Anyone who has read a self-help book before is likely to have come across the term self-love or loving yourself. What exactly does it mean to love yourself? Don’t we love ourselves enough already? There is a distinction between thinking you love yourself, and actually taking action towards being authentically loving to yourself.
Can you truly love those around you unless you give that love to yourself first? This life that we have been given, it’s meant to be an expression of who we truly are deep beneath all the layers of confusion and social acceptance. Isn’t it strange that humans naturally seek approval of others for their actions, before approving of themselves? It’s a game of confidence, and indeed the capacity of self-love that we have towards ourselves.
It’s easy to fall for the trap of having to behave a certain way in front of certain people. I have been guilty of this for the longest time, during my adolescence period I became an expert of catering to the needs and emotional states of others. It’s a suppression mechanism of yourself, to feel loved and accepted by those around you, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are being yourself — you’re only creating an image of how others want you to be, and that is far from self-love.
When you embrace your positive and negative aspects, when you take responsibility for who you are and you fearlessly express yourself in the world, that is the moment in which you understand that being yourself is more liberating than anything else this world has to offer. Yet, in a world of social acceptance, being yourself and doing things the ‘unusual’ way is not considered normal.
The world has divided itself into packs, groups of individuals and belief holders who only want to hang out with people of the same belief system. This creates a challenge in yourself, do you follow the herd or do you become your own shepherd? Not agreeing to a certain belief might get you in trouble, you might start feeling pressure from your peers, which can lead to isolation and depression quickly.
Why are you isolating yourself, or feeling depressed? What has caused for your being to withdraw from the world in such a drastic way? Not everyone finds the courage to step outside of these limiting social circles, and the vicious cycle keeps repeating itself.
It does so until the day that you decide enough is enough, and take positive action to nurture your own sense of well-being, to connect with your passions and purpose in this life, in a way that not only promotes clarity of your own life, it also heals any past wounds that others had imprinted on you.
Connecting with your true feelings
I would love to hear from you as to why you have started to look into the topic of self-love, and what life experiences have led you to this point. I was once in the same boat, and had to work hard to leap beyond the imposed limitations of people from my past.
It was a radical change that had to happen, and while it took me a period of solitude to finally come to terms with how I really felt about myself, during the process of nurturing myself with what was most important to me helped me to recognize the innate potential we all carry for being more authentic with ourselves, and others around us.
The following exercises, tips, and techniques for loving yourself are a collection of things that I feel contributed greatly to the way I feel about myself, not only when I am alone, but also around others. This process is never-ending, always progressing, so taking it slowly one step at a time is key for making the most of being honest with yourself, for being genuinely content with your own life experience.
1. Understand your feelings
If you’re starting to find yourself in situations where you frequently get uncomfortable and unhappy, it’s time to reassess how you truly feel about certain things in your life. This is usually a hard step to make, since becoming understanding of your own feelings involves unraveling how you feel about yourself, and those around you.
Sure, you might think to yourself, “If only they understood where I am coming from”, yet that’s also one of the most liberating things you can reflect upon as an individual.
If those around you are not connecting with you on the deepest level for you, and you’re feeling unloved, it’s only telling you that it’s time to put an end to situations that don’t nourish you for who you truly are. Know that making adjustments in life is the first step in being a more authentic version of yourself, and despite what others might think or say, you’re staying to true to what you know is right for you.
2. Tell others how you feel
This is a difficult thing to do, and on many occasions I have chosen not to do it all, simply because some people just don’t want to listen, yet that is one of the things that helped me enormously to move past the things that weren’t good for my growth.
Before you can love another person, you should invest in having a solid foundation of love for yourself. If your feelings are still all over the place, have the courage to tell others how they make you feel, and if they don’t respond with love and understanding, you know that it is time for them go.
When starting on this spiritual journey, it was difficult for my family to comprehend the changes I was going through, but despite those difficulties I never changed my mind or my stance on what I wanted to achieve in life, and gradually (over the span of 2 years) they began to recognize that the things I was talking about started to become a reality for me.
Remember that change takes time, and to truly manifest a better life for yourself you need to hold a strong belief in your abilities to make that change happen.
3. Do things that make you happy
Doing something for the sake of being a part of it doesn’t always mean that we are doing the things that make us truly happy. After some time, things like partying and drinking become somewhat boring, you start to feel like you’re just repeating the same things over and over again, and there isn’t any tangible nourishment that you’re getting out of it all.
So, if friends are asking you to come out on a Friday night to get drunk and have fun, ask yourself if that is what you really want to do, and if the answer is “no” then stay at home and do something that makes you feel good about yourself.
Whether we recognize this now or not, life isn’t just about drinking and partying all the time, or doing things that don’t promote any authentic growth of who you are as a person, eventually you will draw yourself to situations and people that will compliment who you are as a person, and that’s a beautiful thing to experience.
What makes you happy? Do that.
4. Seek lasting romance
There is a tendency in the world to fall for romantic relationships that are based purely on personal needs and desires, and the sexual connection becomes a release of particular emotions (often negative) that don’t promote your well-being.
When you’re with someone who doesn’t appreciate you for who you are, yet wants to keep you around for their own personal emotional stability, it’s time to reassess and let go of that relationship in order to allow something better come into your life, often a romantic relationship that is based on mutual understanding, and the understanding of how you can help one another to grow as conscious human beings.
It’s easy to tell the difference between a lasting romantic relationship, and a relationship that’s based on sexual needs and wants. Be yourself to attract someone in your life who is also actively trying to be themselves.
5. Find the right people for you
A lot of what was said above was in regards to letting go of certain personas and people in your life, and while that can be a challenging experience in its own right, you shouldn’t stop yourself from actively seeking out people that can promote your well-being through support and love that you so desperately desire.
If you have struggled with poor friends and relationships in the past, it’s understandable that you may have doubts about there being anyone who would support you as an individual, but know that such people exist and finding them is easier than you may have thought.
Community events, social meetup groups, and venues that support your passions are all great ways to meet up with people that share similar views of life to yours, you never really know where the next best friendship is going to come from.
6. Give yourself time, as much as it takes
I went through so many hardship up until the age of 22, sometimes it’s hard to believe that any of it was real, the severity of emotional pain and trauma that I experienced during that period really helped to propel my life in a new and healthy direction, but it didn’t just happen overnight. I had to give myself time, as should you, to heal and process the things that had happened to me, to allow those painful experiences be transmuted into learning lessons and loving light that I could share with others.
From the age of 19 up until 23, I had given up on any romantic relationships altogether. I was an emotional wreck, and I understood during that time that having a relationship might not be the best thing for me. I simply told myself that the most important thing for me right now, is to work through my layers of emotional pain in order for me to feel comfortable in my own skin.
Don’t fret isolating yourself in solitude, albeit it should feel like you’re actually getting something done, but don’t give in to those strong urges of needing to feel accepted and loved, before you can give that love to yourself.
7. Consider traveling outside of your country
Travel just kind of happened in my life. I was living in Britain at the time, and felt a strong urge to book a flight to Nepal (the same year that it experienced a devastating earthquake), and eventually I gave in to this strong feeling within me. It was absolutely the right decision for me at the time, and only after 3 weeks of being there I met my romantic partner whom I have been together with until this day.
It’s funny how life works, and I’ll discuss some of those experiences with you in the future, for sure.
I have also been able to meet a lot of people from all over the world, people who began to travel for the same reasons you might want to consider it for, they began to travel because they felt that something was no longer right in their life, that a gap had developed itself, and it wasn’t an external gap — it was within themselves.
Traveling opens your eyes to a new way of living, you get to experience the way of life of another culture, and that sense of being somewhere else out of your usual comforts can really open you up to understand the courage and willpower that lies within yourself.
I have met several seniors who told me that they wish they had started traveling in their early 20’s, and that says a lot!
8. Learn a mindfulness practice (or two)
Spiritual counseling, therapy and self-help books have exploded in availability over the last decade, it’s astonishing how many authors are now starting to write books and host events that inspire people to work on themselves, to find that spark of happiness within and to nurture it every single day. This project, is in many regards a similar approach.
Through my practice of meditation (read here if you want to learn), I was able to connect the dots between my deepest feelings about myself, and how I can best portray myself in the external world that would reflect me as I feel inside, versus how others would like for me to appear in order for them to feel comfortable.
Nevertheless, keeping up with my meditation practice brought many blessings into my life, and I feel that if it wasn’t for my meditation practice it would have been very hard for me to overcome some of my deepest fears and anxieties.
Yoga is another popular practice that helps you grow as an individual, and starting your own practice at home has become easier than ever. In Yoga you’re moving through poses (Asanas) that challenge your levels of comfort in your body, while you maintain a mindful breathing pattern that helps to relax your body, but also helps with releasing any tension and emotional baggage that you might be holding on to.
9. Turn your passions into lifelong fulfillment
A number of people that I have met during my travels, were swift to tell me that one of the reasons they started to travel was because they were fed up with how they were being treated at their workplace.
This I feel is a common thing happening in the world today still, where there is a lot of power struggle between different layers of positions at the workplace, and people feel like there is a lot of pressure being put on them to meet goals, and to listen to overly egotistical managers that impose their own anger onto employees.
If you’re not happy with your work, why not invest some thought and energy into trying to turn your passions into a lifelong journey of fulfillment? Even taking a few steps at a time, could eventually help you to connect with an opportunity in which you can work in an environment (ideally working for yourself) that respects who you are and what your passions are in life.
It’s such a drastic change in energy when you’re doing something that you love, something that you’re truly good at.
10. Always know your self-worth
You’re worth much more than just a monthly paycheck, or the occasional pat on the back from those who only want you to meet a certain criteria. You’re a human being with rights to freedom and happiness, and you absolutely need to embrace that.
If someone is trying to bring you do, or if someone is giving you a hard time for the choices that you’re making, always remember that you’re living your life in accordance to how you feel and what your heart is telling you.
Then, there’s nothing that can stop you in this life, and belief in yourself starts to develop naturally.
You deserve all the love in the world
I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on any of the points I have outlined, it’s a great joy to connect with other like-minded individuals like yourself who are awakening to a deeper part of themselves.
The times we are living in right now can often be challenging and move at a slow pace, but we are all making significant changes in our lives and those choices are affecting everything around us.