Sometimes people think self-love is the same as narcissism or equates to having a big ego. It’s totally the opposite. Self-love means accepting you just as you are, feeling worthy and not needing positive comments from others just to feel worthy. You also value your own well-being and happiness.

If you love yourself just as you are, what happens on the outside doesn’t matter. Self-love also means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others.

For some people, loving themselves unconditionally just seems too much of a leap. They may think they love themselves when they have a good hair day or accomplish something, but those conditions make that conditional love. I am talking about getting to the point where you are comfortable in your own skin and acknowledge you can’t control whatever happens on the outside.

Begin with self-acceptance

If you struggle with self-acceptance and self-love, you may need to begin with a part of you that you can see, like your eyes or your smile. Begin by loving that part of you.

Loving yourself doesn’t mean you think you’re the smartest, most talented, and most beautiful person in the world. Rather, when you love yourself, you accept yourself, warts and all. You learn to appreciate those so-called shortcomings as something that makes you who you are. When you love yourself, you have compassion for yourself.

Do you take better care of your friends and loved ones than you take care of yourself? If so, you are not alone. I think women tend to fall into this a lot. As a woman, you are probably used to being a caregiver, whether you are a mom or not. Some of this is genetic, but much of it is socialized.

Next time you criticize yourself for something, take a moment and ask what if it were someone else. Would you be so critical? Probably not. We are our own worst critics and that is just human nature, so self-love is skill that takes practice.

Self-love isn’t the same as instant gratification. Buying yourself something or eating an entire pizza might make you feel good in the moment, but the feeling isn’t lasting–and could be damaging in the long run. That’s not to say it’s unhealthy to treat yourself, because it shows you deserve it. Just maybe a whole pizza is a bit much.

Give yourself permission to treat yourself from time to time. Take a break and recover as you need. That doesn’t mean you are selfish, just the opposite, it shows you love yourself and feel worthy. Self-love means giving yourself what your body, brain, and soul needs. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Here are some practices to encourage self-love:

  • Start each day by telling yourself something really positive: how well you handled a situation, how lovely you look today. Anything that will make you smile.
  • If you find this difficult, start with one part of your body that you can send love. Look at yourself in the mirror and find the parts of you that you love. We all have something!
  • Fill your body with healthy, nutritious food and drink to nourish the body that you love. Move that gorgeous body of yours every single day and learn to love the skin you’re in.
  • Noticing your words and thoughts is so important. There is an inner critic inside of us trying to keep us small and safe. Remember, we get what we focus on. Do you tell yourself that you are too fat or not good enough?
  • Surround yourself with people who love and encourage you. Let them remind you just how amazing you are. Don’t compare yourself to others. There is only one you; we are all unique.
  • Don’t stay in toxic relationships. Anyone who makes you feel anything less than amazing doesn’t deserve to be a part of your life.
  • Celebrate your wins no matter how big or small. Pat yourself on the back and be proud of what you achieve. Be open to new things. It’s incredible the feeling we get when we realize we have achieved something we didn’t know we could do.
  • Embrace and love the things that make you different. This is what makes you special.

Your action step is a little exercise I have used with my patients and clients over the years. I call it your list of priorities. Make a list of 5-10 things that are a priority in your life, things like God, family, job, etc. Take the time to really reflect on this.

When you have made the list, look at it and identify where you are on the list. My experience is that often people find they are not even on the list. If that’s you, begin to work on making you a priority in your life.