When John Lennon sang, “Love is the answer,” he didn’t include an asterisk. There was no exception for the concept of loving yourself.
But that seems to be the catch, huh? Loving others and being loved by others is a common and accepted lifelong journey. Running (somewhat) parallel to it is the long and winding road to self-love.
This road may feel unmapped and full of apparent dead ends. Meanwhile, it’s the most important path any of us will ever follow.
Why Self-Love is So Difficult
Life doesn’t imitate art
From fairy tales and love songs to romantic novels and epic films, we’re sold stories that rarely reflect reality. When what we experience doesn’t line up with such stories, well, we need someone to blame. Far too often that “someone” is yourself. If happiness is our birthright but we feel sad or unfulfilled, we must have done something wrong. In addition, pop culture keeps us chasing money, fame, the perfect body, and the ideal life. Therefore, it’s not easy to love yourself first when your life doesn’t follow that script.
Critics seem to surround us
They don’t always mean it. Some of them are the people closest to us, even the people who love us the most. But criticism—or the absence of praise—adds up. How can we believe we are worth loving if the folks we trust rarely have a kind word? These days, our self-worth takes a hit more often than ever—thanks to social media. Our thoughts, our photographs, our opinions, and more are laid bare to be judged and commented on. Or even more, to be ignored.
The Negativity Bias
In psychology, this refers to the human trend of focusing way more on negative experiences. The positive moments seem fleeting. Conversely, we just can’t seem to forget those times we felt embarrassed or insulted or neglected or worse.
Lack of self-trust
How can we love ourselves first if we don’t trust ourselves? Combine the above three factors and it’s easy to become your own worst critic. As a result, we may seek out counterproductive paths towards feeling more self-worth. For example, we might spend time competing with others or become an unrelenting perfectionist.
It’s a process
In a culture based on instant gratification, we can also lose sight of the big picture. The path to loving yourself first is a never ending, ever evolving journey. We will not attain this goal in 140 characters or less or accomplish it with a trending hashtag.
Why It's So Important to Love Yourself First
Your physical health depends on it.
Thanks to the mind-body connection, your emotional state elicits physical reactions. This makes it essential to do everything we can to nurture positive, healthy, and self-loving emotions.
Personal and professional relationships improve.
Loving yourself first manifests in a renewed willingness to seek out the friendships, relationships, and career you feel you deserve.
Less loneliness, more happiness
If you see yourself as someone worthy of love, you’ll enjoy your own company a lot more!
Love Yourself First: 4 Tips for Getting Started
1. Validate feelings without dwelling on them
We don’t have to dwell in denial to offset the “negativity bias.” We can acknowledge and accept our feelings without allowing them to own us.
2. Take responsibility for your physical health
Change your eating habits. Start a new workout regimen. Commit to a regular sleep routine. Helping yourself in the most fundamental ways is a huge step towards self-love.
3. Hang out with fellow self-lovers
What might it feel like if we surround ourselves with confidence and love?
4. Reach out for help
Therapy can help create an environment in which you can see yourself as the awesome, love worthy individual you are!