Personal Transformation

How to Love Yourself When You Don’t Know How, According to 13 Experts

Are you having a difficult time being happy with yourself?

For some people, self-love is not that easy. After all, you are your biggest critic.

To get you started on your journey to self-love, we asked experts to share their insights on how you can fall in love with yourself even when you don’t know how.

Table of Contents

Dr. Lindsay Israel

Lindsay Israel

Board Certified Psychiatrist | Owner, Success TMS

“Love your curves and all your edges. All your perfect imperfections.” – John Legend

Many people find it much easier to compliment someone else or take the time to do something kind for others. You will bring in chicken soup for an ill coworker; you will even take a few extra seconds to hold the door open for a total stranger.

If you can be so thoughtful of someone else’s needs, why do you so commonly neglect yourself? The answer is there is no good reason for this. Here are some ways to be kind to yourself every day.

Give yourself permission to focus on your own needs

It is important to take care of yourself.  Whether in terms of taking the time for exercise, going to the salon or the basketball court for a pick-up game, it is important to carve out and protect your ‘Me-Time.”

Remember, there is a difference between selfish and self-preservation. You are not being selfish if you meet your own needs and wants and make this a primary goal. You will not be effective in taking care of someone else if you are not taking care of yourself.

Accept that you are not perfect and do not need to be

It is perfectly fine to hold yourself to a standard, but make sure it is a reasonable one. You are human and as a human, you are capable of such wonderful things, but also you make mistakes.

Forgive yourself past mistakes as this is what shapes you and how you learn to become a better version of yourself. Love your own curves and edges and imperfections.

Surround yourself with positivity

It is imperative to divest yourself of any toxicity as best as you can control for. Day to day life can be tough enough, there is no need to knowingly, willingly and voluntarily maintain unhealthy and negative relationships. You need all the energy you can get to take care of yourself.

Toxic relationships usurp a lot of your energy because you need to constantly “deal with it.” Reserve your energy so you can deal with yourself.

Put it in writing

Journaling your thoughts is a great way to process things that are going on in your life. It allows you to vent out your feelings and organize your thinking so you can tackle stressors as they present themselves.

But journaling does not only have to reflect upon your troubles and woes but also good things that have happened to you during the week. It can also be the forum where you compliment yourself “out loud” or pep yourself up for a pending task.

If you can be kind to yourself on paper, you can be kind to yourself in your thoughts no matter where you are that day.

Practice mindfulness

Regular mindfulness meditation is a great tool to achieve a mental state where you focus on your awareness of the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

If you take the time to engage in this therapeutic activity, you will give yourself an opportunity to practice fighting the negative voice in your head with a more positive, reality-based self-talk. Just 15 minutes a day is all you need to put yourself in a positive headspace that will last all day.

Related: Best Mindfulness Books

There are so many variations in ways to be kind to yourself. The bottom line is that it is always healthy to self-reflect, not dwell; self-preserve, not self-neglect.

If you can be as kind to yourself as you are to others, and not only hold the door open for strangers but for yourself as well, you will open your heart and let happy into your life that much easier.

Dr. Yesel Yoon

Yesel Yoon

Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Career Coach | Writer

The concept of “loving yourself” can get a bad rep because some fear that it is self-indulgent or selfish. But then why do we hear so often that “self-love” is so important? And if it’s so important, how the heck do we do it?

Loving something or someone is certainly something we’ve all experienced. Take a moment and think of one being (a person, could be a pet) you love. How would I be able to tell that you love that other being?

Most likely you pay close attention to them, you express gratitude and affection towards them whether it’s verbal or physical. You think of them with kind thoughts and thoughts of them may bring warm feelings. When you have challenges with them or they do something you don’t agree with or like, you may give them the benefit of the doubt, kindly talk through it with them, forgive them and be prepared to move forward.

It’s certainly easier to imagine loving others, right? So when it comes to loving yourself, it might feel like a leap but can you imagine taking the same approach you have towards your loved ones and mirroring it back to yourself?

What are some barriers to loving yourself?

Loving oneself is not precluded by being perfect or needing to deserve it or earn it. That’s a trap that is easy to fall into and is often used as a reason not to love oneself.

Self-criticism and shame are the opposite of self-compassion and love. That same part of you that’s trying to critique you and bully you into being “the best” or a “good” person is the same thing that may lead to burning out, anxiety, and more pain.

While it might seem counterintuitive to be nicer and more loving to yourself, this is the foundation for building a stronger sense of self. That stronger self then can be more available for relationships and other areas of your life. You need to build your own foundation and well of love before giving some of that away to others.

The steps towards loving yourself can include:

  • Paying attention: What do I need right now?
  • Practicing acceptance: Can I accept what I’m feeling right now?
  • Practicing forgiveness: I understand mistakes happen because I am a human being.
  • Affirming oneself through words and actions: What are some acts of kindness I can gift myself right now?

Jagjot Singh

Jagjot Singh

Meditation Practitioner | Founder, Mindfulness Quest

Loving yourself is the ability to unconditionally accept yourself the way you are, stick to your core beliefs, and work for the betterment of your physical and mental well-being. However, what we see today is that most people don’t know how to practice self-love and take of themselves.

They are so caught up in life that they forget the fact that their mind and body needs proper rest in order to function optimally. The worst part is that we have normalized stress and anxiety and believe them to be part of our everyday life.

One of the reasons why people don’t practice self-love is because somewhere at the level of the subconscious mind they believe that they are not worthy. It has been observed that issues related to low self-worth and low self-esteem hinder people from taking action and working on themselves.

Some people also believe that thinking too much about themselves is selfish. While this may be true if you’re doing it in an unconscious manner and causing a nuisance to others. For example, playing music at a high volume in the middle of the night because you can’t get sleep.

But if you do it consciously (e.g. listening to soft music on headphones, or watching an ASMR video) without disturbing others, you have every right to attain your peace of mind and relaxation.

For those who are new to the concept of self-love and don’t know where to get started, I’m sharing some very simple and useful tips below to get started.

Practice deep breathing

Make it a habit to remind yourself to breathe consciously every couple of hours. Confused? The difference conscious breathing and normal breathing is that in conscious breathing we pay attention to the flow of breathing and out of our body and that the inhalations and exhalations are deep and slow as compared to the normal breathing.

One of the best ways to practice deep breathing is to take a short 2 minute breaks in between work every couple of hours, go outside in the open, and take slow deep breaths. This simple activity will keep you relaxed for most of the day.

Related: Best Books on Breathing and Breathwork

Spend time in nature

Nature offers processes and mechanisms that take place in great synchronization in order to sustain life. Therefore, it is very important to spend time in nature. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars and go on fancy vacations.

Some of the simple ways to spend time in nature are as follows:

  • Workout in the open.
  • Go for a morning (or evening) walk.
  • Spend time on activities such as gardening.
  • Play outdoor sports.
  • Simply lie down on the grass.

Disengage with negative behaviors

When we suffer from low self-esteem it is very tempting to engage in unconscious behaviors such as criticism and gossips. Remember that by criticizing others we just trying to project our own defective image on others.

Whenever you catch yourself in such a situation, simply excuse yourself and move out. Try and spend time with positive and uplifting people. The saying goes that we are the sum total of five people we spend time with.

Practice gratitude

I come from a place where I have seen abject poverty. I have seen people dying of disease and hunger. And yet, I also see a lot of people complaining about not having enough money to buy fancy cars and houses.

There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and earning money, but we should be more grateful for what we already have rather than complaining about what we don’t have. Understand that you have a privileged life because you deserve it and be grateful for it.

Practice positive affirmations

Affirmations go a long way in developing positive self-beliefs. You can practice affirmations at any time of the day. Just repeat phrases like, “I’m worth it”, “I love myself”, “I deserve happiness and success”, “I’m self-sufficient”, etc.

You can make a list of your own affirmations and practice them every day.

Practice mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness is a practice wherein you witness the contents of your mind (your thoughts, feelings, and emotions) without judging or reacting to them. One of the best ways to do this is to sit in meditation with your eyes closed, bring your attention to your breathing, and simply watch thoughts as they arise and disappear in your mind.

If you find yourself getting lost to your thoughts, don’t worry, that is very normal and happens to the best of us. Just gently bring back your awareness to your breathing and continue. Start by doing this for five minutes every day.

Very often our own mind turns against us and causes us to suffer pain and distress. By practicing self-love, we slowly and steadily start eliminating these patterns of limiting self-beliefs by reprogramming our subconscious mind.

Natalie Stoner, M.Ed., CLC.

Natalie Stoner

Transformational Success Coach | Reiki Master | Writer | Owner, Bloom Where You Are Academy

Unfortunately, loving yourself is not taught in school; it’s something many people learn well into adult life. To further complicate the matter, self-love, like self-care, is often characterized in our society as selfish.

This represents a troublesome barrier for those learning to love themselves. Just as adequate self-care is critical to caring deeply for others, self-love is foundational to success in all other relationships.

The first step to loving yourself more is eliminating the baggage associated with loving yourself

It’s time for us to jailbreak self-love from outdated, limiting associations. If you can change the way you think about it, and instead of thinking of it as something extra, understand it as something essential, you’ll find the process of loving yourself easier.

Become aware of the language you use to discuss loving yourself and make sure it’s positive and receptive. Work to remove negative connotations of self-love from your lexicon.

 Keep a daily journal of the ways you contribute and add value in your life

This is one simple practice for increasing self-love. This could contain anything from helping the lady next door rake leaves to creating a training video at work to improve a complex process.

It may seem trite, but it will get you thinking about the ways you positively impact the world around you and is a great daily practice for cultivating an appreciation for yourself.

List all the beliefs that keep you from loving yourself

All the insecurities, fears, perceived failures, you get the idea. After listing them, spend some time analyzing each one. First, ask yourself if it’s true. Next, try to remember when you started believing it. Also, consider whether it was projected on you by someone else.

Related: How to Not Care What People Think

Many of your negative beliefs will crumble under scrutiny. With more enduring beliefs, try to develop a plan for improving the situation. Ask yourself if you can change it, and make a plan to get to work.

G. Brian Benson

g-brian-benson

Award-Winning & #1 Best-Selling Author, Habits for Success: Inspired Ideas to Help You Soar |
Actor |
TEDx Speaker | Radio Personality | Ironman Triathlete

There are many things that we can do to love ourselves even when we are struggling with low self-esteem and don’t know exactly how to overcome them. And by implementing some or all of these suggestions one might just find that they will begin to improve their self-worth and begin to love themselves even stronger than they were prior.

To love ourselves sometimes simply means to take a step back, give ourselves permission to rest and take a break. And by implementing movement and improving our diet one might find that they have more energy and feel better about themselves physically which in turn will also lead to higher self-esteem.

Here is a list of helpful ideas to begin to love yourself more:

  • Go for a walk.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Read a book.
  • Watch an inspirational show or movie.
  • Get more sleep.
  • Be of service.
  • Meditate.
  • Treat yourself with respect.
  • Give thanks for what you have.
  • Hang out with positive people.
  • Continue to learn and grow.
  • Eat healthier/eat less.

John Kenny

John Kenny

Transformational Relationship Coach | Author | Speaker

When we grow up we will be influenced by our own self-perception based on the type of attention we receive from our caregivers. If we do not receive the attention that our brain decides is positive, then we can interpret that as something is wrong with us and it will significantly impact how much love and compassion we show to ourselves.

These thoughts can turn into belief systems and we can hold onto these ideas and perceptions for the rest of our lives. What can you do to turn these around?

Speak to someone that can help you to understand how you really see yourself and why this is the case

When you do this, you can then dismiss all of those old beliefs and leave them where they belong… in your past.

You can start to instill new beliefs by using some kind of positive affirmations

Statements about yourself that are the opposite of what you have always believed. These will be I do, I am kind of statements.

Show yourself some compassion

When we grow up and struggle with these types of issues, it is likely that we have not been taught to ‘self-soothe’. When we experienced negative events and emotions as children your caregivers didn’t show you caring and love, so you didn’t learn how to be okay, to show yourself that when times are difficult that you can care for you too and it will be okay.

Spend time with positive people who care about your needs

This is an external evaluation system of course, but the more we spend time around those who really care, support and encourage and have healthy relationships with themselves to more this will ‘rub off’ onto us – positivity can breed positivity (if we allow it).

The more people are positive about you, the more positive you can see yourself too!

Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed.

Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW

Author | Psychotherapist

Always decide to love yourself

Loving yourself is a yes-no decision. “I’m not sure” or “I’m working on it” are unacceptable answers. You either do or you don’t and it’s a decision that you make from your rational mind, not a feeling you have based on emotions.

You answer in the affirmative because without loving yourself 100% wholeheartedly, you will never live a happy, healthy life.

You feel a need to answer negatively because you believe you must be perfect or a much better person than you think you are right now to answer affirmatively, but that would miss the point of unconditional love.

No one is perfect and yet people still love themselves. And, loving themselves though imperfect, they still take excellent care of themselves. You choose yes because it’s what you wish to be true—and, by loving yourself, you take better care of yourself and eventually it becomes truth.

Sheldon Reisman, LISW-S

Sheldon Reisman

Psychotherapist, Therapy Cincinnati

Find daily affirmations and say them to themselves

There are lots of apps out there (including plenty of free ones) such as Thinkup, bmindful, and Instar Affirmation Writer that can help you generate affirmations, or help you create a list of ones you believe in. To increase the effectiveness of this activity, I recommend people repeat the affirmations to themselves while looking in a mirror.

Something else that can be helpful is to think of someone or people who love you, or who have loved you in the past

What positive things would they say about you if they were describing you? Write those down and work on believing them.

Adina Mahalli

Adina Mahalli

Mental Health Consultant and Relationship Expert | Founder, Enlightened Reality

Loving yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that you hold yourself in the highest regard. You can see yourself fully and honestly, take care of yourself, heal your past, and address your present. You’re able to love others, identify what you want and then focus on how to get it.

Learning to love yourself is a process, beginning with appreciating your alone time

You gain confidence knowing that you are worthy of spending time and effort doing something for yourself. It is important to determine what makes you feel fulfilled, and then going ahead and doing those things! The more you do those things, the happier you’ll feel.

Look for opportunities to step out of your comfort zone and reward yourself afterward

It is said, you are known (even to yourself) by the company that you keep. Surround yourself with people with positive qualities, people that you admire. Most important in any loving relationship is trust and forgiveness. Trust yourself more, allow for your own mistakes, and learn from them. They are the self-love essentials.

Sonya Matejko

Sonya Matejko

Writer | Yoga Teacher | Founder, A Force of Nurture

One of the easiest steps to take is to write yourself a love letter

Perhaps you begin each week with this letter, and slowly you’ll learn more and more about what you love about yourself. On top of that, you’ll engage in an act of self-discovery that doesn’t require anything more than a blank page or paper.

Never underestimate the power of affirmations

If that tip doesn’t work with you, I’d also suggest using affirmations. Affirmations can be really powerful to help you step into your power. If you’re working on self-love and don’t know where to begin, then start with “I am loved.”

You can write the affirmation down, buy a pack of affirmation cards, or say it out loud to yourself in the mirror. Eventually, it’ll become easier to choose the affirmation for what you need each day.

Sarah S. Shaoul

Sarah S. Shaoul

Certified Professional Coach | Podcast Host, The Grief Gratitude & Greatness

When someone does not know how to love themselves, it is likely because healthy expressions of love have not been modeled for them.
In other words, they have not experienced being loved purely for who they are and often this is an experience that originates in childhood.

They may have experienced a high level of criticism, felt abandonment and had unhealthy attachments growing up, including verbal, physical and sexual abuse.

Adults who have experienced unhealthy relationships often absorb unhealthy behaviors and regard themselves as unworthy and unloveable. These self-perpetuating thoughts create routines, patterns and unhealthy behaviors that keep the individual “unloveable.”

Show yourself kindness

This comes in the form of thoughts as well as actions. Modalities like therapy and meditation are helpful in establishing positive self-reflection and working towards reframing negative thoughts, particularly about oneself.

Exercise and healthy consumption (or elimination) of food, beverages, and medications including drugs will ignite more positive and respectful self-care and self-perspective.

Gratitude Journaling is also a highly successful way to reframe negative thoughts and identify the positives in your life.

Spend time with individuals who appreciate you for you are without wanting anything from you

And I do not say finally, because the work of loving ourselves is a round-the-clock occupation. So always being in a state of noting your success and replicating it. For example, I feel good about going swimming 3 days a week. I’m going to start swimming 5 days a week.

Making time for the things that make us feel good about ourselves is the ultimate act of love. And when we are treating ourselves the way we should, we come to recognize what loving ourselves looks like.

Evan Money, Ph.D.

Evan Money

Author | President, Evan Money Inc.

Loving yourself begins after you can forgive yourself

In order to do that, you have to forgive the ones that hurt you the most. Typically these hurts come when we were young, children often are hurt first and the last to get help according to child expert Jerry Moe.

This was certainly the case for me with my father-son issues. However, once I forgave my dad in my early 30’s, I discovered the power of R.O.F. ( Return On Forgiveness ) and that year I tripled my income.

Once I forgive my father a massive blockage was released, and after basking in my new found wealth of joy and finances, I could then open the door to forgiving myself. Then finally reaching the point where I could actually love myself.

It’s a process, not an event but it’s so worth it. Do as Mother Teresa suggests, “Be a pen in the hand of God and write a new chapter of forgiveness in your life.”

Adam Cole

Adam Cole

Jazz Musician | Writer

There may be many reasons why someone might have the inability to love themselves. The biggest is exactly what the topic of this article suggests: They don’t know how to.

Studies on early childhood by researchers like Colvin Trevarthen (“Music and the Intrinsic Motive Pulse” (Musicae Sclentae, Special Issue 1999-2000, pp. 156-215) point to studies that show that if a child does not receive a certain amount of reciprocity from their mother, in other words, if the mother doesn’t talk to them, make faces, play games when they’re babies, the child may have difficulty developing their sense of self. In other words, they can’t love themselves because there is no “self,” and it’s not their fault.

Ask yourself the question “Do I know how to love myself?” before attempting to address the problem

Then the task is to decide if your answer is yes or no, and if “yes,” is it the best way? It may be that you think you do, and you’ve been loving yourself with strategies that are actually damaging to you…abuse of food, drugs, relationships as a means of providing self-love.

This is why there’s no shame in admitting you don’t know how to love yourself, and even admitting that you don’t know if there is a “you,” or who or where that person is.

If you can see that as the issue, you can begin to do something about it. There are resources available, such as books like The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, which explores the re-engagement of the self.

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