Do you love yourself? This can feel like a pretty heavy question and one that's hard to answer – but why?
Just 10% of young adults say they love themselves, according to new research from Mind and Direct Line. Plus, previous studies have shown one in two women globally feel more self-doubt than self-love, and 55% of men don't think they are liked by others.
But while loving yourself isn’t something you can achieve overnight, we can all learn to treat ourselves more kindly overtime.
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Why do we struggle to love ourselves?
As with many behaviours and emotions, we can look back to our childhood.
"It’s said that our template for how to treat ourselves comes from those who have cared for us from a young age. If we have been treated compassionately, we are more likely to have a gentle self-talk voice in our adulthood," explains Dr Trent.
This doesn't necessarily mean we need to place any blame on our parents or caregivers, but it can help to understand why we feel the way we do. Plus, adds Dr Trent, "People we meet along the way might also dent our self-esteem, reducing our capacity for self-love."
Other external factors may also lead us to refrain from openly expressing self-worth.
"Sometimes a fear of what others might say can hold us back from saying that we love ourselves," says Dr Trent. "There may be a concern that it is seen as arrogant or narcissistic when in actual fact, it is essential and will help attract others to you and help you to set boundaries around them."
Whether you've been moulded by your past, a situation in your present, or don't know how to let your self-guard down, it is possible to make positive changes.
"Regardless of the reasons why you might be experiencing a lack of self-affection, there is always hope and in my professional and personal life I have seen people achieve massive shifts in their life by welcoming in self-compassion at any stage," Dr Trent highlights.
How is loving yourself and mental health connected?
Finding self-love isn't just for show, as without it your life can be drastically impacted, perhaps without even realising why.
"If we don’t feel at least a fond affection for ourselves it means our self-esteem is impacted upon and as a result, we are less likely to set healthy boundaries for ourselves or others," explains Dr Trent. "This can impact upon all life areas including relationships, housing, occupation, salary and even health.
"Our mental health is also likely to be poorer with people being likely to report higher rates of a whole range of things including anxiety, depression, stress and burnout."
How can you love yourself?
Dr Trent has one key top tip for knowing if you are on the right track to self-love.
"One of the most important signs of loving yourself is knowing that you are the main character in your own life and that everyone else is a supporting act or an ‘extra’," she says.
"Know that it is highly likely that by giving yourself permission to be happier that everyone else in your life will also benefit in the long run too."
There are also everyday techniques you can practice to help you feel more positively about yourself.
"Noticing and accepting, sometimes in the form of affirmations, can be some of the first key steps to take into being able to move towards loving yourself," Dr Trent explains. "So, for example: 'I notice that I am not a supermodel and I accept that. I know that I have a lot of good traits about me and that I am a worthwhile person'."
Dr Trent also suggests setting (positive) limits for yourself such as:
Try to get around eight hours of sleep per night, make any necessary changes to allow an earlier bedtime and/or a later wake time
Learn to say ‘NO’ to others and know that to do so doesn’t make you a bad person
Begin to ask for what you want rather than expecting people to be mind readers and then being disappointed when your needs aren’t met
These will help you to learn to put your own needs first, rather than at the back of the queue – and feel worthy of doing so.
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