There’s an old adage that says in order to love someone else, you first have to love yourself. This is an important truth, but what does loving yourself really mean? Well, remember that the word “love” is a verb. So just as your actions show your love for someone else, it’s important to actively do things to love yourself.
Make a List of Things you Like About Yourself
Sometimes we focus so much on what we’d like to change about ourselves that we actually forget there’s a lot to like as well. So take a few minutes and remind yourself of the positives you can be proud of. Think of physical attributes, mental or emotional strengths, successes you’ve experienced, the way you support your friends, or anything else. Make your list as long as possible, and then keep adding to it.
Ask Others to add to your List
Go to the people you trust—a friend, a romantic partner, a therapist, a family member—and ask them what they’d list as your most positive characteristics. You may be surprised to find out that people see a lot more of your strengths than you realize.
Treat yourself like a Best Friend
You know how you treat someone you really care about? The way you love and support that person and treat him or her with kindness and respect? Do that for yourself. And just as you’d challenge a close friend who’s making bad decisions with his or her life, challenge yourself as well. Just as you would for a good friend, remind yourself over and over again of your immense worth as an individual and that you deserve great things in your life. Challenge yourself to achieve the best life possible.
Pay Attention to your Needs and Desires
This may sound a bit silly, but some people really don’t know what they want and need. They can go through their entire adult lives living only for others without stopping to ask the question “What do I want here?” or “What’s best for me?” One of the best ways to love yourself is simply to pay attention to what it is that you want and need—in your job, in your relationships, in your friendships, and in your whole life.
When you love yourself, you’re much less willing to let someone take advantage of you or to have toxic people in your life. Refuse to be the kind of person who so desperately wants to be loved that they’ll put up with anything in a relationship. You’re worth more than that. Protect yourself from people who don’t have your best interest at heart, and choose not to allow yourself to be treated in unloving, disrespectful ways.
Listen to your Self-Talk
Repeatedly calling yourself an idiot or a loser is one of the least loving things you can do for yourself. So today, right now, commit to making your self-talk positive. Maybe take the list of things you like about yourself and repeat some of those attributes as you move through the day. When you do make a mistake, be generous with yourself, and instead of telling yourself how stupid you were to lose your keys, just say, “Oh, well. It happens. Everyone loses things from time to time.” As you talk to yourself, don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to someone else you love.
Take care of your Body
You don’t have to become a marathoner or a supermodel. But do your best to be healthy. Few of us eat exactly as we should or exercise as much as we ought to, so there’s no reason to beat yourself up over not being perfect. But taking small steps to take care of yourself physically is one of the best ways to show yourself love. By treating our bodies well, we send ourselves the message that we deserve good things.
Take Care of your Inner Life
Don’t neglect your spirit. Slow down from time to time and pay attention to what’s going on within yourself, where you’ll find all kinds of reserves to draw on when you need strength and support. Taking the time to pray, meditate, connect with others, and read meaningful books can nourish our love for ourselves and enrich our lives in many ways.
Show yourself Compassion
Be willing to forgive yourself, and be patient as you grow. All of us make mistakes, and we all have certain shortcomings that make it easy for us to get down on ourselves. But remind yourself that you’re only human. There’s no reason to expect perfection. When you make a mistake or notice something about yourself that you don’t like, don’t judge or harshly criticize yourself. Instead, be compassionate and remind yourself that you’re doing your best.
Live in the Now
This isn’t always easy to do, but one powerful way to love yourself is to focus your energy and attention on the present moment. Don’t dwell on the past, with all the painful regrets that might exist there. And let go of the future, with all its crippling concerns and anxieties. Then invest yourself in appreciating all the good in your life right now; pour yourself into the present moment and make the most of who you are right now.
Keep in mind that loving yourself isn’t selfish. Think of the heart, which pumps blood to itself first before sending blood out to the rest of the body. Similarly, the more loving you are to yourself, the more love you’ll be able to send out to the other people in your life—your family, your friends, and the people you date.
When you get right down to it, love’s not a feeling, it’s a decision. So make a choice right now to love yourself and to work on loving yourself more fully day after day.