10 Practices to Cultivate Self-Love

Love After Love
A Poem by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and stay, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread, Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

From your first breath until your last, there is only one person who will be with you every step of the way. Who will hear your every thought and share your deepest desires and values. Who will sit with you as you experience the depths of love, joy, ecstasy, bliss, fear, anger, grief, and shame. 

At times your truest friend. At others your harshest critic. 

This “stranger” who knows you by heart…is you. And you are worthy of love. You do not have to ‘do’ or ‘achieve’ anything to be loved. It is your birthright. 

More often than not, we direct our love outwards. And while love of others is one of the most beautiful parts of life, it is equally important that you direct that love inwards. 

Self-love is fundamental to living your most authentic, fulfilling life, and to sharing that love with the world around you. 

What Is Self-Love?

Self-love is a term that is often misunderstood. At best, it may be associated with self-care, self-compassion, or self-esteem. At worst, it is mistaken for pride, arrogance, vanity, and even narcissism. 

But contrary to what we are sometimes told, self-love is not selfish. And it isn’t just about bubble baths or a day at the spa. Loving yourself goes so much deeper.

True self-love is a state of wholeness or self unity. It is a practice and state of appreciation that grows from actions that support your physical, psychological, and spiritual growth. Self-love is honoring who you are and treating yourself with care. 

You cultivate self-love when you allow your most vulnerable, raw, and powerful self to be deeply seen, heard, and known. Practicing self-love means learning how to trust yourself, and treat yourself with respect, kindness, and affection. 

Self-love is not a state of perfection, nor is it always being happy. It is not based on your success or achievements, and it does not shame or criticize. Self-love shines through even when you make mistakes or don’t accomplish your goals. When you love yourself, you acknowledge your flaws and weaknesses, accepting your imperfections with compassion and grace. 

People who show themselves love are filling in their own internal need to such a degree that there is overflow. And in that abundance, they do not feel lack, and their love spills over to others. Self-love is the root from which everything grows, and the fuel that will allow you to reach your full potential. 

The Benefits of Self-Love 

Imagine for a moment what your life would look like if you loved yourself unconditionally. What would be different? What would change if you let go of self-doubt, self-judgment, perfectionism, or the fear of not being enough? 

Imagine a life where you feel whole, worthy, and fully accepting of every aspect of yourself.

Self-love is an incredible force that opens the door to feeling free and in alignment with who you are. It will uplift you, change the way you view life, and lead to greater health, happiness, success, and wellbeing.

Benefits of self-love include:

  • Healthier relationships 
  • Relief from stress and anxiety
  • Improved health, wellbeing, and sense of peace 
  • Better decision making 
  • Alignment with meaning and purpose  
  • Higher self-esteem and confidence
  • Protection from negative thoughts and self-sabotage 
  • Better communication 
  • Increased motivation and determination 

A note on self-love and relationships: The relationship you have with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship in your life. When you love and respect yourself, you can relate and connect better with others. Self-love also creates a precedent for others to treat you with love and respect. And with time, self-love makes it easier to let go of any unhealthy relationships or situations.

How to Cultivate Self-Love 

The following practices are valuable ways to develop and cultivate self-love in your own life:

1. Think of self-love as a practice, not a destination.

There is no “finish line” you cross when you officially love yourself, and cultivating self-love doesn’t mean you have to love every single thing about yourself, right now. 

Self-love is an everyday practice, and certain days will be easier than others. This is where self-acceptance and self-compassion come in. If you start by accepting yourself as you are now, and begin treating yourself with compassion, grace, and gratitude, you’ll be better equipped to show yourself the love you deserve.

Like any habit, accepting and being kinder to yourself takes time and a commitment to change. Be patient and release any expectations of perfection. 

2. Cultivate awareness and listen inwardly.

Self-love starts with awareness and mindfulness. People who have cultivated authentic self-love tend to have a better understanding of themselves. So take some time to look inward, attune to your thoughts and feelings, and ponder the following questions:

  • How do you speak to yourself? Is your self-talk positive and encouraging, or negative and self-critical?
  • What are your deepest needs, desires, and values? 
  • What do you appreciate and admire about yourself right now? 

By connecting inwardly, you can make more discerning and empowered choices. You can release other people’s expectations and live more in alignment with yourself.

Consider starting meditation or journaling practice to help grow and develop your self-awareness and understanding. Here are a few guided meditations you can try:

3. Honor your feelings. 

Through the process of cultivating self-love, it’s important that you allow yourself to feel and experience ALL emotions, without judgment. When you accept yourself for being human and allow your emotions, no matter what they are, you’ll have greater self-awareness and self-compassion. 

The truth is, emotions are never inherently good or bad. Feelings (like a compass) show you whether or not you are living in alignment with your true self – your deepest values and desires. When you stop and listen to your feelings and begin to take baby steps to act on them, a whole new universe of possibilities opens up for you.

4. Be kind to yourself.

Treating yourself with compassion is key to self-love. By letting go of self-judgment and criticism, you create a strong inner support system. 

Start by saying positive things to yourself, and remember – you don't have to be perfect. Simply do your best, accept your imperfections, and learn to forgive yourself when you make a mistake. As humans, we can be incredibly hard on ourselves. But you have to accept your humanness and imperfections before you can truly love yourself. There are no failures if you have learned and grown from your mistakes; there are only lessons learned.

If you notice yourself caught in critical or judgmental thoughts, stop when you become aware, accept and allow the thought to be what it is, send love to yourself, and move on.

5. Avoid comparison. 

The “comparison trap” is the ultimate killer of self love (and self esteem), and unfortunately, it’s very easy to fall into these days, especially with social media. It’s okay to look up to or admire others, however, it becomes toxic when you start comparing yourself or talking down to yourself because of it. 

Stop trying to compete with others or reach an unattainable ideal of perfection. Focus on being more present in your own life. Love who you are now. You are exactly where you should be, and that is enough. This mindset and shift of energy will help set you free.

Tip: Unfollow social media accounts that make you talk down/think negatively about yourself. Make an effort to only follow accounts that add value, positivity, or inspiration to your life.

6. Prioritize your needs, health, and well-being. 

Self-love is all about choosing what feels good and right for YOU – and letting go of what doesn’t. 

Learn to put on your oxygen mask, fill your cup first, and meet your needs. Ask yourself, what do I need now? Do I need more time off, sleep, rest, or help around the house? Take time to do things that make you happy. Ask for help from family and friends. You don't always have to do it alone. 

7. Practice self-care.

One of the most loving things you can do is practice self-care. Whether it’s healthy activities, good nutrition, exercise, meditation, or simply resting and reflecting, take time to focus on what nourishes you. Self-care restores the mind and body. It will help you to meet the world feeling replenished. And it is a powerful affirmation to yourself that you deserve to be treated with love.

As you add more loving, self-care actions to your daily life, you will feel better about yourself and value your needs, making you happier. 

8. Surround yourself with people and situations that uplift you. 

As well as creating a healthy inner state, it’s vital to surround yourself with people and experiences that uplift you. Cultivating love, joy and positivity in your social connections, activities and environment is a wonderful way to boost self-love. 

Do what you can to move away from the people, places, and things that drain you of your energy. Surround yourself as much as possible with those who are loving and supportive.

If you are at a job that you dislike, look for something you are passionate about. The more that you begin to honor yourself and do what you feel is for your highest good, the more love that you begin to feel.

What makes you feel happy, peaceful and expansive? Who truly loves, supports and inspires you? Connect with these as often as possible. 

9. Set healthy boundaries. 

Setting boundaries involves being able to say “no” to relationships, activities, and work that drain you, create stress, and negatively impact your life and happiness. 

Understand your values and what is important to you—not letting others take advantage of or abuse you. The ability to set these boundaries shows self love and compassion because you are cutting out the things that harm you. 

Sometimes you may just need to take a break from certain people or commitments, and taking that break gives you time to evaluate whether or not you want to invite these people/things back into your life later on.

10. Ask yourself this question:

“What would someone who loved themselves do?”

Every time you make a decision, no matter how small, ask yourself this question. Listen to your intuition and take action on what your heart tells you.

By asking this simple question, you will live more intentionally. The answer allows you to live in alignment with your personal truth and highest expression. You will accept and love yourself more, no matter what is happening in your life, when you live with purpose and design.

The Bottom Line

Developing a regular self-love practice is about honoring your needs and valuing your own happiness and well-being. If at first these strategies feel strange or uncomfortable, that’s okay! It may just take some time for it to feel more natural.

As a more loving and compassionate way of thinking and being is cultivated, you will feel a general sense of peace that you have never experienced before. 

Remember, love is the truth of who you are. It is the source of everything, and it is your birthright. All you have to do is open yourself to receiving it. When you open yourself to love, you fully embody your power. You will create your life the way you want it to be, and anything and everything is possible.