What Exactly does it Mean to Love Yourself?

What Exactly Does it Mean to Love Yourself?

So, what exactly does it mean to love yourself? By now I’m sure you’ve heard the term self-love plenty of times.  After all, in these days of spirituality seeking and new ways of thinking concepts such as loving yourself are starting to become more mainstream, whereas back in the dark ages of the last century, things like self-love, yoga and the law of attraction were still thought of as pretty woo-woo, right? 

But even though we may all be fairly familiar with the term by now, many of us may still be unsure just what it means to love yourself.  After all, if you’re anything like me, growing up self-love had kind of a bad rap.  I grew up hearing all sorts of comments with negative connotations towards anyone displaying the slightest sign of self-love like “Isn’t he full of himself?” or “She’s really in love with herself, isn’t she? 

And with all the talk about being selfish, self-centered and focused leads us to believe only one thing: It is a bad thing to love yourself.  This implies that all your love must be directed outward.  

And this combined with any other negative experiences we had as children such as harsh or critical parents to traumas from outright abuse or neglect, by the time we have made it adulthood, we’re jam-packed full of some pretty negative messages when it comes to loving ourselves or even simply seeing ourselves as worthy of such a high concept!  Am I right? 

So, here are some of the core concepts of loving ourselves, along with their opposites, more commonly known as our default behavior much of the time when we are going along through life unconsciously. 

“All of our neuroses stem from the learned basic fear ‘I am not lovable’.  The pure awareness of your unconditioned self’s basic truth is ‘I am lovable’! ” 

~ Louise Hay 

Here’s What it Means to Love Yourself…

We Accept Ourselves

When we love ourselves, we accept all things about ourselves. We accept our feelings, we accept where we are at in life, we accept the mistakes we have made.

This doesn’t mean we have to like these things. What it does mean is that we give ourselves grace for being human. We understand we have things to work on and keep that in conscious awareness. We dedicate ourselves to always being better and growing.

The opposite of this or default mode is Judging or criticizing ourselves and living in denial of our nature. 

We Are Understanding of Ourselves

When we love ourselves, we understand we are not perfect. We understand we have needs, wants and desires. We understand we may not always make sense to ourselves and that doesn’t mean we’re crazy. We understand we are human and that we’re just doing the best we can at any given moment.

The opposite of this or default mode is striving for perfectionism or being harsh towards ourselves.  We don’t give ourselves any slack, we beat ourselves up for past mistakes or failures and we place impossible standards on ourselves, setting ourselves up for failure and a vicious cycle.

We Take Care of Ourselves 

Taking care of ourselves in all ways including physically, our appearance, our health, exercising, making a habit of making good, nourishing food for ourselves.  

The opposite of this or default mode is letting ourselves go, not putting any effort into our appearance, not looking after our health, falling into habits that we know aren’t good for us with food, exercise or productivity. 

We Put Ourselves First

 Taking care of our needs before taking care of everyone else and making our needs just as important as those we love and care for.

The opposite of this or default mode is putting everyone else’s needs before our own.  This doesn’t mean that we become selfish.  Rather this means that we take time to fill our own cup so we can continue to use it to give to others.  Without it, we become overwhelmed, exhausted, burned out, bitter. 

And we know how tough it becomes to keep caring for others when we feel like we have not an ounce left to give.  At that point, caring for others we love stops becoming a joy and starts becoming a resentment.  And that just leads down the rabbit hole of so many other problematic behaviors with our relationships as well as our ability to love ourselves. 

We Are Gentle with Ourselves and Attuned to our Needs 

This means honoring ourselves and being able to recognize what we may be needing in any given moment.  This looks like taking some time to relax, knowing when to step back and refill ourselves. 

The opposite of this or default mode is ignoring our needs, running ourselves into the ground and not seeing them as having as much value as others or all the things we have to accomplish. 

Embracing and allowing yourself the right to what you are feeling

The opposite of this or default mode is denying and suppressing your feelings which will result in anger, relationship difficulties, self-hatred, disease and other things. 

We Take Responsibility

When we love ourselves we take responsibility, not only for our own life, behavior and our actions, we take responsibility for our own happiness. We realize that no one or thing outside of ourselves can ‘make’ us happy if we don’t first cultivate that happiness within ourselves.

We also take responsibility for our emotions and the way we use those emotions towards others. We respond rather than react, even in difficult situations.

The opposite of this or default mode is blaming others or the world around us for our problems, perceived or real. 

We Have No Regrets or Guilt

This doesn’t mean we do things without remorse.  This means we are human and we will make mistakes.  But instead of sabotaging ourselves with endless guilt and regret, we learn the valuable lesson from our mistake and don’t repeat it. 

We give ourselves grace and forgive ourselves. Then we simply move on, all the wiser!  

The opposite of this or default mode is immersing ourself in the bottomless pool of blame, guilt and regret. 

We Face Our Truths

When we face our own truths, we don’t fall into traumatizing ourselves repeatedly.  We face our demons, subpersonalities or shadow and dark sides, allowing and welcoming all parts of ourself and integrating them into the whole of ourself.  

The opposite of this or default mode is burying parts of ourselves and hiding from ourselves and the world.  Along with self-loathing, this results in shame, guilt and fear. 

We Have Self-respect  

When we respect ourselves, we make the effort to establish healthy boundaries for ourselves and we hold to them!

The opposite of this or default mode is letting ourselves be taken advantage of by others and/or abuse us. 

We Choose Healthy Relationships

When we truly love ourselves, we won’t settle for less than having healthy, nourishing, mutually beneficial relationships.  

The opposite of this or default mode is settling for or even gravitating towards destructive or toxic relationship patterns. 

We are Secure

Being secure enough in ourselves allows us to be aware and to realize that others’ behavior or treatment of us is not a reflection of us but of them.  

The opposite of this or default mode is taking everything others say or do to us personally and internalizing it as the truth of who we are. 

We Desire to Know Ourself

When we love ourselves, we have a deep desire to know ourself on a deep level. This often looks like being interested in topics like psychology, self-help, relationships and even spiritual seeking.

The opposite of this or default setting is not being in touch with ourselves and filling our lives with empty distractions.  At its worst, it may result in hiding from ourselves and even having feelings of self-hatred.

We Pursue our Dreams

When we love ourselves, we have a strong desire to know our life purpose and allow ourself to have big dreams. We set goals and make concrete plans to move towards those goals and we take focused actions towards getting there!

This, of course, cannot occur until after you have taken the time and made the effort to get to know yourself and what it is you truly desire.   

The opposite of this or default mode is settling for a mundane existence, even though we may feel empty or miserable and staying in our comfort zones. Even though we may say we have dreams, we don’t really believe in them and do nothing to move ourself out of our rut and towards them.

We Practice Gratitude  

When we love ourselves and are aware, we are grateful for everything we have, as well as for every experience, even ones that don’t initially seem positive. We allow ourselves to be open to receiving and learning.

The opposite of this or default mode is feeling ungrateful and focusing on and believing in lack. 

We Consciously Seek Growth 

When we love ourselves we don’t settle for less in anything, and that includes ourselves! We want to be the very best version of ourselves and will dedicate ourselves to continuous growth.

The opposite of this or default mode is just wanting life and ourselves to always stay the same, preferring to stay in our ‘comfort zone’. 

Learning to love yourself is a process which happens a little each day.  You’re not going to wake up tomorrow after reading this article and be totally transformed, though we all wish it were that easy! 

But if you keep these points in mind (re-reading this over and over will help to keep it fresh) and start putting them into practice, with reflection, I promise that each day will bring a little more insight and depth of understanding.  

And with that in mind, just think how much different your life could be and how you could be feeling about yourself if you practiced loving yourself on a consistent basis! 

As humans, we are always in a constant state of expansion or contraction.  We are either growing and changing for the better or we are shrinking back from life.  There are many who strive to just keep their lives the same, claiming to want a simple, stress-free, non-drama life.   

But, in reality, this kind of life is not truly possible, because life is like water.  And water must be flowing to be pure and nourishing.  Otherwise, it is stagnant.  And stagnant water isn’t merely water that is not moving, but water that very quickly becomes mucky, stinky and dirty, right?   

One cannot remain forever the same in their life and not let stagnation set in.  Life just doesn’t work that way.  Human existence doesn’t work that way.  Life will always bring us changes and challenges, and it is up to us to either go with the flow and catch the wave, grow from the experience or resist it, which ultimately will only cause suffering to ourselves. 

So self-love keeps us on the path of self-growth and that is expansion. 

With Infinite Love,

Áine McGowan

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