Think about someone you love. Do you badger them whenever they make a mistake or do you forgive them and move on? Do you assume the worst about their intentions or do you give them the benefit of the doubt? Do you focus on their flaws or the things that you love about them?
Now ask those same questions of yourself. Your answers will be similar if you love yourself the way you love other people. If they aren’t, then you may need to work on loving yourself more. Thankfully, self-love is a skill that anyone can improve. Try these seven steps to start accepting and appreciating yourself just as you are.
1. Do Things You Love
People often rightly say, “You are what you eat.” Also true is a less common aphorism, “You are what you do.” If you’re always doing things for other people, you can forget to make time for yourself. A good way to start down the path toward self-love is to occasionally focus your attention on things that make you happy.
Are you an avid golfer? Then hit the links. Enjoy cooking? Pull out the pots and pans and try out a new recipe. Spending time doing things you like helps you release negativity by focusing your attention on something you enjoy instead of dwelling on unhealthy thought patterns. It also boosts your self-esteem since people tend to be reasonably good at the things they like doing.
2. Learn to Say No
Learning to say no is an important part of taking yourself seriously. In order to build self-love, you need to recognize that your wishes and dreams have value and that’s it’s okay to set limits on the time you give to other people.
Imagine if you said “yes” every time someone asked you to do something. Not only would your schedule fill to the point that it’s unmanageable, but you’d also have little time for anything else. It can be exhausting trying to live up to everyone’s expectations. Learning to say no gives you power over your life.
Not that you should say no all the time. There’s value in being selfless and helping others as well. Just be aware that you can say no, and that you should say no when it’s the healthier option for you.
3. Do Not Expect Perfection
Winston Churchill once said that “perfection is the enemy of progress.” It’s a good lesson to learn in the pursuit of self-love. How does it apply?
We are imperfect creatures, so perfection is unachievable. If you continually shoot for that inaccessible goal, you’ll always fail and feel like you’re letting yourself down. So let go of perfection and simply try for the best you can do in all things. Doing your very best admits that it might not be as good as someone else, and it certainly isn’t perfect, but it the very best you’re capable of, and that’s always enough.
Can you work on improving? Absolutely. But give yourself permission to mess up sometimes. Forgive yourself when things don’t go exactly to plan. You can’t control everything, and you can make yourself miserable trying to. Do what you can, when you can, and if the negative voice in the back of your mind tells you it’s not enough, ignore it. If you’ve done your best, no one can ever expect more, including yourself.
4. Pay Attention to Your Posture
Your posture might seem an odd thing to focus on while you work on self-love, but the way you carry yourself outwardly reflects how you feel about yourself inside. If you slouch, shuffle your feet or stare at the ground as you go about your day, you’ll seem closed off and unapproachable. This can create an unhealthy self-image. You can change this by working on your posture.
Try to keep your back straight and aligned throughout your day. Stand with purpose, arms at your side or resting comfortably on your hips. Try not to slouch your shoulders or cross your arms. If you feel yourself slouching forward in your chair, consciously sit up straight with a slight arch in your back.
When you walk, engage the world with your eyes instead of staring at the ground. This can be uncomfortable at first, but soon you’ll feel more attached to the world around you. You’ll be more present in your life, and over time your inward experience will start to match your new outward expression.
5. Build a Healthy Circle of Friends
Isolation tends to amplify feelings of self-loathing. If your default is to turn inward and dwell on the negative, then you should build a group of friends dedicated to helping you get out of your shell. There are two parts to this process.
First, you need to identify toxic relationships and end them. These are people that feed your negativity and consistently make you feel bad about yourself. These are unhealthy friendships that weigh you down and make self-love more difficult to achieve. Tell them that you’re working on yourself and request that they treat you better. If they can’t or won’t, you consider spending less time with them.
Then replace them with healthy, supportive relationships — people actively interested in helping you be the best version of you. Not only will you become a warmer, friendlier, more open person, you’ll develop a support network that can help you see the good in yourself when it’s escaping you.
6. Compliment Yourself
This might be the most obvious tip on this list, and yet it’s often the one people find most challenging. That’s because they’ve unconsciously devoted themselves to an inner monologue of self-criticism. When something goes wrong, they’re quick to blame themselves. When they finish a project, they see all of the flaws instead of the bits they did well. They cut themselves very little slack and are quick to cast themselves in a negative light.
What we say about ourselves becomes the truth we believe. So change the conversation! Try to become aware of your self-critical thoughts. When you notice that you’re beating yourself up, stop and look for something you did well. Then compliment yourself. Focus on your positive contributions and stop empowering the inner voice that bullies you.
7. Be Active!
You’re likely aware that exercise improves our physical health, but did you know it’s also great for our mental health as well? Being active boosts chemicals in the brain associated with happiness and feelings of satisfaction. It’s also great for our self-esteem, not only because it makes us feel better, but also because we look better, too. It’s useful for reducing anxiety and depression which helps us become healthier, more sociable people.
So get outside and do something fun, make some new friends, do your best, and don’t beat yourself up when you miss expectations. In no time, you’ll find that your reservoir of self-love is filling up more than you ever thought possible.