Self-Love is defined as regard for one’s own well-being and happiness. It is not selfish, narcissistic, or even ego-driven. It is the product of respecting and honoring yourself. And just like all aspects of positive mental health, it must be practiced on a daily basis if we want to feel its impact on our life. The trouble is, most of us have no idea what self-love looks like or where to begin finding it.
According to Dr. Joe Rubino, author of “The Self Esteem Book,” a staggering 85% of the world’s population is suffering from low self-esteem. The effects of this are evident in every sector of modern society. Low self-esteem is consistently connected to violent behavior, self-harm, dysfunctional relationships, school dropout rates, teenage pregnancy, suicide, and low academic and professional achievement.
Think about your ideals on love. How did you first learn what love is or what it means? Our earliest introduction to love typically regards how it connects us to other people. We discover its meaning first through parents or nuclear family, then friends, then romantic partners, etc. Our discussions around love so often examine our relationships with the outside world. How it relates to our relationship with ourselves appears to be the secondary conversation. Considering that how we love ourselves is the determinant of how we will love others, this seems backwards. I often argue that learning to love another is the easy journey. It’s learning to love yourself that seems to take a lifetime to master. Here are a few ways to begin that process:
Keep Your Love Separate
The love you have for yourself MUST be independent of the love others have for you. REPEAT. These are separate sources of love and should not be connected or contingent upon the other. Unfortunately, most of us don’t know how to divorce from the practice of evaluating ourselves based on external opinions. Those who struggle with the idea of self-love often live by notions like the following: If he/she says I’m smart, then I can believe I am smart. If he/she thinks I am beautiful, then I can believe I am beautiful. Engaging in this pattern of thinking gives the world the power to put your worth on a chopping block.
Throw Away the Word Perfect
You are human. You are exceptionally flawed and destined to do and say the wrong thing, probably more often than we would care to admit. The sooner you get comfortable with this reality, the sooner you can release yourself from lingering shame or self-hatred developed throughout endless experiences of “mistakes.” Your flaws are just as much a part of you as your strengths. They are a necessary component for your growth and should be celebrated, as self-love is not conditional. If you are going to choose to love and accept yourself, you must love and accept all parts, not just the ones that come in a prettier package.
Be Your Own Gatekeeper
It is a privilege to have access to you. Not everyone you meet will be worthy of that access. Do not feel obligated to fulfill every request a person or society has for you. Your time, your mind, your body–all things to be coveted and held close to you. When you can truly understand how your uniqueness and distinct identity make you something immeasurably rare, you will begin to value yourself in a new, profound way.
Invest in Yourself
If you owned the world’s most coveted and valuable car, you wouldn’t allow the oil to run dry, the paint to chip, or try to fill it with the cheapest gas you can find, would you? You are certainly worth more than any car, so treat yourself with the utmost care. Examine where you invest most of your resources (money, time, etc.). If you are your greatest possession, the answer should always be you. Please don’t be afraid to spend money or time gaining knowledge, experience, or health. I promise the payout will be of greater value than what you paid in.
Written by: Aubrey Koel, LPC