I’ve always been a master at giving love to others.
However, when it came to giving love to myself, I fell short.
I noticed the way I loved others was skewed; I had no limit to how much I gave. Even when people walked all over me, I kept on giving. In the end, I blamed other people for either not loving me back or for not meeting my expectations.
The idea of loving and giving to others is in itself beautiful and something we should all practice. But, I’ve realized that before giving someone our all, we should decide “why” we’re giving. The motivation behind our love for others speaks greatly of our own self-love. Personally, I gave some people so much in the past, because I was the one who needed love. I unconsciously gave them the love I wanted to be given, and I ended up building expectations around them that they couldn’t meet.
Consequently, I’ve realized that I loved a few people for all the wrong reasons—that if I could only give myself the love I need, I would be happy, and I wouldn’t need to pressure people into giving me more than they can. This is what I realized when I stopped neglecting myself. However, I won’t fool you into thinking that I’m some expert in self-love now; I’m still exploring who I am and how to love myself. But, I have learned a thing or two about self-love over the past few years—which has also affected and altered my way of loving other people.
My love for others has become healthier and separate from my own neediness.
It is said that we must love ourselves first before loving anyone else (or before we can find the love of our life). While this stands true, we shouldn’t practice self-love just for the sake of finding “the one.” Self-love isn’t a means to an end. We should love ourselves for the sake of ourselves first—for our own happiness, benefit, and comfort. Later, when we follow this path, everything else falls into place.
So, how do we do this thing called “self-love”? When I realized I needed to love myself, I didn’t know where to begin—I didn’t even know what “love yourself” means. Now, after years of building a relationship with who I am, I’ve realized that asking ourselves this one question helps us figure out the answer: “How do you love the closest people to your heart?” Think of one person you dearly love and respect (it could be your parent, your partner, your friend, or maybe even your pet). Reflect on how you treat them, how you’d never want to see them unhappy, and how you look after them. Now, do this for yourself…this is how to begin.
Below are a few tips that can help us with the practice of self-love:
We don’t need anybody else’s validation.
When we love ourselves, we are confident in who we are. We don’t need validation on how we look, feel, what choices we make, or what beliefs we adopt. Other people’s opinions become an inspiration or an addition, rather than a dealbreaker. We stop asking for validation when we become our own support system.
We set boundaries with others.
Why do we need to set boundaries with others? Because we know that not setting boundaries with people allows them to take us for granted or take advantage of us, which only breeds misery. To love ourselves means to learn to say “no” when we need to. Not because we’re rude or selfish, but because our emotional and intellectual health comes first. It could be as simple as saying “no” to a hangout if we’re tired or as serious as leaving a relationship that doesn’t meet our values.
We look after ourselves.
Physically and emotionally. You don’t do what hurts your body or spirit. You leave situations, jobs, or relationships that suck the life out of you or devalues you in any way. You avoid drama and what brings you down. To love myself means that I can smell misery a thousand miles away, identify it, and choose not to be part of it.
We’re okay with who we are.
This is a big one. You see, we’re not perfect human beings, and it’s fine. Loving ourselves means accepting our emotions as they are in the present moment. Whether we feel something good or bad, we pause, notice the feeling, and allow it to be. Even when we make a mistake, we are capable of meeting ourselves with honesty and forgiveness. We learn the lesson, understand our imperfections, and will be ready to move on to the next chapter.
We spend time alone.
Loving yourself means dedicating time to yourself the same way you’d dedicate time to other people. You go for coffee alone, watch a movie, read, exercise, and so on. Alone time is pivotal for self-love, because it teaches us abundantly about ourselves. Since there’s nobody around us, it means our thoughts, emotions, and choices are not affected or manipulated. Thus, we learn more about what we love, what we don’t like, what we accept, what makes us happy, and what doesn’t.
More importantly, self-love doesn’t include labeling being alone as loneliness or misery. We understand that alone time is healthy and fun. We practice it for our own sake—and being okay with being alone also allows us to give those we love the space they need and the freedom to be, because we know we need this space as well.
We don’t stop loving ourselves.
Loving ourselves is not a trip to the mall; it’s a journey that has no end or destination. Just like we would check our bank account, weight, or schedule, we weekly (if not daily) check how our self-love practice is going. For instance, I keep a journal. I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years. Every once in a while, I go through what I wrote the months before and scrutinize my emotions, thoughts, and the lessons—and I work on what I should tweak for myself or toward my behavior with others.
We love others.
Because we value the importance of love, we learn how to love others the same way. We must understand that how we treat ourselves is a reflection of how we treat others and vice versa. That said, we give the same amount of love to others mindfully and consciously. We love others because they, too, want our love—and not because there’s a void within us we need to fill.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Callie Rushton
Social editor: Waylon Lewis