Can I Learn to Love Myself?
Learning to love yourself is not an easy task. It’s not one that happens overnight, and is not often a one-and-done, permanent change. It takes work. Especially if you’ve been in a place of self-dislike- or loathing- for a long time. It may feel futile to think that you could ever change your thoughts about yourself. You have probably tried before. Let me just take a moment to say two important things: first, you’re worth it. You’re worth the time and effort to learn how to love yourself. Every single person, including you, are worth loving. Second, many people have been in the boat that you’re in- feeling defeated and sad. But there’s always time to change. Learning to love yourself may take a while as you may find yourself not believing the new things you’re telling yourself, but with time, you will find that you’re loveable and you can love yourself.
Treat yourself like you would your best friend
One piece of advice- as cheesy as it sounds- is to treat yourself like your best friend. Treat yourself with the same kind of respect you would show the person you cared most for in the world. Most of us have had “our person.” A person who we love (or loved) more dearly than anyone else on the planet whether that be our uncle, grandma, sister, not-really-related cousin, or childhood best friend. We would never want to say anything to those people to hurt them or put them down- so if you find that you do that to yourself, counter the self-harming thought or comment with a positive one. Gottman research found that couples who have successful and fulfilling relationships have a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. Meaning, that happy couples have five positive interactions to one negative one. Why shouldn’t we be doing this with ourselves? We need a positive relationship with ourselves just as much as we need one with an intimate partner. So give yourself five compliments, or list five positive attributes you have each time you find yourself saying something negative.
It’s also more than just telling yourself positive things- it’s treating yourself with respect, too. If you have low self-worth or dislike yourself then it’s easy to feel guilty when taking time for yourself because- as you have told yourself- after all, you are not worth it. Some ways to treat yourself with respect can include setting boundaries in different areas of your life like work, friendships, and family. These can include setting limits on tasks for others, creating time for you to enjoy something, or even stopping yourself from self-destructive behaviors. Setting these boundaries at first may not feel good, but it’s your way of telling yourself (and others) that you are worth loving and being cared for. Another way to treat yourself with respect is to have self-care and mental health time. Being intentional about caring for yourself can be linked to greater mental health in a variety of ways. Again, intentional self-care may feel selfish or a waste of time at first, but self-care is needed for everyone and granting yourself that time is one way you can love yourself.
What do others like or love about me?
If you’re in such a state that you can’t even find one thing that you like about yourself, ask someone else. You can ask anyone- your closest friend, your extended family, the bank teller who is always working when you go, or a stranger at Walmart. The answers may surprise you. Collecting information from others about what they like about you can give you a beginning reservoir of things that are positive about you. If you value your family and friends opinions highly, then what they have to say will be impactful. If you think that they are just blowing smoke at you then it may seem like empty compliments- so ask a stranger! Asking someone you don’t know necessarily well- or at all- can be beneficial as well. One viewpoint may argue that they don’t know you so they have no stock in assessing what they like or dislike about you. Or there is an argument for the reverse, thinking they are just being nice or artificial- in which you can then ask your friends or family. Either way, obtaining information from others about what they like about you can kick start you formulating your own opinions about what makes you great and loveable.
Sometimes liking and disliking yourself can come in waves. It might be a good idea for you to write down all the things you like about yourself when you’re having a good, self-loving day so that if or when the day comes that you find it difficult to like or love yourself, you can look back on what you have liked. Having a running list can be very impactful as you can visually see the list growing as you learn to love yourself more.
One important thing to keep in mind when asking others what they think about you is that things difficult to hear may come up. You may receive some criticism or feedback that supports your self-defeating thoughts. When you approach individuals for feedback, it would be wise to tell them you’re only looking for the positives at the moment. You’re attempting to create new thoughts and behaviors that allow you to love yourself. Finally, remember, your opinions matter too. Other thoughts should be a springboard for you to begin, not a constant reassurance. Relying on others likes about you to instill your sense of worth and love is not solid ground to stand on all the time.
I just don’t believe it- what do I do about that?
Trust me, I’ve been that person. The person that says, “oh you’re just saying that because you have to” or “yeah, right” after receiving a compliment. If this happens to you, then you might want to reflect on what you are thinking and feeling during those times. Think about what you were taught growing up about receiving compliments. Were you ever given any? What were your primary caretakers responses to compliments? What were your primary caretakers’ responses when you were praised by others? What are your thoughts on how others should react when given compliments? What are your thoughts on modesty and bragging?
Perhaps some of the opinions and beliefs you live by regarding how you view yourself were influenced by factors growing up. It may be difficult to believe others have positive opinions about you because you don’t have them for yourself. Or maybe you never received any growing up, or they were shortchanged by your primary caregivers, and so you don’t know how to believe positive traits about yourself. Inspecting what makes it difficult to believe positive things about you will be the first step in allowing yourself to believe them. Once you have an idea of what may prevent you from believing positive things about yourself, then you must prevent yourself from countering your positive thought. In other words, tell yourself that you are good at something. You are loveable. You are unique and incredible. Say these things to yourself with out countering them. It maybe that the first few months feel forced or fake, but if you tell yourself enough- without negative counter thoughts- then it’s likely you will start to believe it.
Learning to love yourself can be a difficult task. You might not be able to think of anything that you like about yourself and might not believe what others say they like about you. You may have certain things that you like about yourself but other things that you don’t. Learning to love yourself means that you must take care of yourself. Setting boundaries, stopping negative thoughts, and soliciting things others like about you are beginning step towards learning to love yourself. Treat yourself with respect not only with the things you tell yourself but also in the way you physically handle yourself. Self-care and doing things to promote mental health wellness are important in respecting yourself. Loving yourself can ebb and flow and therefore writing down all the things that you like or love about yourself when you’re feeling self-loving is important for the days where you feel less deserving of your own love. Loving yourself opens you up for loving others in healthy ways. Lastly, remember that you’re worth loving. No matter what you’ve done; you are worth loving.
Fifty positive things to say to yourself:
1. I like who I am.
2. I’m not perfect, and that’s okay.
3. I made a mistake, and that’s okay.
4. I tried my best in this situation.
5. I have worth.
6. I am attractive.
7. I am kind.
8. I am better than I used to be.
9. I am working on improving myself.
10. I am enough.
11. I am good at ____.
12. I can do this.
13. I am funny.
14. There are a lot of great things about me.
15. I am intelligent.
16. I am human.
17. I can’t do this right now, and that’s okay.
18. I like ___ about myself.
19. I have people that care about me.
20. I am valuable.
21. I am a good person.
22. It’s out of my control and I am trying to accept that.
23. I can choose to forgive.
24. My thoughts and opinions matter.
25. That wasn’t so bad.
26. I survived.
27. I will take one day at a time.
28. I deserve good things.
29. It’s okay to be nervous.
30. My fears do not define me.
31. Today was rough, but tomorrow may be better.
32. I will try my best.
33. I am strong.
34. I am thankful even though right now sucks.
35. My feelings are valid.
36. It’s going to be uncomfortable, but I can handle this.
37. I believe in myself.
38. I am unique.
39. I have made it through worse; I can make it through this.
40. I will not give up.
41. I deserve respect.
42. I am a hard worker.
43. I haven’t been my best self, but I can turn that around.
44. My life is none of their business.
45. Their opinions don’t shape who I am.
46. I will continue to love myself.
47. I like that I am able to ___.
48. I am lucky because ___.
49. There is no one like me.
50. I am incredible.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Molly Lyons | PLPC | Individual & Couples Counselor
Molly has received her Master of Science in Clinical Counseling at Central Methodist University (CMU). Molly received the Outstanding Student Award rewarded to one person in the graduating class. Molly is a PLPC at The Counseling Hub. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in General Psychology with a minor in Child Development from Central Methodist University directly before enrolling in the counseling program. Prior to pursuing her counseling degree, Molly received an Associates of Science in Early Childhood Education from Moberly Area Community College.
Molly has experience in the Counseling Center at MACC's Columbia campus, providing counseling services for students around the topics of identity crises, school-related stressors, depression issues, and coping with anxiety. Molly has co-facilitated Safe Zone trainings which introduce its members to the LGBTQ+ community terminology and basic information. Molly has also completed on online course in LGBTQ+ Counseling Competencies (College and Career Readiness) through the American Counseling Association (ACA). Molly is an active member of both the ACA and the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD).
Molly enjoys working with diverse populations and seeks to always be open to new learning experiences. She works best with individuals who are trying to discover who they are and how they relate to their world, as well as others in their world. Molly believes that a person’s external factors can provide both barriers and resources towards growth and that one must discover these in order to thrive.