The Self-Love Formula
First, just be.
Before you put pressure on yourself to do a ton of things to show yourself love, though, you first have to make the decision to BE more loving toward yourself.
What does it mean to be loving toward yourself? Well, let’s use your relationships with others as a point of reference. Think about it: Your friends or significant other don’t always have to DO things for you to make you feel loved. Most of the time, just being there for you is enough. And the deeper your relationship gets, the more all the little things about them—their hugs, their care, their gestures—mean the most. In the same way, a deep, loving relationship with yourself is about constantly being loving toward yourself and making yourself a priority.
Your relationship with yourself is just like any other relationship. In order for it to be a good, healthy, and loving relationship, it requires quality time, compassion, intention, forgiveness, and loving energy. Listen to yourself. Offer yourself support and encouragement. Give yourself what you need. Keep your promises to yourself. Take yourself seriously. Make yourself feel important. Spend time with yourself. Love yourself even when you’re not feeling lovable.
Likewise, if you want to BE more confident, you don’t have to DO anything first. It’s not about focusing on all the things you need to HAVE (like money, time, resources, or stuff) before you can DO the things you want to do (like travel, start a business, or find the love of your life). Before any of that, you first need to BEcome the most empowered version of you, whatever that looks like to you. Make the decision that from here on out, you’re committed to BEing a confident person and BEing loving toward yourself. The rest will follow.
Self-Love and Other People
Self-love is about putting yourself at the top of your priority list, living life on your own terms, and treating yourself as you would someone you love. But what happens when the people you love make it difficult? Whether it’s family, friends, or your partner, other people’s opinions can influence you and cause you to lose sight of your own. You can end up living in other people’s heads instead of living in your own heart.
Caring about OPO—other people’s opinions—is what prevents you from pursuing a dance major in college and opting for something “safe” and “smart” like economics.
OPO can make you bend over backward and do things you don’t want to do, just to avoid criticism. It can keep you from doing what you love, saying what you believe, and living life on your own terms.
A big warning sign that you’re living your life based on OPO is if you “should” on yourself. (Read that sentence out loud to hear the pun, which is very much intended!) Here are some common examples:
- i should be home by 5 p.m. to cook dinner, because if I’m not, then I’m not a good enough parent or partner.
- i should be married with two children, own a house, and have a steady job by 30, because if I’m not, then I’m not a good enough woman.
- i should get straight As in school, because if I don’t, then it means I’m not smart enough to go to college or work the job of my dreams.
Now you may read these statements and think, What’s wrong with cooking dinner for your family or saving up for a house? Absolutely nothing…unless you’re only doing it because you feel like you should. The key distinction is the intention. If you’re saving up for a house because you want to get a house, more power to you!
But if you’re saving up for a house because your family expects you to or because you’re scared your friends will judge you if you don’t own a house by 30, then you’re just living your life based on OPO.
So how do you stop caring what other people think and let go of other people’s expectations?
First, stop shoulding on yourself!
Anytime you catch the word “should” in your inner dialogue, question it, because it’s a warning signal that you may be living based on OPO.
The Body-Image Trap
Have you ever woken up bloated in the morning, looked in the mirror, and felt bad about yourself? Or walked by your reflection in a window and hated what you saw?
Maybe you have a negative body-image thought and then decide to punish yourself by skipping breakfast, wearing a big T-shirt instead of your favorite dress, and spend all day thinking about how much you hate your body.
To top it all off, you avoid striking up a conversation with the cute new barista at the coffee shop because you don’t think you look good enough. So you spend the rest of the day feeling insecure, isolated, and incapable, all because of that one negative body-image thought you had in the morning. You call it a “bad day” and decide to start “fresh” (i.e. start a diet) tomorrow.
It’s sad that women are trained to believe that appearance matters so much. It’s even more unfortunate that in some cases, it does. Even though you can’t change racism, sexism, and deeply ingrained beliefs in society overnight, it’s still up to you to untangle these toxic messages about beauty so you can learn to love yourself beyond your body.
Tone it down.
One thing you can do for yourself is become conscious of how much time, energy, and money you spend on fixing or maintaining your looks. Think about how much money you spend on beauty products and services (new clothes; the latest and greatest makeup products, skin care products, and facial services; hair products, haircuts, and hair removal with waxing or lasers; manicures and pedicures; and so on) and how many hours you spend on your appearance (getting ready in the morning, Googling antiaging hacks, shaving,
looking at beauty influencers on social media, thinking about how you look, blow-drying your hair for eternity, etc.). Now take a moment to consider who all of this work is for.
Is it genuinely for yourself? IS it necessary every single day or only some days? Can you identify one or two ways you can cut down your routine and focus your energy, time, and money on something other than your appearance? Even if you try to merely think less about how you look, it’s a step in the right direction. Remember, you do not owe the world any particular standard of beauty. Your only job is to show up as you.
Maybe you can go out in sweatpants and a messy bun, but instead of feeling insecure about your appearance and avoiding people, you go out of your way to talk to them anyway. Or maybe instead of hiding your bloated belly behind baggy clothes, you wear your favorite outfit as planned. Or maybe you challenge yourself to spend less time doing your hair and putting on makeup because there is absolutely nothing wrong with your natural look.
These kinds of actions will help reinforce the fact that you can still live a happy, fulfilling, and empowered life no matter what you look like or how you feel about what you look like. Practice having a good day EVEN IF you don’t (yet) feel good about your body.
Do not let your body image control your life EXPERIENCE.
Reconnecting With Your Body
When was the last time you touched yourself just to feel yourself (not necessarily in the sexual sense, although that’s always an option!)? You may be so caught up with looking at your body that you forget to feel in your body. So try it: Wrap your arms around your body and give yourself a loving hug. Put your hands on your stomach and picture the trillions of cells working to keep you alive. Grab your thighs and feel their strength. Touch every part of your body you’ve ever criticized, and let the touch of your hands reconnect you to all your body does for you. As you do this, close your eyes and send love to each area. Keep sending love until acceptance comes.
Write about this experience below.
when I touched my body, I felt…
Think back to how you used to eat as a small child. You probably ate what your parents or caretakers gave you, sometimes finishing your meal, sometimes not. At times, you’d forget about food altogether, because you were too preoccupied with playing on the playground or focused on completing your arts and crafts. Other times, you’d look forward to dinner, because you knew your mom was making your favorite—spaghetti. It was so tasty that you’d ask for seconds and then find yourself feeling a bit stuffed, but it was OK, because the meal was so yummy.
Overall, you practiced intuitive eating without even realizing it. Even though your eating wasn’t “perfect,” you didn’t beat yourself up for eating a little too much, nor did you label your food as “good” or “bad.” If anything, ice cream was “good” because it made you happy, and spinach was “bad” because it wasn’t as tasty! You weren’t preoccupied with thoughts about food, but you looked forward to a delicious meal. You ate when you felt hungry and stopped when you felt full. You were in harmony with your body’s needs and wants.
Now I know what you’re thinking. if I eat whatever I want, then I’ll just be eating pizza and ice cream all day! That can’t be healthy!
The short answer: No, you won’t. It seems that way now, because you probably have strong cravings for “forbidden foods,” but this is only because they’re forbidden. It’s like telling a toddler, “No, you can’t have that.” What do they do? They throw a tantrum, because telling a kid they can’t have something makes them want it more! Adults are the same way.
When you consistently listen to your body and give it time to start trusting you to honor its needs and wants, you’ll find that your body will crave balance. It will ask you for nutrient-dense foods because they make you feel good and it will ask you to honor cravings because they will make you happy.
Watch what you say
How you talk to others is usually how you talk to yourself. For the next day, try not to not say anything critical about yourself out loud.
if you’re feeling sad…
This too shall pass. Nothing is permanent, including this feeling. You’ve been through difficulties before, and you’ve survived all of them. You probably even thrived, because those experiences helped shape you into a strong, resilient, and powerful person. Sadness helps happiness feel that much better. In fact, there would be no happiness if there weren’t sadness. So, let this feeling be a signal that there are better days ahead.
if you’re feeling stressed…
Being stressed about something means you care about doing your best. Make sure you are rested. Rest is a priority, because it allows you to handle stressful situations in a calm manner. Take it one step at a time, because the only thing that matters is what you’re doing right here, right now. Ask yourself what you can take off your plate or ask someone to help with. You are capable of handling whatever is on your mind or your to-do list, but it is always OK to ask for and receive help.
if you’re feeling angry…
Anger is a healthy feeling and emotion. It’s important to process the anger so that it can move through you instead of being bottled up inside in a way that hurts you or comes out to hurt someone else. My favorite quote is, “It’s OK to lose your shit sometimes, because if you keep your shit inside, you’ll end up being full of shit. Then you’ll explode, and there will be shit everywhere. It’ll be a shitstorm, and nobody wants that.” So don’t be afraid to sometimes lose your shit. Write in your journal. Tear through the pages with your pen. Burn them when you’re done. Ugly cry—like one of those screaming cries where the walls start to shake. If you’re angry at someone, process your feelings first, and then let that person know how you truly feel. Let it out. Breathe. And most important, forgive yourself.
if you’re feeling anxious before a test, performance, or big event…
Did you know that anxiety and excitement feel the same in the body? Think about the last time you gave a big presentation and the first time you held your crush’s hand. What did those two events have in common? Heart beating, stomach in knots, sweaty palms, right? A 2014 study from Harvard found that when you’re anxious, instead of trying to tell yourself to calm down, it’s a lot more effective to say to yourself, I am excited! to help your brain and body see that there’s no physical threat, but rather a new opportunity
if you’re feeling anxious about the future…
All we have is now. And right now, you’re OK. Exactly where you are and exactly as you are. When anxiety comes up, it’s important to thank it. It is actually trying to help you, because anxiety is how you deal with the threat of uncertainty. Tell your anxiety, “Thank you for trying to keep me safe, but I am OK right now.”
if you’re feeling lonely…
Sometimes you can feel lonely in a room full of people, while other times you may feel totally content sitting alone in your room. What does that tell you? Loneliness is not situational but a feeling that comes from within. It’s OK to feel lonely. Everyone feels lonely sometimes. When you’re lonely, you have extra time to get to know your true self, outside of other people’s agendas, opinions, and expectations. Loneliness doesn’t mean others don’t love you. It means you get to practice loving yourself a little more.
if you’re feeling like you want to self-sabotage…
We tend to sabotage when we don’t feel worthy of good things—healthy love, success, abundance, recognition, healing, joy. But listen, you are worthy of all those things and more. Instead of beating yourself up for procrastinating or being tempted to fall into old habits, recognize that you are still learning to see your worth, and it’s times like these that allow you to prove to yourself how strong you really are. Instead of beating yourself up, take note of your feelings and say, “Hmmm, that’s interesting. My brain is feeling uncomfortable, so it wants to resort to old habits. Thanks, brain! I’m going to do my own thing now.”
if you’re feeling like you want to text your ex…
Don’t. It’s normal to want to go back to the old, familiar, and comfortable when you’re feeling down, but that doesn’t mean you should act on that urge. There’s a reason it didn’t work out. This person came into your life to teach you something, but now it’s time to take what you learned and move on. You deserve better. You deserve affection and romance and hot sex and unconditional love. You deserve someone who makes you feel seen, heard, and appreciated. You deserve the love you freely give to others.
There is always a positive way to talk to yourself about your feelings, and it’s usually the same way you would talk to a friend going through the same thing. What would you say to them? What is the truth beneath all the noise? Don’t contribute to negative self-talk, whether it’s happening in your head or in a conversation with a friend. Nip it in the bud quickly, change the topic, and whatever you do, don’t text your ex.
Your most important relationships
Talking to your partner about your struggles is a process of exposing yourself, letting someone into your innermost thoughts, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
If the thought of opening up to your partner gives you a lump in your throat and anxiety in the pit of your stomach, then either you’re feeling fear of the unknown—which is OK—or you don’t have a supportive partner. And if you’re in a relationship you know isn’t good for you, then dig deep right now and ask yourself, Why am I in this relationship? You may have a million little reasons or one main reason, but there will never be a reason that is more important than you.
Take a moment to reflect on your current closest relationship, whether that’s with your significant other or a friend. Now it’s time to have an honest conversation with your closest person about your self-love journey.
Remember: Your partner, your friends, and your family all want to be there for you, even in your dark times. Nothing you vulnerably share about yourself will change their love for you. In fact, it might even deepen it.
step 1: Set a time within the next week to talk to your partner or closest person about your self-love journey. It’s important to plan this in advance so you don’t spring it on them and both of you can be fully present and take the conversation seriously.
step 2: Open up to them as much as you feel comfortable. Tell them where you are now, why you’re doing this, and what you’re hoping to achieve.
step 3: Ask them to support you.
Women have the hardest time asking for support. So many of us have a hard time asking for support because we want to be “a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need anyone else”. But this attitude is the fastest road to isolation.
A lot of people think that asking for support is weak. But think about it: Isn’t it a lot harder to ask for help than to pretend like you have everything handled? In reality, the opposite is true: Asking for support is a courageous act.