You’ve heard all the cliches and seen all the inspirational posts. You know you’re unique and have so much going for you, but it’s still really hard to get to that place where you really love and accept everything about yourself, am I right?
Despite everything we hear, we’re often our harshest critics. Our inside voices can really be assholes. But that doesn’t mean we should give up. There are little things we can practice each day to help our inner voices become our biggest fans instead of our worst enemies.
Why Self-Love Matters
“Why is self-love important?” you might ask. The truth is that self-love is true love. When you warm up to the idea of self-love, you’ll feel a bit more passionate, inspired, and uplifted. All these things lead to greater health, happiness and success.
At its core, self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support your physical, psychological, and spiritual growth. It focuses on being kind to yourself, refueling your well-being, creating balance, and taking time to feel and accept love.
While low self-worth, self-confidence, and self-acceptance may seem like major bumps on the road of your self-love journey, it’s important to know that these feelings can be diminished with a mindset shift. You can beat your inner critic. You can come out stronger.
What Does Self-Love Look Like?
Self-love, applied as a practice, births feelings of greater inner-peace, harmony, and joy. It’s your trusted ally in dealing with thoughts of not being good enough, important enough, or even attractive enough for who or what you truly desire.
It’s the antidote to your inner-critic and medicine for the over-active critical thought patterns. It’s the soothing balm on tender feeling skin. Decide right now that you want a better life for yourself and commit to yourself that you’re willing to show up for yourself every day, even when you feel like you don’t deserve it.
“Self-love is the unshakable, uncompromising belief that we are worthy of love, respect, safety, and belonging, regardless of our thoughts, feelings, or actions,” Arianna Smith, a psychotherapist tells Bustle.
This does not mean that you’ll always feel 100% great and it doesn’t mean that you won’t feel insecure or have doubts. “One of the best ways to recognize if we’re not giving ourselves love and respect is by how we’re treating our body, our mind, our heart, and our time,” Smith says.
To begin the process of self-love, counselor Dea Dean, who often works with women dealing with issues of identity, mentions that, in part, self-love is about “defining and protecting your sense of self and refusing to adopt outside definitions of who you are.”
Dean says that you want to be able to maintain respect and care for yourself while also being able to respect and care for others with equal measure. Self-love is a willingness to show respect for the validity of our humanity and inherent worth.
Even with an understanding of what self-love is, to get there can be challenging. Afterall, humans are complicated and often stick to habits. But change is possible, and it’s not a process you have to go at alone. The HBM community, along with those in your personal life, is available to support you on your journey.
A Look at the Statistics and Self-Concept
Let’s be real, at some point in our lives we’ve all dealt with low self-esteem, low self-worth, difficulty with self-acceptance, and low self-confidence. It’s completely normal, and like most things in life, mindsets can change.
Our thought processes contribute to our self-concept, which is how we perceive our behaviors, abilities, and unique characteristics. For example, beliefs such as “I am a good friend” or “I am a kind person” are part of an overall self-concept.
Your self-concept impacts how you respond to life, so a well-developed one can help you respond in ways that are positive and beneficial for yourself. It does this by enabling you to recognize your worth, and it can also keep you from internalizing negative feedback from others.
To put self-concept into perspective, here is a look at a few thought-provoking statistics on mindsets:
- Nearly eight out of ten women express trouble with their self-esteem, which has been shown to lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.1
- Self-esteem exists on a spectrum. Some people with low self-esteem find that it only affects them with certain people, or in certain situations. Other people find that their self-esteem colors everything they do.
- In a study administered by Julia Friederike Sowisl, it was found that decreases in self-esteem were predictive of increases in depression. Sowisl believes that individuals should be taught how to improve their sense of self-worth in order to effectively manage and overcome depression.2
- In one survey, 5,000 people were asked to rate themselves between one and 10 on habits identified from research as being keys to happiness. To the question, “How often are you kind to yourself and think you’re fine as you are?” One out of every six rated themselves below five.3
- The survey also revealed which habits are most related to people’s overall satisfaction with life. While self-acceptance was found to be the most important, it was revealed as the habit that people tend to practice the least, generating the lowest average score among respondents.
- Self-confidence is critical in our teenage years; by age 17, 78% of girls are unhappy with their bodies, and more than 90% admit to feeling pressure to look a certain way or would change something about how they look if they could.4
- A staggering 85% of women do not believe they are attractive, meaning that four in every five women do not feel confident in the way they look.5
These statistics adequately portray how hard we can be on ourselves. While it can be difficult, it’s important to remember that your self-concept and these mindsets can be altered for the better. Self-love is universal and all-inclusive.
Self-Love Benefits All Areas of Your Life
Do you tell yourself ‘I love you’? Do you smile when you look in the mirror? Do you take time out of your day for you? Each of these questions alludes to one thing: a positive self-image rooted in self-love. Learning to love yourself takes effort and acknowledgement, but with its benefits, you can positively impact your own life in the following ways:
When you genuinely love yourself, you create a mindset of acceptance. You become willing to accept your life stages and situations and take responsibility for your actions. You also recognize the places where love, happiness, passion, and authenticity originate.
When you acknowledge the power you hold over your life, you can become satisfied with how you live it. Simply being satisfied with your life has a great mental impact, contributing to an overall lower-stress life.
Self-love can motivate you to adopt healthy habits and take care of your physical self. It doesn’t mean you won’t see room for improvement, it just means you care enough to value all of the parts of you. You express your love for yourself by doing things that make you look and feel your best.
The positive results of your lifestyle can shine through as you build the confidence to begin new challenges. Benefits of developing healthy habits include being thankful, spending time alone, practicing mindfulness, allowing forgiveness, and wearing your confidence proudly.
When you love yourself, you’ll likely feel less stressed or uncomfortable when going through difficult events or situations. You won’t compete with or compare yourself to others, and you’ll be able to embrace your hardships. You’ll become an optimistic thinker who is willing to get creative and try new things.
People who practice self-love rebound from adversity faster than those who wallow in self-loathing. You can’t control what life throws at you, but you can manage your own response. With self-love, you’ll be able to handle life crises better and move on to the good times faster.
With self-love, you’ll develop healthy self-esteem, which is feeling good about yourself, your opinions, and your abilities. Having healthy self-esteem means you understand failure is a learning opportunity, not a painful indicator of defeat. Your pride and confidence aren’t easily diminished when you value your own opinions and abilities.
Self-love reduces stress, lessens procrastination, and reduces performance anxiety around deadlines. Without those last-minute doubts about yourself, you can complete projects with all of your energy, rather than wasting some on procrastination and setting yourself up for failure.
Lessons in Loving Yourself
Think of self-love as a practice, not a destination, then you can define it for yourself. There is no finish line you cross when you officially love yourself; it’s neither constant nor permanent. Just like with other long-term relationships, sometimes loving ourselves is just commitment, perseverance, acceptance, or general neutrality.
Know that you don’t have to love your reality in order to love or accept yourself. For example, maybe you didn’t get a second job interview. To avoid getting stuck in a self-blame spiral, first, validate your thoughts and feelings, and then practice self-acceptance instead of focusing on the things that could’ve been done differently.
Self-forgiveness can foster self-love and acceptance. While this may be a difficult practice to master, you can start with identifying the wisdom you gained from a discouraging situation. If, for example, a relationship doesn’t work out, don’t dwell; instead, ask yourself what you learned that might benefit you in the future.
If regrets or other negative thoughts start seeping in, look at the facts. Is there any evidence against these thoughts? You’re not denying reality, but instead pointing out all the things that exist at once. By identifying all the facts, you’re better able to recognize what you are and aren’t in control of.
Practice setting boundaries to build self-worth. Setting boundaries in relationships is a key step in cultivating self-love. Avoid giving your time and energy to people who trigger feelings of unworthiness. First, try setting small boundaries, like ending a phone call with a friend who’s bringing you down, or not checking your work email after a certain time in the evening.
Remind yourself that loving and accepting yourself is a worthwhile pursuit. Self-love has the potential to profoundly impact your life if you define it as an acceptance of who you are and a commitment to personal growth. It’s actually the best foundation to having a healthy partnership, and being a great parent. It’s the key to sharing your gifts as you work in the world.
Remember: Cultivating new thought patterns doesn’t happen overnight: Like any habit, accepting and being kinder to yourself takes time and practice. So give yourself the time to practice these changes.
You Are Worthy
What do you love about yourself? To help you on your self-love journey, try making a list of things you love and appreciate about yourself at least once a week. You can look at it as writing love notes to yourself; call them “I Love Me” notes.
Creating your I Love Me notes is a good practice for developing the habit of focusing on the good things in life and the positive things about yourself. It can also help you move from self-judgment to a strong appreciation of your uniqueness.
Some I Love Me notes you can try are:
I take time for myself and listen to my heart.
I love my ability to see the beauty in everything life brings.
I always see the lessons and blessings in life.
I love having the wisdom I have, and I practice what I teach.
I love being authentic.
I love my smile and share it with others daily.
I am a divine sparkle of light.
When you start this exercise, you may find it difficult to think of positive affirmations to write, which is totally normal. However, as you continue, you’ll likely notice the list will grow and change, just as you’re growing and changing.
Let’s Enrich Our Self-Love Together
Where are you on your self-love journey?
Achieving a high level of self-love can seem intimidating and unattainable. However, The HBM community is a safe container for you to express yourself, all of the time. In this safe place, we focus on radical inclusivity and provide support for self-love and self-care.
Think of it as a positive village of individuals where love, acceptance, and kindness lives. It feels good to admire, inspire, and cheer each other on without competition. Take this opportunity to join now. We look forward to welcoming you to The Human Beauty Movement!
Reserve your spot in our upcoming virtual Breathwork and Journaling Discovery event on Monday, May 23rd at 7 pm PDT. Click here to register.