You love your husband, kids, and even your family’s furry friend who always sheds all over your favorite black pants. But what about loving yourself? Do you actively show yourself unconditional love or do you save it for everyone else?
Experts agree that knowing how to love yourself unconditionally is the most crucial but also the hardest to achieve. But what does it mean anyway?
According to Midlife Reinvention Coach, Susan Tolles, unconditional love for yourself means treating yourself like you would your best friend. “You should be your own best friend, so treat yourself with kindness and unconditional love. No harsh words or criticism! Buy special gifts for yourself, think positive thoughts, and know that, if you fully love yourself, you can better express love to others.”
Life Coach Marcy Garcea concurs with the sentiment and adds that when you are unable to love yourself, you seek it from outside sources. “If you are not giving it to yourself, then you are looking for it on the outside. And, more than likely, you are looking for it from people who are not actually able to give it to you, either. Stop looking outside for your answers. You have everything you need inside of you.”
But even if you look to outside sources for that love, will it really work? Probably not.
Larry Cappel (LMFT) notes that you won’t allow yourself to be loved even if someone comes along with cupid’s arrow.
“If you believe that loving yourself means you can’t love someone else enough then you must also believe that love is a scarce commodity; there isn’t enough to go around so you need to be stingy with it. But love is not a finite thing. It doesn’t run out! In fact, if you can love yourself unconditionally then you will have a universe of love to give to others.”
And when you don’t?
“When you don’t love yourself, you block the flow of love to the rest of the world. Suddenly, there is not enough love to go around.”
Cappel likens not loving yourself to the battered person syndrome: “The victim does not love themselves enough to get out of violent situations. They keep coming back, telling themselves each time that if they were a better person, he or she wouldn’t hit me, for example. The secret belief is: I’m not worthy, so I can’t consider my own needs. If you were trained not to love yourself, it’s pretty hard to feel like you have value.”
So, now that we have established why it’s important to love yourself, how do you achieve this? Here, Cappel, Tolles, and Garcea offer five ways to learn how to love yourself unconditionally, even if you don’t have the foundation.
1. Grant yourself permission to put yourself first.
Tolles says that in order to “generously give yourself with joy and enthusiasm, first, you must be physically and emotionally charged. When you are depleted, you may get resentful about the things you do for others, and you may end up so exhausted that you get sick. It is OK to nurture yourself so you better care for others. In fact, it should be non-negotiable!”
Basically, loving yourself will help you give love to others, which is what you probably want to do anyway.
2. Learn how to say “no.”
Saying “no” doesn’t sound positive, but it becomes so when you’re saying “no” to save yourself. In fact, Cappel suggests that saying “no” is the sincerest form of unconditional self-love.
“If you love yourself, would you stick around out of responsibility even if your partner does nothing to help make the relationship work and may be mistreating you? Of course not. Unconditional love for self means you say ‘no’ to unloving acts towards you. And you, out of self-love, remove yourself from hurtful situations and people. Sadly, some people can only be loved from afar.”
3. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings.
We all make mistakes. Sometimes, they are minor, and sometimes they are major.
“Those moments when you just really mess something up and someone (or even you) get(s) hurt physically, mentally, or emotionally and your face becomes a red beacon of light, calling out to everyone to stare in silence at you as you perspire profusely, and very publicly,” says Garcea. “Can you forgive yourself? If your answer is ‘no’, you are not loving yourself unconditionally. If it is ‘yes, but,’ the same applies. There are no ‘buts’ in unconditional love. It holds no circumstance, no attribute, nothing against the person.”
4. Celebrate your accomplishments.
When was the last time you gave yourself credit for something wonderful you’ve done? Probably too long ago. Tolles suggests you should take inventory of your abilities and accomplishments.
“Spend some time to examine the things that make you special — your extraordinary skills and gifts, your values, the things that set you apart from others. If you have trouble with this, then ask your family and friends! So often, others see things in us that we cannot see.”
Tolles adds, “Write these things down and review them often, relishing in the joy that you have so much going for you! Accept the wonderful person that you are, including your flaws, and contentment will follow.”
5. Realize that you deserve happiness.
If you think your family deserves love, then you know you deserve it, too. When you know you deserve it, the feelings will come easier.
Garcea explains that it is an everyday battle but one that is worth it. “It is an ongoing process. Just as I do in a relationship, I wake up every day and decide I am going to do whatever it takes to make my relationship with myself work, because it is important. It matters enough to me to work at it every day. That does not mean I win every day. I am still human.”
We are all human and we all deserve love. Today, do yourself a favor and start with yourself. You’ll thank yourself later. And so will everyone who can feel the beautiful, loving energy enveloping you.