Actually hugging and cuddling myself. Not in a weird way and not in public places lol, but actually showing love with a physical touch, just like you would do to someone else you love.
6) Visualization meditation. I visualize that I already love myself deeply. That I have fully accepted myself, and I feel super good with myself. I try to feel it as much as I can. As it has already happened. I do it for a couple of minutes per day.
7) Acknowledging and celebrating successes and wins. And it doesn’t matter how small it might be. After I finish a workout, after a productive day or finishing a hard task. I just pat myself on the back and say, “good job, we did it”. And I try to feel appreciation towards myself. Because it’s all too easy to get lost in the chase for bigger goals and forget to appreciate yourself.
Things that I want to incorporate in the future:
8) Spend more quality time with myself. Do more things that I enjoy doing. It can be anything – taking a nice bath, going for a massage, going for a calm walk in nature. Something to treat myself. And you can choose whatever resonates with you.
8) Spending more time on my hobbies. This is pretty similar to the previous one but a bit different.
I think that it’s important to find things that you truly enjoy doing (just for fun, not to be productive) and then do them on a regular basis. It could be 1x per week or 1x per month – it’s up to you.
So, there you have it. This is what self-love means to me and this is how I try to cultivate it.
I think that self-love is a process rather than a destination. It’s something you must practice in order to achieve. At first, it feels a bit strange and unusual, but let’s be real: almost everything new feels that way.
And it will definitely take time. Maybe months, maybe years. But I try not to focus on that too much because loving myself deeply is the ultimate goal in my life. Everything else comes after.
And I believe everyone who keeps looking will find it, so never give up on yourself.
Where are you in your journey to loving yourself more? How do you cultivate it?