How to Love Yourself When You Don’t Know How

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There never seems to be an end to the self-help literature chanting “Love Yourself!” “Practice Self Care!” “Be gentle with yourself!” “You can’t love someone else until you truly love yourself!” “Your number one relationship should be with yourself!” It’s everywhere. And for some of us, it can feel overwhelming… and even discouraging.

Love yourself… It sounds so easy, but let’s be honest. For some of us, it’s really f******** hard. How can you actually love yourself when you never learned how to? Here’s some activities to get you on the right track.

1. Set an Intention

Intentions are the beginning point for any goal. Intentions teach the brain to focus on incoming data and information that support your belief system. Just like the phrase: If you believe you can’t – you’re right.

When writing your intentions, make sure they are in the positive affirmative (“I will” instead of “I will not.”) OR (“I am attracting ____.” INSTEAD OF “I am cutting out____.”) If you can’t authentically mutter the words, “I love myself” then try something like:

“I intend to love myself.”

“Today is the beginning of a new cycle of positivity!”

“I am working towards self-compassion and acceptance.”

Your goal sets the tone. Write it down! Share it with a friend or your partner. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor that studied the art of goal setting, found that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. That’s almost half the work! 

2. Develop a Relationship with Your Inner Critic

Do you ever catch yourself criticizing your intelligence, capabilities, your ability to do your job, the way your body looks? Saying things that you would never dream of saying to a friend. We all have an inner critic, whose sole job is to remind us that we’re not good enough.

Your inner critic is the voice inside you chanting messages like: I’m not good enough. I’ll never get this right. I’ll never amount to anything. You bombed that presentation. Everyone will think you’re a fraud. Nobody will ever love me. I’m not worthy. No wonder no one likes you, you’re so boring!

Sound familiar?

Believe it or not, the inner critic was built to protect you from disappointment, pain, hurt and shame. The inner critic actually helped you learn how to behave to gain approval and love and easily avoid rejection and shame.

We can thank it for protecting us when we were little babes, give it a little credit, and then take the first step.

  • Separate your FABULOUS SELF from the voice of the inner critic. How? Give it a silly name. Write down what it’s saying. Explore how it attacks in certain situations: When you’re hungry. When you’re meeting new people. Going on dates. When you make a mistake. When you are being criticized. When you’re giving a presentation etc). Draw it. Give it a personality.
  • Write down all the critical messages you’ve received from other people. Sometimes identifying where those messages come from can help us separate ourselves from the inner critic. Figure out where the voices learned to speak? Who’s voice is it? Is it your mother’s words about your figure? Is it a teacher’s scoff at a wrong answer? Where do the messages get their fire? Explore this part of YOU. Part of you, being the key phrase.
  • Look at the inner critic as a small child. You are an adult. Figure out what that voice needs like you would consider the needs of a small child. Ask it these simple questions, “What do you need right now?” “What is your positive intention for me?” Thank it for trying to take care of you but let it know that it’s no longer necessary because you’re grown up now and can handle it.
  • Wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it whenever you find yourself engaging in the musings of the inner critic. This can help us reject those thoughts and creates a powerful psychological association.
  • Mantras! Not the calm, collected, yogi-type of mantra. Make it FIERCE and bold. Be bigger than your inner critic. Say it with MOXIE.

3. Give Yourself Permission to Feel Good!

PAY ATTENTION to the way things make you feel. Do you feel happily tired after a day in the yard? Do you feel ALIVE when you ride your bike? Fulfilled after volunteering? Super happy after brunch with your friends? Pumped up after a good yoga class! Make list of 10 things that make you happy. If there’s more, keep going!

Get curious about what makes you feel good and then chisel out some time for it in your schedule. Sneak out to a museum for an hour every Sunday. Go for a walk by yourself to recharge. Give yourself full permission to really indulge in something that makes you feel happy. You’ll feel better and you’ll love yourself more for it.

If you treat yourself like shit, you’ll feel like shit. Treating yourself throughout the day signals to YOU that you’re an awesome person worthy of a nice life.

4. Embrace your Dark Side

This being human is to ebb and flow between your darkness and your light. The side of you that is lighthearted, playful, kind, altruistic and sweet is contrasted by your tendencies towards judgment, anger, pessimism, laziness, depression, jealousy…

OWN YOUR DARK SIDE. Don’t walk around the world pretending everything is sunshine, rainbows and unicorns (Except for when it is, then REVEL in the unicorns!)

Denying a part of yourself is truly an act of self-loathing.

Another way to reveal your dark side is to pay attention to what bothers you most about others. Usually our judgments about others give us clues about what we’ve disowned in ourselves.

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Everything in your life stems from your relationship with yourself. It sets the tone for every relationship you have! When you finally see yourself as GOLD and fall in love with the uniqueness that is you, your life will naturally flow more joyfully.