Loving yourself is one of the hardest things you’ll ever learn to do. When we love ourselves, it helps us feel our best. When we feel our best, we have more to give to others, feel more confident, and are empowered to live our best lives.
Authentically loving yourself may not come naturally to many of us, but there are steps we can take to begin that process.
How Do I Love Myself? 13 Steps for Self-Love
1. Stop trying to be perfect.
When you realize everyone is dealing with something, it becomes easier to deal with your issues as well. Remember: No one is perfect. Changing your mind-set and learning not to compare yourself to others allow for personal growth and development (and peace of mind).
2. Spend your time intentionally.
Getting caught up in the routine of life – from work and home to family and finances – can feel monotonous. By spending your time intentionally, you can focus on living each part of your life with purpose. This can look like being more present when cooking and eating a meal, savoring each bite, or establishing better boundaries in your life so you can carve out time for yourself if you desire it.
3. Learn to say “no.”
Sometimes we focus on what we are doing to make our friends and family happy and end up neglecting ourselves. If you don’t take care of yourself, how you take care of others will suffer. As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
Boundaries are an essential form of self-love because they demonstrate to people that you (and your time and energy) deserve and expect to be respected. Saying no means you’re putting your needs above the needs of others.
4. Practice gratitude.
Having gratitude is one of the simplest ways to focus on the good in everyday life. Going about daily life (and experiencing all the stressors that come with it) may not leave room to reflect on how good things are in your life. Try finding three things you’re grateful for at the end of every day and write them in a journal. In times of struggle, reflect on these positives, however small they may seem.
5. Focus on nourishment.
Instead of looking at food as pure sustenance, consider the food you eat to be an act of self-love and self-care. When you shift your mind-set to thinking of food as nourishment, you’ll be more drawn to choosing foods that are both good for you and that you enjoy, which will positively impact your mental and physical health more than you know!
6. Feel your feelings.
Acknowledging your feelings is a healthy thing to do, whether you think they are good, bad, appropriate, or inappropriate. Don’t shy away from uncomfortable feelings like anger: Denying them is denying a part of your authentic self. Psychological research shows that emotional avoidance can lead to increased stress, anxiety, depression, and even negative physical manifestations. By allowing yourself to express negative emotions in a safe, respectful, and healthy way, those emotions become less destructive. Feel your feelings and move forward as best you can.
7. Move your body.
Exercise is a form of primary food, IIN’s core concept that refers to all the things found off your plate that nourish you, and exercise releases endorphins. Finding an activity you enjoy, even if you’re not “the best” at it, is a great way to ensure you’re getting movement on a regular basis. In addition to being good for your physical health, exercise has been shown to prevent chronic disease, lower your risk of infection, and improve mental health and clarity by increasing serotonin levels.
Whether it’s a brisk walk each morning or evening, or a full exercise regimen, moving your body is a great form of self-care.
8. Ask for help.
Society has taught us that we need to be completely self-sufficient, or else we get labeled as codependent or needy. If you’re truly having a tough time, and it’s impacting your daily life, there’s no shame in turning to others. Asking for help isn’t a weakness -- it’s a strength. Turning to a friend to lean on or seeking professional help is an excellent form of self-love. Life is hard, and you’re not expected to go through it alone.
9. Invest in sleep.
You spend almost a third of your life asleep, so invest in it! Improving your sleep health can reduce feelings of anxiety, help you think more clearly during the day, allow you to manage stress, and help you control appetite. Investing in quality sleep may be the best thing you can do for yourself.
Limiting caffeine and blue light, exercising regularly, and improving your sleep environment can all support optimized sleep health. Try some of IIN’s staff picks for sleep health.
10. Embrace your inner child.
Being an adult can be much harder than it needs to be if you don’t embrace your inner child once in a while! Think back to how you were as a child. Were you curious? Adventurous? Do the things you wish you had been able to do when you were young. Throw inhibition to the wind a little – jump in puddles, buy a karaoke machine, or dance to your favorite music as wildly as possible. Treating your inner child kindly is treating yourself kindly.
11. Avoid comparisons.
Comparing yourself and your journey to other people is a hard habit to break. When everyone else’s lives seem so perfect (especially on social media), it can be easy to compare where you are to where others are. But you don’t know their whole story or journey – they've likely had just as many ups and downs as you have. Looking to others for inspiration is fine but avoid comparing your life to others.
12. Be present in the moment.
Being present means you’re focused and engaged in what’s happening now, not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. You can be physically present without being emotionally present, and that tends to happen when you’re stressed, anxious, and even bored. When you need to be fully present in a moment, pause, close your eyes, and take a few rounds of cleansing breaths. Try box breathing – inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, hold for four counts, and repeat two to three times. Envision drawing a box with every four counts.
13. Be honest with yourself.
Sometimes it’s easier to turn a blind eye to our problems rather than confront them face-to-face. Ignoring problems doesn’t fix them, it only allows them to grow – what started out as a small problem can become a much bigger problem. If we aren’t honest, then we can’t expect to learn and grow as individuals. We must be willing to recognize the reality of our situation before we can change it.
Loving yourself, made easy
By incorporating these tips, loving yourself can become a routine part of you! At the end of the day, you are the most important person in your life – treat yourself the way you’d like to be treated. Your relationship with yourself is the longest, most important, and most intimate one you’ll ever have. This is by no means a complete list of how to love yourself. If you’re struggling with loving yourself, make sure you speak with a mental health professional for more individualized support.
Each of us has individual needs, strengths, and weaknesses when it comes to nourishing ourselves with primary foods, which we call bio-individuality – what works for one person won’t work for another, from food to exercise and everything in between. Learn about these concepts and more by checking out the IIN Health Coach Training Program Curriculum Guide.