How can you love yourself? Why should you love yourself in the first place? Isn’t that super selfish? Well no. Self-love is survival skill number one. Just think about what the flight attendant tells you on the plane: you should put on your own oxygen mask first, and then help your child. There’s a reason for that. Without oxygen, you can’t do much.
So if you want to be able to be there for your loved ones, you first have to take care of yourself. Compassion for yourself is important, even in the simplest interactions in life. When you’re friendly to yourself, you’re friendlier to others. If you genuinely feel good about who you are (but also don’t feel better about yourself than others), you positively impact other people’s lives.
How to love yourself: 4 effective tips
Loving yourself, how do you do that? How can you increase self-love when you think that you’re just a big loser? You’re not, though. I know that because you’re reading this article. And my articles are not written for losers. Here are 4 tips that help you remember.
- You don’t need to please everyone, it’s impossible.
- It’s okay to make mistakes, you don’t need to be perfect.
- Resisting shame only adds to suffering, just let it be there when you feel it.
- Practice meditation.
It’s important to become aware of all the bad things you say about yourself and to learn to listen to the loving voice inside you, that is already there.
A self-love meditation will help you with that. That’s why I’ve recorded a self-love meditation for you (see below). But first, here are 4 tips to increase self-love and compassion.
#1 Increase self-love: the only one you have to be good enough for is you
There will always be people who have something to say about you, even (or especially) those you love. Your hair is too long. Your pants are too short. You’re too old. Too young. Too smart. Too stupid.
You may not realize it, but the reason you think you’re not good enough is that you care too much about the opinions of others. But what if you accepted that you will never be good enough?
What happens if you accept this? Can you then just be who you are and do what your heart desires? By accepting that you will never be good enough for others, you can suddenly feel like you can just freely be yourself.
#2 Allow yourself to make mistakes
People with low self-esteem usually suffer from perfectionism. They’re so afraid of criticism and rejection that they’re never satisfied. Something always needs to be better. Their body. Their face. Their work. And if it’s not good enough, they either work themselves into a complete stupor or just postpone the whole project.
The American dr. Brené Brown (expert on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy) compares perfectionism to a heavy shield. Perfectionism is a tool we use to protect ourselves from disappointment and rejection.
For example, maybe deep in your heart, you wanted to be a forest ranger, but like your parents, you became a radiologist instead. Why did you choose that path? Because it was the least painful path. After all, we prefer to avoid pain, and it’s less painful to give up on your dreams than to feel disappointment if something went wrong.
This is why perfectionism is a graveyard for unfulfilled dreams and a breeding ground for procrastination.
#3 Let yourself feel shame
At the root of perfectionism lies shame. It’s the unpleasant feeling that feeds the idea that you need to hide something, improve something. It leads you to think that some aspects of yourself are so negative that you must keep them secret from others.
Suppose you blush easily. At the slightest mistake, the red blush of shame shoots to your cheeks. When you have to give a presentation, you lie awake nights before thinking about how bad it would be if you made a mistake and everyone saw your red head. You start to sweat, you get wet patches under your armpits. Your voice falters, and where your head would normally be, a big red tomato appears.
Do you then allow your shame to take hold? No, you resist it. After all, it feels vulnerable, and the last thing you want is to feel vulnerable. But the resistance only makes it worse. More helpful is to just allow the shame.
Let yourself get nervous. Keep that sweat coming. Remember, it’s just a symptom of anxiety. Of stress. Of an overly active alarm system. Tell your body it’s safe. Calm yourself by paying attention to your belly breathing. Bring your attention to the warmth in your hands and let it be there. Let yourself be there. And let go of what others think about you. Everyone is more concerned with their own things than with you anyway.
Read my article about how to stop a panic attack.
And #4: How to love yourself with a self-love meditation
You can learn to listen to the loving, positive voice, which is also inside you. Compare it to learning a new language, only you already know the words. You just have to start applying them to yourself.
A meditation for self-love helps with that. Research shows that already after seven hours of exercises in mindfulness and compassion, changes in the brain are observed, making people feel more positive about their lives.
However, people often fall back into old habits, which is why it’s important to keep practicing. Each time you notice a negative thought, ask yourself: am I sure that thought is true? Or is it a habit of my brain?