If there's one thing we're not short of at the moment, it's hearing about self-love, self-care, and the general art of being kind to yourself - but sometimes that can be easier said than done. Learning how to truly love yourself can be hard, but it's something that's important for us all to try to do.
And while working on loving yourself can improve your wellbeing in all aspects of your life, it can also have a positive impact on your relationships too.
How to love yourself
So, what does it mean to really love yourself?
"Loving yourself isn't all about bubble baths and pedicures ... everything in life boils down to self-love," says self-love mentor, Gina Swire, who runs courses and private coaching on upgrading your self-worth.
"Every relationship you have, with friends, with romantic partners, with family, or with clients, is based off the relationship you have with yourself," Gina continues.
But if that sounds overwhelming, it doesn't need to be - and it's impossible for any of us to stay positive all the time. "[Self-love] is also very much about being able to sit with the parts of you that you do not love," Gina adds.
So, the bottom line is being kind to yourself - and noticing when you're not, says Essex-based counsellor and member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), Dee Johnson. "Be aware when perhaps you are being a bit neglectful - to your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, and make a caring change."
Why is loving yourself so important?
Of course, it goes without saying that loving yourself has a positive impact on your life, and not loving yourself can have some negative effects too.
In terms of the benefits, "investing in loving yourself builds self-respect, confidence, motivation, a desire to achieve good things for yourself, to connect with others, and the ability to put boundaries in place, such as saying no to toxic people," explains Dee.
Meanwhile, not loving yourself can affect your relationships with the people closest to you, too.
"If you're looking after yourself first, you're filling your cup, and you can give to people from the overflow," Gina explains. "And if you're depleted ... you won't be showing up as the best you can be because you don't have the energy to give."
Why do we struggle to love ourselves?
OK, so why is loving yourself actually so hard?
According to Gina, one of the main problems is that people think loving yourself is 'bad', and saying someone loves themselves can be used as a derogatory phrase. "But that's absolutely not the case," Gina explains. "Self-love is self-full, and it's never selfish."
Another problem people have is thinking that the reason they don't love themselves is down to something external, Gina adds. "You might put down your lack of feeling good to the way you look, how much you weigh, what you have and haven’t succeeded at, how intelligent you are, how much money you have, or how much power you’re perceived to have.
"It is never about those things. It’s always about something deeper," she explains - and the way to curb these thoughts is to challenge any negative self-talk and the limiting beliefs you have about yourself.
Having trouble loving yourself can also come from your past experiences in early adolescence through to early adulthood, Dee says. "These life events shape and inform how we perceive our worth and value, and how we fit in in the world," Dee explains - so don't be hard on yourself.
How to love yourself: A step by step guide
Try out some of these practical tips for loving yourself more.
1. Get better at accepting compliments
Yep, it's easy to shrug compliments off but, says Dee, "When we dismiss a compliment (often with an embarrassed and rejecting response) we are reinforcing [the idea] that we are not worthy."
So, how to do it? "Accept that people value, admire or just like what you do, and over time accepting it from others has the same impact on [how you think about] yourself," Dee explains.
2. Treat yourself
Whether it's food, pampering or a purchase you've had your eye on, just remember that treats are "not a reward you feel you have had to justify earning," says Dee.
3. Positive self-talk and mantras
It's no surprise that how we talk about ourselves has an impact on how we feel - and there are ways of trying to speak more kindly about yourself.
Dee suggests having a 'negative self-talk' jar, which you put money (or whatever you like) in whenever you say something bad about yourself.
Meanwhile, Gina suggests 'mirror work', where you make eye contact with the mirror and take a moment to be with yourself. Try saying something kind to your reflection, like "I love you, you're doing a really good job, well done for doing this exercise," Gina suggests.
4. Make time for the things you enjoy
According to Gina, "self-love is being, doing and having more of the things you love in your life," so making space for those things, activities and people is only going to make a positive difference.
5. Remove things that don't serve you
As much as you should make more space for the things you enjoy, you should also get rid of the things that you don't serve you - whether that's physical clutter in your house or negative habits, places or people. "Write them on a piece of paper and burn it," says Gina.
"Start saying no to things that don't light you up, and start saying yes to things that do."
6. Try counselling
Dee describes therapy as a way of investing in yourself - and one that will always give a good return on investment, so it can be worth trying even if you never have done before.
"Counselling is there to help you engage and understand yourself more," Dee explains, adding that it's a chance to "process any negativity, low self-worth [and] self-rejection in an objective place."
You can find a therapist using the directory on the BACP website.
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