How to Love Yourself When You Don’t Know How (20 Ways + Expert Insights)

When was the last time you looked in the mirror and said “I love you‘? If you can’t remember, you’re not alone. Many of us find it much easier to love others than to love ourselves.

But the truth is, the relationship you have with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship in your life. So learning to love yourself is the most important thing you can do.

In this article, I’ll share simple practices that changed my life – and can change yours too. Are you ready to finally start loving the amazing person you are?

Embrace Self-Love as a Lifelong Journey

It is important to focus on self-love regularly. Loving yourself is not something that can be done in an instant; it is a continuous process that lasts a lifetime. Remember to take time out for this.

Like taking care of a plant, self-love requires steady attention. You cannot expect instant results; it takes time and consistent effort. Begin by doing a small act of self-love every day, such as acknowledging your efforts to start the day.

Recognizing your achievements, no matter how small, is important. Over time, these actions become a habit and create a strong foundation for a life filled with self-respect.

"It's time for us to jailbreak self-love from outdated, limiting associations.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."

— Natalie Stoner, M.Ed., CLC. | Transformational Success Coach | Reiki Master | Writer | Owner, Bloom Where You Are Academy

Prioritize Your Own Needs Unapologetically

You might have experienced times when you have put a lot of effort into helping others, to the point that you feel exhausted. However, it’s important to ask yourself how often you treat yourself with the same kindness. Taking care of your own needs is not selfish; it’s an essential part of self-care.

For example, it’s advised to take care of your own safety before assisting others. This principle applies to everyday life. Make time for yourself, even if it is just a short period to enjoy a quiet coffee or to go for a walk.

Do not feel guilty for practicing self-care. Remember, choosing to prioritize your own well-being does not mean neglecting others; it means you value your health as much as you value theirs.

"Give yourself permission to focus on your own needs... It is important to carve out and protect your ‘Me-Time'. You are not being selfish if you meet your own needs and wants and make this a primary goal."

— Dr. Lindsay Israel | Board Certified Psychiatrist | Owner, Success TMS

Treat Yourself With Kindness

Ever noticed how we can be our own worst critic? Let’s flip the script. The next time you find yourself being harsh, pause and ask, “Would I talk to my best friend this way?” Chances are, you wouldn’t. So why do it to yourself?

Begin to cultivate kindness towards yourself as if you were your own best friend. For instance, when you stumble, instead of berating yourself, find comforting words. “It’s okay, everyone has off days, and I’m no different. I’ll try again.”

Each act of self-kindness is like a warm hug to your soul. Ditch the comparison game – you’re not here to live up to anyone else’s version of perfection, including your own impossible standards.

Give yourself some grace, and remember: being human means being beautifully imperfect.

"Show yourself kindness... 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... will ignite more positive and respectful self-care and self-perspective."

— Sarah S. Shaoul | Certified Professional Coach | Podcast Host, The Grief Gratitude & Greatness

Cultivate a Gentle, Loving Inner Voice

Imagine how you’d treat a friend who’s having a tough time. You’d probably be gentle and understanding, right? Now, apply that same kindness to yourself.

Here’s how:

  • Cut yourself some slack: You’re human and it’s okay to make mistakes. Learn from them rather than beating yourself up.
  • Nurture with nice words: Replace thoughts like “I can’t do this” with “I’m doing my best.”

By treating yourself with kindness, you’re essentially setting the tone for how others will treat you. Plus, it just makes the whole process of loving yourself more enjoyable and less of a chore.

"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?"

Dr. Yesel Yoon | Licensed Clinical Psychologist | Career Coach | Writer

Transform Negative Self-Talk Into Encouragement

Do you ever catch yourself slipping into a loop of harsh words for yourself? Let’s put an end to that. Each negative thought can be changed into a supportive one. It’s like updating an old phone; the outside stays the same, but the inside works much better.

When you mess up, skip the “I’m such a failure” and go for “I’m proud of myself for trying.” That shift from self-criticism to self-support is powerful – it’s like trading a dark cloud for a ray of sunshine on a gloomy day. You deserve to be your own cheerleader.

  • Challenge negative thoughts: Ask yourself, “Is this really true?” or “Would I say this to someone I love?
  • Empower yourself: Follow up with powerful affirmations like “I am capable” or “I strive to do my best.”

Release Limiting Beliefs and Regrets

Holding onto past mistakes or outdated beliefs about what you can achieve only holds you back. To move forward, you need to let them go.

Try this approach:

  • Identify: Recognize the beliefs that limit you, such as “I’m not good enough” or the regrets that keep you tied to the past.
  • Release: Consciously decide to let these go. It might help to write them down and physically throw the paper away.

Imagine you’re shedding an old layer that’s not needed anymore. It’s like cleaning out your closet – getting rid of the old to make space for new, better things. Every time you let go of a limiting belief, you’re opening up possibilities for yourself. It’s quite freeing, actually!

"List all the beliefs that keep you from loving yourself... After listing them, spend some time analyzing each one... Many of your negative beliefs will crumble under scrutiny."

— Natalie Stoner, M.Ed., CLC. | Transformational Success Coach | Reiki Master | Writer | Owner, Bloom Where You Are Academy

Practice Mindfulness and Present Moment Awareness

When your mind races between the past and the future, loving yourself can feel like trying to calm a storm. So, how do you find peace? Simple – focus on ‘now.’

It’s like pressing the pause button while watching a movie; everything stops for a moment, and you see everything clearly. Mindfulness is about noticing your breath, the sounds around you, or the way your feet feel on the ground.

This calmness makes it easier to see the good in you. When you are fully in the present, you’re not worrying about yesterday’s mistakes or tomorrow’s problems – you’re just here, and that by itself is a beautiful place to be for loving who you are.

Cherish Alone Time for Self-Connection

Spending quality time by yourself can be one of the most rewarding aspects of self-love. It allows you to reconnect with your inner self without distractions.

Here’s how to make the most of this time:

  • Schedule it: Just like any important appointment, make alone time a non-negotiable part of your calendar.
  • Choose activities that nourish you: Whether it’s reading, journaling, or simply sitting quietly, find what helps you feel restored.

Alone time isn’t about feeling lonely; it’s about enjoying your own company. It’s like being your own best friend and truly getting to know that awesome person. You’ll come to appreciate these quiet moments, trust me!

Align Your Life With Your Values

If you’re not sure what your values are, take some time to figure them out. Write down what makes you feel good about yourself – honesty, bravery, kindness, or being there for others. Then, try to do things that align with these values. When your actions match your values, self-love naturally follows.

This creates a sense of integrity and pride in who you are. Remember, you’re the artist of your life – paint it with colors that resonate with you deeply.

Celebrate Your Whole, Authentic Self

Now, let’s talk about your genuine self – that’s everything you are, the quiet parts and the loud ones. Celebrating yourself might seem odd, but why not? It’s not about throwing a party every day.

It’s recognizing all parts of you and saying, “Hey, I’m pretty amazing.” Maybe you succeeded at work today, or perhaps you were just a good friend. Those moments count. When you’re true to who you are, life fits better, like your favorite pair of shoes.

That feeling of ‘rightness’ is what you get when you celebrate your authentic self without hiding or changing to fit someone else’s idea of who you should be.

Build Unshakable Self-Worth and Confidence

Building confidence can seem as tough as lifting weights, but even the strongest people start with the lightest ones. Self-worth isn’t built in a day. It’s the little affirmations you tell yourself, the small tasks you accomplish, and standing up for your beliefs.

It’s looking at your reflection and, instead of focusing on flaws, saying, “I’ve got this”. As you keep showing up for yourself, your self-worth becomes solid – a foundation that supports everything you do.

"Never underestimate the power of affirmations... 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."

Sonya Matejko | Writer | Yoga Teacher | Founder, A Force of Nurture

Embrace Your Uniqueness, Letting Go of Comparisons

Here’s a fact: No two people are the same. So why compare yourself to others? Instead, celebrate the things that make you ‘you’ – maybe you have a quirky laugh or a passion for collecting stamps. That’s cool!

The world would be so dull if we were all the same. Instead of scanning for ways others seem better, look in the mirror and appreciate your uniqueness. When you start to embrace what makes you different, that’s when you truly shine.

No one else can be you, and that is your power.

Prioritize Activities That Bring You Joy

Joy is that good feeling you get when you do something you love, whether it’s cooking, painting, or hitting a ball around. Sometimes life gets so busy that you might think, “I don’t have time for fun.”

But here’s the key – make time. It’s not wasted time; it’s essential. It’s like adding sugar to a recipe; it makes life sweeter. You don’t need hours; even a few minutes can lighten your mood. It’s about giving yourself permission to enjoy life, not just live it.

So, carve out moments for joy and move them up on your to-do list. Your heart will thank you.

Pursue Hobbies and Passions Wholeheartedly

Engaging in hobbies and interests is important. You may not always achieve remarkable results, but the excitement comes from the activity itself. When you spend time on something you enjoy, you are expressing a part of your identity.

Whether it is writing, dancing, or crafting models, be sure to invest enthusiasm in the activity. The focus is not on excelling but on the joy and vitality, it brings to your life.

The effort and affection you dedicate to your favorite activities can positively influence how you view yourself.

Nourish Your Body With Healthy Habits

Think of your body as your home. You wouldn’t let your house fall apart, right? So take care of your body with the same enthusiasm. This means eating foods that help you feel strong and energized, not just what’s quick or tasty.

It means moving – dancing, walking, stretching – in any way that makes you feel good. And don’t forget rest; sleep is not a luxury; it’s a must. These habits aren’t about being perfect or looking a certain way.

It’s about knowing that when your body feels good, you can love yourself more easily. It’s hard to enjoy the view if the windows are dirty, so clean up the habits that cloud how you see yourself.

Establish Firm, Loving Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries is crucial for self-respect and personal well-being. It involves understanding where you end and others begin—and holding that line with kindness.

Here’s how to establish these boundaries:

  • Define your limits: Clearly identify what you are and are not willing to tolerate. This could be about your time, energy, or emotional input.
  • Communicate clearly: Once you know your boundaries, express them clearly and respectfully to others.

Setting and maintaining these boundaries is not only self-loving but also ensures you can be your best for others without feeling depleted.

Master the Art of Saying No

Have you ever agreed to do something when you would rather not? This can make you feel powerless over your life. Learning to say no is crucial. It allows you to make choices that reflect your needs and desires. ‘No‘ is a word that can have a significant impact.

By saying no, you are not dismissing the individual but merely declining the proposal. This is a way of looking after yourself and reserving your energy and time for the things that are important to you.

Practice Self-Forgiveness and Compassion

Alright, so you made a mistake. Who hasn’t? Beating yourself up about it won’t fix anything. Self-forgiveness is about fixing what you can and then moving on. Be gentle with yourself.

Slip-ups are just steps on the path of learning. Instead of self-blame, find lessons so you won’t do the same thing next time. Show yourself the same compassion you’d show a friend.

Remember, forgiving yourself is another form of kindness, and it’s a big step towards loving yourself more each day.

"Loving yourself begins after you can forgive yourself... once I forgave my dad in my early 30’s, I discovered the power of R.O.F. (Return On Forgiveness)... I could then open the door to forgiving myself. Then finally reaching the point where I could actually love myself."

Evan Money, Ph.D. | Author | President, Evan Money Inc.

Cultivate Supportive, Uplifting Relationships

The people you choose to have around you? They’re like your personal cheer squad. Stick with the ones who lift you higher, who cheer you on, and who see the best in you—even when you can’t.

Let go of relationships where you feel you have to wear a mask or be someone you’re not. Good friends and family will love you for you—not just for the good times, but especially through the tough ones.

When you surround yourself with people who believe in you, their faith can help you believe in yourself. Supportive relationships are a two-way street; they build you up as you do the same for them.

Seek Guidance From a Trusted Therapist

The journey to self-love can be challenging. If you are struggling, it is acceptable to seek help, and this is when a therapist can assist you. They are professionals who can help you understand your thoughts and emotions.

Seeing a therapist indicates a move towards resilience, not weakness. A therapist won’t provide direct solutions but will support you in discovering your own. They can provide strategies and encouragement on your path to self-love, a path you must finish yourself but do not need to go through by yourself.

More Expert Insights

“Love your curves and all your edges. All your perfect imperfections… Accept that you are not perfect and do not need to be… Forgive yourself past mistakes as this is what shapes you and how you learn to become a better version of yourself.”

— Dr. Lindsay Israel | Board Certified Psychiatrist | Owner, Success TMS

“Loving yourself is a yes-no decision… 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… by loving yourself, you take better care of yourself and eventually it becomes truth.”

Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. | Author | Psychotherapist

“Learning to love yourself is a process, beginning with appreciating your alone time… 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.”

— Adina Mahalli | Mental Health Consultant and Relationship Expert | Founder, Enlightened Reality

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

Adam Cole | Jazz Musician | Writer

Final Thoughts

Loving yourself isn’t always easy. Some days, you might take two steps forward and one step back. That’s okay. What matters is that you keep going, even when it’s hard.

Remember, you are on your own unique path. There’s no finish line you have to cross, no perfect way to do it. The goal is just to keep showing up for yourself, day after day. To keep choosing yourself, even when the world tells you not to. I know it’s not always simple. But I also know that it’s the most important work you’ll ever do.

And you are so worth it.

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Jahrine is a seeker of knowledge and personal growth. When not exploring the worlds of self-help books and spirituality, she enjoys reading dark fiction and spending time with her beloved dogs. With diverse interests, including career development, travel, and poetry, Jahrine is constantly expanding her horizons and seeking new experiences.