Increased self-love leads to increased productivity, motivation, feelings of fulfillment, seeking positive social companions, and utilization of healthy coping mechanisms. Unsurprisingly, as you work on improving your self-love, it will also improve self-esteem.
Take care of your physical needs
This means taking care of your hygiene (take a shower, brush your teeth, do your hair). When we are taking care of our hygiene, we are sending ourselves the message that we are worthy. There is truth in “look good, feel good.” Additionally, when we have poor hygiene we feel dirty, oily, and overall “gross.” This can trigger irritability and discomfort, which can lead to negative emotions, poor self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. We are less likely to interact with others when we have poor hygiene, and more likely to withdraw and isolate. This can bring down your mood and self-esteem even more, making self-love more difficult.
Taking care of your physical needs also means exercise and eating a balanced diet (including enough water!). What we put into our bodies matters. This doesn’t mean never eat a cookie or drink a beer, have those treats in moderation and focus on obtaining the nutrients you need. Instead of thinking about what you shouldn’t eat, focus on what you should – vegetables, protein, fruit, whole grains. This small change in mindset shifts the focus from what you “can’t” have, and often feeling down when you give into that craving, and instead puts the focus on what you are doing for yourself. (I’m no nutritionist, but I found this article to be interesting and helpful in terms of nutrition and mental health.)
Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins reduce our perception of pain as well as trigger positive feelings (this usually happens after 20-30 minutes). This means exercise helps combat sadness, anger, and anxiety while increasing feelings of happiness. Exercise also aids in securing enough restful sleep, which is also key in taking care of your physical needs. If you need help with your sleep hygiene check out this article.
Social support & setting boundaries
Surrounding yourself with compassionate and loving people will help with your own self-love. A supportive social network can make the world of a difference. Spend time with those who leave you feeling good and good about yourself afterwards. You want to be around people who celebrate your successes and make an effort to be understanding. Being around these kinds of people helps you feel safe in being yourself. Positive friendships help us cope healthily with any obstacles that arise in our lives as well as face stress in general. Those with strong support networks even recover more quickly from health issues. Feeling safe in our relationships helps encourage us to take chances and grow. Surrounding yourself with people who have qualities you admire can also help bring you up when you are having self doubts. If this awesome person wants to be your friend, you must be pretty awesome too!
An important part of all relationships is setting boundaries. Often people think setting boundaries is selfish, when in fact it’s the opposite. Boundaries strengthen relationships. Having poor boundaries – always saying “yes,” not speaking up when we’re uncomfortable, overexerting ourselves to help others – leaves us feeling depleted, and it is easy to be upset with yourself in these circumstances or resentful of others. Learning to assert boundaries can also help in your professional life. Asserting boundaries in your professional life will help combat feeling drained after a work day. Feeling like you still have energy when you get home means you have the energy to do activities that feel fulfilling. Doing activities you enjoy is a way to be kind to yourself and practice self-love.
Be kind to yourself
Treat and speak to yourself like you would your best friend. Sometimes it can be really hard to love yourself and treat yourself with kindness. For some, it is helpful to instead think of what your best friend would say to you, or how you treat and speak to your best friend. Replace self talk such as “That was dumb, you’re an idiot!” with something like “That was a mistake, but it’s okay. You can learn from it.” If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, don’t say it to yourself.
Take time to highlight your positive qualities. This is often hardest when we need it the most. So, write these down as you think of them or others state them. Keep them somewhere you can see – writing on your mirror, a list next to your bed, change your lock-screen background. Something I’ve personally found successful is having a token to keep in my pocket or on my desk. For example, I have a stone a friend gave me that reminds me I am compassionate and kind. I either keep this stone in my pocket or have it on my desk for the day. Every time I touch it or look at it on my desk I stop to take a moment and remind myself of those traits.
Spend time reflecting on your successes, not your failures. It’s natural for us to dwell on the negative moments, but not the positive. It’s how our brains are wired. When a positive experience happens, sit with it for at least 10 seconds. When someone compliments you, really take it in (again, 10 seconds). If you catch yourself thinking of something negative, make yourself switch to thinking of something positive. Even a seemingly small bright moment in the day – your child showing you a drawing, your dog being excited to see you, your partner giving you a kiss…
Treat yourself (item, food, etc.), make time for self-care, and have fun
Treat yourself, you are worth it. Don’t let this get out of hand with overspending or overeating. Remember, this isn’t a coping mechanism after a difficult day, this is a treat with the intention to show yourself some love. When was the last time you purchased something that wasn’t totally necessary but you wanted? When’s the last time you got your favourite dessert from the local bakery? Purchased something for your hobby?
Set aside time for you.When we take time for self-care we are giving the message to ourselves that we are worth it. This is an added bonus to the feeling of rejuvenation or replenishment that comes from our self-care activities.
As children, our focus was on having fun and joyous activities. As adults we often push aside spontaneous fun or joy, and instead focus on our chores, to-dos, and productivity. While these are important, having fun and spending time with pleasure is a great way to be kind to yourself.
We are driven to feel like we are doing something right, to feel like we are being successful in something. Doing “something” right can easily turn into feeling like we need to do everything right. This can lead us to being too harsh on ourselves, to self-criticism, and low self-esteem. Being patient with yourself, kind to yourself, and forgiving yourself will help combat against starting or being stuck in a negative cycle. When we forgive ourselves, we begin to let go of the negatives that will otherwise build up. For example, you snapped at your partner before you started your work day. You feel guilty afterwards and the thought creeps in that you’re a bad partner. Then, at work, you missed an important email your boss is asking about. A thought creeps in that you are a bad employee or colleague. In an effort to make up for missing the email, you work late and miss your evening workout. By this time, the thoughts might turn into “I can’t do anything right” or “I’m a failure.” If you can stop and forgive yourself along the way, the negative thoughts won’t build up and feel consuming.
You can challenge the negative or unhelpful thoughts as they come. It’s okay that you snapped at your partner. Apologize sincerely and move on; there’s no need to dwell on it. To help “move on,” think of a time you did something nice for your partner. See, you’re not a bad partner, you just had a moment. If you spend the next hour beating yourself up about a missed email you won’t be productive. Do what you need to to make up for it, and continue with your day. You may even find yourself having more energy after you forgive yourself.
Live by your values
We find fulfillment as we live our lives with purpose; and that’s best when our actions are aligned with our values. The first step to living a life in line with your values is being able to identify them. (See below for some tools to be able to do this.) Once you have identified your top values, think about ways in which you already incorporate them into your life. Next think of some new ways in which you can incorporate them. Make a conscious effort throughout your day to be incorporating these values – this will get easier and feel more natural over time. When you are intentional with your actions aligning with your values, it leads to a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
This is the value sheet I use. You can also find one online such as this one. Pick the ten values that are most important to you. From those ten values, pick the top five. Keep in mind that your values will change over time.
Self-love can be difficult at times. However, it does get easier over time. It just takes practice and effort. Know you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to a counselor in San Diego. When are world is amiss, it can be easier to feel down and harder to bring ourselves back up. Therapy in San Diego during COVID-19 is available, attainable, affordable. Self-love, confidence, and self-esteem go hand in hand. Check out our list of top apps for self-esteem.
Article by Sarah O’Leary, AMFT#123449 (supervised by Nicole Asencio, PsyD, LMFT#99795)
About Sarah O'Leary
I am captivated most by the importance of relationships and emotions and their impact on our everyday lives. Both relationships and our emotions help shape who we are as a person. "Relationship" doesn't just mean partner, but rather connections of all kinds. This means everything from strangers, to friends, to partners, and most importantly, the relationship you have with yourself. Emotions are what underlies our thoughts and behaviors, they are the key to understanding ourselves.