“You need to love yourself before loving others.” This popular wisdom has been said a lot, and for a good reason to. Lack of self-love can lead to low self-esteem, decreased optimism and increased vulnerability to depression and anxiety. But what does loving yourself actually mean? How does it look like, and how can we begin to apply it to ourselves? Here are a few tangible steps that you can try to up your self-love and build a healthier relationship with yourself and others.
Get to Know Yourself
Take some time to do activities alone – it will allow you some time to have introspection about your thoughts, opinions, experiences and values. “How the heck are you going to learn about yourself, if you’ve never been alone long enough to hear your own thoughts?” said Kathrine Bejanyan, a relationship consultant with a Masters in Counselling Psychology and a PhD in Social Psychology. From time to time, it’s good to be alone and self-reflect. Taking time to do activities alone helps you think more internally about your own deeper sense of self. So go to the movies, read a book, stroll around the park by yourself – you might be surprised by how much you’re getting out of it.
Confront Your Shame
Are there any secrets or part of yourself you’re keeping from others, and if so, why? Answering this question might allow you to understand yourself better. “In my work as a psychotherapist, I’ve found that we tend to be ashamed of our most unique, passionate and iconoclastic parts,” said psychotherapist and author Ken Page. “These aspects of ourselves threaten our safety, but… they are the direct path to love and, not incidentally, to personal greatness.” Examine the reason you bail out in last minute from plans or push people away – while the answer might be uncomfortable, it can help you develop self-love like never before.
Ever do something you dislike, but feel obliged to perform for others? It’s probably time to start saying ‘no’ more often. Yes, your friends and family might need you, but steadfast commitment to pleasing others might stretch you too thin and make you forget to take care of yourself. Understand that you deserve care and happiness – only then you can start giving to others.