Self-love is a psychological concept that includes a set of attitudes and actions that are vital to your whole being. It’s become such a popular idea that many see the lack of self-love as the reason for many personal problems, especially those that involve romantic love. I’m sure you have said, or heard someone say to you, recently: “You have to love yourself more?” “Why don’t you love yourself?” “If you only loved yourself more, you would choose better friends and lovers, or you’d leave that employer who treats you so poorly.”
All you need is (self) love is the message, here. But, just because the idea of self-love has become part of everyday language, don’t mistake it as a trivial concept. Self-love is just as important to your personal growth, as better hygiene and health habits was to the flourishing of cultures worldwide. The more you love yourself, the better your self-confidence and self-esteem. If you don’t love yourself enough, you might not protect yourself in ways that are vital to your welfare and growth. You may let other people take advantage of you, or not stick up for yourself, when needed. You may stay too long in romantic relationships or jobs that are bad for you. Or, you may eat poorly, drink too much, or indulge in other habits that are bad for your health.
Self-love helps you to decide for, rather than against, your mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It is a healthy expression of narcissism. A healthy amount of love for ourselves that leads us to protect ourselves against harm and to choose experiences that grow rather than debilitate us. But, don’t mistake this form of self-love as pathological narcissism that describes a serious personality disorder. Healthy and pathological narcissism are different ends of the self-love phenomenon.
So, what should you start to do to bring more healthy self-love into your life? Should you get a beauty makeover or buy a new set of clothing? Or, can a new relationship make you love yourself more? The answer to all of these questions is no. Although they feel good and are gratifying, you can’t grow in self-love through these types of activities. Since, self-love is not simply a state of feeling good.
Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support your physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love is dynamic; it grows by actions that mature you.
When you act in ways that expand self-love, you begin to: accept your weaknesses and strengths, have less need to explain away your short-comings, have compassion for yourself, as a human being struggling to grow in purpose and meaning, are more centered in your life purpose and values, and expect that you will get fulfillment through your own efforts.
The Seven-Step Prescription for Self-Love that follows shows you how to do this.
1. Become mindful. People who have more self-love tend to know what they think, feel and want authentically. They are mindful of who they are and act on this knowledge rather than on what others want for them.
2. Act on what you need, rather than what you want. You show self-love when you can turn away from something that feels good and exciting to what you need to stay strong, centered, and moving forward in your life. By staying focused on what you need, you turn away from automatic behavior patterns that get you into trouble, keep you stuck in the past, and lessen self-love.
3. Practice good self-care. You will love yourself more, when you take better care of your basic needs. People high in self-love nourish themselves daily through growth promoting activities, like sound nutrition, exercise, proper sleep, intimacy and healthy social interaction.
4. Set boundaries. You’ll love yourself more when you set limits or say no to work, love and activities that deplete or harm you physically, emotionally and spiritually or just simply express poorly who you are.
5. Protect yourself. Bring the right people into your life. I love the term frenemiesthat I learned from my younger clients. It describes so well the type of people who take pleasure in your pain and loss rather than in your happiness and success. My command to you here: Get rid of them! There isn’t enough time in your life to waste on people who want to take away the shine on your face that says, “I genuinely love myself and life”. You will love and respect yourself more.
6. Live intentionally. You will accept and love yourself more, whatever is happening in your life when you live with purpose and design. Your purpose doesn’t have to be crystal clear to you. Even if you aim at living a meaningful and healthy life, you will make decisions that support this intention and feel good about yourself when you succeed in this purpose. To feel good about ourselves, we like to know where we are going and if we are accomplishing what we set out to do.
7. Forgive yourself. Oh, we humans can be so hard on ourselves. I guess the downside of taking responsibility for our actions is recognition of where we went wrong along the way. The risk here is to punish ourselves for not knowing better or knowing and proceeding anyway. A part of self-love is accepting your humanness and that to be human means you are not perfect. You can’t grow unless you learn from your failures as well as your successes.
If you choose just one or two of these self-love actions to work on, you will begin to accept and love yourself more. Just imagine how much you’ll appreciate you when you exercise these seven-steps to self-love in your life. Although the saying that you have to love yourself before another person can truly love you is true. It’s also true that it takes self-love to allow and encourage other people to love themselves in the same way.
Thus, the more self-love you have, the better prepared you are for healthy intimate relating. You will, also, start to attract people and circumstances to you that support the health of your heart, mind, and spirit.