The biggest struggle in life is to know, embrace, and accept ourselves, with all of our faults and imperfections. Many of us were raised by parents who were themselves victims—who were not taught to see their own worth, or who were not really seen by their own parents. Our grandparents' generation faced massive trauma and upheaval due to the Second World War and the Great Depression. The focus was on survival and minimizing the damage, rather than on love, appreciation, and intimacy.
Individuals and families today face the challenges of long commutes, longer working hours, and global economic uncertainty. These stresses can beat us down, or make us build walls around ourselves that are so dense that even our dearest friends, partners, spouses, and children can't get in. Yet, there is another way. When we have the courage to let the walls down—to know and embrace ourselves, despite our human failings—we also open the door to connecting in a more caring, empathic, intimate way with the ones we love and with all living beings.
Our brains are wired for survival, but also for empathy. We have mirror neurons that fire when we see other people's pain. Let us learn to love ourselves, so we can be more open and compassionate to others, and so we can take down the walls that limit who we can be and what we can contribute.
The quotes below are intended as inspiration for your inward journey. Become more mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Know your vulnerabilities as well as your strengths and achievements, and learn to love yourself for both. I have included categories that define some different facets of self-love, including awareness, acceptance, and growth. Following the quotes is an exercise to help you better know and accept yourself.
1. "Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." —Carl Gustav Jung
2. "You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are." —Yogi Bhajan
3. "We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light." —Mary Dunbar
4. "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." —Ralph Waldo Emerson
5. "Everything worth having costs something, and the price of true love is self-knowledge." —Multiple Sources
6. "Becoming acquainted with yourself is a price well worth paying for the love that will really address your needs." —Daphne Rose Kingma
7. "My willingness to be intimate with my own deep feelings creates the space for intimacy with another." —Shakti Gawain
8. "People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within." —Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Be True to Yourself
1. "Above all, be true to yourself, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it." —Anonymous
2. "Follow that will and that way which experience confirms to be your own." —Carl Gustav Jung
3. "The hardest challenge is to be yourself in a world where everyone is trying to make you be somebody else. " —E. E. Cummings
4. "Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one. " —Eleanor Roosevelt
5. "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." —Ralph Waldo Emerson
6. "She lacks confidence, she craves admiration insatiably. She lives on the reflections of herself in the eyes of others. She does not dare to be herself." —Anais Nin
7. "I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have." —Abraham Lincoln
1. "The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself." —Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
2. "The only person who can pull me down is myself, and I'm not going to let myself pull me down anymore." —C. JoyBell C.
3. "Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one's own sunshine." —Ralph Waldo Emerson
4. "Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does." —William James
5. "It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to." —W.C. Fields
1. "Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are." —Malcolm S. Forbes
2. "Scarcity of self value cannot be remedied by money, recognition, affection, attention or influence." —Gary Zukav
3. "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated. " —William James
1. "To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself." —Thich Nhat Hanh
2. "Our entire life… consists ultimately in accepting ourselves as we are." —Jean Anouih
3. "I’ve finally stopped running away from myself. Who else is there better to be?" —Goldie Hawn
4. "Your problem is you’re… too busy holding onto your unworthiness." —Ram Dass
5. "To accept ourselves as we are means to value our imperfections as much as our perfections." —Sandra Bierig
6. "Believing in our hearts that who we are is enough is the key to a more satisfying and balanced life." —Ellen Sue Stern
1. "You must love yourself before you love another. By accepting yourself and fully being what you are, your simple presence can make others happy." —Anonymous
2. "You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." —Buddha
3. "You can’t build joy on a feeling of self-loathing." —Ram Dass
4. "It's not your job to like me... it's mine!" —Byron Katie
5. "Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." —Rumi, 13th-century Sufi poet
6. "Love is the great miracle cure. Loving ourselves works miracles in our lives. " —Louise L. Hay
7. "A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world. Everyone you meet is your mirror." —Ken Keyes
8. "Loving yourself… does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion." —Margo Anand
9. "If you aren’t good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone, since you’ll resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren’t even giving to yourself." —Barbara De Angelis
10. "Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting." —William Shakespeare, Henry V.
11. "To love yourself right now, just as you are, is to give yourself heaven. Don't wait until you die. If you wait, you die now. If you love, you live now." —Alan Cohen
12. "I celebrate myself, and sing myself." —Walt Whitman
13. "Find the love you seek, by first finding the love within yourself. Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home." —Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
14. "I love myself for I am a beloved child of the universe and the universe lovingly takes care of me now." —Louise Hay
15. "Whatever you are doing, love yourself for doing it. Whatever you are feeling, love yourself for feeling it." —Thaddeus Golas
1. "There is nothing noble about being superior to some other man. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self." —Hindu Proverb
2. "It is never too late to be what you might have been." —George Eliot
3. "Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. " —Veronica A. Shoffstall
4. "Growth begins when we start to accept our own weakness." —Jean Vanier
5. "When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life." —Jean Shinoda Bolen
6. "It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." —Edmund Hillary (the first man to climb Mt. Everest)
Exercise to Develop Self-Acceptance
Divide a piece of paper into two columns. In one column, write down all the things you like about yourself, your personal strengths, difficult situations you have overcome, people whose lives you have touched, personal accomplishments, and values that increase your self-respect. On the other side, make a list of your personal weaknesses or issues that you still struggle with. Perhaps you are selfish, sometimes, or avoid taking responsibility. You may have treated other people in a careless way or not followed through on your commitments. Disorganization and lack of self-control may have cost you opportunities—you may feel lonely or heavier than you would like to be. Whatever these issues are, bring them out into the light of day to be examined, and they will automatically feel less shameful.
At the end of the exercise, read both the strengths and the weaknesses column aloud. Next, put your hand on your heart and say, "I am strong; I am weak. I am flawed; I am broken. I am vulnerable. I am human. And despite these flaws, I give myself permission to love myself unconditionally. I am a growing, evolving being, who uses past mistakes as fuel for my journey of growth. I accept myself as I am, and I set an intention to become the person I want to be."
Read these quotes and do this exercise often. Spend time meditating on the patterns in your life that serve you and those that hold you back. Connect with the pain that disconnection from yourself has caused, and hold it gently in your awareness. By doing these things, you will grow in self-awareness, mindfulness, and compassion. When you learn it is enough to be you, you will also learn to accept and love other people with more compassion and less judgment.