Self-love and self-compassion are keys to living a fulfilling, happy, beautiful life. Sadly, many of us do not give ourselves the love and compassion we so richly deserve. How you feel about yourself impacts every aspect of your life. Every relationship. Your career. Your personal happiness … and the overall quality and fulfillment of your life. When you don’t love yourself, you simply don’t give yourself the care and compassion you need and deserve. Self-love is key. If you’ve followed any spiritual growth or personal growth experts for any length of time, the subject of loving yourself always comes up. Everyone seems to agree that it is the foundation on which a happy, fulfilling life is built. Some say that you can’t love others until you love yourself. Personally, I offer a big, bold “nu-uh” to that theory. I’ve seen many people (often women) who truly wish the best for their loved ones and serve up love every single day to others while neglecting their own needs.
What Happens When You Don’t Feel Worthy of LoveWhen you don’t feel worthy of love, you don’t give it to yourself. When you equate self-love with narcissism (which is not about love but more akin to vanity and an over-inflated ego), you don’t love yourself either. While I disagree with some of the gurus, ultimately I side on the importance of self-love. It’s been a life-changer for me, even though I freely admit I still need more practice at it.
You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. ~Buddha
The Downside of NOT Practicing Self-Love and Self-CompassionHere’s one downside of not practicing self-love: Your behavior is always a lesson for others. When you’re loving others and not loving yourself, you’re showing them that self-neglect is okay. Would you want your loved ones to NOT love themselves … to neglect their needs? Of course not, you wish them the very best. When you’re attentive to giving yourself the love you need, you’re better at loving others. We teach others how to behave through how we behave. When we model self-love, we show others how to express self-love in their own lives. There’s another reason I think self-love is really important: It’s hard to serve from an empty vessel, and when you’re not filling your cup with the love you need from yourself, it cannot overflow to others. When your heart is filled with love, it can bring love to the world. So to withhold love from yourself is tantamount to withholding love from the world.
What Does Healthy Self-Love Look Like?By now I hope you agree that self-love sounds like a good idea. But what does self-love really look and feel like? Is it possible to move from self-neglect to self-love … or perhaps even much harder, to move from self-disgust or self-hatred to all-out self-love? How do you start a self-love practice when you’ve spent your whole life being overly critical and unloving to yourself? It’s not as complicated as it seems at first glance. After all, you have plenty of practice offering love to others. Think about how you express your love to the people in your life. It’s not done through singular grand acts, but rather it’s done through simple acts of kindness and compassion that show you care and that you’re there for them. Each act added together shows the depth and breadth of your love for others. You can do the same when you’re beginning or deepening your journey of self-love. Take little steps each day … they add up.
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ~ Rumi
38 Ideas for Practicing Self-Love and Self-Compassion
- Deliberately welcome each new day with a statement of celebration and love and gratitude. How you start your day is how you’ll live your day. Greet the morning with love for yourself and your world and you’ll feel more loving all day long.
- Observe your inner dialogue and watch for unloving thoughts. When you hear one, replace it with a loving, uplifting thought instead.
- Stop basing your self-worth on anything outside of you. You’ve always been worthy and there’s no person or accomplishment you can experience that can effectively affirm that for you. It’s an inside job. You are worthy of your love, so give it to yourself.
- Find work you love. You might not love every moment of your work every day, but on balance devote your time and energy to work that makes your spirit soar. If your job right now doesn’t give this to you, seek spirit-soaring activities in the rest of your life until you can get into a job that lifts you up.
- Don’t abandon yourself for anyone else. You can be there for others without abandoning your needs altogether. I get it, sometimes as a mother or a caretaker for others, this can be difficult. Some seasons of life are more difficult than others, but there are still 24 hours in the day and some of that time needs to be spent on loving you.
- Choose happiness. Don’t keep waiting for happiness to show up; choose to bring it with you everywhere you go.
- Do an inventory of your top beliefs. Are your beliefs supporting you or holding you back? Are any of those beliefs getting in the way of loving yourself? If so, they’ve got to go!
- Go on a retreat or join a spiritual study group. Get out of the day-to-day monotony of your life and participate in discussions and practices that speak to your soul.
- Make a list of your top ten favorite attributes. Keep this list handy and reread it anytime self-doubts start to pop up.
- Take action to add beauty to every corner of your life. It can be as simple as drinking from a pretty coffee cup or buying a violet to keep at your desk or kitchen counter.
- Don’t let technology take too much of your time. Computers, tablets, and smartphones all have their place, but if you’re constantly attached to them, it’ll sap your energy. Sometimes the loving thing to do is just unplug it all.
- Try some mirror work. Louise Hay has a lot of material on mirror work that you might find helpful, so if you want detail on the subject, check out her work. Basically, my advice is simply this: each time you catch your reflection in a mirror, say something kind and loving to yourself. Practiced regularly, this can make a huge difference in how you see yourself.
- Create daily rituals that support peace and serenity in your life. I used to rush out the door in the morning, and now I spend 15 minutes listening to beautiful music while appreciating nature in my own backyard. It’s a self-loving treat that brings peace to my day.
- Reaffirm that you are worthy of love and kindness and all things good. If you’ve practiced self-criticism for years, it’ll take some time to kick the habit. The best way to do it is to practice affirming positive concepts about yourself, such as “I am deserving of all good things and life brings them to me at the perfect time.”
- Incorporate relaxation and play into your days more often. This doesn’t have to be a grand gesture … even 10 or 15 minutes of play and relaxation here and there is a sign that you love yourself and are therefore attentive to your needs.
- Drop the judgment habit. I’m not advocating that you use bad judgment in your life, but do you really need to judge yourself so much? It’s not a loving behavior, so learn to recognize when you’ve entered the “judgment” zone and choose to move on over to the “loving” zone instead.
- Keep your environment positive. Are you letting the news bum you out? You can stay informed without overwhelming yourself. Don’t bury your head in the sand, but do take care of how much ugliness you are exposed to.
- Get comfortable expressing your truths. Easier said than done? Well, of course, it is! But if you continue to hide what you want and what you think from others, you’ll spend the rest of your life with a big ol’ knot in your gut that comes from hiding your true self. Love yourself enough to express your wants, needs, desires, and opinions honestly. Love others enough to do this in compassionate ways.
- Avoid dwelling in the dark. Are you a person who likes to dwell on difficult situations that are outside of your control and then sit there bummed because you didn’t find solutions? That was me. It’s not a loving thing to do to yourself! We all face dark times in our lives, but none of us have to put up a tent and live there. Go find the sunshine, even (or perhaps especially) when that’s not easy to do.
- Broaden your horizons. We sometimes limit the joy in our lives by limiting the circles we spend time in or the activities we engage in. Do something you’ve never done before. Expand your comfort zone.
- Deal with the bullies in your life. Get away from them quickly if you can. If you can’t, learn to disarm their impact by rejecting the havoc and pain they try to bring into your life. They can sell their bullying tactics all day long, but if you’re not buying it, their impact is neutralized.
- Pay attention to the words you use when you’re talking to yourself. If they aren’t the words a BFF would use, stop using them.
- Set healthy boundaries. That means learning to say no and mean it without feeling guilty. For some, this takes practice, yet without it you’re going to experience a lot of stress and serious energy depletion. Healthy boundaries are a sure sign of self-love.
- Add more spontaneity to your life. Give yourself permission to do things just because they feel good to you. (Note – that’s not a blank check to do something that feels good now that has negative long-term consequences. You know the difference, so no cheating on this one.)
- Let music lift your spirit. The right music can boost your mood and bring joy to your life more quickly than just about anything else. Did you know that with Pandora or Spotify, you can access just about any music genre you enjoy (and that both apps have FREE versions)? There’s no excuse for not letting music move your soul.
- Make new friends. Oh my, this can be a tough one for some people. Connection with others is key to living a fulfilling life. Join a new club or meet-up group. Take up a new hobby and practice it with others. Find uplifting (not toxic!) people to hang around.
- Stop the body hate and shame game. I don’t know how to be more emphatic on this one: now is the time to dump this self-hatred forever. Your body is the earthly vessel that carries your soul. It deserves your love, regardless of the shape it’s in.
- Show your body some love with exercise and healthy food. It’s one of the most loving things you can do every day.
- Develop your potential. Are you letting your potential lie dormant? What a waste! Love yourself enough to hone those talents and skills that are waiting to be released.
- Get help. Many people love helping others, but don’t feel so keen to be on the receiving end of help. Know your limits: recognize when you need to ask for help … and know when it’s time to shell out a few bucks to get some help. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a powerful sign of self-love.
- Acknowledge your emotions, even uncomfortable ones. Burying or denying your feelings doesn’t help you deal with them. Give yourself permission to have rough days and offer kindness to yourself. Avoid the urge to throw full-blown, days-long pity parties, though; self-compassion is life-affirming, while self-pity just keeps you stuck.
- Do you spend too much time alone? Spend more time with encouraging, loving people. Do you spend too little time alone? Carve out some time just for you. We all need this balance in our lives. The loving thing to do is to make sure you have a good mix of time spent alone and time spent with loving encouragers in your life.
- Learn something new. Learning something new will always give you a sense of accomplishment and raise your self-esteem. It’s a loving act that you deserve to experience often.
- Practice relentless optimism. Again, don’t bury your head in the sand, but instead of always waiting for the worst to happen, start imagining more good outcomes for your life. Self-love and optimism go hand-in-hand.
- Instead of scolding yourself, console yourself. Too many of us still use self-abuse instead of self-love when things are going wrong. It’s time you traded up to self-love.
- Deliberately choose thoughts that lead to inner peace. What thoughts give you a sense of calmness and serenity? A few of my favorites are “I am divinely guided and protected at all times” and “All is well. I am safe.” Develop your own mantras and use them to comfort yourself in times of stress and uncertainty.
- Ditch shame and be willing to be vulnerable. Are you holding on to shame about anything in your life? Are you reluctant to be vulnerable for fear it makes you seem weak? Do yourself a favor and watch Brene Brown’s now famous Ted Talk. More than 20 million people have viewed it … when you see it, you’ll know why.
- Make unconditional self-love a priority in your life. Make a pact that there’s nothing you can do or say that will cause you to go back on your commitment to love yourself. Be clear and deliberate about this intention.
Now’s the Time to Act, Not LaterDon’t just read this article … decide right now what you’re going to start doing today to express more love towards yourself. If you want some extra accountability, publicly commit to your goals by sharing your plan in the comments section below. Choose at least THREE NEW self-love activities that you plan to adopt. Write your ideas down – put the list where you’ll be reminded of your new commitment often. Then bring that love into your life each and every day and watch your entire life transform in miraculous ways!
~Wishing you much love, joy, and peace on your journey to self-love, J. Marie Novak, Founder of BelieveAndCreate.com
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Quotes on Self-Love and Self-Compassion
- Find the love you seek, by first finding the love within yourself. Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home. – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
- Whatever you are doing, love yourself for doing it. Whatever you are feeling, love yourself for feeling it – Thaddeus Golas
- Loving yourself…does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.- Margo Anand
- You can’t build joy on a feeling of self-loathing. ~Ram Dass
- If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. ~ Buddha
- I have an everyday religion that works for me. Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line. – Lucille Ball
- If you can learn to love yourself and all the flaws, you can love other people so much better. And that makes you so happy. – Kristin Chenoweth
- What you think about yourself is so much more important than what others think of you. – Seneca
- Love yourself unconditionally, just as you love those closest to you despite their faults. – Les Brown