Emma Watson, the actress who plays Hermione in the Harry Potter movie series, created quite a stir a few months ago when she used the term self-partnered to describe her relationship status.
Self-love is in many ways similar to loving anyone else and can be likened to being in a relationship with yourself. It is not about merely liking yourself on the surface, but rather it means to love and accept yourself unconditionally, irrespective of whatever flaws you think you may have. While we may not find it difficult to love others, loving ourselves may not come as easy because it’s not something that’s usually encouraged or taught to us while growing up.
So read on to find out just how you can go about loving yourself unconditionally.
1) Spend time by yourself
Much like all our relationships are developed by giving attention and spending our time with others, developing a relationship with ourselves is no different and is developed much the same way. But it’s going to be difficult to truly love ourselves if we are always trying to avoid being alone and trying to fill our time by being constantly around other people or our devices. Time spent in solitude helps to get in touch with our own personality, inclinations, desires and gives insight into what’s keeping us from loving and accepting ourselves unconditionally. Doing this can also help to develop greater feelings of compassion for ourselves.
You can spend time by yourself in numerous ways, be it journaling, meditating, going for walks or by taking time out for yourself to relax, do nothing and disconnect from the outside world.
2) Put an end to outsourcing love and acceptance and take responsibility
We often have a hard time loving ourselves because we try to approach self-love through the outside in. That is, we often base the love for ourselves upon external validation, other people’s opinions about us, our relationships, what we do for a living, our achievements, or appearance. The problem is, none of these are stable foundations to base self-love upon since they tend to keep fluctuating. The fact of the matter is you never need permission or validation from anyone else or any external factor to go ahead and love yourself.
3) Don’t take your inner dialogue seriously
One of the biggest reasons we find self-love difficult is because the inner dialogue which plays in our minds can often be extremely critical, judgmental and sometimes mean towards ourselves. The inner dialogue may list endless reasons as to why you can’t love yourself and what needs to happen before you can do so.
So what can you do about it? The key is not to pay too much attention to it or take it seriously. Don’t try to fight it either. Trust me, it only makes things worse. Don’t buy into what it says, no matter how much it convinces you it is right, because that voice sees things only from a narrow, limited and often negative perspective. This is especially true in how it usually compares our whole life based on the happiest moments of other people’s lives, especially on social media. Funnily enough, this voice never compares how we are better off than a lot of people in varied aspects of our lives.
A conscious determination to detach from this voice preferably with a daily practice of meditation can help to take the inner dialogue less seriously.
4) Take charge of your inner dialogue
If you are waiting for inner dialogue to become automatically positive someday in the future, I’ve got news for you. It ain’t going to happen. However, you can take matters into your own hands, and be conscious and deliberate about what you tell yourself. When I’m feeling lost or confused, I sometimes like to write a letter addressing myself in the third person. I find that I’m able to come up with some pretty great advice for myself when I do so, and I am also able to encourage myself as well as make my self feel better in the process.
Doing this is great because having our thoughts down on paper enables us to direct our thoughts better and have control over it. On the other hand, when the mind is racing and going on one of those negative rants, trying to tell yourself something positive may not be very effective.
Accepting myself unconditionally was something I had difficulty with. One of the main reasons for this was some of my interests tended to be vastly different than anyone else I knew. Once I got into college, I started getting deeper into metaphysics, meditation, and spirituality out of pure fascination and curiosity.
But let’s face it, meditation and metaphysics are not the most trendy and hip things to be into, especially when you are young. I also didn’t know anyone who shared such interests, whether young or old, at least no one I knew closely. And as a result, I had difficulty in accepting and acknowledging that part of myself around others.
Things changed once I took a three-month solo trip. I stopped becoming apologetic about who I am and started becoming more comfortable in my own skin. I must say I can’t point to any specific incidents during the trip for these changes, although coming across like-minded people during the trip certainly did help. But I am not trying to convey that you need to take a solo trip to accept yourself unconditionally. You don’t need to do anything other than let go of judging yourself. It helps to keep in mind that nobody judges you more than you judge yourself. Because others are too busy judging themselves.
6) Value and respect yourself
Respecting and valuing myself was another area I had difficulty with. There have been many occasions in the past where I’ve come out of interactions feeling that I deserved to be treated with more respect. I was seeking this respect from other people. But the truth was deep down I didn’t respect and value myself enough, and how some people treated me was just a projection of what I was feeling inside. As I explored this further, I understood this used to happen more on a subconscious level while I was dealing or talking with people. And this would result in undervaluing my own time and as well as opinions on matters.
It took me years before I finally realized this and started valuing and treating myself with respect.
And the funny thing is that once I began doing that, respect from others seems nowhere as important as it used to be because my self-respect became no longer dependent on how other people treated me. The solution then is to make it a priority to value and respect yourself without making it dependent on anything else.
7) Be willing to embrace what sets you apart
We are not here to be like everyone else and nor are we meant to. Be unapologetic about who you are and be willing to embrace your quirks or behaviors that set you apart from others (as long as these don’t hurt anyone). A lot of the time, the very things that set us apart from others may make it difficult to accept ourselves since we often tend to overthink these parts about ourselves.
For me, that includes taking walks by myself late at night, sitting in the car listening to music (while it’s lying parked in my apartment), spending time in solitude. Or, when I am sitting around a group of people I am comfortable with, my habit of making random, comments in between conversations, just because it seems like a completely natural and fun thing to do at the moment.
Our default inner dialogue is often fearful and believes that we need to be less of who we are, and be more like everyone else or behave in a certain way so that people will accept us and think we are not weird. Most of these fears are often misplaced. But, if that isn’t the case, there isn’t much benefit in spending time with people who are unable to accept us for who we are. So why be someone who we aren’t in the first place?
The truth is everybody is weird in their own way, some are comfortable about displaying those aspects about themselves, and others aren’t for reasons best known to them.
8) Focus your attention on the good
There are always easy ways to instantly feel better about yourself. One such way is to write gratitude lists, which is to write about the things you are grateful for in your life (I have written about this in more detail in this article). While doing them, you can also include a list of things you love and appreciate about yourself.
When we let inner dialogue run on autopilot, it tends to place our attention on aspects we may find negative about ourselves or our lives. Writing gratitude lists daily directs our mind to focus on the good that’s always present in our lives, and makes us less prone to feel bad about ourselves by comparing our lives with those of others.
9) Be easy on yourself
Being easy on ourselves is something many of us have difficulty with. Somehow there is this notion that exists that we need to be hard on ourselves to get things done, which doesn’t serve us well. We often set up unrealistic targets and beat ourselves up for failing to meet them. But in truth, doing so we never make anything better but simply dampen our mood.
Being easy on yourself also means to forgive yourself for your actions in the past with the understanding that you did the best you could do based on what you knew then. An irrational part of our inner dialogue may like to hold ourselves responsible and make ourselves feel bad about it, but it’s never in our highest interest to do so. After all, we can’t truly love someone when we are unwilling to forgive them.
10) Acknowledge and give yourself credit
We often have the habit of dwelling on what we do wrong but barely noticing and acknowledging the numerous things that we do right in our daily lives. There are a lot of great and nice things we do in our lives that will be seen and known by no one but ourselves. If we are not going to notice and give credit to ourselves for that, who will?
Nobody knows our journey or what we go through as clearly as we do. However, we often expect other people to acknowledge and appreciate us for who we are or the things we do, without doing them ourselves. Making a habit of this will be guaranteed to raise our self-confidence and change the way we see ourselves for the better. Many people may think self-love is a selfish thing, but it’s far from selfish. In truth, it’s more selfless than selfish.
If all of us could love and accept ourselves unconditionally, we would do a much better job in loving and accepting everyone else as they are without wanting to change them in any way.