What Is Self-Love and How to Practice It

By Reniel

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Last Updated: May 27, 2021

A lot of people don’t love themselves – they think they do, but they don’t. They harm themselves and struggle to accept who they are, and most times this happens unconsciously. It might be a constant feeling of incompetence, or unworthiness. It may be a bad habit or an addiction that is killing them slowly. But in general, it is a lack of care for (and about) themselves.

Self-love can be tricky to define because it isn’t just about pleasing oneself, nor is self-loathing equals to subjecting oneself to “pain”. A person who loves themselves may actively choose to do difficult tasks and deny themselves pleasurable things because they know that it’s what’s best for them. Whilst a person who hates themselves may avoid the stress, and give in fully to pleasure (which is gluttony and addiction) because they don’t care much about themselves.

This paradoxical situation makes the definition of self-love a bit vague. Hence, to better understand self-love, we need to create a framework. And that framework needs to be simple enough to be applied in any circumstance, easily.   

A simple framework you can use is this: whatever adds to your well-being is good, and is an act of self-love – no matter how difficult or painful it may seem in the short term. While those things that subtract from your well-being are bad and are not acts of self-love – no matter how easy or pleasurable they may seem in the short term).  

That is to say, self-love involves doing things that would be of benefit to you in the long run. But this should not be mistaken for narcissism. While narcissism looks like caring for oneself, it is actually born out of selfishness and insecurities, which end up hurting them and everyone around them in the long run.

With that, we can say that self-love is an awareness and appreciation of oneself which leads to decisions and actions that bring about physical, psychological, and spiritual growth. It means avoiding things that hamper your growth and limit your overall happiness.  

But that’s not all.

How you interact with other people is also a reflection of how much you love yourself. For example, if you do things that hurt and make you unhappy to please other people because you fear how they might react if you didn’t do those things, it means you do not love yourself. Caring and sacrificing for others should be done voluntarily, and not out of obligation. Again, this should not be misinterpreted as selfishness or narcissism, but rather as an ability to set strong boundaries.    

Self-love simply points out the need to not harm yourself in all you do. It means caring for yourself enough to nurture yourself. It means being there for you.   

When we practice self-love, we create a life where we are genuinely happy, free from regrets, anger, anxiety, and pain. We essentially live a life we choose – a life that makes us happy. Self-love means finding balance. It also means: 

  • Eating well, but not too much
  • Working hard, but not overworking ourselves
  • Pushing ourselves, but not criticizing ourselves
  • Relaxing, but not being lazy
  • Serving, but not out of fear
  • Believing in ourselves, but not out of narcissism, or naivety
  • Listening to feedback, but not internalizing criticisms
  • Treating ourselves to some fun, pleasure, and other nice things, but not over-indulging
  • Pursuing our passion, but not getting lost in inordinate ambitions
  • Meditating, but not ignoring problems.
  • And many more!

A huge part of self-love comes from having self-worth – which means seeing ourselves as important.

For a person to love themselves, they must learn to love others too. This means, they should be okay when someone does better than them, because they know it doesn’t diminish who they are. This is why self-love is better than narcissism. Because narcissists only feel happy when they are being praised, but are broken once the attention and praise shift to someone else.  

People who love themselves, become happy for other people, and may even admire them, but they don’t get jealous or angry because they value themselves as well. They know their worth.

18 ways to practice self-love

Thus, in order to love yourself, you need to:

  1.  Stop comparing yourself to others – especially celebrities
  2.  Speak positively to and about yourself. This is also known as practicing positive affirmations.
  3.  Forgive your past mistakes and shortcomings
  4.  Give yourself the permission to follow your passion
  5.  Remove toxic people from your life
  6.  Learn gratitude
  7.   Set goals
  8.  Avoid perfectionism, but pursue constant improvement
  9.  Change your internal script. Purge your mind of all the negative and limiting beliefs you have about yourself.
  10.  Avoid things that encourage stereotypical ideas – it may be about wealth, beauty, etcetera.
  11.  Keep track of all your past successes, and praise yourself.
  12.  Be patient with yourself
  13.  Accept your limitations and quirks
  14.  Stop worrying about other people’s opinion and criticism – but be open to learning nonetheless.
  15.  Learn to properly process your fears and worries
  16.  Set boundaries (know when/where to stop, and when/where to stop others)
  17.  Listen to your body – your health is crucial.
  18.  Visit a therapist if need be – and talk about your challenges.

In summary, you practice self-love when you become mindful of your thoughts and actions. When you put your needs above your immediate wants. You engage in self-love when you practice good self-care, develop healthy habits, and allow only positive people around you.

 

Photo by Anna Tarazevich from Pexels

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4 comments on “What Is Self-Love and How to Practice It”

  1. I like the article, well written and yes, selflove entails learning to parent oneself the best way under ones prevailing conditions. Your conditions may not be the most conducive on relative terms but, of the options they present, you should settle for the best no matter how painful it might feel in the immediate, it must be a path that leads to a better if not the best of you in the long run.

  2. I really need to learn to practice this self love, something I have never done its always been about everyone else who never do the same for me, I have been dumped on and put on all my adult life which has impacted my health I now have to learn how to look after me because I am the only one who can truly care enough about me, this article opened my eyes to a lot of things I wish I had seen it sooner.

  3. All I could say is woww!

    Unbelievable, I really needed to hear this and I will internalize this as well.
    Self Love, is so needed

    I am struggling in this area, and now I came upon this site, tha KS too my beautiful little cousin, my Anjel, for sending g this too me, to read.

    1. That's wonderful to hear Wanda! You are worth it. Loving yourself is hard sometimes, but a worthy goal. 🙂

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