Table of Contents
- 1 Do You Really Love Yourself?
- 1.1 What is self-love?
- 1.2 How to cultivate self-love
- 1.3 Bottom line on how to love yourself first
Do You Really Love Yourself?
Everyone knows what it’s like to love someone else but what does loving yourself mean? Discover how to love yourself first whether you’re in a relationship or not with these time-tested self-love tips.
In this article we’ll explain what self-love is, the steps to take that further develop it and most importantly why it’s impossible to be in a healthy and happy relationship without it.
What is self-love?
Most people understand what the word “love” means and usually, it’s an understanding of what it means to love another person. However, things get a bit trickier when the question changes to what self-love is.
If you could just pause for a couple of seconds and personally ask yourself what self-love is, what would be your answer? Like so many people you may have struggled beyond saying it means “you love yourself.”
Yes, it’s a difficult concept to grasp yet self-love is a popular term that is used now more than ever and that’s for good reason. Self-love is said to be something that is a prerequisite for a good life and loving relationships.
Psychologists define self-love as a very positive concept involving the practice of several self enhancing qualities of thinking, feeling and acting towards yourself.
More specifically self-love is a process consisting of six distinct components wherein a person acts as both the self as the doer and the self as the object in relating to oneself.
These six components:
- Self attachment or feeling attachment towards yourself physically and mentally
- Self affection or feeling at peace with who and what you are along with enjoying your own company
- Positive self-regard or unconditionally accepting yourself despite successes failures or your status
- Self-worth or your belief that your life is a valued possession and trusting in your ability to respond to your need
- Self knowing – the ability to see yourself from the outside to listen to, to know and to understand yourself
- Self caring behaviors that are aimed at maintaining your health and personal welfare.
Defining self love this way still makes it a difficult concept to grasp so I have some examples of the way a self loving person thinks about and treats themselves.
To simplify things I want you to think about what a healthy relationship between a parent and a child is like. I also want you to picture yourself in the role of a parent and try to imagine yourself experiencing the feelings, thoughts and actions that are described in these examples.
Focus on how a loving parent would feel as they relate to their child. For example a good parent takes pride in their child and gives them a sense of identity and belonging to a family.
They’re also responsive to their child’s needs for safety, health and happiness and good parents are aware what is best for their child and try to act in ways that make the child’s life more joyful and satisfying.
Likewise a person who is able to relate to themselves in this manner is practicing a high level of self attachment. Parents are supportive of their children and hold high but realistic expectations of them.
After all a good parent wants their child to excel and succeed and when your child makes mistakes or gets into trouble, you don’t devalue them or love them any less instead you help them to understand and learn from their mistakes.
Through nurturing and support being able to treat yourself in these ways is practicing positive self-regard and great parents listen to their child’s thoughts and seek to know and understand their feelings. They use this knowledge and understanding to take action with their child’s best interests at heart.
Now apply this to yourself being able to reflect upon and learn and understand your thoughts. Your own feelings and your behaviors is practicing the component of self knowing.
Lastly, a loving parent is concerned for and dedicated to maintaining the health, welfare and safety of their children. They educate their children on healthy eating and the value of exercise and they teach them to live a healthy lifestyle.
They do their best to protect their child physically and psychologically and they seek immediate care when the child is ill or in pain.
When you place a high priority on taking good care of yourself you’re practicing self-love.
Hopefully you have a better understanding of what self-love is and you recognize it as a practice that is psychologically healthy and related to confidence and high self esteem and taking good care of yourself.
However, self-love is also absolutely essential to developing a healthy relationship because self-love ensures that you find the right partner who loves and respects and cherishes you.
How to cultivate self-love
How do we cultivate self-love and use it to develop a great relationship?
Practicing self-love in the context of a new intimate relationship is often easier said than done. When we want another person, we often do things that we think will win their affection.
In so doing, many times, people engage in behaviors that are anything but self loving. The good news is if we commit to becoming our own best friend, we can learn to practice self-love while developing amazingly fulfilling and loving relationships.
But it all starts with learning to be your own best friend and here are the steps to do just that.
1. Get to know the real you
People don’t become best friends overnight. Instead they spend alone time together and cultivate their relationship through honest communication and sharing.
The same is true for becoming your own best friend. You must spend quiet time getting to know yourself through self reflection and introspection.
So make it a priority every day to spend 10 to 15 minutes in solitude where you simply think about yourself and your life. Get yourself a notebook and begin writing your thoughts and journaling during this time.
Writing to help you stay on task and focused only on yourself. What should you write about during this ‘you time?’
- Write about what you really like and dislike
- Write about what drives and motivates you
- Write about your goals and dreams for the future
Write as if you were speaking to your future self and express your thoughts, beliefs and feelings about the important things in your life.
2. Spend time doing things alone
Best friends also plan and share enjoyable activities with one another. Becoming your own best friend will require you to plan and enjoy activities by yourself. As you journal, develop a list of activities that you can enjoy doing alone.
These solo activities can be hobbies such as
- reading and writing a story
- listening to great music
- meditating, among other things.
Practicing these hobbies will help you appreciate your own company, deepen your understanding of yourself and help you to cultivate self-love
3. Practice acceptance and forgiveness
Best friends really listen to one another and offer the safety of trust as they share their true thoughts and feelings. They support one another with acceptance and encouragement.
However, sometimes they have to practice tough love when we need it. It’s therefore important that you can also engage in this type of acceptance and encouragement for yourself.
Being able to comfort and encourage yourself through difficult times will require regular practice. Practice talking to yourself as you would talk to your best friend.
So when you’re struggling or upset about a situation, think about the words you would say to your best friend and then say them to yourself. Allow yourself to feel supported and accepted.
4. Take good care of yourself
This one is obvious right. We all understand the importance of maintaining our physical and psychological health. How do we achieve that? By engaging in healthy eating, exercising and overall living.
Taking good care of yourself also involves reflective thinking and being responsive to your body and to your feelings as the basis for taking action that is best suited for you.
It’s important to not forget this because when you’re taking good care of yourself you’re strengthening all six components of self love.
5. Use the best friend test
New relationships can be exhilarating and thrilling and super exciting when things are going well but they can also be stressful and unsettling when things just aren’t right.
This is when loving yourself is absolutely essential because when you practice self-love you’re able to walk away from people in situations that are not good for you.
See rather than standing up for themselves and walking away from something that will never work, many people are willing to go to great lengths trying to make things right and keep another person in their life.
When a person lacks self-love they’re willing to accept toxic behaviors while hoping their partner changes or that they’re going to win the affection of their new partner so they compromise their own values and beliefs and try to become what they think their partner wants.
Of course compromising your values and beliefs is far from healthy or self loving. In such situations, what do you do, how does self love protect you from bad relationships?
Well when entering a new relationship, practicing self-love may require you to look at life through the lens of being your own best friend. Doing so means that you take the time to honestly reflect on your situation as you would if your best friend were sharing their story with you.
Remember in good times and in bad times a best friend simply wants what’s best for us without a hidden agenda. When things are going well a best friend is there to share in your happiness but they also stand by you through tough times and challenges.
If someone is treating you badly or taking advantage of you, your best friend is there to stand up for your rights and this is how you use the best friend test.
As you begin dating a new person you’re likely to be confronted by unforeseen situations that make you feel uneasy and when you are unsure of how to respond to these situations you can use the best friend test to help you make a decision.
The best friend test is a simple litmus test where you imagine how you would support a best friend in the same situation.
Think about your best friend and imagine that they’re struggling and stuck in the same situation that you’re faced with. What would you say to them how would you advise and support them?
Say these things to yourself and act on the situation and fight the urge to use self-justification or to ignore what your best friend would advise.
Make the decision and then act on it. Using this test along with the promise to act as your own best friend will drastically reduce the possibility of entering into an unhealthy relationship or situation.
Your new perspective will foster a new awareness of your relationship with yourself and make it possible to recognize the things that are undermining your well-being and happiness and success in all aspects of your life.
6. Don’t ignore your best friend’s advice
We’ve all been there. Hearing that little voice in our head telling us that something just isn’t right but choosing to ignore it in favor of what we want. Our brains use self-justification and self-deception to manipulate our thoughts and behaviors to explain, defend and protect us from recognizing unacceptable truths.
When we blind ourselves to our true motivations and feelings, we are unwittingly sabotaging our own efforts at happiness and satisfying relationships.
Don’t let it happen to you. Listen to what your best friend would tell you. Make the decision and then act on it.
Bottom line on how to love yourself first
Practicing self-love can be challenging especially in times when we’re feeling hurt and facing difficult decisions. However, by implementing these six tips you’re strengthening your love for yourself and your ability to recognize the things that are undermining your well-being and happiness.
Use them and you’ll thank yourself later. And let me know what you think or if you have any questions, comments, leave them below.