Written by Jay Liew, Great Big Minds
Searching for love almost seems like a quest for many of us in this life. And that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to love and be loved in return. But what happens when you find the love you’ve been searching for in someone else only to discover that you still know loneliness and lack the confidence to live your life to the fullest? Could it be that in the process of running towards love you’ve forgotten to seek love within? Self-love is the purest and most liberating form of love. And you too can learn how to love yourself.
1. Accept the Challenge
Let’s not beat around the bush. Loving yourself isn’t easy. If it were, you wouldn’t be here right now, reading this. The world would be a wonderful place for everyone and psychotherapists would be out of a job. But as you probably already know, nothing good has ever been easy.
Chances are that you’ll think about how to love yourself and be confident over and over again, only to come back with a self-loathing reply, a bunch of criticism, and downright negativity. This is something we call perception. And the best and worst thing about perception is that it completely depends on you. You choose how to perceive the world, people, and object around you, and, most importantly, yourself.
You might have already discovered the discrepancy between your generally more positive outlook of everyone and everything else compared to yourself. This doesn’t mean there’s something inherently wrong with you. It just means that you’ve spent too much time focusing on the negative, thus creating the negative perception of self that’s been haunting you ever since.
This particular behavioral pattern is something many people deal with. So instantly, you’re not alone in your fight. But you are alone with your thoughts. Someone wise said that you speak to yourself in your head more than anyone else on the whole planet; so, be kind to yourself and make sure you are saying the right things.
Simple as that, right? If only that were true. If you ever had to break a negative habit such as quitting smoking, drinking alcohol, or eating junk food, you should expect the challenge of self-love to be equally if not more difficult. This isn’t anything scary or impossible. We’re breaking the habit of negative self-perception. It’s time to accept the challenge and take your first baby steps.
2. Positive Mindset Requires Action
At first, you might imagine the concept of self-love as an idea that will swoop into your mind and make everything better just like that. You’re not wrong in your thinking because this is what we call a positive and self-loving mindset. However, self-love status is much more than just a mindset; it is a set of daily actions and practices that allow you to grow and become the best version of yourself that you can be.
Take the way you think about your friends and loved ones for example. You want them to succeed in everything they do. It feels nice to give them space and time to grow. You worry about whether they’re eating healthy and getting enough rest. You feel angry when someone hurts their feelings.
This is your true nature and the kindness you possess. It’s not a given. You already have the tools you need to start treating yourself better – you just need to recognize yourself as your own friend and a loved one.
Now, what would you suggest to a friend who’s in a bad mental place? You’d probably advise them to improve their sleep pattern, eat healthy, and exercise. You might even mention meditation and reflection, engaging in fun activities and hobbies, and simply allowing themselves to explore their own spirituality on a daily basis.
See where this is going? When was the last time you advised yourself the same? More importantly, when was the last time you practiced the same tips so that you too can get out of a bad mental place? Loving yourself is not a magic spell that will just be randomly cast upon you. It’s a set of daily actions and practices that will gradually turn into a habit, and a new positive self-perception you’re trying to achieve.
3. We Are Both Yin and Yang
Have you been irritated by someone telling you “just think positive” when things seemed bad? Or have you maybe even tried to radiate endless optimism in an attempt to ignore the negative feelings yourself? This, my friend, is a trap. There’s nothing wrong with thinking positively, but you can’t be positive all of the time. And – let this sink in – that’s fine!
Light cannot exist without darkness, and vice versa. People are not so simple as to have just one side to them. We are both yin and yang. And in order to learn how to love yourself more, you need to accept this truth first.
Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has something in their past they might be ashamed of. That doesn’t make them less human. It just makes them human. So, are you trying to become something more than a human when you’re not forgiving yourself the past mistakes?
The more you’re trying to negate and ignore the dark part of your personality, the more it will consume you from the inside. But having a dark side, in reality, is not the same as in Star Wars. You’re not evil for having negative thoughts on occasion or making mistakes. You’re not Darth Vader (repeat that mantra in front of the mirror every morning).
So, you made mistakes, you feel shame, sometimes you feel like crying and not talking to anyone else. What exactly is the problem with that? In order to grab the opportunity to enjoy your life and the world around you, it’s paramount that you don’t deny yourself the other half of who you are. Wrap yourself up in darkness when necessary in order to radiate the light with honesty. Be your own sun and moon.
4. Go Down the Past Road
Now let’s get down to business. This is where the true challenge starts. It’s time to recognize the reason behind your negative self-image and bad choices from your past. And you need to dive deeply if you want to learn how to love yourself again.
You might be able to accept the fact that you have a dark side. Yes, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone thinks negative thoughts from time to time. There’s nothing wrong with you. But, can you love this dark side of yours? After all, you can’t reach the self-love status if you can’t accept the whole of you.
It’s crucial to practice meditation and introspection in this case. Take the time to relax and go down the road of your past in order to calmly revisit all of those moments that you regret and feel negative about. There’s bound to be a reason, a trigger behind your actions and behavior. And your task is to find those.
For instance, you might stumble across your bad romantic choices from the past. You hate your behavior from back then and the toxicity of it all. But you come to the conclusion that you held onto this relationship because you needed to feel loved in any way available at that point. This is the reason behind your actions but not the cause.
Talk to the Child in You
Once you admit the reasons why you behaved the way you did to yourself, you should write them down. This will help you on an even longer journey to your childhood. And it’s in your childhood past where all the causes lurk and hide.
Ask yourself whether you’ve been a victim of bullying or under a narcissistic influence of an authority figure. Question the moralities and values that were instilled in you to grow up with. Explore the relationship with your parents and siblings. Even if those relationships were strong and loving, you might spot the booming pattern of trying to put everyone else’s needs before your own. Have you ever felt ashamed for being selfish as a child, or being accused as selfish? What kind of expectations did you want to live up to? Leave no stone unturned.
Delving into your past as far as your childhood will provide you with a valuable insight into who you are and how you came to be. It will make it easier for you to identify behavioral patterns that have often led to self-loathing, poor confidence, and bad self-image. And once you’re aware of the long process you took to becoming who you are, you’ll familiarize and bond with yourself truly. Embrace the child you were in order to embrace the adult you are now.
5. Choose What You Believe In
You might have a strong religious belief, be an avid science enthusiast or enjoy the concept of magic – or, you might be all three. The point is, you choose what you believe in, and rightfully so. In that respect, it is only your choice what you’re going to believe about yourself.
You might be surprised to learn this, but it’s a proven fact that humans experience about 70% negative thoughts out of everything they think on a daily basis. This is a natural process of worrying and fears that our brain utilizes as a defense mechanism. Without it, you might think that going for a swim in a river during a stormy night is a good idea, who knows. The problem occurs when you take this defense mechanism at a face value in regards to every single negative thought you might have about yourself.
Let’s put it like this – you have a formal occasion to go to. It’s obvious that you have to dress formally. If you put on an old pair of jeans and dirty sneakers and look at your reflection in the mirror, it’s only natural that you’ll feel negative about your image. After all, this isn’t the dress code that applies to that specific occasion. The issue becomes when you dress appropriately in your best formal attire, and still have doubts about your appearance. Doubts are normal, but if you logically know you look fine, why should you believe those sneaky little doubts that are belittling you?
Make a conscious choice, just like you’ve made a choice what to wear to this formal occasion, that you’ll believe the angel on your shoulder saying you look great instead of the devil. Congratulations – you’re learning how to be confident!
6. Take a Lead in Your Life
Do you know what you want to do in your life or do you still turn to others to tell you that? In order to discover how to love yourself first, you need to put yourself first and step into the role of your life’s protagonist.
Sometimes, it may feel easier and less troublesome to follow someone else’s lead, but that won’t bring you the self-love and confidence you crave for. Think about what you want to do, truly. This will let you discover your own life’s purpose. That purpose doesn’t have to be something fancy and grandiose; it can be as simple and fulfilling as giving your best at the job you love, making more memories with your friends and loved ones, and immersing yourself in your interests and hobbies without constraints.
Again, your life’s purpose is your own perception, choice, and the desires you feel within. Even if you can’t define that purpose right now, feel free to explore the possibilities of the things you’ve been wanting to do. Such a practice will direct you on the right track.
And remember – your life equals your decisions; it’s fine to listen to advice but the ultimate choice is only yours.
7. (Re)Discover Gratitude
A big part of learning how to love self is to feel grateful for what you already have. If you’ve never tried to delve deep into thinking what you’re grateful for, you might think this practice is a mere gimmick. However, practicing gratitude on a daily basis has been known to promote feelings of happiness and satisfaction, as well as the motivation to pursue your goals.
The easiest way to start practicing gratitude is to have a gratitude journal. If you already have a journal, you can use it for this purpose as well. Write something you feel grateful for in your life every morning or evening, whatever fits your schedule better.
There’s no rule what you should write. You can let your mind wander and write down both material and spiritual things. Soon you’ll discover that there are plenty of things to be grateful for. Your family and friends, your home, your pet, the food you get to eat, the sights you get to see are all just the beginning of what you can write and come to realize just how happy and fulfilled all those experiences make you feel.
The more you write, the more things you’ll have to write about. And that magic spell mentioned before just might start working sooner than later once you get into the habit of practicing gratitude and looking at the world and everything you have with more positive and mindful eyes.
Just think about it – if you fail to appreciate everything you have and have achieved so far, how are you to find the motivation for and satisfaction in achieving future goals? Yes, you can push yourself harder, but once those future goals become your present, what will you do if you don’t know how to feel grateful about it?
8. Take Up Journaling
As mentioned, having a journal can come in handy for writing down things you’re grateful for, but it can also be very beneficial for your emotional health and self-awareness.
Not everyone is able to instantly clear their head and sort out the chaos inside. If you constantly seem to fail at meditation and reflection because you can’t catch the thoughts running around your mind, it might just be that you need a visual and verbal representation of those thoughts.
When you want to write a sentence about how you feel about something, you need to think about it in order to verbalize it. Journaling will force you to do exactly that. Writing your feelings and thoughts down instantly turns them from an abstract into a meaningful and understandable concept. For people who seem unable to recognize their thoughts and feelings, this practice can be immensely valuable.
You don’t have to journal every single day. You might need to make yourself remember to do it in the beginning, but you’ll find soon enough that the need to write things down will show up on its own. Don’t hesitate to fulfill that need every time it occurs. This is your mind signaling that it’s time to reflect and learn more about yourself.
Write your journal as if you were telling your thoughts and feelings to a friend or even a psychotherapist. Yet, you can still be fully open and transparent because no one but you will be able to read it (unless you want to, of course). The purpose of this practice is to help you connect with your inner self and understand yourself better, which is crucial for developing self-love.
9. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
No progress can be made within the boundaries of a comfort zone. Many people hate to hear about this step because they have a wrong perception of what a comfort zone is or getting out of it. Essentially, stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t mean you should do something that you absolutely hate or would make you a nervous wreck just because it’s different than what you’re used to.
What you can do, however, is make room for small changes that might make you slightly nervous yet you low-key wish for them. Think about what tends to irritate you a bit in your daily life.
Could It Be…
For instance, you might enjoy having intimate gatherings with your friends on Saturdays at home. Still, you have to admit that there were times when you thought how nice it would be to actually go out. It may not be something you’re used to, but take that baby step and suggest going out for the next weekend.
On the other hand, you might not know how to swim. It doesn’t affect you in any way, but you still think it would be nice to go to the beach or the pool during the warm summer months. If that’s the case, sign up for swimming lessons! What’s the worst that could happen? You learning how to swim and enjoying your summer to the fullest? Not a bad deal.
People can also get stuck in a comfort zone when it comes to their work. That doesn’t have to mean you don’t like what you do, quite the contrary. But if you have some tasks and/or clients that make you stressed to no end, maybe it’s time to ask for a change of the work schedule and organization.
Basically, stepping outside of your comfort zone involves all those steps that you secretly wish to take but you just can’t admit it to yourself because it’s “easier not to bother at all”. Sadly, that’s not how progress works. No change can happen in your life when you constantly opt not to bother.
10. Get Ready for External Criticism
It’s just how things are; when you start to change, people around you might feel wary and uncertain. After all, they’re used to the old you and the new you might not suit absolutely everyone in your life. You have to remember that it’s OK not to meet other people’s standards and expectations as long as you’re meeting yours.
If you find that you’re finally feeling more content with yourself and generally happier, it means that you’re doing the right things for yourself. People who truly care for you will recognize this change for the better and encourage it. Sadly, you might be better off without those who try to pull you down the moment you start making a positive change. You don’t have to cut off everyone that’s acting toxic towards you, but you should definitely minimize the contact and make a choice to refuse having their criticism affect you.
This might be easier said than done though, especially if the toxic people in your life are very close friends of yours or maybe even family members. Therefore, make it a point to strongly believe in your goal of self-love. Just because you’re changing doesn’t mean that your love for these people will change. Don’t hesitate to tell them that. It might not be enough to fix the toxicity but, in the end, it’s really all that you can do. Never beat yourself over the fact that someone you care for cannot understand your need to feel happy and confident.
You have all the power you need to change your life for the better and be the person you want to be; someone you can love and appreciate. It’s all about accepting both your dark and light sides in order to silence the negative thoughts in favor of positive ones. All other actions and activities in your routine should be directed to the goal of becoming better and healthier both mentally and physically in order to live your best life and feel confident while doing it.
It’s your birthright to simply be you.
For the full blog article and more ways to gain confidence, please visit Great Big Minds – How to Love Yourself.
About the Author
Jay Liew runs Great Big Minds. In his blog, he shares life-changing inspirational content with the world. He lives to empower, inspire and motivate others to live life great and go after their passion. You can connect with him more at greatbigminds.com
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