Self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-love are all branches of the same tree. And to a great extent outer success in life – jobs, goals, achievements, material posessions and inner success in life (how you feel about yourself when you are alone – satisfied, proud, and peaceful) are hugely impacted by our level of all three.
So if learning how to love yourself determines your outer and inner success, I think it’s time we start talking about it, understanding what it is, and learning how to build our personal self-love muscles.
I was talking to a friend of mine this week and I gave her one of my favorite life coaching assignments. I told her to write a list of 25 things she was proud of. It’s called self-appreciation and it’s part of the core of learning to value ourselves and what we bring to the table, whether at work or at home.
She didn’t want to do it. She thought you had to be boastful and probably arrogant to have a list of things you were proud of.
I re-framed it for her and asked, what if I asked you to name achievements you have had and skills you possess to give to a potential employer?
Instantly she said that was different and she could absolutely put that list together.
Why the change?
When it became about someone or something else, it was suddenly easy to do. Which is great because it got her moving and noticing the qualities that make her strong and appreciating all she has to offer to the world.
Self-love has nothing to do with being boastful, full of ourselves, selfish, narcissistic or arrogant.
Self-love is about having regard for our own well-being. That’s it.
Being able to look at ourselves and appreciate our good qualities, forgive our mistakes, laugh at our bloopers and generally speaking treat ourselves nicely.
In other words, loving ourselves is just like loving anyone else.
So how do we build self-love?
In my opinion there are 4 core elements that can help us build our self-loving muscles. You can apply them to loving yourself or anyone else for that matter.
These are the 4 core elements of self-love:
Trust – do you trust yourself to make good decisions? Do you trust yourself to keep your word when you give it? What about when you give it to yourself instead of other people? Is it okay to let yourself down as long as you always keep your word to others? Why or why not?
How do you build trust? I like to do it in the tiniest steps possible. If you haven’t followed through on promises you made to yourself in a long time, don’t make a huge promise now. Start with a tiny one.
If you have been working too hard, make a promise to take a 10 minute break, stretch, and drink some water. If you always leave work late, make a promise to leave half an hour earlier once a week. Start with the smallest decision you can make and keep, and then keep it. Then make another one.
Empathy – Is the ability to understand your own feelings and thoughts. Understanding them without judging them wrong or pretending they aren’t happening is truly an advanced form of self-love.
How do you start to understand when you have been avoiding feeling your feelings for a while?
You start by giving yourself permission to feel what you feel. Whether it’s happy and grateful or sad and disappointed.
Life happens in a spectrum – just like a song isn’t just one note, the ups and downs of life are what give your experiences weight and texture and beauty and power.
You can be happy you got promoted and disappointed your child didn’t make it onto the soccer team all in the same day.
You can be sad your life didn’t turn out the way you thought it would and grateful you are healthy at the same time.
Having empathy is acknowledging your humanity and all its beautiful and ugly layers and accepting them as they are.
When you have empathy, you can accept reality as it is in this moment, even as you take steps to change or improve it.
Do you beat yourself up when you disappoint yourself? Do you mentally yell and scream at yourself when you make a mistake? Do your call yourself names?
Would you do that to someone you love?
Why do you do it to yourself?
Building compassion (aka, the desire to alleviate your own distress) starts with how you speak to yourself. If the thoughts you are having are tearing you down instead of building you up, you can start building empathy by questioning those thoughts.
You can start building compassion by asking yourself, “If my husband or my best friend was going through this, what would I say?”
You would probably say something like, “I believe in you. Everyone makes mistakes. Let’s start over.”
Try telling yourself whatever you would say to someone else you love. And then see how you react.
Do you accept your own compassion?
What would it take for you to accept it?
Value- The world value comes from valutus – to be of worth, to be strong. The last component of my self-love chocolate layer cake is treating yourself as if you are valuable.
If your opinion was important what would you do?
If how you felt about this issue really mattered, how would you handle it?
You are important and how you feel really does matter. To practice self-love is to act like you matter in your own life.
How do you do this if you have been putting everyone else first?
Start connecting with your tiniest delights – add one thing that makes you smile to the path of your day – whether it’s changing the radio station, buying a cupcake, wearing perfume or watching a mindless TV show that always makes you laugh.
Put yourself first, on the smallest scale you can manage, once a day.
This way you build your trust, and your value, empathy and compassion all at the same time.
Self-love is a practice.
You can do it completely imperfectly and still build your loving muscles as long as you keep practicing.
Just like the sounds of a piano might not be beautiful during your first class, but after a few months you can play basic songs, practicing self-love might be messy and scary and sound off key the first few times you do it, but eventually all the practice comes together, your life feels better, your decisions are easier, and your love is stronger.
Have you been struggling with putting yourself first in your life, career or marriage?
Has it been a long time since you have shown yourself compassion and care?
Are you ready to make time for yourself on the calendar of your life?
If you have been feeling anxious and restless trying to fulfill everyone’s needs while ignoring your own, it might be time to discover what’s holding you back and finally make those plans to move powerfully forward.
Do you know someone who is struggling with self-love or self-esteem issues? Please send them this post. It might be the spark of inspiration they need to choose to love themselves today. XO