Loving yourself is the hardest thing you’ll ever learn to do. When we love ourselves – truly 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:
1. Stop trying to be perfect.
It’s easy to be hard on yourself when we live in a world presented through the lens of social media. That mom on Instagram may seem to have it all together, but she’s battling depression. The fitness influencer you envy is struggling, too. When you realize everyone is dealing with something, it becomes easier to deal with your issues as well. No one is perfect. Changing your mind-set and learning not to compare yourself to others allow for personal growth and development. You can't hate your way into loving yourself.
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. Enforce boundaries in your life so you can carve out time for yourself if you desire it.
Each morning, try planning your day. By writing out a plan for how to spend your time, you may realize when you need to give yourself a break or allow yourself some time to do things that really make you happy.
3. Have 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 really 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 are.
4. Focus on nourishment.
Instead of looking at food as purely 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 choose foods that are both good for you and that you enjoy, which will positively impact your mental health more than you know!
In addition to nourishment in the form of food, one of IIN’s core concepts is primary food, or things in your life that feed you besides the food you put on your plate. Examples include the relationships you have, any physical activity you do, your spiritual wellness, and even your home environment. Being mentally nourished is just as important as being physically nourished.
5. Say no when you need to.
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 first, 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. Maybe it’s a coworker who always asks for help when you’re already swamped or the family member who guilts you into holiday events you don’t want to attend. Every time you say yes when you want to say no, you put others’ needs and wants above your own, which over time can lead to feelings of resentment or frustration that can impact your mental well-being.
6. Feel your feelings.
Your feelings are valid. Acknowledging your feelings, whether or not they’re good and whether or not others think they’re an appropriate reaction, is a healthy, normal action. 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 negative emotions become less destructive. Feel your feelings, and move forward as best you can.
7. Move your body.
As a form of primary food, 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 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, lest we get labeled as codependent or needy. But if you’re truly struggling, there’s no shame in turning to others. Asking for help isn’t weakness; it’s strength. Turning to a friend to lean on or even 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.
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 on 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 the areas of primary food in our lives, 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.