What does it mean to love yourself? 6 ways to practice self-love, according to psychologists (2024)

  • Self-love means having trust, confidence, and pride in yourself and your abilities.
  • Practicing self-love means setting boundaries, being mindful, and removing toxic people from your life.
  • To develop self-love, seek a therapist, journal, and listen to affirmations.

What does it mean to love yourself? 6 ways to practice self-love, according to psychologists (1)


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There is only one person with whom you spend every second of every day of your life —yourself. Fostering a loving relationship with yourself can be a long, complicated process but will also create space for more happiness and freedom.

Here's what you need to know about practicing self-love.


1. Practice self-care

Self-care is anything you do that benefits your physical, mental, or emotional health.

There are many ways you can practice self-care, including:

  • Watching a movie or TV show
  • Cooking a meal
  • Play a game
  • Going on a walk
  • Cleaning your apartment
  • Flossing your teeth
  • Exercising


2. Become mindful

Mindfulness is an awareness of what you are sensing and feeling in the moment without judgment. Mindfulness tries to steer you from the past or future by focusing on the present.

"Being able to listen to your body and mind and to be aware of your needs is the best thing that can be done for you specifically," says Annie M. Henderson, a certified professional life coach and licensed professional counselor.

Some ways to practice mindfulness are:

  • Meditation
  • Count your breaths or breathe deeply
  • Grounding exercises
  • Pay attention to your five senses like what you smell, hear, or touch.


3. Question negative thoughts

When you have a thought in your head saying "I'm not worthy" or "I can't do this," question it. What makes you feel that way, and how can you shift your perspective to focus on successes?

Also, take the time to think about how outside factors are influencing your opinion of yourself. "Sometimes you're underperforming at work, but sometimes their expectations are exploitative," says Daramus. "Sometimes you're 'not there for a friend or significant other, but sometimes their needs are unreasonable."


4. Set boundaries

Setting physical and emotional boundaries allows you to control how you treat yourself and how others treat you, both of which are essential for self-love. It helps prioritize your needs and allows you to vocalize what those needs are.

Setting boundaries can look like:

  • Learning to say "no" without guilt
  • Making decision regardless of others' opinion of you
  • Standing up for yourself and your needs

Your boundaries may change over time, and enforcing new limits does not require an apology.


5. Stop comparing yourself to others

Thanks to social media, it's far too easy to see an idealized version of other people's lives and accomplishments. Comparing yourself to a person's curated online presence can be detrimental to self-love.

"Remember that social media is an extreme version of the public persona or mask folks project, but only represents a sliver of the challenges, problems, and difficulties that color individuals' lives," says Romanoff.


6. Remove toxic people from your life

A toxic person can limit your ability to foster self-love. While you can achieve self-love on your own, it's easier when the people around you provide positive affirmations and respect.

According to Henderson, attributes of a toxic person may include:

  • Being resistant to or fearful of your growth
  • Only having negative things to say
  • Disregarding your opinions
  • Ignoring boundaries you set
  • Leaving you exhausted after time spent together

After talking to someone, ask yourself, "Do I feel better or worse than I did before the conversation began?"


How you develop self-love

There are many ways to develop self-love, and which is best will vary from person to person.

"While waking up at 5 AM, meditation, and journaling might really give someone a sense of self-love, it could be dancing, running, or talking to a life coach or therapist," says Henderson. "Consistency is key when it comes to self-love and finding something that works for you."

Here are a few specific techniques for developing self-love to try:

  • Seek help. Studies show therapists can help cultivate self-love and self-esteem. They can gently guide you to discover where insecurities may stem from, and then help you overcome them. "A therapist can also check for underlying problems, like depression, anxiety, or trauma," says Daramus.
  • Do a self-love meditation. Similar to being mindful, a self-love meditation involves sitting with yourself and evoking feelings of love and kindness towards yourself.
  • Journal. Writing can increase your sense of well-being by giving you the opportunity to become aware of your emotions, what you're proud of, aspects you like about yourself, and steps you're taking to accomplish your goals.
  • Listen to affirmations. An affirmation is a phrase you can say to yourself if feelings of self-love waver or need a boost. Affirmations may include "I am worthy" or "I am loved." There are affirmation apps and journals available to get you started.


Insider's takeaway

Self-love is a lifelong journey with ups and downs. You can practice and develop self-love on your own or with the help of a mental health professional. Loving yourself means listening to your needs, questioning negative thoughts, and removing people from your life who bring you down.

Sarah Fielding

Freelance Writer

Sarah Fieldingis a freelance writer covering a range of topics with a focus on mental health and women'sissues.She is also the co-founder ofEmpire Coven, a space for highlighting trailblazing women across New York.

What does it mean to love yourself? 6 ways to practice self-love, according to psychologists (2024)
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