“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
― Bernard M. Baruch
“Before you can love others, you must love yourself first.” This is a platitude that we hear time and again. But, when it comes down to it, the idea of loving oneself is a foreign concept to most.
Many of us go through life receiving negative messages from parents, so-called “friends,” partners, or even the media, telling us that we’re not whole unless we buy what they’re selling. When we accept these messages, we become focused on our own imperfections, rather than seeing ourselves for who we really are, beings that are “perfect” even in our imperfection.
Here are some tips for increasing self-love right now:
1. Treat yourself like you’re worth right now, even if you don’t believe it.
This includes taking care of your body, by eating a healthy diet and exercising. And begin to take action toward achieving your dreams. By following our dreams, we contribute to creating a beautiful world.
2. Do things throughout the day that you know cheer you or inspire you.
For example, listen to music that you enjoy, read something inspiring, take a nap, walk in nature, exercise, breathe slowly and relax. What activity inspires you? It doesn’t have to be something big. Author, speaker, and a guest on my radio show, Michael Neill, recommends creating a list of enjoyable activities and making it a point to do five of them every day. When you make this a daily priority, you are giving yourself the message that you deserve to be treated well.
3. Surround yourself with positive people who love themselves and who treat you with love and respect.
Humans best learn by observation. If we observe people who love themselves and who love and respect the people around them, we learn how to do the same. Make it a point to reduce or eliminate the number of toxins you ingest and the amount of time you spend with toxic people. By being around positive loving people, we come to believe that we’re worthy of love and respect.
4. Turn off the negative, derogatory, self-talk.
The voice in our head might come as the voices of our parents or other important people in our lives, or as our own voice, questioning our worthiness or telling us that we are “victims.” When, author, Beverly Flaxington, was interviewed on my show, she pointed out, “It’s our own minds, so often, that defeat us. We say things to ourselves and tear ourselves down. The self-talk that we use on ourselves absolutely drains us. Lack of confidence and low self-esteem is very typically an outgrowth of too much negative self-talk too often.” In order to truly love your self, it’s important to become aware of this negative chatter and to know that this chatter is not the “truth.” Then, even if we can’t turn it off completely, it will lose its power over us and, perhaps, the volume will soften.
5. Stop listening to the negativity of others.
In his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz, tells us that one of the four agreements is to not take anything personally. “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” Remember, a person’s tendency to put another down is caused by his/her own lack of self-love.
6. Forgive others and forgive yourself.
Forgiving doesn’t mean that you’re saying that it’s acceptable for others to treat you badly. Nor does it mean that you should spend time with someone who continues to treat you with disrespect. Forgiveness is for you. It’s about letting go of the pain, liberating your self from the heaviness of holding a grudge. Furthermore, in order to love yourself, you need to forgive yourself for choices you’ve made. Simply, make the decision to try to do better every day. The most that we can ask of ourselves and of people in our life is that we all do the best that we are able to do at this moment.
7. You might notice that you’re very good at finding things about yourself that you don’t like.
Now, sit down and make a list of those qualities about yourself that you actually like. Spend some time every day expanding this list.
8. Treat yourself like you would your own best friend.
Would you be so hard on your best friend about the same things that you’re so hard on yourself about? Try this: Sit down across from an empty chair. Visualize yourself sitting in that chair. Envision that the you in that chair is your BFF (Best Friend Forever), who is sharing with you all of his/her perceived weaknesses. How would you respond to your BFF? Make it a regular practice to talk to yourself with the same compassion you show to your BFF whenever you start to put yourself down.
9. Have a sense of humor, even about your own mistakes.
If we can laugh at ourselves, then we can gain a more realistic perspective that we’re only human and that mistakes are events to learn from, rather than signs that we’re inept or that our character is severely flawed.
Once we learn to love ourselves, then we stop feeling that there is a hole inside that we need to fill with food, drugs, unhealthy relationships, and other addictive behaviors, and we’re more able to live a life of happiness and fulfillment and filled with joyful, loving relationships.