Self-love is something everyone can create. Self-love is not ego or narcissism. Self-love is a deep sense of our own self-worth and value as a person. It’s believing that we are worthy of love, respect, safety, and connection. It's believing that our past, present, and future doesn't change our worth. When we don’t feel lovable or deserving, our sense of self-love will help us be there for ourselves anyways.
How do you develop self-love?
1. Make boundaries
Boundaries establish the expectations you have about how others should treat you. They show your belief in your own value, worth, and right to respect.
Boundaries help you develop self-love by:
Contributing to a strong sense of identity
Ensuring our own needs, desires, and values are a priority to us
Teaching others how to treat us (and what kind of treatment we won’t tolerate)
Protecting us from physical, mental, emotional, and sexual harm
Ensuring we are not sacrificing our values for the sake of our relationships
Read 5 Tips for Setting Boundaries in Relationships for more information on setting boundaries.
2. Romance yourself
Romancing yourself is developing a relationship with yourself. The same type of relationship you want with others. It means giving yourself the support to achieve your dreams and desires. It means offering yourself the same care, intimacy, and love you want from others. It’s more than self-care activities, but self-care is part of it.
Romancing yourself helps develop self-love by:
Creating joy from inside instead of outside yourself
Developing romantic relationships based on choice instead of need or fear
Depending on yourself to fulfill your love needs
3. Increase your emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and name all your feelings. It helps you communicate feelings in a healthy and non-hurtful way. It teaches you when it is appropriate to share feelings and when you should put them aside for a time. It helps you recognize the emotions of other people.
Increasing emotional intelligence helps develop self-love through:
Learning to value our emotional experiences and listen to our emotions
Learning healthy ways to express ourselves and avoid hurting others
Learning to separate our emotions from other people’s emotions and behaviours
Ways to increase your emotional intelligence include:
Body scan and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) exercises, to teach you how your emotions affect your body
Mindfulness meditations, to teach you how to focus your mind on the present moment
Expressing uncomfortable emotions through creative means (instead of avoiding or numbing them).
4. Decrease the self-critic
Everybody has that voice in our head that tells you you're not good enough, or that you won’t succeed. That is the self-critic. The self-critic’s voice is often one you recognize: a parent, teacher, or coach. Or it could be your own anxiety. Whoever it sounds like, the self-critic doesn't improve the way you feel about yourself.
Muting the self-critic helps develop self-love by:
Creating a true understanding of your strengths and limitations
Helping you believe other people’s positive thoughts about you
Teaching you to accept mistakes and failures as learning opportunities
Seeing your own values not related to success or productivity
5. Practice self-empathy
Empathy means the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. To practice empathy is to show someone you think they are valuable and worthy, even if they are not in a good place. Acting that way toward yourself is self-empathy.
Practicing self-empathy develops self-love by:
Creating a belief that you have value
Allowing you to accept yourself as you are
Allowing you to be on your own side when things get hard
Teaching you to stop judging yourself
Teaching you to speak kindly to yourself
This list does not describe the only ways that we can develop self-love, but it does give a good starting point. Some of these things are also harder than others and can take more time to develop. But that’s okay, part of self-love is letting things take the time they need to take. Self-love is not built overnight and takes longer if you received a lack of love growing up. So be kind to yourself and work on it when you can.
If you would like professional guidance building your sense of self-love, you can drop-in for counselling and speak to one of our mental health therapists.