There’s a lot of talk these days about self-love. It sounds great, but what does it actually mean? How do we love ourselves and why does it matter? 

Self-love means that you accept yourself fully, treat yourself with kindness and respect, and nurture your growth and wellbeing. Self-love encompasses not only how you treat yourself but also your thoughts and feelings about yourself. So, when you conceptualize self-love, you can try to imagine what you would do for yourself, how you’d talk to yourself, and how you’d feel about yourself that reflects love and concern. 

When you love yourself, you have an overall positive view of yourself. This doesn’t mean you feel positive about yourself all the time. That would be unrealistic!  

For example, I can temporarily feel upset, angry, or disappointed with myself and still love myself. If this is confusing, think about how this works in other relationships. 

I can love my son even though I sometimes feel angry or disappointed with him. Even in the midst of my anger and disappointment, my love for him informs how I relate to him. It allows me to forgive him, consider his feelings, meet his needs, and make decisions that will support his wellbeing. Self-love is very much the same. 

Which means, if you know how to love others, you know how to love yourself! 

Why do we need to love ourselves? 

Without self-love, you’re likely to be highly self-critical and fall into people-pleasing and perfectionism. You’re more likely to tolerate abuse or mistreatment from others. You may neglect your own needs and feelings because you don’t value yourself. And you may self-sabotage or make decisions that aren’t in your own best interest. Self-love is the foundation that allows us to be assertive, set boundaries and create healthy relationships with others, practice self-care, pursue our interests and goals, and feel proud of who we are. 

What are some examples of what self-love can look like in action for you? 

It’s normal to be ambivalent about self-love or making any change. However, loving yourself doesn’t mean you have to change everything about your life. Simply try to treat yourself a little better today than you did yesterday. 

–> To get started, I suggest that you identify one loving thing you can do for yourself today. It could be a supportive thought or action. 

–> Next, write down what you’re going to do and when you’ll do it. Writing it down increases accountability and makes it more likely that you’ll follow through.

As you add more and more loving thoughts and actions to your daily life, they’ll begin to crowd out some of your self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. With practice, self-love will become second nature.