“Be gentle with yourself, learn to love yourself, to forgive yourself, for only as we have the right attitude toward ourselves can we have the right attitude toward others.” – Wilfred Peterson
I used to think self love meant being the prettiest I can be, displaying a façade of perfection to the world on social media, and denying any of my hidden fears and doubts.
How wrong I was.
Self love begins and ends internally. It cannot be contingent on how others feel about us, what they think about us, or what they say about us. Validation from others is addictive; we can become unhealthily reliant on it. Remember that self-love can only be cultivated internally. Here’s how.
10 Steps For Practicing Self Love
1. To Have Self-Esteem, Start By Doing Esteemable Things.
This may sound simple, but it is only when we bring a level of awareness to the discrepancies in our values and actions that we truly become mindful of how unbalanced these two can be. I can mean well but actively gossip. I can believe in honesty but lie to my peers.
If my insides and my outsides are not aligned, I cannot and will not feel good about myself. This is called cognitive dissonance.
Related: The Art Of Self Love
2. Acknowledge All Parts Of Yourself.
Even—and especially—the parts you want to hide. Shed light on them: your emotions, your fears, your body, your voice. Everything that makes you you. A book that may help you take this step is Braving the Wilderness, by Brene Brown.
I used to think this was corny and weird, but in the last year or so, I’ve been writing down “I am” statements: I am beautiful, I am competent, I am passionate, I am enough, and so on.
When I change my internal narrative, I change the way I view myself. I’ll find what I’m looking for. This means that if I am seeking evidence that I’m not good enough, I’ll find it. On the other hand, if I am looking for evidence that I am worthy of love and belonging, I will find that, too.
4. Speak Your Truth.
We can slide into the habit of deflecting from our truth on a regular basis. Did you actually like that movie? Have you really heard of that band? If you’re upset or angry, are you able to articulate how you feel and tell another person?
Try to deconstruct whatever is blocking you from speaking your truth (fear, people-pleasing, etc).
5. Daily Inventories.
While this is one of the 12 steps, I have noticed that those of us in recovery seldom do it correctly. We are not solely meant to acknowledge or write down where we were resentful, selfish, dishonest, or afraid, but also identify what we did well and what we packed into the stream of life that day.
The 10th step instructs us not to be martyrs, but we often focus on where we fell short instead of also including our victories. So before you go to sleep at night, make a mental or physical inventory of your strengths and wins for that day, as well as the things you’d like to improve.
6. Connect With Those Who Feed Your Soul.
Do your friends accept you for who you are, but also challenge you to continue growing? Are you able to satiate your innate, human need for connection with the people in your life? Or are you like the actor on stage, wearing different masks and costumes throughout the day?