The Importance of Self-Love
Most of us have love in our hearts for family, friends, or romantic partners, but it can feel much more difficult to extend this love to ourselves. Maybe it’s because we tend to be more aware of our own flaws than others, or maybe it’s because we feel like we need to earn love rather than receive it unconditionally. Whatever the reason, self-love is a long-term journey for many people.
Even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, loving yourself is critical for good mental health. You don’t need to have a huge ego or block out all constructive criticism to love yourself. Instead, it’s about accepting and embracing yourself so that you feel comfortable with who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going.
If you’ve been struggling with self-doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety, or interpersonal problems, working toward self-love may help you improve your overall health and happiness. You should understand what self-love really is, the importance of self-love, and how you can learn to practice it.
What Is Self-love?
Self-love is the unconditional regard for your own health, safety, and happiness. When you truly love yourself, you appreciate your worth and know your value as a person. You understand that you’re not perfect, but you know that your flaws don’t make you undeserving of love or support. You make healthy choices, strive toward self-improvement, and forgive yourself for mistakes.
Here are some qualities and behaviors of someone who practices self-love:
- Not relying on others for feelings of worth or validation
- Loving yourself even after making a mistake
- Advocating for your needs and asking for what you want
- Taking time to engage in your hobbies and passions
- Knowing when to leave toxic friendships and relationships
- Apologizing when necessary but not excessively
- Wanting to feel and look good just for yourself
Why Is Self-love Important?
The only person who is with you all the time is yourself. You’re always in the company of your own thoughts and feelings, so having a healthy relationship with yourself is important for your well-being. Negative self-talk and poor self-image can be emotionally draining, but self-love allows you to go about your life with peace and confidence.
Loving yourself can improve your interpersonal relationships, too. When we don’t love ourselves, we seek out love, praise, and validation from others. Although wanting to be loved by family, friends, or romantic partners is completely normal and natural, your first source of love should be yourself. Otherwise, you risk entering toxic or unhealthy relationships just for the sake of feeling the love that you crave.
It’s also easier to receive love from others when you love yourself. If you don’t practice self-acceptance, you might start to feel like you don’t deserve love at all. By learning to love yourself, you learn what genuine and healthy love feels like, and you feel open to receiving this love.
Self-love can motivate you to improve yourself as well. You feel confident in yourself and your potential, so you want to become the best possible version of yourself. You can acknowledge your flaws without judgment and take steps to fix them. This can improve both your personal life and your professional life. When you believe in yourself and your strengths, you’ll be more likely to seek out new opportunities.
How to Practice Self-love
Loving yourself is easier said than done. The benefits are clear, but you can’t just decide that you’re going to love yourself. You may have to unravel some longstanding negative thoughts and build up new thinking habits. It takes time, intention, and effort to learn to love yourself, but the effects it can have on your life are well worth it.
The Following Are a Few Tips for Practicing Self-love
1. Practice Positive Self-talk
For many people, the negative inner voice is louder than the positive inner voice. You can reverse this, though, by practicing positive affirmations and loving self-talk. This may feel strange, silly, or unnatural at first. Even if it doesn’t feel genuine, though, it can improve your self-image over time.
Think about the things that you truly love and appreciate about yourself. Several times a day, remind yourself of all of your positive qualities and all of the reasons you’re a positive presence in the world. You can even say, “I love myself,” as a mantra. Over time, your positive voice will overpower your negative voice, and recognizing your worth and value will get easier and easier.
2. Play to Your Strengths
There may be certain aspects of your personality or appearance that are easier for you to love and accept than others. Try to identify these traits and highlight them as much as possible.
For example, if you have a great sense of humor, rely on that quality when you feel self-conscious. If you love that you’re social and outgoing, put yourself in situations where you can connect with new people. If you feel best wearing the color blue, make blue a staple in your wardrobe. The more you embrace the parts of yourself that you already love, the easier it will become to love yourself fully.
3. Put Yourself First
Those who struggle with self-love often struggle to advocate for themselves. Putting yourself first can be a great way to learn to love yourself. It’s a great reminder that your needs are important and that your opinions are valid.
If you’re used to doubting yourself or thinking your voice doesn’t matter, speaking your mind might be difficult at first. Try to start small until you feel comfortable with self-advocacy. For example, if your friend asks you what you want to eat, be honest about what you’re in the mood for. If someone asks for your opinion, be respectful but honest. Eventually, you’ll find that you can share your truth, ask for what you need, and speak up when you’re hurt without worrying about what others think.
4. Work with a Therapist
Sometimes, you can take steps on your own to improve your mental and emotional health. Other times, you might need support to overcome negative thinking habits. If you’re having a hard time embracing self-love on your own, therapy might be the answer.
When you’re dealing with self-doubt or low self-esteem, it can be incredibly difficult to break free from the negative self-talk. The more you repeat these negative thoughts to yourself, the more you start to believe them. Challenging the ideas that are so ingrained in your mind is tough, but a therapist can help you find a new perspective. Your counselor is an unbiased, nonjudgmental observer who will work with you to dismantle your unhealthy thoughts and replace them with healthier ideas.
Never underestimate the importance of self-love. As you navigate life’s ups and downs, you need to feel comfortable with who you are. Although we can’t learn to love ourselves overnight, it is possible to make small changes every day to work toward self-acceptance.
Menachem Psychotherapy Group offers counseling services for clients facing a wide variety of challenges. If you’re looking for a therapist in Los Angeles, we are happy to help. Contact us today to learn more about our practice.