You’ve heard the phrase self-love by now, whether you’ve stumbled across an article talking about it, heard the topic in a podcast, or most likely seen it on social media. It’s all the rage, and the foundation to our healthy relationships and feeling empowered in our communities. But learning to love ourselves is a lesson we’ve been put off and instead taught to critique and judge ourselves so it all feels a bit weird. Keep reading to find out how to break the barriers to self-love so you can reap the benefits without fear.
Self-love is about showing ourselves the same love we show our nearest and dearest, honouring our needs, and giving ourselves compassion and kindness, even when we make mistakes or feel rubbish. But it’s not something we find easy to give ourselves, most of us feel silly accepting and brush off compliments like we do crumbs on our fingers, and are often too busy judging ourselves (or with life) to make space for the love.
When we prioritise or consciously make an effort towards loving ourselves we are less likely to experience depression and anxiety. Having a positive, or mostly, view of ourselves leads to greater confidence in our abilities, which allows us to feel good about ourselves.
But we don’t achieve this by making ourselves ‘perfect’ or by meeting our idea of being loveable - although a common misconception and a big contributor to our avoidance of self-love. This idea that we need to prove to others, and our inner critics, that we’re worthy of love creates a barrier for us to love ourselves and as a society, we’ve been trying to navigate this for some time now.
For someone who struggles with self-compassion, low self-esteem and confidence, or poor body or personal image, self-love isn’t straightforward - and this refers to many of us around the world. So for many of us, it’s not as simple as just loving yourself the way you are, we need to break some barriers first, change our mindset a little and reframe our view of ourselves.
Here’s 5 ways to break the barriers to self-love
Treat yourself as you would your best friend
We often find it hard to speak nicely to ourselves, even without noticing, we criticise silly mistakes, judge our own choices or actions, and that little voice that tells you you’re not good enough is never too far away. But let me ask you this… Would you let your best friend sit across from you while you sip coffee or over dinner, and suddenly tell you how rubbish you are or that that mistake you made was the worst thing you’ve ever done? And would you then still seek out their support or listen to their advice or even still try to be friends? Probably not (or at least not long-term). Would you turn around to a friend and say mean things to them? NO, so don’t treat yourself this way.
Surround yourself with the language
While self-love isn’t a new concept, its language and popularity of it are quite unfamiliar to us, and when we’ve spent most of our lives thinking or believing one thing, it’s not going to change overnight. Surrounding ourselves with the language around self-love, reading affirmations, or seeing body positivity and inclusive images normalises it for us, we become used to this idea of loving ourselves and find it easier to do ourselves - there’s also plenty of inspiration for ways to cultivate your self-love, but get used to the idea before you start confessing your love in the mirror so it doesn’t feel as weird or off-putting.
Sort out your social media
We all know social media has its good and bad sides, while it can be full of self-love attitudes, it can also trigger comparison, negative thoughts, and worsen self-esteem. But you don’t need to delete all your accounts or feel like you're missing out. Instead, sort through your friends or follower lists, are you following accounts that make you feel motivated, inspired or positive about your life, or accounts that leave you longing for more or feeling unworthy? Cultivate your social media to be a nice place to be, and always remember to take it all with a pinch of salt - what we see is never the full picture!
Fake it till you make it
Sometimes we have to bite the bullet and just do the thing(s) we want to achieve in life, but it doesn’t always mean we feel prepared or ready to do it. You know when you see a public speaker delivering a speech confidently, as if they were born to be on stage, showing their passion and energy - they were still nervous backstage, practising anxiety-reducing techniques, and feeling the fear, but we wouldn’t know by the time the speaker is centre stage. Sometimes, we have to give the same energy. Slapping a smile on when we’re sad can get us through the tasks we have no choice but to do, and can even help us feel a little lighter doing it. Saying ‘I love you’ to yourself or honouring your needs even when we don’t feel like it or quite believe the words coming out of our mouth can begin to break that barrier for us.
Practice, practice, practice!
Bet you didn’t see that coming. Of course, practice makes us better at things, even the ones that make us feel queasy, cringe or downright silly. But self-love is such as important part of the relationship with ourselves and everyone else we meet in life, even in our view of the world. Start simple, with listening to your needs and trying to meet them for example, eating when you’re hungry, going to bed when you feel sleepy and moving your body regularly. Or try affirmations, words or phrases we can repeat to ourselves that change our narratives - we might not jump into ‘I love you’, but we could start with “I am worthy of love no matter what”. And that is true by the way, there is no criteria to meet to be loveable, you just have to show yourself that.
Start breaking those barriers to self-love and break free from negative thoughts you’ve been feeding yourself, even if you didn’t realise you were doing it (we all do from time to time). Try treating yourself with the love and affection you’d give your partner, your kids, your friends and your families. When we can love ourselves, and accept ourselves warts and all, we lead happier lives simply from having a more positive perspective, plus you’ll feel confident and radiant after some practice, and ready to achieve anything you’ve ever dreamt of - if you choose to!
In the words of Justin Beiber - you should go and love yourself (what a banger!)