“It’s surprising how many persons go through life without ever recognizing that their feelings toward other people are largely determined by their feelings toward themselves, and if you’re not comfortable within yourself, you can’t be comfortable with others.”
– Sidney J. Harris
It is very difficult to find a loving partner if you don’t love yourself. Yes, love. Love means acceptance, compassion and a general positive, even affectionate feeling about who you are. Finding unconditional love from someone else is almost impossible. Everyone has some conditions. But acknowledging and deserving unconditional self-love is the basis for having a loving adult relationship. Why? Because you can’t expect others to love you if you don’t.
Self-love isn’t selfish or self-centered or self-deluding. It acknowledges your basic worth but also requires that you take care of that worth by actively nurturing yourself and others through loving behavior. Self-love is the foundation for being loving and attracting love.
7 basics for self-love
- Believe in your essential worth: No child is born unlovable. You weren’t either. Whatever has happened to your lovability since then is the result of the sum total of all your experiences — both positive and negative — and the conclusions you drew about yourself as you grew. The good news is that your core self is lovable. Believing that is the foundation for self-love. Anything about you that is unlovable has been learned and therefore can, with effort and commitment, be unlearned and replaced with more lovable attributes.
- Be actively lovable: You won’t accumulate more lovability by waiting for it to happen. It takes more than looking in a mirror and saying “I love you” to yourself several times a day. Researchers have repeatedly shown that to maintain the positive self-esteem that is your birth right, you need to do positive things. Do as much as you can to be a kind, just and positive contributor in the world. If that feels overwhelming, start small. Just make a point of doing something for someone else each day. Practice doing random acts of kindness. Volunteer. Your faith in your lovability will grow and you will develop more strength to tackle any of your not-so-lovable qualities.
- Take responsibility for anything that you don’t love about yourself. Yes, your core is lovable. What you do with the unlovable layers that may be covering that core is now your choice. Identify those layers and work on them. Apologize to anyone you have wronged and do your best to heal those relationships. If you haven’t behaved like you are a lovable person, start behaving differently. If you don’t yet feel all that lovable, start acting “as if” you are by doing loving things — even when you don’t particularly feel like it. With enough repetition, what at first feels like “faking it” will eventually become real.
- Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Being perfect isn’t necessary for being lovable. In fact, people who think they are “perfect” are often insufferable narcissists. Being lovable requires accepting yourself as imperfect. It’s enough to do things as best as you can even if, especially if, you can’t reach perfection. The challenge is knowing what it means to do the “best you can.” Be forgiving but also be honest: Have you really been making the effort to be and show your lovable self?
- Express gratitude. Acknowledging the way that others make your life better or easier is a powerful way to both build and show your lovability. Say thank you for any kindness. Post grateful notices on your Facebook page. Don’t forget to thank yourself for anything you do each day that supports your lovability. Taking care of yourself by eating well, getting some exercise and making sure you get good sleep are all statements of self-love that deserve self-acknowledgment. Studies have shown that acting on your gratitude will make you more kind and, yes, more lovable.
- Put on a happy face. Over 150 years ago, poet Ella Wheeler wrote, “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.” She was on to something. Scientists have found that smiling and laughing makes people both feel better and seem more approachable and even more attractive to others. Smiling is actually contagious. When people smile, others are wired to smile back. All those smiles make folks more loving and lovable.
- Stop and smell the roses. All work and no play do make a person dull — and less lovable. Don’t let your work drown out all pleasure or take up so much time there is no time left for fun. Loving yourself means being your most enlightened and generous caretaker. Love yourself enough to take time off, to pursue a hobby, to spend time outdoors, to enjoy whatever it is about life you find enjoyable. By enriching your life, you expand your lovability. Sharing things that give you joy is one of the best ways to spread that love to the rest of your world.
It’s a mistake to look to others to validate and love you in order to feel lovable. That’s giving all your own power away. You have the power. You can protect and nurture the core of lovability that is your birthright. The more you practice self-acceptance and self-love, the more you spread that love to other people, the more others are likely to love you.