1. You have to abandon traditional, cookie-cutter methods.
Self-love is not a clear-cut ideal. Everyone will love themselves differently, because everyone has different points of love in their lives. You may be great at cooking, while your husband may be crazy about sports. You might be a talented artist, while you neighbor might be excellent with numbers.
It is hard to create a basis for self-love, because there isn’t one. You have to find your own foundation, and build up based on your strengths. Don’t spend every second wondering how you could love yourself better. Live your life, create connections, and self-love will come more naturally and less forced.
You do not have to stare at someone and try to come up with five things you love about them, or aggressively try to turn their flaws into positives, so don’t try to attempt the same with yourself. Fall in love with yourself slowly, naturally, and with the understanding that perfection will never be entirely in reach. Make peace with that fact, and strive to excel in the things that bring you – uniquely – happiness and confidence.
2. You must give yourself validation.
If someone loves something that you are proud of, that’s wonderful, but don’t only rely on the opinions or preferences of other people in order to feel good about yourself. You can’t always rely on praise from others.
You have to feel confident in the dress you picked out, not only wait until someone gets the chance to see it and compliments you. You have to be proud of the fact that you completed a recipe you found online that looked difficult, and not wait for social media friends to comment on how delicious it looks when you’re finished.
Try validating yourself a few times every day, whether it’s because you performed well at work, woke up early to go for a walk, or completed something you’ve been wanting to get done. When you applaud yourself, you will find that it is easier to be proud of yourself, as well. (And it will make validation from others that much more rewarding.)
3. You have to be happy with yourself independently, and make the effort to do so.
Take yourself out to dinner. Spend a night with yourself, watching your favorite movie, and enjoying a bowl of ice cream. Take time to schedule things that you enjoy. Give yourself a spa-day, or spend the afternoon playing with your dog, or write another chapter in the novel you’ve been working on.
Create love for yourself, and your life. Understand that no one will ever be able to love you enough to force you to love yourself. You must do that for you. Your life is built on connections, but the most important ones are those you make with yourself. You are the most important person in your life, and you must always treat yourself with that in mind. Self-love cannot only come from will power. It requires action.
4. You cannot try to alter every flaw.
That will play into the greatest flaw there is: self-doubt. Accept that you will not be perfect. Understand that you will never fully be able to rid yourself of what you see as negative, and use what you label as weaknesses in your favor.
Use your stubbornness to push your boss to consider you for that promotion. Let your sensitivity be a reminder of your ability for empathy, and be the friend that someone else is needing. Let your vulnerabilities be worn as badges of your pre-existing bravery, and your emotions be shared as things of strength. Flaws are inevitable. It is how you approach them that affects the role they will play in your life.
5. You need to apologize to yourself.
Let yourself know that you are sorry for the times you have engaged in self-defeating behaviors, have bullied yourself, or have denied yourself the right to love any and all pieces of you. Make amends with the flaws that you have endlessly tried to destroy or get rid of, and make peace with the quirks that have stayed with you. Make up for the things you have done to harm yourself emotionally, and take the time and energy to acknowledge and let them go.
6. You have to understand that loving yourself requires dedication.
It will be hard. Hating is such a simple thing. It is easy to give up the responsibility of caring, connecting and maintaining when you can write yourself, or anyone else, away with negativity or weakness.
Loving yourself will be an everyday commitment – taking care of yourself, resisting the pull of negative thoughts, and allowing yourself to accept your flaws – but it is that push for consistency that gives your life purpose. You are never going to be fully in love with yourself, but that is what makes moments of intense confidence so rewarding.
7. You have to – above all – let yourself be human.
It’s okay if you need to take a day to yourself and rest, or cancel plans if you feel unable to devote your energy to enjoying them. Embrace that you – as a human – are an emotional creature, and accept that you will not always have control over this fact. Let yourself feel.
Do not be angry when you have a day of self-doubt, or when you hesitate at times while walking past the mirror. Thoughts of uncertainty are only there as reminders of the goals you have set for yourself, and the will you have to achieve them. Shame is a wasted emotion. Embrace doubt, as it is inevitable, but don’t live in it.
Appreciate your strengths, and enjoy the process of trying, failing and succeeding. Accept your humanity, and all that accompanies it. Let your self-love form its own image, and allow the day-to-day process of existing in it be a maddening and beautiful experience.