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The importance of self-love and how to put it into practice

The importance of self-love and how to put it into practice

More and more people are jumping on the self-love train, but what exactly does that entail? Loving yourself is more than doing a facemask once a week and eating healthy, though both can be a great way to show yourself love. Self-love is a process that strives toward radical, or unconditional, love and acceptance for yourself, wherever or however you are.

You might be wondering, “What is the secret to self-love?” There’s not necessarily a secret, but there are definitely practices you can do regularly to effectively practice self-love. As long as you recognize that self-love is a long, imperfect path, and work at loving yourself often, you’re on your way.

What Is Self-Love?

Self-love has many definitions, but it can be described as accepting yourself fully and treating yourself with value, dignity, respect, compassion, and worth. This can involve doing many different things, and self-love will look different for everyone. Each person has unique desires, wants, and needs that make them feel loved and fulfilled.

Engaging in self-love can look a lot like self-care, since much of self-love involves taking care of yourself. Though taking care of yourself is a large part of self-love, it’s also important to work with your mind and heart to accept all the parts of yourself and learn to love and be kind to yourself, no matter where you’re at in life.

What Are the 4 Steps to Self-Love? What Is an Example of Self-Love?

Since self-love will look different for everyone based on their own needs, there aren’t necessarily specific, dedicated steps to reaching self-love. However, there are many ways for you to get started on your journey. Examples of steps that can help you on your self-love journey include: 

  1. Exploring your self identity and getting to know yourself in a new, exciting way.

Introspection is huge in learning how to love yourself, because if who you are is unclear, it can be difficult to know what you need and how best to care for yourself. This can look like meditation, journaling, or mindfulness. Making space for your feelings as they come and asking yourself questions about them can lead you to discovering integral parts of yourself. 

  1. Taking action by doing things that fill you with joy.

Take yourself out on dates, learn to enjoy time with yourself, and engage in activities which allow for you to feel attended to and make life feel meaningful. Finding joy in each day can be as simple or as grand as you make it, but giving yourself joy is a great way to love yourself. 

  1. Practicing self-compassion to challenge the inner critic.

Most of us have a little voice in our heads that comments on everything from what we eat to where we go. Take a moment to notice: What’s that voice really saying, and is it something that serves you emotionally? Observing what that voice says gives you opportunities to soften how we speak to yourself and show yourself more kindness.

  1. Addressing deeper needs as well as wants.

By focusing on what our bodies and minds need, you can start to notice what unconscious behaviors or coping skills exist within you that might be working against you rather than for you.

Why Should Self-Love Be a Priority? Why Is Self-Love Important?

Because you are so important! Self-love allows you to live life the way you want to live it. It gives you permission to be wholly and truly yourself, without holding anything back. Self-love is a path to fulfillment and contentment to the fullest extent, because if you love yourself completely, you don’t need to wait for anyone or anything else to do it for you. 

This doesn’t mean that life will be perfect as soon as you start practicing self-love. However, self-love does make it easier to be exactly where you are and accept what you have in front of you. Self-love is a life-long effort and process—it’s not something that is “finished.” But that just means that your love for yourself has to evolve as you yourself evolve and grow.

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What Are the Main Benefits to Increasing Self-Love?

By increasing “self-love,” you will increase your ability to be compassionate to yourself and others, your self-esteem, and your sense of worthiness. In addition, you’ll decrease your inner critic. 

Many people live with parts of them that they hate or suppress, whether they be physical or personality traits. When so much of the world is trying to mold you into what it thinks you should be, it’s hard to love what you have. 

By engaging in self-love, you can begin to free yourself from those expectations and allow the stifled parts of you to be free as you work to accept yourself as you are. There’s certainly a time and place for certain activities or actions, but you can love all of yourself and behave according to the situation you’re in without necessarily stifling yourself. 

Loving yourself also gives you room to grow and become the best version of yourself, fostering your evolution by giving yourself radical love and acceptance.

What Are Some Self-Love Practices I Can Use? How to Practice Self-Love

In order to practice loving yourself, you’ll have to take care of yourself. This can involve doing things that make you happy as well as not doing things that don’t. Here are some examples of ways you can put a little love back into yourself:

  • Spend time outside. A few minutes of fresh air every day is great for your mind and body!
  • Spend time in gratitude. Taking time to reflect on what you’re grateful for can help move your mind away from the negative thought processes it might be holding on to and help it focus on the good things around you, instilling more joy and peace into your life. Gratitude can also help us stop comparing what we have with what others have.
  • Accept a compliment as opposed to pushing it away to practice receiving love. It can feel hard to accept love and praise sometimes, especially if, in our hearts, it doesn’t feel deserved. But accepting praise can slowly help you change the way you see yourself. Not only that, it can strengthen the bonds you have with the people complimenting you. 
  • Surround yourself with positive people who support you and can remind you of your worth and dignity as a person. It’s important to feel spiritually and mentally fed by those around you just as much as you feed others with your energy and presence. It’s good to appreciate yourself, but filling your life up with healthy relationships and others that appreciate you is another good step in caring for and loving yourself.
  • Say “no.” Setting limits and boundaries to allow for time to attend to your own needs is an integral part of putting self-love into practice. If there’s something in you that wants to say no to something, hear it out, and remember: At the end of the day, “No,” is a full sentence.
  • Write encouraging notes or messages to yourself. Start small, perhaps by giving yourself little self-love affirmations, if this practice feels strange. You know what you want or need to hear, so instead of waiting for someone else to say it to you, write it down and tell it to yourself. Let yourself feel heard and seen!
  • Write a love letter to yourself thanking you for all the things you have accomplished and feel proud of, as well as all the parts of you that are still growing as you learn to navigate life. This letter can take you a day or a month if you want, but again: You know best what you want to hear. Acknowledge what you’ve accomplished, both professionally and personally, and talk about how you hope to see yourself grow as you move through this next phase of life.

Through all of these practices, you can learn to invite more happiness and acceptance into your life and take care of yourself. Inviting good things into your mental headspace and keeping things out that don’t serve you are excellent ways to practice self-love and self-care. If you feel good about yourself, it’s much harder for others to make you feel bad.

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Christine Ridley, Resident in Counseling in Winston-Salem, NC

Christine Ridley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in adolescent and adult anxiety, depression, mood and thought disorders, addictive behaviors, and co-dependency issues.

Laura Harris, LCMHC in Durham, NC
Laura Harris, LCMHCLicensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
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Laura Harris is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC). She specializes in anger, anxiety, depression, stress management, coping strategies development, and problem-solving skills.

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Hannah DeWittMental Health Writer

Hannah is a Junior Copywriter at Thriveworks. She received her bachelor’s degree in English: Creative Writing with a minor in Spanish from Seattle Pacific University. Previously, Hannah has worked in copywriting positions in the car insurance and trucking sectors doing blog-style and journalistic writing and editing.

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    1. Self-Love and What It Means. (2020, July 9). Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.
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