How to cultivate habits that encourage self-love
When most people speak or think of love, it’s almost always love outside of ourselves. However, the most important and most intimate relationship that you will ever have, that sets the stage for any and ALL other relationships, is the one you have with yourself.
So, how do we cultivate a loving relationship with ourselves?
Well, first you need to understand that like anything else, self-love is a practice. Much like any other practice, it requires commitment, consistency, patience, and grace.
It’s not something you “should just know” how to do, and it’s definitely way more than simply saying “I love myself” in the mirror.
Cultivating a practice of self-love is an ongoing process that is individual to you. This means you have to get to know your true self, and that can be complicated.
Here are some easy and simple steps you can take right now to begin having a more loving relationship with yourself.
1. Acknowledge and address your toxic behaviors
We all have traits that we know negatively impact our relationships. Awareness is the first step to change. Regardless of why you do it, it is important that you acknowledge that these behaviors are not serving you. Make sure that you do this without self-judgment or self-blame. Learn to view yourself objectively, without trying to explain, justify or blame anyone.
2. Forgive yourself
Practice self-forgiveness- and practice it often. Forgive yourself for acting in the only way you knew how. Understand that you are a product of your conditioning. That means that you, knowingly or unknowingly, were ingrained with a belief system. Maybe you believe that you are unlovable, or unworthy of love. Maybe you were told or shown that no one will be there for you. So, as a result, you act from a place of fear, trauma, heartbreak, or self-protection, all of which helped you survive in the moment. Give yourself grace while you learn to unconditionally love yourself.
3. Accept yourself as you are right now
Self-acceptance is the first step to confidence and self-love. It is the act of releasing self-judgment. Accept yourself for all that you are in this very moment. This includes accepting parts of you that you may not like (but are willing to heal and change), along with the parts of you that are helping you thrive and grow. Self-love can’t be applied to only the “good” parts of you. You have to accept your WHOLE self, including the things you’re insecure about, such as your quirks and weirdness or your “not-so-perfect” skin or body, along with your amazing skills and traits. Others don’t need to accept you — you just need to accept yourself.
4. Set and honor boundaries with yourself
Setting boundaries is an essential part of self-care and self-love. Boundaries are a key element in your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. They are a set of limits and rules you set for yourself that communicate your values, beliefs, and standards to others. And while setting boundaries with others is important, setting and honoring boundaries with yourself may be more important. This can include setting a budget and sticking to it, limiting screen time so you can read more, avoiding people who cause distress or bring negativity to your life, and not answering work emails or calls over the weekend. You should honor your commitment to yourself.
5. Engage in positive self-talk (focus on things you like about yourself)
We tend to be our harshest critics, often engaging in self-deprecation and negative self-talk. Whether we actually believe it or do it because we think it's a form of humility, it is a habit worth breaking. When we engage in constant self-criticism and self-judgment, we only reinforce and perpetuate the false belief that we are somehow not good enough. It is important that we shift that inner monologue and negative thought patterns to a positive, self-celebratory, self-praising one. Saying things like: “I’m so proud of myself for (keeping a promise to myself),” “This may be hard, but I know I can do it!” or as simple as, “I am enough,” will boost self-confidence, helping you to feel better about yourself and have a more positive perspective on your life regardless of the circumstance. *Remember, if you catch yourself having a negative thought, interrupt it, forgive the thought, and reach for one that is kinder and more positive.
6. Work on health habits that will enhance your life
By far the most overlooked and underrated practice of self-love is your day-to-day habits. Health habits like getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, resting, moving your body, stress management, and mental health, are the most impactful way to show up for yourself. These behaviors go hand in hand with setting boundaries with yourself. Be someone who gets eight hours of sleep, works out a few times a week, eats whole foods and complete meals, and takes a mental health day. These are all ways you honor yourself and your body — a way to show yourself that you matter, and are worthy of feeling good.
7. Improve your Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is your ability to manage, understand and express your emotions in a healthy way, which helps with communicating with others, problem-solving, overcoming challenges, and more. Boosting your emotional intelligence (also known as Emotional Quota EQ) requires self-awareness, self-regulation, and tuning in to how you feel (aka sitting with your feelings). Stress makes this process particularly challenging, so it is important that you manage stress to create a calm environment in your body. Activities like breathwork, meditation, and journaling can help soothe the nervous system and allow your mind and body to process your emotions.
When we are more connected to our emotions, we are better able to navigate our environment accordingly. If you’re not managing your emotional health, you are neglecting a crucial part of self-care, and self-love.
Remember that self-love is individualized
There is no one right way to practice self-love. Know that self-love isn’t selfish, and it isn’t being “conceited.” It is having self-respect and high regard for your well-being. When we love ourselves unconditionally, we show others how to love us, too. And when we set and honor boundaries, we show others what we will and will not tolerate. we show the world that we are worthy of it all when we take care of our body-mind-spirit.
Self-love is a practice that comes in many forms. If you’re struggling to say “I love myself,” show yourself by doing one small act at a time.
You are loved. You are supported. You are enough.
Aleks Zavlunova is a Holistic Behavior Therapist and Wellness Coach. She uses principles of human learning and behavior modification to help people develop sustainable skills and habits to lead healthier and happier lives. Aleks combines cognitive behavior psychology and nutrition science to help her clients begin to address maladaptive and self-destructive patterns and habits, build self-esteem, confidence, and self-love, by systematically improving their relationship with food. She strongly believes that our relationship with food greatly correlates with our relationship with the self, our emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing, as well as our relationships with others.