Whether you grew up in a home where you felt unlovable or, for any number of reasons, you began to lose confidence in your ability feel loved over time, I offer this valuable advice: No matter how old you may be, you can reclaim the self-love you deserve and need.
I know this to be the truth because I lived it. I felt unlovable for decades, and this burden weighed heavily on my ability to live life to the fullest. Something had to change. That something was me. I had to learn how to love myself before I was open to being loved by others.
Do you recognize yourself in my life story? If you’re nodding your head, you’ve come to the right place. I’d like to tell you why you’re infinitely lovable and help you internalize feelings that will convince you of that fact.
Is the process of learning to love oneself easy? I wish I could say yes. As someone who had to learn how to love myself, I can assure you that it takes time and commitment. But, that’s the point! Welcome to the most worthwhile effort you’ll ever make: learning to love yourself. The following eight tips will get you started on your journey.
1. Embolden your spirit by taking the advice offered by the iconic Louise Hay if you sincerely want to learn how to love yourself. Hay says she’s “not a healer” but don’t tell that to legions of men and women who have taken her advice on their journeys to self-love.
Hay’s advice includes accepting the fact that it’s not selfish to love oneself, nor is foolish to count on God for guidance as she wisely recommends internalizing the word “unconditional.” To learn to love others unconditionally, you must first forgive yourself for doubting your worthiness and make a solid commitment to the business of learning to love yourself unconditionally.
2. Mindbodygreen.com guru Margaret Paul reminds everyone eager to learn about loving yourself to commit to two tough promises: take responsibility for your feelings and be willing to feel pain. We’re not talking about the pain tolerance one must conjure up at the dentist’s office! She refers to the pain you carry as a result of the void left when you haven’t learned a thing about loving yourself.
Paul’s point is that when one is willing to get in touch with, learn from and accept feelings that hurt terribly, personal growth soars and self-love becomes easier with every passing day. This also means addressing physical and emotional crutches we use to smother pain, like addictions, denial, self-judgment and spirit-destroying acts that can extinguish feelings of self-worth down to our cores.
3. Look in the mirror if you want to learn how to love yourself! What do you see? If this exercise includes nothing more than putting on makeup or shaving, you’re wasting a perfect daily opportunity to exclaim your self-worth and dramatically build a reserve of self-love that will take you through your day.
Craft your self-affirmation. It can be fun. Silly. Quirky. Outrageous. Or just, “I am learning how to love myself.” You’re on the right track if it’s some form of “The person I see before me is worth my love, respect, and admiration unconditionally.” Heck, write it down and hang it on the mirror, so your mantra becomes a habit.
4. Stop wanting to be someone else. Don’t laugh. Plenty of people would give anything to be a Kardashian while others envy sports stars who appear to have everything handed to them by an adoring public. As incredulous as it may seem, plenty of high-profile celebs wallow in self-doubt and don’t know the meaning of loving themselves, so they’re poor role models for anyone eager to develop self-love.
Says therapist Mark Chernoff, from MarcAndAngel.com “Focus on writing your story, instead of reading, watching and hearing about everyone else’s.” What to do with your propensity for wanting to be someone else? Find something in yourself that nobody else possesses and hang your hat on that unique trait. And if you want to figure out what that unique characteristic happens to be, poll your friends and family members—-you know, the folks who don’t have a clue why you don’t love yourself because they sure do.
5. Learn how to love yourself by keeping healthy company. Have you fallen into Alice’s rabbit hole—the one that’s filled with people who use and abuse you rather than nurturing your ambitions and dreams? It’s easy to do when there’s a big hole in your consciousness and unconsciousness where self-love once made its home.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker Ken Page recommends introspection to get into the habit of loving yourself. Ask this question as you go about learning to love yourself: “What parts of your authentic self did you have to hide or camouflage as a kid?” It’s a logical question because it’s likely you stopped loving yourself years ago and didn’t even know it. Your healing doesn’t end there; you must also find compassion for yourself, adds Paula Durlofsky, Ph.D., writing for PsychCentral.
6. Stop handing your power and control over to others while you’re learning to love yourself. Do you spend more time than you care to admit worrying about what other people think of you? This is a tell-tale sign that there’s no overabundance of self-love lurking in your psyche. You need examples—and what’s the best way to get the skinny on changing your behavior? How about the testimony of others who have walked in your shoes?
Ever heard of Actualized.org? It’s a portal of information that offers real-world advice on how to how to love yourself from people who had to reclaim their own self-love. Sample one video here to get a taste of the power others have achieved as a result of learning to love themselves:
Audio-video presentations can be particularly important in today’s era of social media.
7. Abandon your propensity for martyrdom. When people have a healthy amount of self-love, they don’t say yes to every request–knowing that there’s no way they have the time, energy or even desire to add more responsibility to an already-long list. Sadly, women tend to martyr themselves more than men because they’ve been raised in a society that demands to play so many roles.
Does this sound like you? Debbie McGauran, writing for ActiveBeat.com, likens one’s insistence upon prioritizing other people’s demands before their own to filling up a car’s gas tank and driving endlessly. You’ll not only “drain your own tank,” but once you do, “you’ll have nothing left to give.” Remember, says McGauran, “in order to love others and be loved, you need first to love yourself.”
8. Don’t take your journey alone. Learning to love yourself requires a huge leap of faith—one that could lead you to admit that it’s going to take more than a mirror or a decision to stop comparing yourself to others to start loving yourself. The number of therapists, support groups, counselors and coaches in your geographic area could surprise you, and it may feel awkward to make that first contact. Once you do, you don’t have to go into a long explanation about why you’re calling. Just say “I want to learn how to love myself,” and you needn’t say another word.
Is it wrong to enlist trained professionals to help you repair your ability to love yourself? No way! The Chinese philosopher Laozi said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In today’s high-speed world, that step can be a phone call or an Internet search to find the person best able to see in you what you don’t: That there’s plenty about you to love, no matter how long it’s been since you lost your way. So, what are you waiting for?