Learning how to love yourself can be a great challenge in this life. This world can be a blood-sucking, life-draining, love-killing place. Fear abounds, as do its offspring: confusion, loneliness, hatred, rage, violence, and aggression, etc. We’re bombarded by messages telling us we’re not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, unlovable, and unworthy. Yes, learning how to love yourself is a totally understandable struggle in this world.
I’m 42 years old, and I won’t lie: I love aging. I’m not super fond of some of the body changes like lowered metabolism, slower healing or decreased strength and flexibility. But I love the wisdom and perspective that aging has given me. I love that time has helped me learn to love myself. Now I love that time has helped me help others learn to love themselves. I had a rough childhood. Just like many people. As I look at teens these days, the teen years are the same as they’ve always been, a time of trying to battle those inner demons of unworthiness and feeling unloved, misunderstood, and unappreciated; all that teen angst of trying to feel like we matter and to find validation from friends, family, mentors, or anyone who will pay any frickin’ attention to us.
As I look back at myself during the days I hated myself the most I can see: “Wow, there was nothing wrong with me. I was actually a great kid. My problem was never me, it was this blood-sucking world and my painful past. No wonder I struggled! No wonder!” I don’t wish I could go back and relive my younger years. I love getting older and wiser. But, if I could go back to my teen & 20’s & early 30’s self, I would tell him, “Look, you’re a pretty awesome guy. You have a lot to offer the world. The problem isn’t you, it’s this world. You are smart, talented, and caring. Be your best. Keep doing your best. That’s what matters. You don’t have all the answers, you’re still learning. When you trip and fall, just pick yourself back up and do your best. Learn from your mistakes. If you’re wise, you’ll learn from others’ mistakes, too. But you? You’re awesome. You have nothing to doubt about yourself.”
But, I did struggle. I hated myself for about two decades. Until, I learned how to love myself. If you’re still reading it’s because you feel the same way or similar. I can tell you that in 10 or twenty years, your future self will look back and say the same, encouraging, loving things to you, now. If you take the following lessons to heart, maybe that 10 or 20 years can be shortened and you can arrive in full self-love sooner.
The problem? Outside sources of validation and love can be hard/impossible to find, and in the end they’re unfulfilling. No matter how much love we get from others, there will always be a final amount of love we MUST give to ourselves. The love we give ourselves is the only love that sustains us and gives us the confidence and healing we need to reach our fullest potential and self-fulfillment in this life.
The solution? Learn how to love yourself. We must learn to love ourselves no matter what. But how? How can we love ourselves when it’s the last thing we believe is true? This little blog post will give you the most important tips that have helped me love myself. As you walk your path of heart and soul healing, keep these reminders with you to keep you on-track with your best life.
This is the first, most important, and most powerful step to loving yourself. Learning how to love yourself is a process of learning to know yourself. When you truly know yourself, you can’t help but love yourself. Learning to know yourself takes time. One thing that helps is discerning what isn’t “you”. While it can take some time to figure out what we like or feel drawn to, it’s easy to figure out what we don’t like or what doesn’t align with our heart and soul. Part of the struggle in this process is that we cling to what we know. Well, if what we know is mostly negative or self-defeating, then we must be brave enough to let go of those parts of our life. Those ‘parts’ might be people like family and friends, locations like ‘home’, or even the same negative stories we keep repeating in our head. You must acknowledge that these negative forces will only keep you where you don’t want to be. Let go of negative influences so you can gravitate toward the positive ones.
Here’s a quick-list of other things that are Not-You:
- You are not what happens to you. Bad things happen to good people. The bad things we’ve experienced are NO commentary on our quality as a human being–they are a commentary on this world. This world can be hell, and just because this world can be hell, doesn’t mean we are bad or evil.
- You are not what others have done to you. You are not weak just because someone hurt you. People do mean sh*t to each other. It’s part of human nature. Many, if not most, of the worst things happen to us when we are children, vulnerable and unable to defend ourselves. Just think, children are at the mercy of the world of adults who are bigger, stronger, make all the rules, and frankly most haven’t mastered life themselves. No wonder we grow up with inner demons of our own. They get passed down to us from previous generations.
- You are not your emotions. More on this later, but suffice it to say you may feel sad or depressed, angry or rageful, afraid or apprehensive, but these are normal emotions to the ugly side of life. These emotions do NOT define YOU. You are not bad, evil, dark, or heavy, even though you might feel that way.
- You are not your circumstances. You are not less-than, even though you may live in poor or limited life conditions. Nor are you da shit bombity-bomb just because you were born into wealth. Judging yourself by your circumstances will never bring happiness, nor will it tell you who you are at heart, and at the deepest part of your soul.
- You are not your past. You are not the mistakes you may have made in the past. Part of life is learning from our mistakes. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to make those mistakes before we can learn from them. Holding on to your past helps nothing. Learning and growing from your past is everything.
Now, let’s talk about who you ARE:
- You are a Child of the Universe. We tend to see ourselves with a very limited scope. “I am so-and-so’s son, daughter, brother, cousin, friend, etc.” Big picture, however, you are part of something great, something endless and eternal–the Universe. You are part of the circle of life that goes on forever. You are part of the Earth, the ocean, the Sun, every sunset and sunrise. Death is not the end, it is merely a transformation into the next stage of life, and you are part of that. Isn’t that cool? Once you embrace the full meaning of this, no one can bring you down or make you feel bad about yourself. Anytime a doubt pops up you can tell it, “The Infinite Universe made me just as I am and just as I need to be.”
- You are part of the human family. We are all part of the human family, past, present, and future. We are, in part, the sum of all those who came before us. What we do will affect generations to come. That means that what you do in this life really does matter! This leads us to:
- You have a legacy and a destiny to live. Again, what you do in this life matters. It matters greatly. You have a life purpose you were born to live. Part of your life purpose is to discover your destiny and to grow into it. The sooner you learn how to love yourself the sooner you can do what you were born to. You were born with talents and the purpose to create a positive legacy to leave your human family. While the goal of leaving a legacy will give you a sense of purpose, living your potential and sharing your gifts and talents will bring you joy, now. If ever you’re wondering how to love yourself, go do something good and be happy with that!
- You are everything wonderful you wish you were. There’s a reason you want to love yourself: Because you are worth loving! You only don’t love yourself because someone told you not to, or someone planted the seed of doubt. So I’ll tell you right now: You are beautiful. You are powerful. You are amazing and miraculous. You are special. You are worthy. You are awesome! You only doubt these things because the world keeps telling you otherwise. But you want to believe you are beautiful and worthy because deep down, at the very deepest part of your heart and soul, you know just how amazing you are, and that part of you is struggling to climb out of the steaming heap of shit the world piled on you. So, dig deep into your heart. Listen to that voice that tells you, “You can! You are awesome!” The more you listen to that voice, the louder it will get until it shines all doubts out of existence.
- You ARE love! If you hate yourself or simply don’t feel great about yourself it’s because this world has hurt you and fed you lies. Lies about your self-worth, lies about your true identity, lies about your life purpose. We only bought these lies because it seems like everyone buys into them! Go to school and get a job so you can save for retirement? That’s not your life purpose! But everyone’s doing it. You are love, at the core of your being. That is who and what you are. That’s who everyone is, and everyone is struggling under the same steaming heap of self-doubt and wanting to feel more loved. Learn how to love yourself and you will be the light that shines in the world — the light this world needs most!
As I mentioned, it’s a little tougher to determine what you like, and what is “You”, so 1) launch yourself into something. Anything. Start gaining the life experience that will guide you. If you have to shift from one thing to another, that’s fine. You’re learning! 2) Let go of what’s Not-You. Daily. Hourly. Let go. The sooner you let go of what’s Not-You, the better. I mean, how long do you really want to struggle in self-doubt or even self-hatred? Not long. I bet you would end your self hatred or self doubt today if you could. And you can, in part. Let go of the suffering and go toward the light of self-knowledge and self-love. Let go of doubt and be love, today.
Use the Life-Tools of love
I struggled for years to love myself. I struggled to even like myself. It took baby steps and the right tools to learn how to love myself, and it will be the same for you learning how to love yourself. The tools the world gives us are things like defensiveness, lashing out, selfishness, exploiting others, giving in to doubt, and the like. They don’t teach us how to be happy or how to love yourself in school, church, or the media. Even many homes give us the wrong tools for a happy life. Here are the top tools for loving yourself:
- Editing your story
It would be nice if we could just love ourselves right out the door. It would be awesome if we could just say, “Hey, I love myself totally and completely, just as I am,” and it would be true. But we usually have to take it a day at a time. You have to exercise the right tools for how to love yourself and practice them daily.
Start with forgiveness. Forgive yourself for not loving yourself. Forgive yourself for doubting. Forgive yourself for whatever regrets you’re holding on to. Forgive others for hurting you. Forgive god for letting bad things happen. Learn to forgive everything.
Have compassion for yourself. You’re doing amazing in a predatory world. You’re doing the best you can with that you’ve been given. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Be kind to yourself with your mind chatter. Be kind to yourself with your actions and life decisions. Imagine you see someone suffering, would you not wish to help them? Treat yourself with the same compassion you would for a starving child, or a wounded animal, for instance.
Be grateful for every little blessing in your life, even if it is the stars in the night sky, or the air you breathe. Gratitude is a door, the more things you express gratitude for, the wider that door opens and the more things will flood into your life worth being grateful for.
Celebrate your life. It may suck, but celebrate it! Celebrate the fact that you have this one, precious life to live, and this moment to do something with. You only get each moment once, so don’t waste it with self-doubt or negativity. Embrace the adventure of your life and celebrate each moment.
Bless yourself. What do you need? Bless yourself with it. If your blessing starts with words of self-encouragement, start there. Your words of blessing will turn into desires and actions. You will start blessing yourself with a better life. This is an act of love that will grow into greater love of self.
Editing your story is one of the most powerful and important tools. What is the sob story you keep telling? Are you a victim? Do you complain about the bad things that have happened? Well, stop. Start telling your story of triumph and a happy ending. Whatever bad thing happened, start talking about how you started loving yourself. Tell the story of how you are going to overcome the negativity and hurt. Start telling yourself about how you are going to rise above the things the brought you down and live your best life. Edit your story to include the happy ending you dream of and desire most.
Need some more ideas and tools for how to love yourself? Check out my latest book, The New Be-Attitudes. This is a full guide that helps you understand YOU, and gives you over 60 Life-Tools for living your best life.
Give yourself permission
One of the earliest messages we get in life is “NO!” No you can’t have that toy or that cookie. No you can’t climb that bookcase. No you can’t go upstairs. No you can’t cry. As infants, we don’t really understand why we can’t have something, all we know is that most of the world seems forbidden and out of bounds. We learn very young that “No, I can’t!” Don’t underestimate the power of that simple message. When you’re wondering how to love yourself, it can be as simple as telling yourself “Yes, I can!”
Give yourself permission to love yourself. Yes, you CAN love yourself. Here’s a little hint, by seeking the path toward loving yourself, you are already walking it. You wouldn’t be seeking answers if you didn’t already love yourself. You may feel like it’s fear or sadness or despair driving you, but it’s actually that part of you that already is love and that already loves yourself that is driving you. That part of you is loving you toward loving yourself. So, rather than listening to that doubting voice that you were taught since the age of 2 of “No, you can’t,” start teaching yourself the TRUTH that “Yes, you can…And you already are!”
Sometimes, all we need in order to do what we know is right is permission. So, give yourself permission to love yourself completely.
Manage your emotions
This section could easily have gone under the “Know yourself” section, but it’s so important that I gave it its own mention. The hardest thing about emotions is that we get caught up in them. We self-identify as them. We say, “I AM angry. I AM lonely. I AM sad.” This language around our emotions is misleading. It’s so subtle we don’t even notice the mistruth in it. You are not your emotions. You are not angry, lonely or depressed. You FEEL those emotions as a natural byproduct of difficult circumstances.
Reframe your language to reflect the truth. “I feel angry. I feel lonely. I feel sad.” These feelings are telling you something. If you feel angry, maybe someone offended or threatened you. If you feel lonely, maybe you don’t have enough close friends. If you feel sad, perhaps you’ve lost something or someone important. That’s okay!! Anger, fear and sadness may not feel great, but they help us cope with life — if we let them. Identifying as our emotions and giving in to them does not improve life. Using our emotions as healthy motivators does. If we are angry, we should use the anger to empower us positively. Anger may not feel positive, but we can let us motivate us. For instance, if you’re in a threatening situation, anger can help you stand up for yourself. If you are afraid, fear can help you flee to safety. If you are sad, you can make the effort to add positivity back into your life.
Never bury, avoid or deny your emotions. Don’t take your emotions out on others. Don’t wallow in your emotions. Flow with your emotions. Let them flow. If you need to run or life weights or scream or cry or whatever to discharge the excess energy, go do that. Journaling is a great way to flow with emotions and express them in a healthy way. Perhaps your hobbies like drawing, painting, music, woodworking, tinkering on a car, or dancing are healthy outlets. In the end, the point of difficult or uncomfortable emotions is that they are telling you something has to change. So, be brave enough to change whatever is causing the emotions. Heal your life. Use your emotions to heal.
As you let difficult emotions flow, you will naturally return to your natural state of peace and joy.
Remember, you’re not alone
Feeling lonely or alone is an extremely defeating thing to feel. Feeling alone and defeated makes us feel like “This is it. This is the end. This is my reality forever.” Which is untrue. As I learned how to love myself there were very few people who reached out to help. But their help made all the difference. One woman in particular took the time to listen to me. She didn’t have a ton of time to “fix me”, so she gave me a bunch of books to read. While I didn’t understand then, I read the books anyway. I understand now, she gave me the books to expand my reality. The books helped me see, unconsciously, that I was not alone. Others–many, many others–have suffered through the same feelings I did and that you are. Many ARE suffering through the same things. While I didn’t know any of those people, it did help to know I wasn’t the only one suffering.
But wait, I DID know people who were suffering. It was nearly everyone around me. Everyone struggles to love themselves. While many know the tools for happiness. You may feel alone, but you are not. In fact, I write this post in the hopes that you will find it, read it, and feel that you are not alone. You may not know me but I care. Lots of people around you may care. You may have to read books or reach out to someone. Please do. Please, please reach out. Read good books and blogs and social networks. You may have to try and try again, but keep doing that. You’re not alone. This whole world is suffering, and we’re the ones who have to help each other heal.
There are some things that only time — and experience — can teach us, so learn to enjoy the journey. Learning how to love yourself — and actually loving yourself — happens a bit at a time. Luckily, loving yourself is accumulative. The more you love yourself, the more you are able to love yourself. You will eventually have so much love that your love overflows to others. That day will come for you, even if you can’t see it. You will make more mistakes. Some days you will take two steps forward and slide back three. What matters the most is taking each step. Just take the step you can today and let that be enough. Rejoice in today’s step.
All you have in this life is this moment and the choice of what you will do with it. Fill this moment — this one right now — with as much goodness, and kindness, and patience, and love, and forgiveness, and gratitude that you possibly can. Invite blessed healing and light and love into your life in all its forms.
I’m sending you love and light and healing. I and others like me are doing what we can to help people like you learn how to love yourself and your life. You’re doing it. Keep up the great work. And remember, You’re awesome!