Loving yourself is the necessary base for healthy relationships with other people. But why?
“Find the love you seek, by first finding the love within yourself. Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home.” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Let's say you don’t love yourself and see yourself as not beautiful nor good enough. There comes a person who tells you how wonderful you are. Would you accept it? No, it is more likely you would think they are either lying, mad or not particularly picky. So, loving yourself is the first step to allowing another person to love you.
Self-love seems to be natural; you live your whole life with yourself, in your body. You spend more time with yourself than with anyone other you love, you understand yourself the best, and you are the one who keeps all of your secrets.
Then why do you have a problem with loving yourself? Isn’t the self-love something we are born with? Unfortunately, not.
Many factors can jeopardize your self-love and self-respect. These factors vary from your parent's influence in your childhood, your social environment and culture to your distorted self-image. Whatever the reason might be, living without loving yourself is exhausting, stressful and may induce many negative emotions.
It means constant self-doubt, fear of not being (good, smart, pretty) enough, missing chances because of the low self-esteem, burdening other people with repeated request for approval and so on.
On the other hand, loving yourself means being able to feel self-compassion and empathy for your own feelings, to greet and compliment yourself as any other person you love, to accept yourself as an imperfect human being and forgive yourself for your mistakes.
How Can Mindfulness Help?
Regarding being in the present and entering mindfulness, loving yourself means finding a way to be kind, non-judgmental and aware of whatever happens to you or whatever you are experiencing. It is an unconditional positive attitude towards our inner experiences.
In order to love ourselves, we should start by simply being gentle to ourselves, as we are to other people. It means acting kind and friendly towards our emotions. Learning to observe our emotions and be with them instead of getting overwhelmed by them, is a big step forward.
This includes unpleasant emotions as well as pleasant ones. Pushing away negative experiences and clinging to positive ones is a bad strategy. We often create more suffering by doing so, because we turn to drinking alcohol or some other unhealthy coping mechanism. Accepting and mindfully experiencing our feelings such as sadness, fear or anxiety is not the sign of weakness but the sign of strength.
This kindness and compassion is the healthy alternative to the shame we often feel. Finding an inner piece by being with our experiences is a good way to overcome the desire to change or fix ourselves.
If being gentle to yourself still sounds too abstract, you can make it more practical by asking yourself following questions (sadness will be used as an example, but you can apply this to any emotion you are experiencing):
- Can I be friendly with my sadness?
- Can I say hello to the sadness inside me?
Sit down next to your sadness. Can you keep it company as you would do with a vulnerable child?
Learning how to positively and adequately answer these questions is not an easy task, especially for a person who has little love for himself or herself. But practicing to stay in the present, observe your experiences and find the answers will create you a true and loving companion inside yourself. (1)
Learn to Self Love One Day at a Time
We realized that many people know meditation and mindfulness are great, but does that actually help them get their practice started and escape the debilitating fear, anxiety and stress that plague them? No. So we created the 30 Days of Mindfulness Challenge! It gives you the tools to dip your toes into the waters of self-loving meditations and see how it can transform you over the course of 30 days. It's great for a meditation beginner or even a seasoned meditation pro. Try it out. You'll thank us later ?
Exercise Loving Yourself Even if it Seems Silly
Loving yourself is not something that happens overnight. It needs a lot of work, and the work doesn't stop once you get to your goal. You need to water your self-love plant every day if you want it to flourish. However, you will find the way that suits you the most to do this, but for self-love beginners – here’s some help. These exercises might seem silly, but they work and produce a fuzzy warm feeling around your heart.
Embrace the Magic of Mindfulness
Find a few minutes every day to take a good look at the mirror. Start by taking a few deep breaths, focus on them and count them. Then, sit in front of the mirror, possibly in a well-lit place. Sit in a way that your face becomes a focal point of your view. Relax as much as you can.
Start scanning your face. Notice what you are seeing objectively, without any judgment. Start at the forehead and then proceed to eyes, cheeks, nose, lips, chin and jaw. After all of that, include your hair and ears. Do not think about wrinkles or acne as something wrong. Just perceive it.
Internal comments of liking and disliking will arise even if you try to control them. Pay attention to them. Observe if any part of your face or body feels clenching, tightness, pain or any kind of discomfort.
Notice the changes in your face expression while you are exploring those internal comments. How is your forehead reacting, your nostrils, your upper and lower lip? Are any of these physical sensations and thoughts related to some emotion underneath them?
Try to relax the areas where you've felt the tension. Notice how the look on your face changes while you are doing that. Wish yourself a good will and well-being in any way that suits you the best.
Finally, observe your face again. Look at your face as a grandmother would look at the face of her beloved grandchild, or as an older sister would watch the face of the younger one she adores. (2)
Self-Love Morning Meditation
This meditation takes only five minutes and should be done in the morning, thirty minutes after waking. If that is not a convenient time for you, you can do it whenever is the best for you.
Start by sitting straight and comfortable, with your eyes closed. For this exercise, you won't be needing a mirror. Take three slow and deep breaths, inhaling on your nose and exhaling on your mouth. Do it out loud so you can hear every breath.
Continue to breathe naturally and observe your breathing, notice the sensation of it, while counting ten of your breaths. One inhale, and one exhale are equal one breath.
Your eyes still closed, visualize another you walking up and offering you big, warm, lasting hug. Accept that hug and hold this feeling in your awareness. Stay in your own embrace as long as you are comfortable. Thank this other you for showing up and being here for you. Then bring your attention back to your breathing, take a few deep breaths once again and slowly open your eyes. (3)
As earlier mentioned, these exercises might seem strange first few times you do them, but the feeling of acceptance that comes after is worth the effort.
Loving yourself is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and the world. A person who is full of self-love is more likely to be loved by others because of the positive energy he or she carries and spreads. Loving yourself often comes easier with maturing, but there is no reason to calmly wait for something that might or might not happen to you when you can actively work on that. Benefits are clear, and it will improve the general quality of your life.
However, developing self-love can be done in many ways and using mindfulness for that purpose, is just one of them. If you realize that some other way is better for you, no one will stop you from pursuing it, but still, consider including some of the techniques related to being in the present. They are potent to affect not only your self-love and self-image but complete psychological and physical well-being.
Love yourself and let yourself be loved!
(Read this next: Abandoning the Victim Role Through Self-Awareness)