It is hard to be around someone who is negative, judgmental, or close-minded, but you can always block their number, walk out of the room, or even plug your ears and start singing at the top of your lungs. But what do you do if the person you don’t want to be around is you?
There is no escaping yourself—even though many of us try—through distractions like drugs, work, exercise, or sex. The only solution is to become friends with yourself, because liking yourself is key to living a happy life and attaining overall well-being. Working on self-acceptance is well worth your time, and we share a dozen ways to do it in this article.
Why is it so hard to like yourself?
We live in a world of self-improvement that often capitalizes on our insecurities to sell us more products. If we were happy with ourselves, as is, how many corporations would go out of business? Think about the negative thoughts that run through your head daily and ask yourself, who is benefiting from this? You’ll see at the very least that these thoughts don’t benefit you.
In addition to the cultural and societal pressures to constantly improve oneself, there are other reasons you may find it hard to like yourself: negative childhood experiences, trauma, or mental health issues. Many mental health conditions go hand-in-hand with low self-esteem and they often act in a vicious cycle, though some argue that low self-esteem comes first.
“I believe that pervasive low self-worth is a root cause of mental illness.”— Clinical psychologist Adia Gooden
There are many factors that affect feelings of self-worth and it is useful to explore the root of your self-esteem issues in order to begin the healing journey. If you lack self-love and are struggling to identify why, it may be helpful to consult a therapist.
What is the definition of self-love?
To have self-love is to fully accept and appreciate yourself while supporting your growth and well-being with compassion and kindness. Learning how to love yourself is important because it improves your self-esteem, strengthens relationships, improves mental health, increases happiness, helps with overall well-being, and so much more.
Some signs you are lacking in self-love are negative self-talk, self-doubt, self-sabotage, and low self-confidence. Low self-worth can lead to addiction, perfectionism, mental health issues, people-pleasing, codependency, and many other life challenges. By cultivating a positive sense of self, you can significantly improve your quality of life!
12 ways to practice self-love
- Learn to set boundaries
- Setting boundaries is essential to self-worth because you are demonstrating that your needs matter and that you are confident in what you deserve. If you don’t set boundaries you can find yourself in situations where people take advantage of you, which only worsens feelings of low self-esteem. You want to surround yourself with people who love and respect you in order to nurture self-confidence and self-love.
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone by learning to set boundaries. Don’t be afraid of how people will react; remember that you can’t control other people’s responses, you can only do what you think is best.
- Be honest
- Lying builds shame and guilt. It takes courage, compassion, and integrity to tell the truth, even when it is difficult. A good first step is to pay attention to when and why you lie, and then work on avoiding being dishonest, which diminishes your self-worth. The more you are honest with yourself and others, the more you will respect and love yourself.
- Stop comparing yourself
- It’s often said that, “comparison is the thief of joy,” yet it can be very difficult not to compare ourselves to others, especially with social media. Some ways to halt the comparison train is by spending less time on social media and being grateful for what you already have.
- Try analytical meditation
- Analytical meditation is a powerful way to reframe your thoughts through the use of story, thought, and emotion. This practice can transform a negative self-image into feelings of self-compassion and self-acceptance.
- This form of meditation teaches you to watch your thought patterns and train your inner voice to become your best friend instead of your inner critic. Negative thinking not only impacts your self-love, it significantly affects overall wellbeing.
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Gratitude is an incredible way to replace negative thoughts with a positive perspective on your life. You can focus your journal on things you are grateful for in your own character, the kindness of loved ones, or the beauty to be found in everyday life. A gratitude journal can help you realize how much you have to be thankful for and contextualize your situation.
- Practice radical self-acceptance
- It is possible to accept yourself completely, imperfections and all. In a society so focused on self-improvement, deciding you are enough just the way you are is radical act. Read our blog on radical self-acceptance to learn more.
- Adapt a growth mindset
- In Buddhism, there is a concept of the beginner’s mind which encourages open-mindedness and a willingness to learn. In this framework, you adapt the open mindset of a child who is curious and excited to explore new ideas without preconceptions. By cultivating a beginner’s mindset, you can learn more deeply and clearly, even from experiences you think you’ve had many times before.
- Part of a growth mindset is also the ability to let go of thoughts and emotions that no longer serve you. Learning to break the cycle of self-critical thinking and stop indulging in rumination is key to letting go of the past and creating a brighter future.
- Surround yourself with loving people
- Evaluate your relationships and make sure you are surrounding yourself with kind, loving, respectful people who make you feel your best. If you are spending time with people who don’t make you feel good about yourself, consider taking some time apart and reflecting on whether the relationship is worth continuing. The people you spend time with have a huge impact on the way you think and act, so be mindful of the company you keep.
- Help others
- As the Dalai Lama says, “The more you dedicate yourself to others, the happier you’ll be.” We can get so caught up in trying to make ourselves happier that we often forget to focus on others’ happiness, which, ironically, is what will make us happiest. By cultivating compassion and loving-kindness we positively impact other’s lives as well as our own.
- Practice affirmations
- If you struggle with negative self talk, affirmations can help rewire your thought patterns to cultivate self-love. You can write, speak, or listen to affirmations—whichever you find easiest. Plenty of research supports the fact that a positive affirmation practice can decrease stress and increase overall wellbeing.
- Take care of your body
- One way to improve mental health is by taking care of your physical health. You’ve heard it before but it’s worth repeating: fuel your body with healthy food, move your body, and sleep well. Everything about your body is interconnected: your gut microbiome, the amount you exercise, and your sleep cycle all heavily impact your mood and mental health. Taking care of your body is therefore a powerful act of self-care.
- Spend time in nature
- Studies have shown that spending time in nature decreases anxiety, promotes better sleep, and improves mental health. Being in nature is also a great time for reflection and can often promote a perspective-shift on what is truly important in life.
Disclaimer: This post is not medical advice. Please consult a mental health professional or doctor regarding your specific health conditions.