**Note: I have written 100+ articles on this website about ways to improve yourself. Besides meditation, nothing comes close to how much the content of this article has changed my life. If you’re ever going to truly apply an article, this is the one.**
Do you love yourself?
That’s a hard question to answer. Of course you love yourself, right? After all, you are YOU.
But it’s not that simple. We live in a culture where we’re constantly shown what we don’t look like, who we aren’t and what we don’t have. Self-love and acceptance is surely at an all-time low.
To make matters more confusing, the people who act the most confident often have the most dire issues with loving themselves. Do not mistake compensation for authentic self-love.
Indicators of self-love issues:
- Being hyper-critical of yourself
- Difficulty in loving others (because you must first love yourself)
- Self-sabotage (not doing what you KNOW you should be doing)
- Being self-conscious in social situations
- Difficulty in fully accepting compliments
- No accomplishment is ever enough, even temporarily
- Not valuing your own time and priorities (being overly nice to others)
Self-love is the foundation of most every self-improvement topic. If you’re looking to be the best version of yourself, this is the place to start.
This is something that everyone can work on, no matter how much you love yourself. There is no limit as to how much self-love you can cultivate and the benefits you can reap from it.
Before I delve further into this topic, I want to share with you the story of how this has affected me.
4 months ago, no one would have guessed that I had issues with self-love…
- I had created a booming online blog/community, co-founded a movement well on its way to changing the world and just sold another company for a sizable sum
- I had an extremely fit body, complete with a defined 6-pack
- Never had issues finding beautiful girlfriends
- Spent ample time each week helping people with their life
Life was good.
But one night of psychedelic introspection revealed all was not well beneath the surface:
- My successes were never enough to make me feel accomplished. Even worse, I noticed how prone I was to subtle self-sabotage, thereby curbing the success of those ventures. For example, I had known for a while that I should be sending out a newsletter to HighExistence users to help bring traffic back to the site. I was sitting on a database of 30,000+ emails and doing nothing with them.
- My fit body was never fit enough. I even remained insecure about some parts of my body despite them looking how I had only dreamed of years earlier.
- I had a long track record of suddenly losing interest in girls once it was clear that they truly loved and cared for me. One week I was head-over-heels in love with a girl, and the next I had lost interest to the point of not being able to kiss them without a feeling of disgust. For years I had no idea what was wrong. It was incredibly frustrating because I felt like I had no control over this phenomenon and none of my friends seemed to experience the same issue. Then that night it suddenly became clear that I was subconsciously sabotaging these relationships because deep down, I felt unworthy of being loved. There was nothing wrong with the wonderful girls I had dated, in fact the issue was that inside I felt they were too good for me.
- I had issues taking compliments from people, eg. HighExistence readers writing to me about how much they loved HE. Reading those nice words felt uncomfortable; I actually disliked reading and replying to them.
- I would go to great lengths to help others, to the extent of greatly eating into my own time and preventing me from reaching personal goals. Loving others can only go so far until it is unhealthy, and you end up hurting yourself.
All of this hit me at once like a train. I spent the next day reading every article on the web about self-love and exercises to cultivate it. Over the next month I practiced the techniques outlined in the next section religiously. The results have been profound. Each of the previous indicators have been completely reversed:
- Self-sabotage is a thing of the past. It’s now easy to become aware of any tasks that I’m putting off for illogical reasons and to attack them immediately. It feel really good. For more info on this, check out my 30 Days of Fear Challenge.
- I’m 100% happy with my body while still having a healthy desire to continually improve
- I’m in love with an amazing girl who loves me back with the same intensity, and am feeling none of that unease that plagued me in the past. We have the all-encompassing, reciprocal love that I have always yearned for. And yes I met her through HighExistence :)
- I love receiving compliments, especially if I can shoot them back with double the <3
- I’ve segregated my personal time from time set aside communicate with and help others (currently Tuesdays and Thursdays)
Note: These exercises might feel weird, awkward and fake at first, but that will change quickly. The phrase “fake it til you make it” really applies to self-love.
I found this to be the most effective exercise, while also being the hardest to bring yourself to do because it’s so bizarre.
Go into a room with a mirror and lock the door. Get close to the mirror, no more than a foot away. Stare deep into your eyes for 2 minutes. Not in the way that you normally look at yourself in the mirror — actively become aware that this is you. Once that strange sensation comes over you, repeat the words ‘I love you’ out loud for a minute. Then begin stating things that you like about yourself — how you look, things that you’re good at, what you’re accomplished, etc.
This sounds really silly, but it feels fantastic. Reach your hands as far around you as possible and squeeze. Hold this for a minute or two while repeating ‘I love you’ and really feeling it. Focus your awareness on the area around your heart.
Reverse Each Criticism
Whenever you hear yourself criticizing yourself, immediately follow it up with two compliments, ideally but not necessarily related to the criticism.
Feeling love towards others is a good way to ramp up towards showing love to yourself. Go through the people you care most about in your mind and send them love. Picturing yourself giving them a huge hug. Wish them a fantastic day and the fulfillment of the dreams most dear to them. After you’ve gone through your family and closest friends, do the same for yourself.
If you have issues with valuing your own time, pick one day a week to focus entirely on yourself. Take the extra time to make the food you love the most, take an extra long shower, sleep in, etc. Show yourself love just like you would your significant other.
Love, Love, Love
Take a few introspective minutes to look for the indicators of self-love issues in your life. I cannot explain how empowering it feels to shift from a place of lack to a place of full self-love and acceptance. Self-love is the foundation for everything.
Please share your experiences, realizations and additional exercises about self-love in the comments!
<3 <3 <3
Original artwork by Liz Hu