Learning to love yourself – tips & exercises
Self-love – a big topic. Many of us have to learn what it means to love ourselves over the course of our lives. How I managed to cultivate self-love - and how loving myself changed my life.
Everyone always talks about self-love, but what does that actually mean?
I believe that every person has their own understanding of what exactly it means to love themselves. But there are also “official” definitions. According to Wikipedia , for example, self-love, or self-love, refers to "the all-encompassing acceptance of oneself in the form of an unrestricted love for oneself. The term is related, but not completely synonymous, with terms such as self-acceptance, self-esteem, self-care, self-confidence and self-worth."
Intuitively, I would also say that self-love has a lot to do with your own self-esteem, acceptance of yourself and also self-confidence.
Unfortunately, some people find it much easier to love others than themselves. Why is that? Maybe it's because we don't know anyone better than ourselves? That we spend every second of our lives in our own society and therefore know about both the good and bad sides of ourselves?
But why don't we love ourselves unconditionally from birth? Just like mothers and fathers do at best? I definitely think that even in childhood we love ourselves unconditionally. We do not yet have an explicit understanding of such a construct. Yet we don't question at all whether we are even worth loving. We know that we are. Only through learning experiences and critical situations do we develop beliefs and subjective “truths” that make us doubt ourselves and our worth. This often continues into adulthood.
By the way, self-love does not mean the same thing as self-love . Self-love is more about accepting who we are – with all our strengths and weaknesses. Self-infatuation, on the other hand, alludes more to an overestimation, idealization and glorification of oneself.
What happens if we don't (can't) love ourselves?
Low self-esteem, self-confidence or a lack of self-acceptance put a number of obstacles in our way. We are insecure, afraid and don't have much confidence in ourselves. We don't allow ourselves to live the life we would actually like to live.
If we don't like ourselves, it can even lead to serious psychological problems such as depression or anxiety. We feel helpless, at the mercy and think that we ourselves cannot change anything about our own situation.
If you recognize yourself or a loved one in these descriptions, it may make sense to seek professional help, for example from a therapist. You can find further information on dealing with (acute) depression at the German Depression Aid, for example .
What we think about ourselves makes up a large part of our identity. Our self-image also plays an important role when dealing with other people. For example, we can value other people more if we also value ourselves.
Learning to love yourself is essential for a fully fulfilled life and long-term psychological well-being. As I said, it's not about always feeling perfect and super great - but about liking yourself the way you are.
How can I learn and develop self-love?
Over the last few years I have really taken big steps towards self-love. Today I can say: “I think I’m good the way I am.” About 5 years ago I would have frowned upon such a sentence and not even dared to think it. I was pretty dissatisfied with myself most of the time and thought I was an imposition on everyone around me. Those weren't good times, and I'm glad that some of those thoughts and feelings towards myself have changed.
I would like to share with you the things that have particularly helped me on my way to more self-love. So that you too (re)discover how great you actually are. ❤️
1. Connect with your heart and your inner voice
It sounds so simple. But it's not that easy to listen to your own heart. On your own inner voice, your own intuition.
My entire life I have listened to what other people wanted from me. How society wanted me to be. I turned all the other voices up to full volume to fit in. To be a good person. To be loved. What fell completely by the wayside: my own voice. Whenever I had to make a decision, I always first asked everyone else what they would advise me. I always put other people's opinions above my own.
In my early 20s I realized that I couldn't base my entire life on other people. I asked myself who I actually was, who I wanted to be and what my opinions were. I didn't know the answer to any of these questions.
Still, I knew I had to start listening to my intuition again and find my own voice again. Because ultimately only I know what is right and best for me.
The voice of your heart and your intuition are almost never wrong. You just have to manage to perceive these inner voices. Turn it up a little. Because that's the only way you'll ultimately get to where you belong. If you only listen to the voices of others, you will never be able to be completely happy.
Always pause in everyday life and try to notice what your heart is telling you. The inner voices don't always have to "speak" to you; sensations like a queasy stomach or a warm feeling around the heart also give you clues about what you actually feel and think. Especially when decisions have to be made.
It is not uncommon for it to take some time until you become aware of your own inner voice again. Journaling exercises and self-reflection questions can also help you find your inner voice.
2. Discover and promote your strengths, talents and skills
The second change that changed a lot in my life: I began to focus on my strengths, talents and resources. It's always easy for us to list things we're "bad" at or have problems with. But what about all the things we are really good at; with our talents and skills? We often don't even notice them or take them for granted.
Every person has strengths and their own personal toolbox of resources. What does that mean? Every time we overcome a challenging situation, we gain experience. We develop strategies for success and learn from them.
How do you get access to these very individual resources, strengths and skills?
First of all, you can consciously reflect on yourself, for example with questions like: What do other people value about me? How did I survive situation x? What did I do, how did I deal with it? What am I good at? What do I like to do? …
Then it can also be very helpful to ask other people about it. Ultimately, they see you in a different, often more appreciative light than you probably see yourself. What defines you? What do they value about you? What can you do especially good? What do other people see as your talents? What makes you unique?
Write down all of these things. And then follow these. Celebrate them, acknowledge them, be proud of yourself and your strengths! If you find something that you are good at and that brings you joy at the same time, then nothing will stand in the way of your happiness.
Loving yourself means appreciating yourself for what makes you who you are. For everything you're good at. Because every person on this earth has unique strengths, talents and abilities. Find yours.
3. Allow yourself to feel and give space to your emotions
This point was very essential for my personal development. I have changed the way I view my own emotions and how to deal with them.
I have to say that I am a very emotional and really sensitive person. I always saw this emotionality as a weakness. After all, you're taught (sadly) from a young age that tears are a sign of weakness. That emotionality (especially in women) means insecurity or incompetence. Today I know that's not true. I always see other people's open dealings with emotions as a strength. Being able to show yourself vulnerable is an incredible gift. So why shouldn’t I also acknowledge my emotionality?
Hiding, suppressing or swallowing your own emotions until they burst out can be very stressful. You feel bad; Thinks that you are overreacting to a situation or that you are weak. We also tend to identify with our emotions. We often think things like “I am a sad person”, “My life is a complete tragedy”, etc.
We forget that emotions are a natural part of the human experience. They come and go. We are not our emotions, we feel them. They may be a part of us, but they never make us complete.
So instead of becoming one with our emotions, we should rather observe them, accept them, let them be there and then let them go again. Try to recognize your emotions as a natural, completely human experience. Say to yourself “I’m feeling sad right now because x happened.” / “X makes me sad.”, not: “I am sad.” Allow yourself to feel the emotion, let it be there. Whatever comes up, it's okay. It's human. But stop giving your emotions all the power over you. You are so much more than what you feel right now.
What can also help is processing your emotions in a physical way. Let her out. Dance, sing, scream, punch a pillow, write your heart out... Whatever helps you release the energies, do it. Just please make sure that no one else gets hurt. ;-)
A few words at the end
Now to bring the most important thing back to the point:
You are worth loving. Simply because you are a human being. That alone is enough.
You are more than your thoughts and your emotions.
You're fine the way you are.
– I hope that at some point you will be able to recognize all of this for yourself. ✨💕
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