Have you ever experienced that "over the moon" sensation when you find out he/she loves you? Those words mean the world: “I love you." Your heart races, your stomach flutters, and you finally find comfort in knowing you matter.
It doesn’t have to be a lover. It can be positive feedback from your boss (“You did a great job!”) or a friend (“You are the best friend I have ever had!”) Or it can be a parent who might be older and ailing who finally says, “I always loved you even though I didn’t show it enough.”
That sense of “I matter to someone” or that someone loves you, admires you, and cares for you is deep and natural. It feels good to matter—to be important in someone’s world. Unconditional love is something all human beings crave, and unfortunately, many people do not get it from their family of origin.
Instead, the love they get is based on actions—being a “good girl” or “good boy”—or it is given out sporadically when the parent, guardian, or adult in the picture feels like being magnanimous. Most people never really experience true unconditional love from another person; the closest feeling they might get is the love of their beloved pet!
Because you might be lacking in love, and because it is somewhat dangerous to leave your emotional state (positive or negative) to the whims of someone else, and because heartache follows those beautiful words in many cases, it is important to learn how to love one’s self.
Loving one’s self does not mean developing a shell and blocking out the world. It doesn’t mean having an ego so big that no one else can fit into a room with you. It doesn’t mean forgoing relationships because you only enjoy being with yourself. And, while it may be tempting for many, it doesn’t mean you should only have pets for the rest of your life.
It does mean becoming comfortable with who you are. It means recognizing that someone else who didn’t learn unconditional love has a hard time giving it. It means recognizing that most human beings hurt, and they pass this hurt along to other people. Understanding this can help you turn your attention from waiting and wanting someone to make you whole, to realizing you have that ability inside of you.
Here are five ways you can start to cultivate self-love.
- Recognize that no two people exactly alike. Even though genetics may predispose us to certain things, each individual has their own set of fingerprints by which they are known. Even identical twins who may look alike and sometimes act alike do not share fingerprints. This means you are truly and completely unique. That fact alone is a startling spiritual truth when you take a moment to digest it.
- Realize that each person does what they are capable of in their own evolution and journey. Beating yourself up because you did or didn’t do something is useless. Most people overcome obstacles, and in doing so make a ton of mistakes along the way. It’s why people value age, because of the learning experiences. Instead of beating yourself up, embrace your journey and know that you are learning at each and every moment given to you.
- Respect that each moment is a gift. Everyone knows someone who got a life-changing diagnosis or news that changed their view on what is important. Self-care is important. Don’t wait to apply it. Yes, there is plenty to do and worry about, and in the midst of it all, each moment gives you a chance to just stop and realize your own significance in the universe.
- Remember that no one is perfect. Say that again—no one is perfect. Everyone has strengths and areas of opportunity. Don’t sell yourself short or compare yourself to others. It’s a losing proposition—there is always someone who would take your place in a minute, given their circumstances. Own what’s positive about you and enjoy those things.
- Practice loving self-talk. Sometimes the things we say to ourselves are the most awful, demeaning things anyone could ever say. Instead of drilling into yourself how terrible you are or using self-defeating language, reframe—and use language that builds you up, not tears you down.
The journey doesn’t happen overnight. Start taking a couple of steps now to surround yourself with loving care.