You've probably seen the words in that picture above countless times before. It's one of those things that gets thrown around, usually when someone is in a down-and-out state and struggling to understand why he or she doesn't feel loved. If they're being said to you they can be painful, but the pain underlines a telling fact: those words are true. Whether or not you want to believe it, if you don't love yourself, no one else can truly love you. Certainly you can be in relationships and experience varieties of emotions similar to love, but if you don't love yourself, if you don't respect yourself, I can guarantee you that no one else can really, truly love or respect you either.
How do I know this? From experience. The older I get, the more I get to know myself, and, much to my surprise, the more I actually love myself. And, not surprisingly (if you believe in the words pictured above), the more I grow to love myself and value my place in this world, the more love and acceptance I experience in my relationships with others. It may seem cliche or even ironic, but I can only speak from a place of my experiences and my experiences have shown me that the quote above is 100%, shockingly, undeniably true. If you want other people to love you, you must love yourself.
We all know this is generally much easier said than done. Of course we all want to love ourselves, but it's not always that easy, is it? Sometimes it can be very, very difficult to believe that you are worth loving. Sometimes it can be damn near impossible to believe that you are valuable. But you are! You, me, everyone is capable of loving and being loved. It's not always simple -- and usually it's not -- but it's always possible. And it's up to you to take the first step in the cycle of love by loving yourself. (The cycle of love, if you're wondering, is the idea that once we love ourselves, we are then capable of being loved, and then are capable of loving others, which makes us love ourselves even more!) If isn't already obvious, I'll spell it out for you here: no one but you can take this first step toward loving yourself. Others can attempt to love you -- and they can do their very best to convince you that you need to love you -- but ultimately it's up to you.
And, often, when left in our hands, the possibility of loving ourselves seems too grand, to insurmountable to even begin to dive into. In order to love ourselves, we have to accept ourselves and, man, is that hard sometimes. We have to accept the good and the bad, the mistakes and the triumphs. We have to actually look at ourselves in the mirror and really see who we are (which, believe me, can be pretty nerve-racking sometimes). It's way more tempting to just float along, letting the world move around you, just hoping that someday you will be loved in the way you want to be loved. As someone who has done this, I can tell you for sure that you'll never find what you're looking for if you don't start making some proactive attempts to love yourself. There's no better time than right now -- yep, right this very minute! -- to get started on some serious self-love. Here's my advice:
10 Ways to Love Yourself NOW
- Celebrate your past. I'll be honest with you -- this is one of the hardest ones for me. There are things about the me I used to be that I just don't want to celebrate. However, I think about it like this: everything that happened to me in the past made me the person I am today so I need to embrace and celebrate that past because, without it, I wouldn't be me.
- Indulge in your desires. Now, not every desire should be indulged it, but sometimes I think it's important to recognize the things that make you happy, that inspire you, that send little shivers of delight down your spine. Doing so will help you recognize the uniqueness that is you and will help you to identify the things you can focus on, those things that truly bring you happiness.
- Let go of your mistakes. Mistakes happen. To everyone. No matter what you look like, who you are, what you do for a living, you've made mistakes. We all have and they all suck. I look back on some of my mistakes and literally cringe. But you know what? It doesn't do you any good to focus on them. Take what you can from them, learn from them, and then move the hell on.
- Transform your mindset.Sadly it's often easier to get down on yourself than it is to lift yourself up, but if you want to love yourself, you have to change your mindset. You have to believe that you're worthy of love and you have to actively seek out positive things about yourself and your life. Believe me, if you don't do it, no one else well. Change the way you think about yourself and the rest will fall into place.
- Embrace your future. Sometimes you find yourself in a tough spot, unhappy with your life and ultimately unhappy with yourself. While I'm all about living in the present, I understand sometimes that the present can be pretty rotten. So cut yourself some slack and remember that you have a deliciously exciting future ahead of you. Focus on what's to come and remind yourself that you can do anything.
- Dive into your passion. Most people are passionate about something. They have things that really matter to them -- whether it be a cause or a job or a loved one or a hobby. Whatever it is that gets you really excited, focus on it. Embrace it. Run with it. One of the best ways you can learn to love yourself is to zero in on the things that make you the happiest and spend as much time as you can on them.
- Live in your moment. While it's not always easy to live in the moment (nearly a year after starting this blog I still struggle with it on a daily basis!), it's important that you do so. Why? Because to live in the moment is to accept what is and to accept what is is the best way I've found for truly loving yourself. If you focus on the past or present, you're not loving yourself now. Love yourself by being present.
- Sing your own praises. I know some people don't like toot their own horns, but you know what? It's okay to say how awesome you are every once and awhile. It's okay to admit that, wow, you did an amazing job on something or accomplished something you never thought you could. Celebrate yourself and your achievements and all of that self-love is sure to find you. Love your awesomeness because, seriously, you are awesome.
- Listen to your ideas. Do you ever find yourself ignoring your instincts or avoiding your gut reaction? Don't do that anymore. If you want to love yourself, you have to believe yourself. You have to trust yourself. It's not always easy to listen to yourself, but recognize that your thoughts and ideas are always valid (no matter how ridiculous they might seem). You don't always have to act on your ideas, but always listen to them.
- Appreciate your life. Okay, so there are some things you want to change about yourself, about your body, about your relationships, about your life? That's okay. We all want to change things. But what if you stopped focusing on the things you want to change and, instead, focused on the things you wanted to stay the same. Appreciating all that you have in your life is one of the very best ways to remember that you're so very lucky to be YOU.
Of course, there are more than 10 ways to love yourself, but these are, in my opinion, the best place to start. (For more ideas, check out some old posts on Positively Present that focus on self-love, such as: "The ABCs of Loving Yourself," "Greet Yourself with Love," "8 Ways to Make Yourself Shine," "How To Love Your Life's Path," and "Love Love Love Who You Are Now.") I recognize that loving yourself can be really hard work. It's something I work on every day and still don't think I have it completely down (or know if I ever will!), but every time I do something or think something that aligns with the idea that I do, in fact, love myself, I find that a much more positive, more present person. After all, it's pretty hard to live in the moment and love the moment you're living in if you don't love yourself...
As I was writing this post, I came across a quote that really inspired me. Kurt Hahn wrote, "There is more in us than we known. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unable to settle for less." When I read it, I thought to myself, "Wow, that really is true. We are all such unique and complex beings and we often don't spend the time or energy looking at ourselves in a deep and meaningful way." The more we turn our attention towards ourselves, towards the act of loving ourselves, the more likely we will be to ask for more from life and for ever, ever settle for less than we deserve. Don't settle. Don't wait. Start loving yourself right now!