How to love yourself: 7 ways to cultivate self-love — Calm Blog (2024)

Personal GrowthRelationships

Written By Calm Editorial Team

How to love yourself: 7 ways to cultivate self-love — Calm Blog (2)

Clinically reviewed by Dr. Chris Mosunic, PhD, RD, CDCES, MBA

Learn how to start loving yourself with these 7 steps to self-love. Plus, practices to cultivate self-love and self-compassion when it feels impossible.

Loving yourself sounds like it should come naturally, but most of us don’t find it easy. If you struggle to silence your inner critic or often find yourself overwhelmed with self-criticism, starting a self-love practice probably feels pretty impossible. But it’s worth pursuing.

The thing is, self-love isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a practice. And it takes time. Luckily, there are some simple steps and strategies you can follow to help you cultivate the qualities that will blossom into sustainable self-love.

What is self-love and why is it important?

Self-love is exactly how it sounds—it’s a love for self and having an interest in your own wellbeing and happiness. Loving yourself doesn’t mean being self-centered or selfish. It’s about forming a caring relationship with yourself, like getting to know a good friend.

Self-love is important because the relationship you have with yourself sets the tone for how you deal with every aspect of life: your bonds with others, the way you handle challenges, and how you celebrate joys. When you’re kind and understanding toward yourself, you’re better equipped to navigate life’s ups and downs.

But how do you start loving yourself? Where do you even begin? Self-love starts with understanding where you stand right now. Take a look at your current feelings toward your mental health, motivation, and overall wellbeing. Are you harsh with yourself when things don’t go as planned? Do you forget to celebrate your wins, especially the small ones? These little check-ins can pave the path to walking toward self-love.

What are the 7 steps to loving yourself?

Loving yourself isn’t a switch you turn on or off. It’s a practice that takes time, commitment and, well, practice, to cultivate. For many of us, the idea of loving ourselves feels out of reach. That’s why it’s often helpful to break the concept of self-love down into its distinctive elements — including self-trust, self-compassion, and self-awareness.

This can make it easier to start developing a self-love practice that feels achievable and manageable. So instead of viewing self-love as something you have to win at, try practicing these seven steps.

  1. Self-awareness: Understand your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

  2. Self-expression: Be true to who you are in all areas of life.

  3. Self-care: Take care of your body and mind.

  4. Self-trust: Believe in your ability to handle life’s ups and downs.

  5. Self-compassion: Be kind to yourself, especially when times are tough.

  6. Self-respect: Honor your worth by setting healthy boundaries.

  7. Self-acceptance: Embrace who you are, including the parts you don’t find perfect. Remember what we said about perfection?

How to love yourself: 7 ways to practice self-love, self-compassion, and self-care

Self-love can feel unfamiliar and challenging to some of us, particularly if we’ve got into a habit of being hard on ourselves. The steps above can help break down the idea of self-love into more manageable elements.

But what practical things can we do to cultivate practices like self-awareness and self-trust? We got you. For each of the self-love steps, we’re sharing tools, techniques and exercises you can use to help get you closer to loving yourself.

1. Build your self-awareness

Building self-awareness helps cultivate self-love by giving you further insight into what makes you who you are on an emotional level. Begin by tuning into your thoughts and feelings. What makes you feel happy, sad, or excited? Then, take it a step further. What makes you feel overwhelmed, overjoyed, or anxious? Knowing yourself is the first step to loving yourself.

How to practice self-awareness

Practice mindfulness: Try mindfulness practices to stay present and understand your thoughts and feelings better.

Educate yourself: Empower yourself through education by reading books, attending workshops, or engaging in discussions that promote self-awareness, self-compassion, and self-love.

Schedule regular self-check-ins: Reflect on your feelings, goals, and progress. Write them down, and revisit them often.

Tune into yourself through meditation: Spend some quiet time meditating to help declutter your mind and tap into your desires.

Let go of what no longer serves you: Let go of old habits or relationships that no longer contribute to your growth or happiness. We know this practice can be difficult, but removing what no longer brings you joy makes space for the good to come in.

💙 If you want to learn to relate to your thoughts in a healthier way, press play on Shift Your Perspective with Jay Shetty.

2. Discover what self-expression looks like for you

Loving yourself also means giving yourself permission to express your thoughts and feelings both inwardly and outwardly. Express yourself honestly in your day-to-day life. Be true to who you are, whether you’re simply chatting with friends or making big decisions at work.

How to express yourself

Engage in creative expression: Whether it's drawing, writing, or any other form of creative expression, allowing your creativity to flow freely can become an act of self-love.

Discover new hobbies: Explore new activities that bring you joy and allow you to express yourself. Have you always wanted to try your hand at a group sport or acting? Now’s the time to try.

Journaling: Write down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences daily, and don’t hold back. Expressing yourself through writing can be cathartic and a helpful step in falling back in love with who you are.

Spend quality time with yourself: Enjoy your own company by doing things that make you happy. There’s a difference between doing something alone and feeling lonely. Embracing solo time and solo outings to the movies, dinner, or even a cooking class can be empowering, and, believe it or not, ridiculously fun!

💙 Journaling can be a great way to process feelings and encourage self-love. Check out our five Calm Journals plus our Feelings Wheel to get you started.

3. Practice self-care

Caring for your body and mind plays a major role in cultivating self-love. Simple acts like mindful eating, exercise, and making time to relax can make a big difference in your overall wellbeing.

How to take care of yourself

Make time for self-care: Dedicate time each day for yourself, even if it's just a few minutes at the start of your day or before bed to breathe and ground yourself.

Take breaks when you need them: Remember to rest — even a micro-break can refresh and rejuvenate you. Want to amp up your rest break a notch? Take it outside. Being in nature can naturally calm and refresh your mind and body.

Practice relaxation: Use techniques like deep breathing or yoga to relax your body and focus on your breath.

Nourish your body: Fuel your body with nourishing food that makes you feel good.

Prioritize sleep: Ensure you get enough good quality sleep—it’s crucial for your wellbeing.

Connect with your body through movement: Move your body in a way that feels good for you. It could be dancing in your apartment to your favorite album, walking outside, or stretching from the comfort of your bed.

Ask for support when you need it: Reach out for help when you need it. Asking for support isa sign of strength, not weakness.

Set healthy habits to support your wellbeing: Create routines that promote your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. Perhaps it’s a walk in the park a few times a week, morning journaling, or cutting back on caffeine.

💙 Move your body with some Mindful Movement thanks to the Daily Move.

4. Embrace self-trust

It’s hard to love yourself if you don’t trust yourself. Embracing self-trust is about understanding that you have the ability to make the correct decisions for your life. Even when things don’t go as planned, believing that you can learn and grow from the experience is an important step in building self-trust.

How to trust yourself

Develop a growth mindset: View challenges as opportunities for growth, instead of viewing them as barriers, and trust that you’ll make it through. There’s no harm in trying and getting something wrong. Learn from it, and try again.

Set realistic expectations: Set achievable goals to build your sense of accomplishment and reinforce the belief you have in yourself to overcome.

Practice patience: Be patient with yourself as you uncover what self-love means to you. Trusting yourself takes time. Let it.

Monitor your negative self-talk: Pay attention to how you talk to yourself. Are you harsh or unforgiving? Do you speak about yourself poorly? Take note of how you speak to yourself and work to make it more positive and encouraging. Similarly to how we might lose trust in someone who speaks negatively, we can lose that same trust in ourselves.

Make a list of things you’re proud of: Reflect on your achievements and the things that make you proud. Look back on them when you need a dose of inspiration and remind yourself and believe that you can make yourself proud again and again.

💙 Check out our 7 Days of Self-Esteem series to give your self-acceptance and boost your inner strength.

5. Cultivate self-compassion

Be kind to yourself. Always. Especially when life gets tough. Celebrate your wins, learn from life’s mishaps, and don’t be too hard on yourself when it all doesn’t go as planned. Having compassion for self means you deeply care about your wellbeing. And feelings of deep care often mean love.

How to be more compassionate with yourself

Practice positive affirmations: Craft and repeat positive phrases daily to help drive away those pesky negative thoughts.

Develop a self-forgiveness practice: Forgive yourself for past mistakes or perceived shortcomings. You’re only human. Remember that.

Try a loving-kindness meditation: Practice loving-kindness meditation to cultivate love and kindness toward yourself and others.

Put your hand over your heart and breathe deeply: This simple gesture can bring comfort and a sense of self-compassion.

💙 Try Loving-Kindness Meditation as a guided practice with Tamara Levitt.

6. Strengthen your self-respect

Respect yourself by setting boundaries to show yourself—and others—that your desires, wants, and needs matter. When we respect our boundaries and our wants, we’re showing ourselves love by prioritizing our needs.

How to start respecting yourself more

Seek supportive communities: Surround yourself with supportive, loving, and understanding people who uplift you. The more you’re around people you respect and admire, the more you might begin to respect, admire, and love yourself.

Set boundaries: Give yourself permission to say no to things or people that drain your energy. Setting boundaries and sticking to them is an act of self-love, as it showcases to the world around you that you give yourself what you want and need.

Volunteer: Engage in volunteer work to connect with a sense of purpose and community. Volunteer to walk dogs at a local animal shelter or serve meals at a community kitchen. Giving back brings a deep sense of purpose and gratitude, and a way to give yourself love is to give love to others in need.

Celebrate your progress and success: Celebrate your wins, big or small, as all victories are steps toward growth. You’d cheer for a friend’s achievement, regardless of its size, wouldn’t you? Show yourself the same love and kindness and become your own cheerleader.

Honor your commitments to yourself: When you make a promise to yourself, keep it. Honoring your promises to yourself can help to build self-respect, which, as we’ve learned, enhances self-love by showing yourself that you’re a priority.

Cultivate self-worth: Grow your self-esteem by acknowledging your worth and capabilities. Worthiness is defined as something that is important and deserves recognition. Having self-worth drives positive action and belief toward self, which can develop self-love.

💙 Learn even more about self-love with our Relationship with Self series.

7. Embrace self-acceptance

Embrace yourself wholeheartedly. Every single inch. Even the parts you’d like to improve upon. You have nothing to gain by being hard on yourself, and everything to gain by being loving and accepting of yourself as you move along on your path in life. When you accept yourself, you’re declaring the love you have for self, regardless of what happens. Think of self-acceptance as a loving embrace.

How to start accepting yourself

Acknowledge and embrace your imperfections: Accept all parts of yourself, even what you don’t find to be perfect. Perfection is an illusion anyway, remember?

Learn to laugh with yourself: Embracing a light-hearted approach toward life and how you view yourself can help you meet those challenging moments with more ease and less friction.

Embrace where you are now: Appreciate the present moment. You’re here now. So, be here now and try to enjoy the journey.

Make space for your emotions: Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Emotions are natural, but ignoring them can become detrimental to your wellbeing.

Drop the comparison: Avoid comparing yourself to others. You’re unique and have your own journey.

Practice gratitude: Cultivate gratitude by acknowledging the qualities you appreciate about yourself and your life. This can shift your focus from what's lacking to what's abundant.

💙 If you’re looking to build a daily gratitude practice, check out the 7 Days of Gratitude.

How to love yourself FAQs

How do I start to love myself?

Starting on the path of self-love begins with self-awareness. Notice your thoughts, feelings and actions. Begin to recognize what makes you smile or what makes you feel uneasy. Once you have a better understanding of yourself, you can start taking steps toward treating yourself with more kindness and respect. Remember, it's a journey—there are no deadlines, and you don’t have to rush. And if you ever feel lost, you can always revisit the seven steps to gently reintroduce self-love practices.

Why do I struggle to love myself?

Struggling with self-love is a common human experience, so you're not alone. Sometimes, past experiences, societal expectations, or harsh self-judgment can create blocks on the path to self-love. It's important to remember that overcoming these hurdles takes time and practice, but with patience and persistence, it can get easier. Engaging in self-compassion practices and seeking support when needed are great steps when you encounter these struggles.

What are the signs of lack of self-love?

Lack of self-love can show up in different ways. It could be in the form of constant self-criticism, ignoring your own needs, or having difficulty with accepting compliments. It might also appear as feeling undeserving of positive experiences or neglecting self-care. The good news is that recognizing these signs is the first step toward change. Once you see them, you can start taking steps to build a more loving relationship with yourself.

What are self-love habits?

Self-love habits are small, daily actions that nurture a loving relationship with yourself. They could be as simple as speaking kindly to yourself, taking breaks when needed, or engaging in activities that make you happy. Other self-love habits include practicing gratitude, spending time in nature, eating nourishing food, and exercising in a way that feels good to your body. The goal is to create habits that make you feel loved, respected, and cared for.

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