Let’s talk about a VERY important topic: How to love yourself.
Yes! I mean you. We all need love in our lives. We want it from our parents, partners, children, and friends, but we also need it from ourselves.
The true gift of self-love is being able to feel secure from the inside out, regardless of how other people treat you or any external circumstances.
If your security isn’t coming from your inner self, then you’re depending on someone or something outside of you to give you that security, which means you’re relying on everything going well or happening in the exact right way in order to feel secure. In other words, your security and threat-free existence depends on the EXTERNAL world agreeing with you and playing by your rulebook… and friends—we all know how that goes.
But what is the best way to love yourself, and how do you go about doing that when you’ve been lacking self-love and self-worth for so long?
How to Love Yourself
Can you take care of others if you don’t love yourself? Can you love someone if you don’t love yourself? Can you reach your full potential if you don’t love yourself? No, No, and No.
How do you learn to love yourself? Let me start by saying: THIS IS NOT EASY. Loving yourself is hard work, and your work is never complete. It’s an ongoing self-love journey and a habit you need to build.
Loving yourself means loving everything about yourself. It’s not simply self-confidence, bravado, or phony self-esteem. True self-love is with you through the good times and the bad. It’s with you when you mess up, fall down, or get a terrible haircut. Self-love is enduring, and it’s something no one can take away from you.
Sounds pretty powerful, doesn’t it? It is! Continue reading for my seven strategies that will help you build a strong foundation for self-love.
1. Treat Yourself with Compassion
Are you kind to people when they make a mistake? If a coworker walks by and drops a pile of files on the floor, do you stop to help and tell them, “it’s okay, everybody makes mistakes,” or do you stand there and say, “wow, what a worthless loser you are. You can’t even walk a file down a hallway. What a clutz. How are you qualified to do anything? Now everyone can see you don’t belong here.”
How many times have you spoken to a coworker this way? Probably never, right? Now, how many times have you spoken to yourself this way? Is that number a lot higher than zero? If it is, you’re far from alone—negative thoughts have plagued my life too.
If you wouldn’t speak to a friend and coworker this way, then why do you say cruel and hurtful things to yourself? How would your partner, child, sibling, or best friend feel if they heard someone else speak to you the way you speak to yourself? Why don’t you treat yourself with the same understanding, compassion, and kindness you would show to a friend or even a stranger?
Psst. There’s only one reason we don’t talk to ourselves the same way we talk to those we love: it’s fear. Fear that we will be found out, laughed at, or rejected. Fear that if we’re not tough on ourselves, we won’t become better people. Fear that if we are compassionate, we will be seen as weak. And I could go on. Fear is the culprit here—the only culprit.
Fear does not want you to fall in love with yourself. Fear likes to keep you on edge. Fear likes to make you second-guess yourself and make you doubt who you are and what you have a right to do. In fact, fear likes taking away your rights.
So let’s be sure we know who the real battle is with. It’s not with ourselves. It’s with the fear that causes us to doubt our right to love ourselves.
Ask yourself this right now: do you want to love yourself with abandon? Do you want to respect yourself? Do you want to finally give your dreams their due? (Yep. That’s a self-loving act.) Do you want to love yourself enough that looking in the mirror is a positive experience?
If you answered yes to even one of those questions, you do want to love yourself better. Okay. Now that we have that established, let’s get back to the lovely word that will help you embody self-love quicker than anything else: compassion.
If compassion seems like too big of a word, then just think of it as being gentle with yourself. Treat yourself like someone you truly care about; would you purposely hurt your own feelings if you truly wanted to practice self-love? (I didn’t think so.) Next time you make a so-called mistake, try going out of your way to avoid hurting your own feelings, just like you would for the people in your life you care about.
Drop a glass on the floor? Oh, fiddlesticks. That’s okay, Rhonda—there are more cups in the cupboard. Forgot a new coworker’s name? That’s okay, you’ll make a mental note to remember it next time. Lock your keys in the car? Well, it was bound to happen eventually!
Loving yourself requires bottomless self-compassion and unconditional love because, as we all know, so-called mistakes and embarrassing moments lie waiting around every corner. Try as you might, you’ll never be perfect, so be gentle with yourself.
2. Own Your Feelings
A vital part of loving yourself is owning your feelings—ALL of your feelings.
Don’t ignore or deny your feelings or pretend they don’t exist. If it helps, think of your feelings as an annoying little brother or sister; the more you ignore them, the louder they get!
If you feel sad, admit you feel sad.
If you feel mad, admit you feel mad.
If you feel disappointed, admit you feel disappointed.
If you feel hurt, admit you feel hurt.
I’m not asking you to shout your inner feelings out to the world, but in order to truly love yourself, you must admit your feelings to yourself, at the very least. The simple act of admitting how you feel just to yourself will lessen the feeling’s impact. Your feelings are a crucial part of who you are and how you perceive the world; they are signals from your heart that let you know what’s working and what’s not working in your life.
Maybe you find out that your brother invited your sister and her family over for Thanksgiving dinner, but they didn’t invite you. There could be a number of reasons for this, and every family situation is unique—BUT that doesn’t change how you feel about it. It’s okay to feel rejected or left out because let’s be honest—you were left out.
Maybe you feel hurt. Maybe you feel angry. Maybe a whole bunch of feelings from childhood that you haven’t felt in ten years surface and remind you of what it felt like to be the odd one out. Maybe you feel embarrassed because you made a big scene about not wanting to be invited to family gatherings anymore, so you feel like your feelings of rejection aren’t valid because, in your mind, you brought the rejection on yourself.
But here’s the thing: just because you don’t think you should be feeling a certain way doesn’t change the fact that you feel that way. You may wish that you could wish away your feelings, but you can’t.
It doesn’t matter so much what you’re feeling; what matters is what you DO with those feelings.
Start by acknowledging them. What are you feeling? Are you angry? Do you feel like smashing something? When you’re overcome with intense feelings, that’s when it’s time to MOVE! Moving intense feelings is a good way to let off steam. This doesn’t mean forgetting or ignoring them; you move your feelings by doing something like going for a long walk, venting in a journal, screaming into a pillow, or crushing soda can after soda can. This will help you process.
Think of your feelings like energy (because that’s what they are!) And in order to process your feelings, you’ve got to release some of that pent-up energy out of your body. Once you get that first big energy charge out, it will be easier to get down to the heart of what you’re truly feeling underneath the bluster.
From here, you can move on to processing your feelings and figuring out what the next powerful positive step is for you. I could talk A LOT about feelings, so let’s leave it there for now.
Honoring your feelings is a must in order to love yourself, and that means processing your feelings in an honest way that supports you.
3. Set Boundaries
Loving yourself means keeping yourself away from harm, whether that be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual harm. How do you keep yourself away from harm? Create boundaries and couple those boundaries with consequences. What happens if your boundaries are crossed? Which consequences will follow?
If you don’t clearly define your own boundaries and follow through with the consequences, you’ll let everyone else determine what you are and aren’t comfortable with. And that’s no way to live.
Unfortunately, most of us had very poor role models when it comes to setting boundaries. Many of our parents and family members are terrible at respecting our boundaries as well as at setting their own. This terrible cycle ends here.
Setting your own personal boundaries (and sticking to them!) prevents burnout, reduces feelings of anger and resentment, and helps you develop your own personal identity. If you feel like you never have any time for yourself, you always say yes whenever someone asks for a favor, or you have trouble separating your own identity from your family’s, it’s time to work on setting clear boundaries.
Start by identifying your own personal needs. What do you need in order to be happy, healthy, and fulfilled? Are these needs being met? Does your family know that these are your needs? Are they courteous and respectful of these needs?
Understanding your personal needs will help you set boundaries for yourself. You must determine your own limitations and what the consequences are if your boundaries are crossed.
Boundaries are a HUGE topic that I’ve covered in much more detail in another article. I encourage you to read: Why Personal Boundaries Are Important and How to Develop Them because boundaries are a major aspect of practicing self-love.
4. Practice Self-Care
Let me lay down some truth: self-care is more than a bubble bath. True self-care takes time, but it’s well worth the benefits. Taking care of yourself provides you with the energy and headspace you need to take care of your dreams, your relationships, your feelings, and your needs, and it gives you the clarity necessary to make decisions that are right for you. And we’ve all heard the phrase: if you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t effectively take care of others.
Here’s the truth: self-care doesn’t need to be complicated! Think about the activities you like to do. Okay, maybe this is easier said than done—if you’re like many other parents, partners, entrepreneurs, and business leaders out there, it may be tough to even remember which activities you enjoy because it’s been so long!
What sparks joy? What leaves you feeling refreshed? What’s something you can do just for you? And working doesn’t count!
Here are some examples of self-care:
- Reading a book (in peace and quiet)
- Working on a craft or art project
- Learning something new, such as a skill, an instrument, or another language
- Going for a walk and fully taking in your surroundings
- Going for a swim in your best bathing suit
- Tending a garden
- Watching the hummingbirds out the kitchen window
- Treating yourself to a mani, pedi, or facial
- Meditation and/or yoga
- Journaling and keeping a diary
- Eating healthy foods
- Drinking plenty of water
- Sleeping on your favorite sheets
- Finding the perfect alarm clock
- Putting amber bulbs in your bedside lamps
- Wearing a robe that feels good on your body
- Slathering on your favorite scented lotion
- Pulling a quote card to inspire you
- Anything and everything that connects you back to YOU!
You must, must, MUST (did you catch the word MUST?) spend time caring for yourself and your mental health, and you need to find a space to acknowledge and release your emotions. Your mind, body, and soul need time and space to recharge. A car can’t drive without gas, and a heart can’t find space for self-love without self-care!
“Acts of self-care are acts of self-love.” – Rhonda Britten
But no matter how many gardens you tend or paintings you paint, self-love can’t be accomplished without ditching all that negative self-talk you put yourself through when you make a so-called mistake.
5. Ditch Negative Self-Talk
STOP STOP STOP! Seriously—ENOUGH!
You are too beautiful. Too amazingly fearless. Too precious to speak to yourself like that.
You know what I’m talking about.
Whether in your head or out loud, the negative self-talk needs to stop. If you ever want to love yourself in a real, authentic way, you must decide to change the way you communicate with yourself. You must decide you are going to be in charge of how you speak to yourself from now on, and not fear. Fear will tell you to treat yourself the very worst. It’s time to stop listening.
The next time you think in your head, “Oh, I’m so dumb, why did I…” Take a pause. Give yourself a break. These are your expectations speaking, and try as we might, most of us expect ourselves to be perfect when fear is in charge. Sure, I bet you’ve heard and even said the phrase, “nobody’s perfect,” a million times, but has it ever really sunk in?
Say it with me:
“I am a perfectly imperfect human being”
“I am a perfectly imperfect human being.”
“I am a perfectly imperfect human being.”
My friends, this is just the truth. You and I will do things we don’t like, things we wish we didn’t, and things we pray that no one remembers. You and I will hurt the people we love, usually not purposely, but we will nonetheless. You and I will make so-called mistakes more times than we can count. And you and I will repeat these things over and over again, until we don’t.
And each time we find ourselves feeling regret over the choices we made and the pain of being perfectly imperfect, we get to decide how we want to respond. We get to decide if we’ll forgive ourselves, release the expectations we have of the world (and ourselves), and choose to keep practicing being our most fearless self, despite our past.
But you know what doesn’t help? All that negative self-talk and self-hate.
Think about it. How do you inspire your team members at work? When an employee hands in a below average piece of work, do you ridicule them until they burst into tears so that you can call yourself the great truth-teller, or worse, the great motivator?
When your teenager “washes the dishes” and you find most of the plates still have gunk on them, do you call them a stupid idiot who can’t do anything right so that you can tell yourself you’re teaching them a lesson?
No, you don’t, because it’s hurtful and won’t help the situation; insulting someone doesn’t inspire them to improve, it inspires them to insult you right back. So insulting yourself in your own head results in a vicious cycle; you’re angry at yourself for making a so-called mistake, you’re angry at yourself for insulting you, you’re angry because… because… well, eventually, you don’t even remember why you’re angry!
Try this: if you ever find yourself beating yourself up, pull out a baby picture of yourself (find an adorable one to keep in your wallet so that you have it ready when you need it.) If you’re going to beat yourself up, say all those hurtful words out loud to that picture of you as a baby. Are you able to do it? This cures negative self-talk fast.
If you don’t hurl unfair insults at your friends, strangers on the street, or a baby, don’t do it to yourself.
Parking in the wrong space doesn’t make you an idiot, it means you’re human.
Forgetting your new daughter-in-law’s birthday doesn’t make you a horrible person, it means you’re human.
Spilling wine on a friend’s carpet doesn’t make you a clutz, it means you’re human.
Yep, I get it—making those mishaps can be tough, and can feel embarrassing. But do you know what the antidote is to embarrassment? Your own laughter!
6. Find the Humor in Embarrassment
Laughter and embarrassment? Isn’t that like fighting fire with fire? Why would laughter make me feel less embarrassed?
Embarrassment is just another word for fear. We feel embarrassed because we fear that the carefully-crafted image we project to people will shatter now that we’ve made a mistake, said the wrong thing, or have otherwise made a fool of ourselves.
Stop taking yourself so seriously! Think about any romantic comedy. Sure, we laugh at all the embarrassing moments that befall the main characters, but we’re still rooting for them! The next time you do something embarrassing, try laughing at yourself the way you would laugh at Tom Hanks, Drew Berrymore, or Adam Sandler. Whoops, oh well. They’ll figure it out in the next scene—and so will you!
An embarrassing moment doesn’t define you. It’s okay to feel embarrassed and be disappointed with how something turns out, but every disappointing result doesn’t need to define you (and it shouldn’t!) Embarrassment loses its power once you’re able to have a good laugh at yourself.
7. Build Habits and Set Reminders to Love Yourself
I want you to integrate loving yourself into your life, and the best way to do this is by making it a habit. When something is tracked, you take ownership of it.
I recommend starting either a love jar or a love journal that you can continue to add to. For a love jar, simply get a jar (decorate it if you find joy in being creative) that you can add words, thoughts, and phrases of self-love to. As you work through your journey of self-love, continue adding notes, quotes, words of affirmation, compliments, etc., to your self-love jar.
What I love about this exercise is that you will always have your love jar to look back on. If you are feeling down and can’t find any inspiration to feel good about yourself, take out the jar and reflect on all the good you have added to it. Make sure it’s a big jar so that you can keep adding to it throughout the year.
A self-love journal is another great idea. You can add 1-3 “I love myself” moments to the journal every day, and it’s something you can look through whenever you need a pick-me-up.
The final tip I will share is to leave reminders of self-love for yourself, whatever that may mean for you. How can you make your home or workspace more love-friendly? Pay attention to what you surround yourself with. This could mean adding some self-love art to your space, hanging up an inspirational quote, or leaving your love jar out where you can see it every day.
I leave myself reminders in the form of hearts all over my house. I know it’s a little cheesy and on the nose, but it works for me. When I open a cupboard, close a door, or enter a new room, I see a heart there as a reminder to vigilantly love myself. 💗
Your Self-Love Journey Starts Today
Self-love is not something you can afford to put off. In order to be truly happy, healthy, and successful, you have the opportunity to love yourself inside and out.
My 10-week Fearless Living Training Program is based on decades of learning how to crack the secret code to fear, including all of the fears we hold deep within ourselves—the ones that are keeping you from loving yourself. With Fearless Living, you’ll learn how to treat yourself with compassion, ditch negative self-talk, identify your own needs, set boundaries, and so much more. Let’s get started!