The Psychology Behind Self-Love
When you make a list of the people you love, do you include yourself on that list? And if so, where do you rank? If it’s not at the top of the list, it may be time to reevaluate and start practicing some self-love techniques. Self-love may conjure up images of cheesy memes and self-help books but many psychological studies have shown that self-love is key to our mental health and well-being, even helping to keep depression and anxiety at bay.
What exactly is self-love? Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth. It is all about having the same level of respect for your own well-being and happiness as you do for your loved ones. It is about prioritizing yourself, taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing yourself to please others. It is also about accepting ourselves as we are and not beating ourselves up for not being perfect.
Self-love can mean something different for each person because we all have different ways of taking care of ourselves. What works for one person may not work for you. Figuring out what self-love looks like for you as an individual is an important part of taking care of your mental health.
Self-love is dynamic. It is not a one-and-done kind of thing but grows through the actions of our lives. When we act in ways to grow self-love in ourselves, we begin to accept our weaknesses as well as our strengths, have less need to explain our shortcomings to others, feel more compassion for ourselves and become more centered in our life’s purpose.
Here are just a few ways to help practice and cultivate self-love:
- Become Mindful. People who have more self-love tend to know what they think, feel, and want. They are mindful of who they are and act on that knowledge rather than what others want for them.
- Set Boundaries. Set limits or just say no to work, activities and even people that deplete or harm you emotionally, physically and spiritually. Of course, there are things we must do in life but there are a lot of things we choose to do because it makes someone else feel better.
- Act on what you NEED rather than what you WANT. By staying focused on what you need, you can turn away from automatic behavior patterns that get you into trouble and stuck in the past. When you can turn away from something that feels good and exciting to stay centered and moving forward in your life, you are proving that you love yourself.
- Practice good self-care. You will love yourself more when you take better care of your basic needs. When you practice healthy activities like eating well, exercise, good sleep, positive social interactions and even your beauty wellness routine, you are nourishing yourself which leads to more self-love.
- Stop comparing yourself to others and worry less about what others think of you. Both are a waste of time and energy. Instead, focus on you and your journey to being the best version of you.
- Be aware of self-criticism and your inner voice. You know the one that constantly tells us how we could’ve done things better? Think about some of the things you say to yourself - everything from how you look to “I can’t believe I did that, I’m such a failure.” These are the furthest things from self-love. Would you actually say those things to another person? Probably not! You should take the same care and have the same empathy with how you talk and think about yourself as you do with your friends and family.
- Accept your “flaws”. We live in an image obsessed culture and the concept of perfection is everywhere. But perfection is an abstract – it doesn’t exist. What one person thinks is perfect is totally different from the next person. Once you accept perfection isn’t real and give yourself permission to accept your “flaws” (please note the quotation marks!) you may learn to appreciate them for the ways they make you unique and beautiful.
- Forgive yourself. We tend to be really hard on ourselves. It’s one thing to take responsibility for our actions but we can punish ourselves too much for mistakes. We have to accept our “humanness” and the fact that we are not perfect before we can truly love ourselves. Try being less hard on yourself when you make a mistake. And remember, if you have learned and grown from your mistakes – it’s not a failure, just a lesson learned.
These are just a few examples of self-love actions. Even if you just try one or two of these, you will begin to accept and love yourself more.
Finally, the best way to start practicing self-love is to be kind, patient, gentle and compassionate to yourself – the same way you would be with a loved one that you care about.