Dear. Dr. Rob: How Do I Start to Love Myself?

By Dr. Rob Carpenter:

Self-care and self-love are two of the most important things you can do. And, in many ways, they are two sides of the same coin [although one is more about behaviors (self-care) and the other is more about identity (self-love)].

I realize that self-love can be a difficult thing to grasp. What does it mean “to love yourself?” After all, this is very abstract, and no amount of pampering yourself can truly make you love yourself more. Sure, it can help you de-stress or do the things you enjoy, but it cannot change the underlying identity you ascribe to yourself (i.e., you can buy a Ferrari to make yourself feel better temporarily, but if you still believe you aren’t good enough, this Ferrari will do nothing to change your underlying beliefs about yourself over the long-run).

So how the heck do you start to love yourself if self-love is more than pampering yourself (which is really just self-care)?

Here are just a few ways:

  • To begin loving yourself, start by forgiving yourself for being an imperfect human being. Even though you know you’re not perfect, you still judge and criticize aspects of yourself so much that you often refuse to accept yourself as you are. If you simply accept that being authentic is better than being perfect, you can begin having a healthier relationship with the person staring at you in the mirror.

  • To begin loving yourself, refuse to let your pain, mistakes, past failures, or any negative labels define you. To love yourself, you should realize that you are not defined by your lowest moments (or the worst things ever said or thought about you), but you are defined by the best of you. If you embrace this, your self-image will begin to change over time from being one that is negative to one that is positive, because you will associate yourself with positivity, not negativity, which will make all the difference in your self-love journey.

  • To begin loving yourself, only hang around positive and uplifting people. The saying goes, "if you run with chickens you become a chicken, but if you fly with eagles you will soar like one." In other words, the more you are around people who love themselves, the more it will rub off on you so that you can begin loving yourself too. Self-love in one person breeds self-love in others, for example.