We hear a lot about self-love and how important it is to cultivate it in order to have a happy life and healthy relationships, but self-love is quite a broad concept and it’s not clear for everyone what it actually means or how to have more of it.
I have had my own struggles with self-love, and for this reason, I thought it would be interesting to share my own perspective on self-love, why I believe it is so important and how I think we can all cultivate more self-love into our lives.
So, what is self-love and why is it important?
Self-love should not be confused with self-care, although self-care is part of self-love. And most importantly, should not be confused with selfishness or egotistic behaviour.
I can see how putting yourself first and prioritizing your needs can be confused with being self-centred, self-indulgent or self-involved, but it is actually the opposite. In order to explain how self-love works, I always like to use this example:
In order to offer your cup of love to someone, you must fill it up with love first. If your cup is not already full of love, you will be offering an empty cup.
You can’t pour from an empty cup, it’s as simple as that. All and every love that you feel, whether romantic or within your friendships and family, it’s your own love. Even when you feel loved by someone, it is actually your own love that is being reflected on them back at you.
As I explained in a previous post, we can only experience ourselves, and therefore, in order to give and receive love we need to be able to access that love within ourselves, otherwise we won’t be able to access it anywhere else.
People who look for love outside themselves tend to end up in co-dependent relationships, being overly dependent on other people’s approval, they lack strong boundaries, struggle with self-worth, and don’t usually accept themselves as they are and for that reason try to fit into other people’s expectations. And in extreme cases, even though they are desperate for love, they are still unable to let themselves be loved by someone else because they can’t recognize a healthy source of love.
On the other hand, when you cultivate self-love, recognize your own worth and see how worthy of amazing things you are, you don’t need to wait for anyone to give them to you. Self-love is about giving yourself the love and attention you know you deserve, and only then be able to recognize and accept someone else’s love as a beautiful addition to your already fulfilled heart, but knowing that your happiness does not depend on it.
When you know that you are already whole and complete, you appreciate and allow yourself to receive love from others, but without entitlement or judgment. You also give your love generously to the ones who deserve it and being able to discern between who does and who doesn’t also become easier than ever.
How can you cultivate self-love on a daily basis?
1. Be authentic/true to yourself
Look within and recognize in what situations have you chased other people, begged for their approval, did what someone else wanted you to do and not what you wanted to do? When have you betrayed yourself to fit in, to please others at the cost of your own happiness and wellbeing? When did you think you weren’t enough? When did you let yourself believe you weren’t worthy or couldn’t be accepted just the way you are?
By being true to yourself and identifying these situations you will be able to identify them from now on and catch yourself before you fall into those patterns again.
2. Know your worth and release co-dependency
You need to realise once and for all that your worth cannot be defined by anyone else. Other people only see you from their own level of perception, they won’t always be able to see how valuable you are because they can’t see their own value. So, don’t rely on other people’s opinions to know who you are, you know who you are!
And if you don’t know who you are, then take some time for yourself to find out, to return to yourself. Once you know who you are and how worthy you are of everything beautiful life has to offer, those beautiful things and beautiful people will find you, and everyone else that is not aligned with you or can’t see you properly will fall away from your life.
3. Have strong boundaries
Boundaries aren’t barriers, I’m not telling you to create four walls around yourself and not let anyone in. Boundaries are about not accepting less then you deserve. It is about not accepting crumbs, not accepting disrespect or any behaviours that put you down.
It is also about being honest with people about not accepting such behaviours, not out of resentment but out of love. I think it is important not to take things personally and understand that people that display such negative behaviours towards others are actually people who need healing (hurt people hurt people), but it is not up to you to heal them and it doesn’t mean you should allow them to mistreat you. If someone is abusive in any way, shape or form, love yourself and them enough to put a boundary in place and give them space to heal themselves while you live your life.
4. Cut toxic people/situations out of your life
If someone or something proves to be toxic, meaning that it brings you more sadness and grief then happiness and joy, cut them off!
This is easier said than done…I know! Especially when we’re talking about someone/something you love…but you need to love yourself more and love them enough as well to set them free. Better things are waiting for you to make the space.
5. Let go of expectation/attachment to outcomes
This one is especially difficult for me…you see, I’m a dreamer! My mind drifts into the future very easily and I begin to imagine all the beauty and potential of someone or something in my life, and then I become attached to that potential outcome.
But life doesn’t work that way, expectations will hurt you. It is not fair to expect someone or something that is not you to fulfil you, to complete you or to bring you happiness. That is your responsibility and yours only!
You need to be so sure of yourself that you don’t need to depend on certain outcomes to be happy and be okay with everything that comes, trusting that you will always have everything that you need regardless of the role someone or something plays in your life.
6. Say No
Stop saying yes when you want to say no! Say thank you for the opportunities but if you don’t want to do something, don’t do it! If you don’t want to go to that event, don’t go! If you don’t want to go out, don’t go out! Of course, be polite, but don’t say yes to things just because you don’t want to disappoint others, remember not to disappoint yourself.
7. Allow yourself time to recharge
Life is so busy nowadays, I don’t believe it is supposed to be like this. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that we always need to be doing something, keeping busy or being super productive. Sometimes, the most productive thing you can do is rest.
I couldn’t recommend meditation more but if you’re not into meditation that is fine, just allow yourself to step away from worries, from negativity or from the rush of life in general and indulge in your own company, your own energy and let yourself recharge before you go back into the world.
This is something that I came to realise very recently. In my own experience, and what I see a lot of people doing as well, is that every time we feel low for whatever reason we look for other people to soothe us. Whether we are looking for validation, to unload our worries and concerns, to just vent, or simply looking for a kind word and a hug, we are still looking for it outside of ourselves before we look within.
I have nothing against looking for a loving hug or some nice time spent with a friend, in fact, I love it! But if we are looking for these things for the wrong reasons then we are just using others for something we should take responsibility for.
The truth is that even if you get all of that from someone else, when they leave you, you will sooner or later go back to what you were feeling before. So, I have learned that self-soothing can be much more effective.
When I feel anxious or depressed, I slow down, put my hands on my chest (or hug myself), I start slowly taking deeper breaths and I calm myself down, and then I tell myself all that I need to hear (that I am okay, I am safe, etc..). Once I feel better I can then fully appreciate any additional love coming my way from others.
9. Stop negative talk
This is very simple – if you would not say it to your best friend then don’t say it to yourself!
You would never tell your best friend that they are worthless, unworthy of love, that they are incapable of achieving their goals or that they are not enough, right? You would also never tell them that they are ugly and that no one would ever love them.
So why do you say stuff like this to yourself? What gives you the right? Especially when it is not true! So, stop the negative talk and be your best friend instead, be your own cheerleader!
10. Practice forgiveness
This goes for yourself and others. Forgive yourself for your past mistakes, understand that you did the best you could with the information you had at the time. Also, forgive yourself for all the times you accepted less then you deserved, where you let yourself down by letting others mistreated or taken advantage of you.
And then, forgive anyone that might have hurt you. Just like you, they were doing the best they could, and if they weren’t then don’t take it personally, everyone is fighting their own “shadows”. Forgiveness is not about forgetting or even accepting certain people or behaviours back into your life, it’s about letting go of resistance and not wasting your precious energy in things that cannot be changed.
Remember – “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die” – Buddha.
So these are my suggestions on how to cultivate more self-love, I hope you enjoyed it and please feel free to share your own perspective and experience! 🙂
Other posts you might like to read:
Embracing the Void – Why is it a good thing?
5 things I have learned from Meditation
How to travel more for less