How to Cultivate Self-love

I have previously spoken to the importance of self-love and how it is absolutely essential to creating healthy, happy relationships with others and ourselves. But how does one cultivate this place of self-love and acceptance? We all have the ability to create self-love and accept ourselves, we simply need a few tools to help us tap into it.

Here are 5 habits to help you cultivate love and acceptance of yourself:

1. Be mindful of the words you use towards yourself

Within my curriculum, this is one of the first lessons I teach my middle school students. At their age, the use of negative words towards themselves is constantly streaming through their minds. From the moment they wake up, to the moment they have closed their eyes to sleep, they have likely told themselves hundreds of negative things about their physical appearance, their abilities, and the things that make them who they are. Now this is an awkward age in a person’s life (I for one never want to go back to those middle school years) so some level of insecurity is to be expected. However, this negative language used towards oneself is often carried into adulthood. Think about it, when you first looked in the mirror this morning, what were your first thoughts? Were they kind or did they include something related to how tired you think you looked, or a new gray hair that you hadn’t noticed before, or even something related to unhappiness with your body shape? Maybe later in the day something happened at work that made you question your abilities at your job. Think about what you may have said to yourself in that scenario. Again, were your thoughts kind, or unkind? I want you to notice your thoughts towards yourself throughout the day. You will likely notice that by the end of the day, like my middle school students, you have said, even if they are strictly confined to your thoughts, hundreds of negative things towards yourself. So, in those moments that you are saying those unkind words towards yourself, take a moment and consider what you're doing. Instead, rephrase these thoughts to be kinder or more constructive or even better, replace them with positive words towards yourself. It is a great practice, and you will likely notice that using this positive language towards yourself will immediately create a sense of self-love.

2. Get to know who you are

Taking time to actually get to know who you are is absolutely imperative to the process of accepting who you are and loving that person. Think about it, if you don’t know who you are as an individual, how can you ever accept and love those pieces of yourself? So take time to reflect on what makes you uniquely you. What are the things you like and dislike? What opinions do you have and what is important to you? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What is your heritage or culture and how would you describe your personality? When I ask my middle school students these questions, many of them struggle to find the answers, thinking I am looking for a right response. However, what I find most shocking is when adults struggle to find answers to these same questions. We are all made up of so many special things that evolve and grow along with us. By taking the time to reflect on what makes us who we are at the various stages throughout our lives, we are much better equipped to accept and love these pieces of ourselves.

3. Avoid changing your actions

This goes hand in hand with being aware of all of the things that make you who you are, but goes one step further by encouraging you to avoid changing parts of yourself when in the company of others. Think about the last time you went on a first date. Did you happen to order a meal that you felt your date would find more appealing rather than what you actually wanted to order? Did you mention you were interested in the things that your date seemed to be interested in, even though you aren’t even sure you know what they were talking about (that’s what Google is for, right?)? Self-love and acceptance is cultivated when you are able to display all that makes you who you are, regardless of who you are around, even first dates! 

4. Set boundaries

Being clear on what your boundaries are is absolutely necessary when it comes to loving and accepting yourself. Often we aren’t aware of what our boundaries may be until we are in a situation that requires us to set them. The use of our intuition and our gut can be one of the best determining factors of the boundaries we have. When faced with a situation or request that doesn’t seem to sit right with you, allow that to be your gauge for how you may respond. And be firm in your response. You absolutely do not need to feel bad because you feel like you are letting someone down, or not giving someone what they want. Instead, celebrate the fact that you were able to be firm in your boundaries and that you embraced a bit of self-love and acceptance through trusting yourself.

5. Find moments of solitude

I have mentioned how moments of solitude are an essential component of self-care, however it is also necessary for creating a sense of self-love and acceptance. When you take time for yourself, you are better able to tune into all of the practices previously stated that are needed for cultivating self-love. Without spending time alone, it is difficult to tap into the quiet and stillness needed to be mindful of your thoughts and to develop any level of self-awareness. It is also impossible to note whether you are changing your actions for others or determine what boundaries you may have. Providing yourself solitude is the best way to draw these things out, further enhancing your ability to tap into the love and acceptance that lies within us.

"You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love & affection."