How to Love Yourself: 15 Tips for Developing Healthy Self-Love
Loving yourself means fully accepting yourself and maintaining a strong sense of self-worth even when you make a mistake, feel insecure, or receive criticism. By practicing self-compassion and changing the way you talk to yourself and treat yourself, it’s possible to learn to love yourself and to become happier and healthier along the way.
What Is Self-love?
Unlike narcissism, self-centeredness, or ego, self-love involves having a healthy relationship with yourself and embracing your full self, including your strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and challenges, successes and mistakes. Self-love involves a healthy and stable self-concept that is based on your own ideas, observations, and values rather than on others’ opinions and judgments.
Psychological research on self-compassion provides useful insights on how you can learn to love yourself, even when negative thoughts and difficult experiences try to get in the way.
These 15 strategies can help you develop self love:
1. Identify & Embrace Your Strengths
Davina Tiwari, MSW, RSW, CSFT explains, “We often are our own worst self-critic and so it’s very important that we make sure that we consider our personal strengths, abilities, skills, and positive qualities. If you find it hard to do this, it may help to take some time to write down your ideas, or even ask a loved one what they would say they like most about you to see if that helps get the ball rolling.”
Begin to nurture self-love by countering your inner critic and identifying your strengths, talents, and positive traits.4 By focusing on positive aspects of yourself instead of dwelling on what you perceive as faults, you’ll begin noticing that you have many positive qualities and strengths, and can begin to use these in your daily life. This will help you gain confidence in yourself and your abilities.
2. Work With a Therapist
Mental health professionals exist to help people work through all types of challenges, including low self-esteem, low self-worth, or a negative self-concept. Many people seek therapy to improve their confidence or self-worth, even when they don’t have a mental illness. Therapists have special training to help people overcome issues related to perfectionism, shame, and self-criticism, and also help people develop more self-compassion.
Find a therapist by asking trusted friends, colleagues, or family members for names and recommendations. You can also check with your doctor or visit local community centers or mental health organizations for lists of therapists in your area. Alternatively, you can use an online therapist directory, filtering your search to see those with specific specialties, or those in-network with your insurance. In working with a qualified therapist, you can explore difficulties that are keeping you from loving yourself and develop tools and strategies so you can begin to love yourself unconditionally.
3. Develop a Mindfulness Practice
Mindfulness is a meditation practice that involves training your mind to be more present, aware, and engaged in the here-and-now, rather than distracted or wrapped up in thoughts. Negative self-thoughts are a stimulus that keeps people stuck in a cycle of reacting and self-criticizing. Meditation helps people create space and distance from those thoughts, allowing them to separate from them and choose different responses.
Some of the mindfulness practices that can help improve self-love include:3,5,8
- Loving-kindness meditation: Renowned meditation teacher, lovingkindness expert, and author Sharon Salzberg recommends lovingkindness meditation as a way to help the mind shift from negative, self-critical thoughts to self-love. In a lovingkindness meditation, you repeat positive intentions and desires for yourself
- RAIN: The concept RAIN was originally created by Buddhist teacher Michele McDonald and then adapted and developed by psychologist and author Tara Brach. This technique uses mindfulness to 1. Recognize thoughts and feelings, 2. Accept them, 3. Investigate them with curiosity, and 4. Nurture them.
- Sitting meditation: The key to formal meditation is to sit, lie, or move intentionally and focus your attention on one thing, such as a word, a series of phrases (like the lovingkindness meditation), your breath, an object, or a sound, for example.
- Grounding: Grounding is a mindfulness practice that teaches people to become more aware of the present by focusing on one or more of the 5 senses. By noticing things you can see, hear, smell, taste, or touch, you can pull attention away from the voice of your inner critic.
4. Keep Comparisons in Check
Comparing yourself to others is a normal but dangerous habit that can undermine self-love.1 Everywhere you go, you see and evaluate others in ways that can make you feel “less than,” sparking your inner critic to point out your shortcomings or flaws. You might find yourself making comparisons when you’re on social media, watching TV, or just caught up in your thoughts.
Because comparison is a built-in part of human behavior (it’s one way you learn about who you are and where you fit), you won’t stop it altogether. You can, though, come to do it less as well as minimize its negative impact with these tips:1
- Self-monitor: Increase your awareness of this tendency and catch yourself when you are negatively comparing yourself to someone else
- Redirect: Once you catch yourself in a negative self-comparison, redirect your thoughts to something else (mindfulness comes in handy here)
- Reverse: Most of the time, you are comparing yourself to someone in a way that emphasizes what you feel you lack. Looking for things to be grateful for can help you reverse this and find ways to appreciate what you have.
- Zoom out: Understand yourself in context by zooming out of the situation to consider yourself, your feelings, motivations, and needs and consider how these factor into your choices and actions.
5. Set Healthy Boundaries
Says Jennifer Shapiro-Lee, MSW, LCSW-R, “A big part of self love is understanding our boundaries, and learning when to say yes and when to say no. I tell clients when someone asks you to do something, you can categorize it into one of three options: ‘I have to do this,’ ‘I should do this,’ and ‘I don’t want to do this.’ This way, you can see what you really want and how to spend your valuable time while taking care of your own needs and well-being.”
“Boundaries sometimes get a bad rap, so it’s important to spell out what boundaries actually are. Boundaries (physical, emotional, time, energy, financial, etc.) are ways we communicate with others about what we are willing and able to do or give, and what we are not willing and able to do or give. Dr. Brené Brown often says that boundaried people are compassionate people,” states Dr. Supriya Blair.