Loving yourself completely and unconditionally..who wouldn’t want that? There are more and more people in society suffering from depression and anxiety and I feel like self-love has become a rather rare phenomenon. This doesn’t come as a surprise because what the media and advertisements are constantly perpetuating to us is that we are only loved if we meet certain criteria. Want to be loved? Be skinny, not chubby. Want to be loved? Have a prestigious high-paying job. Want to be loved? Wear fashionable brand clothing and go on fancy holiday. However, we’re humans and even if we ticked all of these boxes, would we be happier? Probably not. What also happens over time is that we start to tie our self-worth to the things outside of us.
The dream is the liberation of the spirit from the pressure of external nature, a detachment of the soul from the fetters of matter. – Sigmund Freud
Lately, I thought a lot about the nature of self-love and came to the conclusion that loving yourself is actually our innate and NATURAL state of being. When you look at a baby or toddler, you most likely won’t find a single baby in this world that isn’t full of self-love. They run around like crazy, make noise and just live without a care in the world. Not loving ourselves in something we only learn as we go through life. It already starts in Kindergarten and school when people tell you that you are too much of something. Too opinionated, too imaginative, too loud. Since as humans, we are so good at adapting to our environment, we then decide to change in order to fit in because frankly, it’s really hard to stand out and to be, in turn, punished for who you are.
What also seems crazy and a little ironic too me is that we are conditioned our whole lives only to realize (hopefully!) at some point in our adult life that these behavioral patterns are holding us back and THEN spend years trying to undo this process and develop the self-love again that we had as a child. Our natural state and birth right is love and happiness and with this conclusion also comes a very empowering thought.
If we can unlearn to love ourselves with time, we can also learn to love ourselves again right? Nothing inside of us that we previously learned is completely lost. It reminds me of riding the unicycle which I recently did with a girl I tutor. I wasn’t able to do it properly anymore but does this mean that I could never learn it again in the future? No, of course not. I could already feel myself getting better at it after 1,5 hours of practice. The same goes for self-love. So these are the things I did that helped me on my path from loathing and blaming myself to loving myself.
7 Tips That Will Help You On Your Self-Love Journey
1. Talk to Yourself As If You Were Your Own Best Friend
Pay close attention to the way you talk to yourself “It’s all your fault, you should do better”- how many times do you tell yourself this? ” You are wonderful, I love you. You can achieve anything you set your mind to”- How many times do you tell yourself this? We are often so hard on ourselves and our own worst critic. Would you say these mean things to a stranger, your family and friends? Probably not. So why do you say them to yourself? Over time, I developed this rule that I don’t talk to myself in a way that I wouldn’t talk to other people. In fact, I try to talk to myself as often as possible as if I were my own best friend. It’s so important to treat yourself with enough care and respect because YOU are deserving of it as much as anybody in the world
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2. Work on Developing Self-Respect
You might now ask yourself: “Developing self-respect. How is that supposed to work?”
When it comes to self-love, self-respect is also an incredibly important aspect. If you don’t have respect for yourself, you probably don’t have love for yourself either. However, self-respect is nothing you gain over night but it is earned over a period of time. I personally believe that the best way to earn self-respect is to do the things you said you were going to do. If a person would always break the promises they made to you and would not show up on time, you would probably lose respect for them. The same happens to yourself when you say you were going to work out and then end up not doing it. Have you ever met a goal in time exactly the way you had envisioned and planned it out or even better? You said you were going to finish this project today and you did it? Then you know that it’s such a good feeling and that it gives you a lot of confidence and belief in yourself. Confidence doesn’t just show up randomly and knocks on your door. It’s also not that you first create confidence and THEN do what you really want to do. It’s in the DOING and the realms out of your comfort zone that you gain the most confidence. I recently went on a solo travelling trip and while booking the tickets, I honestly wasn’t the most confident but only by taking the step and going on the trip by myself, I became more confident. I know it would definitely be more pleasant and easier if you could somehow build confidence first, by meditating or some other techniques but from my experience, you have to push yourself into action mode, otherwise nothing will happen and you stay the same. Keeping the promises you made to yourself is also a good motivator in case you’re struggling with procrastination. Always try to keep in mind how proud of yourself and confident you will be when you don’t procrastinate and do things right away.
3. Stay True To Yourself
By staying true to yourself I mean that you have you are aware of your own individual opinions, ideas and interests and don’t diverge from them all the time only because people think it’s strange or simply doesn’t comply with the norm or mainstream way of thinking. Loving yourself unconditionally means being accepting of all your quirks and the most authentic version of yourself.
Here’s a story from my own life:
I was already in my third year into studying economics when I finally thought “Enough is enough. Studying this degree makes me so unhappy and is so far away from my values and my true self, I have to change something.” I initially decided to study this degree for practical and external reasons since it was something that offered a secure and stable future. However, none of these reasons included interest or passion. So I decided to study another degree parallel to this one while everyone thought I was crazy. They would say “Stick to this one and at least finish it before starting something new. ” “Studying two degrees at the same time? That won’t work”
It turned out they were wrong because it indeed was possible to do both at the same time. I was so happy while studying my new degree (Modern Languages) which I was both passionate about and had true interest in that it also increased my self-love. I think when you deny your true calling and the path that you’re heart is desperately telling you to take, you will at some point get angry and frustrated with yourself that you didn’t try harder or made another decision. At least, that’s what happened to me. Only when I started not to care about other people’s opinions and just applied for another degree without telling anybody but my boyfriend, I became empowered and saw that it is ME who has the power to create the life I want. However, it’s not an easy lesson to learn and I’m honestly still struggling with it. It’s always more comfortable to take the easy route but in the long run, taking the easy route makes you suffer much more because you are denying yourself and your true calling all the while.
4. Learn To Set Boundaries
This one is also one of the harder lessons to learn in life but such an important one. Uninevitably, you will meet opportunistic people in your life who will want to use you, it’s just the reality. However, YOU choose if you allow these people to use you or not. It happened to me many times in the past but with time, I learned to say “no” more often and set boundaries for my own well-being that people weren’t allowed to cross. Always remember that it’s possible to be both kind and not let everyone walk all over you. As a friendly and empathetic person it’s not easy to do but always remember this:
How much you respect yourself generally determines how much people respect you
And respecting yourself often involves setting boundaries and knowing your worth. I used to be friends with a girl who didn’t treat me right and was even body-shaming me and once I cut ties with her, it felt SO liberating. Don’t be afraid to cut ties. Focus on what’s good for YOU. Focus on those people who inspire you and bring out the best in you.
5. Help Other People
I believe that helping others can really increase your confidence and self-love. When you love yourself, it makes it easier to also love the people around you and to be kind to them. However, from my experience it also works the other way round. When you do good, you usually also feel good about yourself. Plus, helping others also gives you a sense of purpose. A study that tracked 2000 people over a five-year period found that those Americans who described themselves as “very happy” volunteered at least 5.8 hours per month. Researchers also assume that giving back gives people a mental boost and a neurochemical sense of reward.
6. Do Things That Are Good for You
Another factor that helped me to love myself was to focus on my own needs and asking myself what my body needs and what is good for me. I’m a person who needs quite a lot of sleep, at least 8 hours per night, in order to have a productive day and not to be mentally all over the place. So I give myself that and don’t go partying like many people at my age do. Making decisions that work for yourself and not necessarily for other people requires courage but in the end it will get you closer to your authentic self and your goals. Other things that I love to do for myself are reading, spending time in nature and singing.
7. Learn To Accept Yourself for All That You Are
Many people, and I feel like it’s especially true for women, are constantly criticizing themselves. What I personally learn is that the way you speak to yourself makes such a difference. You wouldn’t like other people to always point out that you should lose weight, that your skin is not perfectly clear or that you’re too tall or too small. I mean it’s kind of normal for us to be our own worst critic BUT have you ever thought about how much headspace thinking about your flaws occupies? I used to be so concerned about my appearance up until the age of 21 that I could feel how it was holding me back. I would never leave the house without eye make-up on because I thought it was weird-looking to have such light-coloured eyelashes. Now I don’t care so much about these things anymore because I know that I’m more than my appearance and all the superficial things many people use to define themselves. We are all more than that. I recently wrote an uplifting Instagram caption about it. You can read it here. Some people texted me that it helped them gain confidence and I hope it does the same for you.
At the end of this blog post I want to tell you that I truly believe that self-love comes from the inside but that it also helps to set your environment up for it. By that I mean that it’s best to have people in your life who love you unconditionally for all that you are, even in times when you can hardly love yourself. The beautiful thing about these people is also that they will even love you for those traits that you would criticize the most about yourself.
If you think that you weigh too much, the right people will think that your weight looks pretty on you. If you think that your nose is too big, your hair too thin or whatever it is that you don’t necessarily like about yourself yet, they will see the beauty in it and love you with all your imperfections and even FOR all these little quirks and imperfections. However, I would say that 80% of it is inner work and really catching yourself in these times when you are too hard on yourself or when you become lazy and complacent. Becoming aware of these things is always the first step.
I cannot say that I completed my self-love journey. I really think it’s a never ending story. There are always new challenges and things to learn but overall I’m just happy how far I’ve come when thinking about my 10-,15- or even 20 year-old self.
I also believe that self-love is unconditional love. This thought pattern of “IF I lose 10 kg, THEN I’ll be happy” is not self-love because you would tie it to certain criteria again while trying to tick all the boxes. It’s more about accepting yourself for the beautiful person that you are right here, right now. With everything that you are and with all your little quirks and imperfections. Please don’t mistake it for complacency. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pursue goals. I’m all for personal growth and becoming the best version of yourself but you can already love yourself for the person you are right now WHILE being on this journey.
I wish you the most beautiful day and I’m sending you so much love