When you learn how to love yourself first, a whole new world opens to you. Suddenly, you stop making decisions based on what other people will think. You embrace who you are and do what you need to do to feel happy and fulfilled in your life. Respecting, uplifting, and valuing yourself above all else isn’t easy, of course. It takes practice. It doesn’t come naturally for most people because we’re socialized to believe that selflessness is more important than the good kind of selfishness. However, here are some habits you can practice to get you a bit closer.
- Recognize and accept your feelings. They’re valid and you have every right to own them. We’re taught to bury our feelings, especially as women and especially if you work with a lot of men. Feelings hurt? You’re such a snowflake. Angry? You’re out of control. Let’s not even mention what happens if you dare to tear up or cry around others. When you have strong feelings about something, give yourself the time to sit with it and accept it. Once you learn to do that, there’s so much less shame involved.
- Forgive yourself. If you can’t forgive yourself, you live in guilt. Women feel guilt over so many things. We aren’t perfect and we have to stop thinking that we should be. We think we should be the perfect girlfriend, perfect best friend, perfect co-worker. Some days, you’re going to forget things. You’re going to make mistakes. Forgive yourself for them as you’d forgive a boyfriend, best friend, or co-worker.
- Say no. You don’t have to say yes to every event or gathering you get invited to and you absolutely shouldn’t say yes every time a man wants to have sex. Your boss shouldn’t expect you to say yes every time you are asked to do something and your best friend will understand if you can’t do every favor they ask of you. Sometimes you have to say no to keep your sanity. Once you learn the power of no, you’ll never go back.
- Examine societal expectations against your own. There are a lot of things we do only because they’re expected of us. If these things go against our personal belief systems, it can cause us a lot of stress and anxiety. When we have beliefs about how we should act that go against how we want to act and how we feel, it makes it hard to have any self-love. Some societal expectations are good (like not physically harming others, for instance) but others can force us into a corner that we aren’t comfortable in.
- Remember that you can’t control everything. There are a lot of things out of our control. It’s important to understand that the things that are not in our control can and will change over time. Instead, focus on the things you can control. You can control what you eat, where you work, and the people that you have around you. Love yourself by surrounding yourself with things and people that make you happy.
- Spend time with yourself. How can you love someone you don’t even know very well? In order to know yourself better, take time to have conversations with yourself and find out how you really feel. They don’t have to be out loud conversations (though that might work for you). You can use a journal or a blog or you can meditate. When you spend time alone, it gives you time to think. It takes time and practice but as you practice spending time with yourself, you get better at listening to your own voice.
- Diet and exercise matter. You might not think that diet and exercise would affect how much you love yourself but those two things can affect mood. If your mood is off, the first person we often pick apart is ourselves. Make sure you’re nourishing your body with nutritious, healthy food and move your body as much as possible. It makes all the difference.
- Invest in yourself. We spend a lot of money on things that have nothing to do with us – cars, toys, entertainment, etc. Unless these things are adding to your life, there may be better ways to spend your money, like education. Investing in yourself doesn’t always have to cost a lot. You can take a course for free online. You can spend time doing things you love. Be creative and ask yourself, how can I invest in my well-being?
You can learn to love yourself first and it doesn’t make you greedy. It strengthens you and more self-reliant. In the end, it also makes you a better friend, partner, and employee too.