Have you ever been told "If you want to accomplish this, if you want to find a partner, if you want to be happy, if you want to be successful...you need to first learn to love yourself". This concept - one that is often ambiguous and unclear - is regularly used in today's vernacular and frequently attributed to finding success in many areas of life. But what does loving yourself really mean? People keep saying this like you are suppose to know exactly what to do, but while poetic sounding, it can be annoying to hear as you want to shout "what the hell does that actually mean?!".
To love yourself, you need to begin with knowing and accepting yourself. In practical terms it means learning about who you are, getting to know yourself, exploring your values, learning about your boundaries, and feeling good on your own.
Below are five points that will start you on your journey.
Learn about yourself:
You can't appreciate and respect someone you don't know and this includes yourself. Think about an acquaintance who you may occasionally run into, chat and exchange small talk with. This relationship may be pleasant, but never actually transpire into a meaningful friendship because you don't care enough to take the time necessary to actually get to know this person well. Similarly, if you don't take the time to actually get to know yourself, you are telling yourself you're not important enough to know.
Be alone with yourself:
How the heck are you going to learn about yourself, if you've never been alone long enough to hear your own thoughts? From time to time, it's good to be alone and self-reflect. Taking time to do activities alone helps you think more internally about your own deeper sense of self. For instance, if you're reading a book and discussing it with someone else, you might exchange opinions on the storyline or characters involved. On your own though, you might have the opportunity to reflect more deeply considering why you've formed the opinions you have, what it says about your values, how it mirrors your own personal experiences, etc.
Know your boundaries:
Establishing healthy boundaries is one of the most important steps you can take on the road to self-love. In recent years, I've been hearing a lot about setting strong boundaries and, as a relationship therapist, I really believe in this. I think knowing where your limits are and not allowing others to take advantage of you is important, however, there's a caveat. I've also noticed something else happening - people are sometimes becoming too rigid with their boundaries. By putting up concrete, 10ft walls around you, yes you protect yourself, but you also don't allow anyone in - people that may actually benefit you and help your development.
Being selfish often comes across as doing what you want without caring about another's needs, therefore the term is used negatively. However, there is another element to selfishness that is actually quite necessary on the journey to self-love. Being cognizant and respectful of your needs and wants is important. If someone asks you to do something that you agree to but do it begrudgingly, all the while annoyed at him or her for asking, than respect both yourself and the other person and just say "no". By recognizing what your needs are and communicating them well, you teach others and yourself that you deserve to be treated with respect and value. Otherwise, how can you love a person you don't respect, even if it's yourself?
Invest in yourself:
One of the things I hear a lot from people is "I'll buy this when... I get this promotion at work" or "I'll go on this holiday if... I'm able to lose this extra 7kg". If you don't think you are important enough to purchase something nice for yourself, treat yourself to a holiday or whatever it is, you are basically telling yourself you are not good enough as you are and only through accomplishments will you be more deserving. Again, this is about communicating value. You have to begin to realize there's more to you than your accomplishments or your looks or your contributions, there's something beyond just the external that goes deeper than how much you can do or accomplish.