The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Self-Love Practice: How to Start Truly Loving Yourself

You’ve been hard on yourself long enough; it’s time to start embracing self-love instead. 

What is self-love? Self-love involves practicing self-compassion and giving yourself the nurturing care and kindness you deserve. Loving yourself means that you feel free enough to live authentically and are confident in your own skin. You feel brave enough to pursue your dreams when you love yourself fully. 

Self-love also involves being bold enough to acknowledge your needs; say, “I AM right to feel good about myself, and my needs DO matter,” even when others tell you the opposite.

When you genuinely love yourself, you accept yourself for who you are, which means embracing your strengths and innately human imperfections. Dear, you did know none of us are perfect, right? So no more expecting perfection from yourself! 

We’re about to go on a deep dive to learn how to develop a self-love practice that will lift you and help you let go of the anxiety, stress and pain you’ve been carrying from denying yourself the love your heart has always craved. 

You are about to learn what self-love looks like—and what it doesn’t. And I’ll introduce you to easy self-love activities and exercises you can start immediately. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dig in.

self love quote - how you love yourself is how you teach others to love you

Why Is Self-love Important?

Self-love is important because it leads to a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life. You’ll never be truly at peace until you make peace with yourself; add unconditional self-love to that sense of inner peace, and a whole new beautiful world unfolds for you.

Learning how to develop a loving relationship with yourself may take time and effort on your part, but it’s worth it. After all, self-love is the foundation of living the life you’ve always wanted to live.

Why Practicing Self-Love Is Sometimes So Difficult

We weren’t all taught how important self-love was when we were young children. In fact, many of us weren’t ever taught about self-love, and some of us even grew up believing that self-love was arrogant and that self-sacrifice was far more important.  

That’s why truly loving yourself may not come easily for you, yet it’s essential for living a happy and fulfilled life.

Four Self-Love Practices

Self-love is a mindset, but it’s also about the words we speak to ourselves about ourselves. As you become more self-loving, your thoughts, words and actions will all reflect that sense of self-appreciation and self-respect.  

There are four self-love practices that you’ll want to begin right away. The first is self-kindness, and the next is self-care. You’ll want to start practicing unconditional self-acceptance and self-compassion, too. Let’s take a closer look at these loving practices.

Self Love Guide Examples of Being kinder to yourself

1. Practice Self-Kindness

I’m starting your self-love practice with a reminder to be kind to yourself because I know you know what kindness is—you’re already kind to others all time. You don’t have to love someone to be kind to them, but “love” without kindness is not love.  

You know what kindness looks like and feels like. You understand how simple acts of kindness can make someone’s day—you’ve likely experienced that in your life at some point.

Now, you just need to make a regular habit of directing that kindness toward yourself. Here are a few examples of how to start being kinder to yourself:

  • When you make a mistake, remember that everyone makes mistakes and let it go rather than berating yourself.
  • Take a few things off that overloaded to-do list.
  • Treat yourself to something you enjoy: buy yourself a small gift or order your favorite meal.
  • Take up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try. 
  • Spend less time with people who irritate you and more time with those who lift you up.

Start paying more attention to how you talk to yourself about yourself and what actions and words follow those thoughts.

For example, if you notice your “inner mean girl” belittling you, replace that bullying behavior with kind words. If you are using demeaning language when talking to yourself, stop that and choose to be self-supportive instead. Notice when you are short-tempered or impatient with yourself and decide to be self-encouraging—it’s always the better choice! 

2. Practice Self-Care

Self-care is an integral part of any self-love practice. Self-care involves attending to your physical, emotional, and mental health. This includes eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and taking breaks when needed. It also means taking time to do things that bring you joy and relaxation, like reading a book, bonding with good friends, going to a concert, or spending time in nature.

Gosh, it’s easy to rattle off a list of what you should do for self-care, but we all know that in our busy lives, putting self-care into practice can be challenging. I get overwhelmed by all the “shoulds” people put on me—who has time for all of it? That’s why I recommend choosing a few things to start incorporating into your life to give yourself the TLC you need. One of the most self-loving things you can do is carve out some “me time” to reduce stress and rejuvenate.

3. Practice Unconditional Self-Acceptance

This was me for most of my life: “How can I possibly accept myself? I’m too fat, too broke, too ugly, not smart enough, blah, blah, blah. When I fix myself, then I’ll accept myself, but there’s no way I’m going to accept this mess that I am in right now.”  

Does that sound slightly (or more than slightly) familiar?

Self-acceptance does not mean that you don’t want to change, it simply means that you offer yourself the dignity and respect of appreciating who you are right now—imperfections and all— without judgment or criticism. 

Stop holding yourself up to unrealistic standards or expectations, or ideals that others in your life would suggest are optimal. You’re perfectly imperfect, and there’s perfection in that.

When I started accepting myself, it felt like the weight of the world rolled off my shoulders.The burden of expecting myself to be perfect was so dang heavy. Carrying ugly and judgmental opinions of yourself doesn’t help you; if you could have criticized yourself into happiness, you’d have already done it by now. 

When you embrace self-acceptance, you acknowledge your strengths and imperfections—you wouldn’t be you without both. Accepting yourself is a powerful act of self-love. You’ll experience far more happiness when you give up self-judgment and accept yourself with unconditional love.

4. Practice Self-Compassion

Think for a moment about what it means to be compassionate. Here are some things that I think about when I hear the word compassion:

  • Forgiving 
  • Gentle
  • Sweet
  • Encouraging
  • Understanding 
  • Empathetic 
  • Benevolent 
  • Soft-hearted 
  • Tender 
  • Considerate  

Self-compassion is directing all those behaviors above toward yourself. WOW! That’ll feel a lot better than being unforgiving, harsh, and judgmental, right?

Self-compassion is about treating yourself with the same kindness and care you would offer to a struggling loved one. It means being understanding and patient with yourself. Practicing self-compassion can help you let go of perfectionism and embrace a more forgiving and accepting mindset. 

Compassion is the grace we all need in our lives but don’t always receive. When you start practicing self-compassion, your heart will light up in ways you can barely imagine right now. Give it a try.

Five Obstacles to Self-Love

Just as there are practices to start on your self-love journey, there are obstacles to self-love that can be overcome when you stop doing certain things. Some of the biggies include: stop comparing yourself to others, stop engaging in negative self-talk, stop being so self-critical and self-sabotaging, and stop buying into self-limiting beliefs.

Self Love Guide Bronnie ware quote

1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Most of us like to look at what others are doing and accomplishing; we desperately want to know how we stack up. We’re all looking for what’s considered “normal” or, perhaps, what it takes to be outstanding at something, so we compare ourselves with others. Yet, there is a serious flaw in this behavior.

If I’m a sculptor that’s just starting out as an artist, I may be inspired by someone who has mastered the craft and may want to watch what they do to learn from them. That’s not really comparing, that’s learning, so that’s okay. But, as I keep going, I may be tempted to start comparing my (still) beginner self with that master artist, and how does that help me? It doesn’t; it would be demoralizing. 

The problem with comparing yourself to others is that you don’t know their whole story. You don’t know what they went through, and you don’t know if you’re comparing your beginning to their middle. You also don’t know if they’re happy, sad, satisfied, fulfilled, etc.; you can only judge others based on outward appearances, and those outward appearances can be deceiving.

Comparing yourself to others is a common trap that can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. A more self-loving way to live is to focus on your own journey and your own progress. This is your life, not a competition. You win by being you, not by trying to be someone you’re not.

2. Stop Negative Self-Talk

Is that voice inside your head—the one that has around 70,000 thoughts or more a day— primarily positive, neutral, or negative? For those who struggle with self-love, negative self-talk is often a problem. 

Your mind shapes your reality. If you want to live a happier life, you need to take action to ensure your thoughts align with what you want to create.

Engaging in negative self-talk and thinking you can lead a positive life is like taking a bath in dirty water and hoping to come out clean; it won’t happen.

If you’ve been entertaining negative self-talk for a long time, it’s a very difficult habit to break. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? Nope. Even better, any action you take to move away from negative self-talk is an act of self-love. Your self-love practice should never be about perfection; every ounce of love you give yourself adds up. 

The secret to stopping negative self-talk is to notice and observe it without letting your mind go on a negative tirade. Once you notice a thought, you can choose to engage with it or choose a better thought. 

When you start moving away from negative self-talk, you begin to feel lighter, happier and more in love with your whole life. The benefits are nothing short of miraculous.

3. Stop Being Self-Critical

Being self-critical is a specific type of negative self-talk. We all live with an inner critic who likes to point out what we’re doing wrong, and that internal critic often offers that criticism in the most unpleasant tone possible. If your inner critic is wreaking havoc on your life, it’s time you learned some strategies for taming it, perhaps even befriending it.

When self-criticism is left unchecked, it may lead to devastating consequences. Toxic self-criticism leads to a low sense of self-worth and low self-esteem. Being overly self-critical will keep you from being brave enough to try new things and taking necessary risks to elevate your life both personally and professionally. 

One of the most self-loving steps you can take is to learn how to better manage your inner critic.

4. Stop Self-Sabotaging Behaviors

I used to think that self-sabotage wasn’t real, but then I took another look at my own behavior. If I’m working hard to improve my physical health and I eat a plate of brownies, isn’t that sabotaging my own health goals? If I complain about wanting a new job where I’ll be more appreciated and get to use my skills more fully but never apply for a new job, doesn’t that sabotage my career dreams?

We all self-sabotage from time to time, again: we’re not perfect. I’m not. You’re not. None of us are. Still, if self-sabotage becomes a pattern, it’s a sign that you’re not giving yourself the love you deserve. Your self-love journey will require you to take a good hard look at your behaviors and identify those you need to address. Where in your life are you self-sabotaging? Self-awareness is the first step to any behavior change.

Self-sabotage will prevent you from reaching your goals and living your best life. If you find yourself engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors, try to identify the underlying emotions and beliefs that are driving them. Then, work on addressing those emotions and beliefs so that you can break the cycle of self-sabotage and move towards a more self-loving mindset.

5. Stop Buying Into Self-Limiting Beliefs

Self-limiting beliefs are negative beliefs that hold us back from achieving our goals and living our best lives. They can be hard to identify, but they often are about what we feel we are capable of doing and achieving.

Here are a few examples of limiting beliefs:

examples of self limiting beliefs

In some ways, self-limiting beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies. If you don’t believe you can achieve something, you likely won’t put in the effort to achieve it. If you don’t make an effort to make new friends, odds are, you will remain friendless.

What beliefs do you have about yourself that are holding you back? A self-limiting belief is never a self-loving belief. As part of your self-love practice, it’s important that you take some time to consider the beliefs that you cling to that may not be true. What beliefs do you need to release? 

How to Create a Self-Loving Mindset

The mindset of self-love is not all rainbows and unicorns; there will be many times when you need to practice some tough love. Creating better thinking habits, choosing to always believe in yourself, setting appropriate boundaries, and remembering that happiness is a choice, not a destination (and your happiness is YOUR responsibility) are all key components of a self-loving mindset.

Create Better Thinking Habits

The quality of your life will never rise above the quality of your thoughts. When you create better thinking habits, your life will get better, too.

Here are a few thinking habits you may want to embrace along your self-love journey:

Always Believe in Yourself

Believing in yourself is essential because it fuels your confidence. When you believe in yourself, you are more likely to pursue your goals and dreams with conviction. You stand up for yourself. You don’t buy into others’ opinions about you; you don’t need others’ affirmations or approval.

When you believe in yourself, you’re more likely to take risks and overcome obstacles, leading to a more fulfilling and successful life. Loving yourself requires that you believe in yourself. It’s time to start acting and behaving as the powerful, magnificent person you really are

Believing in yourself is a key component of self-love. It means trusting your abilities and having confidence in your decisions. When you believe in yourself, you’re more likely to take risks, pursue your dreams, and achieve your goals.

Start Setting Healthy Boundaries

Learning where and how to set healthy boundaries is an essential part of your self-love practice. Recognizing your limits and being able to say no when you need to is a must. Setting boundaries will help you protect your time, energy, and emotional health. 

Establishing boundaries can also help you form more satisfying relationships, too. When you don’t have healthy boundaries in place, you quickly become overwhelmed and stressed as others take advantage of you. Your needs become second to everyone else’s whims and demands. 

Setting boundaries is an act of self-love that honors your needs. You can’t pour from an empty vessel. 

Setting boundaries can be a little scary at first, and not everyone will like that you’re doing this. But those who truly love you and care about you will recognize that it’s important and given time to adjust and an explanation for why you’re setting the boundary, they will support you. 

It’s okay to start small but start. One of the most self-loving acts of all is recognizing your needs and caring enough about yourself to prioritize your needs by setting more boundaries in your life.

Adopt a Happiness Mindset

Many people are waiting for happiness to arrive at their doorstep. They say things like: 

  • “One day, when this happens, I’ll be happy.” or 
  • “One day, I’ll do this, and that will make me happy.” or 
  • “I will be happy when X happens.”

When it comes to happiness, I’m a believer in what Abraham Lincoln once said on the subject: “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” One of the most self-loving things you can do right here, right now, is to choose to be happy.

Happiness is a choice. When you make that choice, you begin focusing on the things that bring you joy and fulfillment and letting go of the things that don’t. 

When you make happiness a priority, you let go of the petty things that would otherwise drive you bananas. You notice the blue sky and puffy clouds that look like a puppy playing with a bunny. You stop paying attention to the minor annoyances of life that really aren’t worth your attention. And, you appreciate the little things, which you one day make look back on your life and realize were actually the big things. 

Self-love is the path to living a happier life, and my friend, you will never regret embracing a happiness mindset.

Five Self-Loving Habits to Develop

Your habits will determine the quality of your life. There are many self-loving habits you’ll want to master while on your self-love journey. Learning when and how to let go, keeping promises to yourself, being more intentional about your life, listening to your higher self, and having a bias for positive action are five self-love habits that are worth exploring.

self love quote -- j maire novak -- sometimes detaching from others or certain situations is a necessary act of self love

1. Learn to Let Go

Letting go can be as simple as clearing a closet and donating what you don’t need to the local thrift store. Or, it can be as gut-wrenchingly painful as letting go of a close relationship that you know isn’t good for you, even though there’s still a lot of love left in your heart.

Sometimes it is our choice to let go. Other times, we’re forced to let go as jobs disappear, or relationships falter, or loved ones pass—and even though the loss is beyond our control,  we struggle with letting go on an emotional level. We cling, and we hurt because we cling.

Life will give you many opportunities when letting go is the best decision. You need to know when and how to let go of people, things, situations, and thought patterns that no longer serve you. 

Letting go means releasing negative emotions, grudges, or limiting beliefs that are holding you back. It’s an act of self-love because it allows you to move forward and make room for positive experiences in your life. 

When you get into the self-loving habit of letting go, you free yourself from emotional baggage and give yourself a chance to cultivate inner peace and personal growth. Letting go is a process that requires patience and compassion. Be kind to yourself every step of the way.

2. Keep Promises You Make to Yourself

Every time you make a promise to yourself and break it, you trust yourself a little less. You also start to believe you’re not capable of setting goals and following through. You see your lack of self-discipline as a flaw, and your self-esteem takes another hit. 

Keeping promises to yourself is important because it builds self-trust and self-respect. When you keep your promises, you feel more confident and in control of your life. You also send a message to yourself that you are reliable and deserving of your own care and attention.

Keeping promises to yourself is a subtle yet important self-love habit.

3. Be More Intentional About Your Life

One of my favorite books by Wayne Dyer is called The Power of Intention. I was fortunate enough to hear Dr. Dyer speak live on a handful of occasions, and he always wove a discussion about the importance of being more intentional throughout his talks. 

Your thoughts, words and actions must be aligned with what you want to create a life you truly love. That’s why it is vital that you are intentional with your thoughts, words and actions.

Many of us live our life on autopilot. We get up, bathe, eat, go to work, eat, come home, eat, maybe exercise or take a walk, spend some time with family, go to bed and then do it all again the next day. And the next. And the next. 

Day after day, we do the same things, we think the same thoughts, and we grow aggravatingly uncomfortable in our “comfort zones” (the place where big dreams go to die).

Dyer says, “The power of intention is the power to expand and increase all aspects of your life. No exceptions!”.  When you are intentional about how you lead your life, your life opens up in amazing ways.

Being more intentional about how you lead your life is one of the most self-loving habits you’ll ever adopt.

4. Listen to Your Higher Self

Call it your gut, your instincts, your intuition, inner wisdom, your soul, or the Divine Love whispering to you, it all amounts to the same thing: your higher self knows things, and you should listen.

When you tune in to your intuition, you gain clarity and wisdom that comes from a deep place within you. By trusting and acting on the guidance from your higher self, you honor your true desires and values. 

Tuning into your inner wisdom is a self-love habit that empowers you to make choices that align with your deepest wants and desires and can help you lead a more fulfilling life.

5. Take Action

People often confuse love as a feeling; when love is only expressed as a feeling, it’s okay. But, feelings come and go. When love is expressed through loving action, it’s proof that you’ve made a commitment to giving yourself the care, kindness, patience, and compassion you deserve. 

Yes, you need to adopt a self-loving mindset, but that’s just for starters. Taking consistent positive action—even if you only take baby steps—is a self-love habit that will transform your life in ways

Self-Love Activities, Exercises and Resources

Self-love is about feeling better about yourself and keeping your mind aligned with your newfound determination to love yourself, no matter what. It’s also about changing your words and actions, too.

For most of us, developing a deep, unwavering sense of self-love is something that happens over time, not overnight. Your self-love journey is lifelong; it’s about taking joy in the adventures along the way.

Believe and create has a number of practical self-love activities and exercises you can start.  Be sure to explore our 77-self-love activities post (click image below).

Self-Love Affirmations

Affirmations are a powerful tool for cultivating self-love.

When we repeat positive, loving messages to ourselves, we begin to shift our internal dialogue from one of criticism and self-doubt to one of encouragement and self-acceptance.

An affirmation practice helps us reframe our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves so that we can see ourselves through a lens of compassion and kindness. 

As Tosha Silver, author of Outrageous Openness, says, “Affirmations are like planting seeds in the ground. First, they germinate, then they sprout roots, and then they grow and bear fruit.” 

Using affirmations as part of your self-love experience will nourish the seeds you plant, so they can blossom and thrive in your life. So, my dear, take some time each day to speak lovingly to yourself and watch as your self-love blooms.

DIY Self-Love Jar

Sometimes, we have a hard time remembering important self-love messages. That’s why I recommend that you get a self-love jar. You can create a do-it-yourself self-love jar with items you already have on hand or buy one on Etsy or Amazon.

There are two approaches to working with self-love jars.

The first is to start with an empty jar, and each time you observe yourself trading a non-self-loving habit for a self-loving habit, you write it down on a note and place that note in your self-love jar.

Anytime you need inspiration, you return to the jar and recount all the times you were able to choose self-love, even when it was really hard.

Another way to keep a self-love jar is to write down positive self-love messages that matter most to you.

This post and other B&C posts I’ve linked to throughout this article are FULL of those self-loving messages, so you already have plenty to work with.

Once you’ve filled your jar with self-love notes, you can return to it anytime you need direction or wisdom on how to stay on your self-love journey.

Self-love jars are actually pretty fun, and they’re easy to create. Plus, self-love jars serve as a visual reminder of your dedication to loving yourself fully and completely.

Every time you look at your jar, you’ll be reminded of your intention to practice self-love, and your commitment to self-love will deepen.

Best Books on Self-Love

I must profess that a big part of my continuing self-love practice is to read uplifting and life-affirming books from inspirational authors as well as experts in the field of positive psychology.

If you’re serious about living a life where you love yourself every single day, I highly recommend that you immerse yourself in reading about self-love.

I credit Louise Hay’s, You Can Heal Your Life, with much of my personal healing and positive transformation. I listen to the audio version of Kamal Ravikant, Love Yourself Life Your Life Depends on It, at least once a year, sometimes more often. And I adore Shannon Kaiser’s The Self-Love Experiment. Frankly, though, there are many, many more great books to explore.

I recently developed a list of my top 21 favorite self-love books and workbooks. You can check it out by clicking on the image below.

Final Notes on Your Self-Love Practice

You’ve been hard on yourself long enough.  You’ve endured the pain, stress, and anxiety that come from denying yourself the love you deserve. That’s simply no way to live. Being unloving will never produce the happy and fulfilling life you came to this earth to experience.

Making a commitment to starting a self-life practicing and staying on a self-love journey for the rest of your life will add “LIFE!” to your life. 

I’d like to see you get started on (or deepen) your self-love practice right now, so use this worksheet below to choose three things you’re going to start doing right now to be more self-loving.  Small steps over time will transform your life in wonderful ways!

Self-Love Practice:  My First Three Steps

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