As an only child whose parents worked full-time, I had always believed that life was meaningful when you’re surrounded by loved ones.
I hated being alone. I needed noise around me. Or people.
So, I made sure I was always surrounded by people or noise, or both.
I focussed more on loving others than loving myself. And for a long time, I believed that this was the right way to live.
I mean, isn’t it selfless when you’re focusing on being there for others instead of yourself?
But you know… life doesn’t really work that way.
We come into this world alone, and we leave it alone too.
At some point in the middle, you’re going to find yourself alone, whether you like it or not. And when that happens, you need to be in a good place so that you can be okay being alone.
Happiness and peace aren’t found outside of us but inside ourselves.
All my life, I kept chasing relationships because I believed that I’d find peace when I found love.
I married a man who wasn’t the right fit for me, and when I found out he was cheating on me, I was devastated. Instead of taking time to heal, I went out searching for the next Mr. Right.
For a while, I believed I’d found him – everything was going perfect with the new guy. We were best friends and so much in love, I was finally at peace, and nothing could shake me.
And then it happened.
Out of the blue, he broke up with me. He told me that God had sent him a vision that he was supposed to be with another girl. I tried to convince him that God gives everyone free will. But it was pointless. He’d made his choice.
I was more shattered than before.
And as I recounted this story to my cousin, she told me, “It’s not your job to convince him to love you. That’s his job. Why would you want to be with someone who doesn’t love you? You need to start loving yourself.”
And what she said struck a chord.
I was heartbroken. And this time, I knew that something had to change. So, I focussed on healing from that breakup.
And thus began my journey of self-love.
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I read multiple books, started meditating and praying, journaling, you name it… I learned to love myself after 28 years of not doing so.
And in this post, I want to share exactly how I did that.
I cannot take full credit for any of the steps mentioned below because I read so many books that all contributed to my learning of self-love. Some of them are:
- Healing is the New High – by Vex King
- Return to Love – Marianne Williamson
- You can Heal your Heart – Louise Hay
- You can Heal your Life – Louise Hay
What is self-love?
Self-love means having regard for your happiness and well-being.
Picture a younger version of yourself sitting right in front of you -perhaps you are 3-5 years old. And you see yourself crying. What would you do? Are you going to yell at that child to stop sobbing? Or are you going to reach out to hug and console that little child?
The latter, right?
That is self-love.
That child lives within you. And self-love is all about taking care of yourself – that inner child.
More often than not, we show other people the kindness and love that we should be giving ourselves first.
Self-love requires you to be patient with yourself, especially if you get something wrong or make a mistake. It’s about showing yourself love instead of scolding yourself.
Why is self-love important?
If you love yourself, you will become a much stronger person. Other people’s actions won’t affect you as much.
It will change your life completely because you will become a whole different person.
- Less anxious because you won’t worry about what other people think of you
- More confident because you trust your abilities
- More aware of your strengths
- Extremely successful at work, in relationships, every line of your life because your entire personality and mentality will change.
The foundation to getting anything right, be it relationships or careers, is self-love.
This relationship that you build with yourself will determine everything else in your life. And the stronger it is, the better it is for you.
Once you learn to love yourself, you will love others without having to depend on their love to make you feel better.
Learning to love others without expecting anything in return is the ultimate form of unconditional love.
Why do we need to get to this place?
Because the only person that can make you happy is you, and when you realize that your self-worth, self-esteem, and peace depend on you, you will become truly happy and find that inner peace that you so badly need.
How do you know if you need to love yourself more?
Do you feel like you spend a lot of time doing stuff for other people rather than yourself?
Are you always afraid to say no because you fear you might displease people?
Do you tolerate toxic relationships because you’re uncomfortable being alone?
Are you harsh with the way you look at your body? Do you criticize yourself for not being fit? Do you punish yourself in any way if you do not reach a goal you’ve set for yourself?
Or do you constantly complain that your life is not going in the direction you want?
Do you drink or smoke or do drugs to numb away the pain or feel the buzz constantly?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then it is time for you to start loving yourself.
How do you get started with loving yourself?
First of all, you need to start on a clean slate.
It’s okay if you came from a dysfunctional family or were raised to believe certain things about yourself that led to you not loving yourself.
It doesn’t matter where you are on the scoreboard; it’s time to let go of the past and start fresh.
We start with day 1. And we focus on one day at a time.
You don’t need to look back. You just need to focus on today. And get started. That’s it.
How to start loving yourself
I will divide this section into three parts because loving yourself is a journey that cannot be done in 1 day.
From my experience, learning how to love yourself includes three stages:
- Letting go of the past
- Accepting who you are for what you are
- Healing and cultivating happiness
Letting go of the past and preparing yourself for your journey of self-love
1. Understand that you are not broken
However lost and directionless you feel right now, please know that you are not broken.
We are all born perfect. We are born with an innate sense of love and compassion.
However, while we grow up, we are conditioned to fear.
And all of these beliefs are just sitting over the love that’s already there.
There’s nothing to build. We just need to remove the excess hate, anger, fear that’s sitting over that perfect love we have. Once all the gunk is removed, we will be able to tap into that never-ending reservoir of love.
2. Learn to let go of control
There may have been situations that have just happened that went out of your control.
And it can lead to sadness, pain, or frustration.
Understand that this need to control the outcome of the situation comes from a strong sense of fear.
And once we understand that this fear doesn’t lead to anything good, we can let go of it and find inner peace.
You can expect or want something to happen, but you should never force it. If it is not meant to be, it will not happen.
And you need to make peace with either outcome.
3. Forgive yourself
Even if you’ve made a mistake or multiple mistakes, you can change it moving forward.
Talking down to yourself or being harsh is not going to help.
Picture that small child within you. Don’t yell. Don’t get mad.
Be gentle, be kind, be loving. And be patient.
This journey that you’re undertaking is not going to happen in 1 day magically. It will take a while, but you will grow stronger every day until you feel confident in your skin.
So, shake off the anger, the guilt, the anxiety, the fear, the insecurity, and any other negative feeling that stops you from taking this journey.
Forgiving yourself is the first step to learning to love yourself.
4. Forgive whoever has hurt you
Whether it is a parent, a friend, an ex-lover, let them go.
Not for them, no.
But for you.
The story of Eva Mozes Kor recently touched me. She was a holocaust survivor tortured and experimented on by the Nazis and her twin sister.
For years after their freedom, she fought for justice. She spent tireless hours tracking down the Doctor and the men who did those horrible experiments. She was relentless until one day, she decided to forgive them.
And she wrote letters to all of those who hurt her, and she let it go. She continues to bring awareness to the holocaust because she believes history should not repeat itself, but she no longer holds that hurt and anger in her heart. She let it go.
And she has said that doing that was not easy but made her happier and healthier.
So, if someone has hurt you, it’s time to let go.
Repeat this affirmation every time you feel pain recounting your experiences with this person.
“I forgive you [name], and I release you.”
Accepting yourself for who you are
5. Practise gratitude
It’s going to be very difficult to practice gratitude when you’re going through a difficult time or have just seen hardship.
But doing it regularly nonetheless will make an impact on you slowly.
After my breakup, I remember watching a war movie and realized I had so much to be thankful for.
Make a list of things you have for which you are grateful. It doesn’t matter if it’s super basic like a bed to sleep in or a puppy dog face to wake up to; it all counts.
6. Do not compare your story to someone else’s
Nobody in this world has it all together.
Everyone is facing their battles. We all have the struggles that we need to overcome individually, and looking into someone else’s garden isn’t the right way to heal.
And please do not be fooled by what you see on social media.
If that influencer you’ve been envying is putting out photos of herself doing yoga in exotic places every day, remember that she is doing it to help promote her business.
Not everything you see is necessarily true.
Not everyone shares the truth about their lives on social media.
7. Detach yourself healthily from things that no longer serve you
When you love yourself, you will automatically move further away from things that no longer help you grow or just bring you down.
The alcohol makes you intoxicated or unhealthy, heavy foods that leave you feeling lethargic, or relationships that only create stress and anxiety; you will slowly learn to move away from these.
If you genuinely love yourself, you should not remain in a relationship that is destroying you.
Whether it is your mother, friend, or partner, you can still love them but choose to move apart.
Love isn’t dependent. You can still love them and not be with them.
Self-love means becoming aware of what is good for you and what isn’t—and then creating more room for the good things.
8. Learn to say no
Adding to the previous point, learn to say no to anything that does not make you happy.
You don’t want to go to an event all your friends are going to? Say no.
You don’t want to accept the job offer that you know won’t make you feel happy? Say no.
Remember, when you say no to something you don’t like, you’re actually saying hell yes to the things you love.
Loving yourself isn’t about getting rid of what doesn’t make you happy – it’s about making room for what does.
9. Allow yourself to feel the pain
When you start to move away from alcohol, binge-eating, or get rid of a toxic relationship, the pain will come to the surface.
This isn’t fresh, nor is it new. All these feelings and thoughts had always been there, but they will come to the surface now because the numbing agents have been removed.
At this point, you will need to feel these feelings and allow yourself to feel this pain.
It is going to hurt before it gets better.
Accept it and work through this pain.
Understand that you are not your feelings. These emotions and thoughts are going to pass, and it is going to get better.
Healing and cultivating happiness
I have always journaled, my whole life. But I became highly consistent after I started my journey through self-love.
Get yourself a super simple notebook or Moleskine and use an ordinary pen. Don’t bother making it perfect. Just write. Pour your heart out.
If you love writing, then you can also get this workbook.
And read through your entries once in a while.
This gives you perspective and helps you see how far you’ve come.
When I read my entries from 2-3 months ago, I am amazed at how much pain I’ve been able to overcome and how self-aware I am right now.
Your relationship with yourself is the most important one you’ll have in this lifetime.
So, it is important you know who you really are.
I always believed meditation is for people who have plenty of time on their hands.
But I was wrong.
I fell in love with Meditation when I watched the short series on Netflix by Andy Puddicombe.
So, I got myself the Headspace App, and I started with 10 minutes a day. I liked his voice and I loved how peaceful I felt afterward.
After the first few meditations, I’d find my face wet with tears. Everything that had been trapped inside was coming to the surface. And contrary to what I thought I’d feel, meditation made me feel lighter and freer.
It taught me to observe my emotions and feelings from a distance and separate myself from what I felt or thought.
It gave me mental and emotional strength and helped me manage my anxiety.
And most of all? It taught me to be present. Meditation teaches you to live in the present moment.
It helps you let go of the past and the desire to control the future. It makes you realize that nothing else matters except the present moment – the now.
12. Focus on the things that bring you joy
Start doing more things that you enjoy.
I always wanted to play the piano and become fit, so I started eating more healthy foods and practising on my piano keyboard 15 minutes a day.
Make time for the things that you genuinely enjoy, and it will slowly make you feel better.
13. Build relationships with people you vibrate with
We human beings are social creatures.
Surround yourself with positive people who actually make you feel better than bring you down. It will make a massive difference in your life.
If you don’t have any of those people with you right now, then go out and make friends.
Additional reading material:
Reading books on healing and self-love helped progress my healing and make it faster.
Pairing reading with journaling, meditating, and praying accelerated my journey to self-love, and really helped me find peace and joy – something I thought would evade me for a long time.
And if you are a reader or want to heal faster, I highly recommend the books below. They’ve helped me and I’m pretty sure you’ll get some excellent takeaways too:
- Healing is the New High – by Vex King
- Return to Love – Marianne Williamson
- You can Heal your Heart – Louise Hay
- You can Heal your Life – Louise Hay
In the beginning, you’re not going to feel any different.
I remember waking up day after day and feeling no different from the previous day. I’d say to myself, “Why is this not working?”
But I kept going because I knew I couldn’t stop. I knew I was on the right path – I just had to trust the process.
And with each week, the painful memories faded. I felt stronger. And I could wake up in an empty home and not feel alone.
I learned to love my solitude and be okay on my own. I started falling in love with my work again. So, I was able to do it even more passionately.
I was able to withstand my mom’s passing and still hold my ground. I miss her, but I’m not broken.
None of these tips above is going to make a radical change immediately.
They are tried and tested steps taken by me and several other people in my position who have slowly moved from a place of fear to a place full of love and peace.
In the beginning, you will have to make an effort to incorporate these into your routine. But with time, it will come naturally to you and will feel effortless.
Keep a to-do list to help you with these tasks in the beginning.
Your life is going to change for the better.