Advice about self-love is so cliché. Put your own oxygen mask on first, you have to love yourself before you can love someone else, etc, etc. We are our own worst critics, even if outwardly we are superficially overconfident.
Practically speaking, self-love sounds very simple, but usually ends up being very complicated because of all of the ways we often do damage to ourselves. We talk negatively to ourselves often, as we visited in our article about avoiding shaming yourself into change. Shifting the way we talk to ourselves is a simple way of starting the complicated process of loving ourselves.
You can start by naming things you love about yourself, then slowly turning negative things you say to yourself into their opposite, for example, if you constantly tell yourself you are stupid, start saying to yourself how intelligent you are. This might feel forced at first and is more effective if you can say it genuinely when you feel you really did something smart. Check out The Book of Afformations by Noah St. John for ideas on how to start.
Forgiving oneself for things you have done or experienced is a good way to ease into the more complicated way of loving yourself. My personal opinion is the mantra of having no regrets is too simplistic and not realistic. The purpose of regret is to help inform changes you want to make, and once you have made those changes, it is only useful as a reminder if a similar situation arises. Work to forgive yourself for the things you don’t love about yourself, and use these as points to change if you so choose. Not every regret, though, is something entirely within your control, so be aware that not every regret requires an action, and just forgive.
Therapy and support groups are wonderful tools for particularly painful regrets that you need to work through. If you find yourself struggling with things you cannot forgive yourself for, reach out for assistance. Your insurance, employer EAP plan, or United Way 211 all have information on therapists available to help you work through it.
These are processes, that you will need to go through again and again, but even just starting, it will help you remember the things you love about yourself. You can expand your self-love by continuing beyond just being kind to yourself and forgiving yourself, you can choose to incorporate things you truly enjoy into your life. Make appointments for yourself during your week to do things that you feel better afterward, like art, walking, talking with a best friend, sports, fishing. You don’t have to get a hobby for the sake of it, but you do need to make a point of enjoying your life in a way that really pleases you.
Finally love yourself by setting boundaries. You don’t have to ghost someone or give a rude dismissal speech to do this. You can set boundaries at the beginning of relationships and at various points throughout friendships in a kind way that respects the other person, and still allows them the opportunity to respect your boundaries. You do not have to accept treatment that is rude or damaging to you, make sure you clearly explain how you feel about the behavior, forgive the actions, and if they continue to behave the same way, you can reduce or end your contact with that person. Our culture these days is quick to jump to “blocked” or “canceled” but that will not help you grow either. Give people a chance to understand your self-respect, and to mirror that back to you.
As a way to help you extend your self-love outward when others are not as loving, try Metta meditation. There are many guided versions online, as well as wonderful resources in our community like ModernOm, BK Meditation Center, and Sacred Space that feature spiritual guides who can help you employ this type of meditation. This type of meditation is aimed at remembering those fundamental human needs and to wish them for yourself as well as those around you.
Loving yourself so you can love others is a wonderful endeavor. But remember, amidst all those well-intentioned inspirational quotes, it is also okay to love yourself for the sake of loving yourself.