“When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits—anything that kept me small.” – Kim McMillan
Do you love yourself? Do you practice acts of self-love, compassion, and self-care as a daily ritual? Do you have a strong foundation of self-love? Many of us don’t know the answer to these questions. This was certainly true in my case. In fact, I spent most of my time in a cycle of self-abuse drinking heavily and chain smoking. Many of us can get caught in a cycle of self-destructive habits because we never fully developed a strong sense of self-love. We find unhealthy ways to cope with our lives and deal with stress and life situations, without realizing we are often causing our own misery. But, when I learned to fully love myself, I was able to quit drinking and smoking and live a happier, healthier, and more fully realized life. If you’re looking for ways to transform your life into something more positive, feel more in control and powerful, and develop healthier habits, building a strong foundation of self-love will help you get there.
What is Self-Love?
So, what is self-love? Simply put it’s about loving the “I” in “I love you.” When we usually think of the phrase “I love you” we are thinking about loving someone else. This means accepting them for who they are, sticking by them through good times and bad, encouraging them in their life pursuits, celebrating their healthy choices, and being a constant companion and ally. Sounds nice, huh? But what about actually providing this to your very self, as well?
How Strong is Your Self-Love?
The important part about developing a strong sense of self-love is realizing that you may not have one to be with. How can you tell? Ask yourself the following questions.
- Do I have relationships with people who are abusive to me, either emotionally or physically, or otherwise?
- Are my friends negative, critical, and judgmental of me and others?
- Do I constantly berate myself for being too stupid, too fat, too ugly, too boring, too whatever?
- Do I say nice things about myself or not?
- Do I congratulate myself and cheer myself on when I accomplish something or not?
- Do I reward myself for my achievements or not? Do I even acknowledge that I have achievements?
- Do I tell myself I am deserving of a good relationship with a loving partner?
- Do I engage in self-destructive habits or actions, such as substance abuse, overeating, or causing myself physical harm?
If the answers to some of these questions got you thinking that you don’t tend to treat yourself very well, you may want to think about ways to develop a stronger foundation of self-love.
How do you Develop Self-Love?
So, how do we develop our self-love into something strong and powerful? To love oneself, one has to believe they have value and that they are worthy of their own self-respect and love. Then, one begins to demand this of the world. This is reflected in the relationships we have the way we treat our bodies, the things we allow in our lives, etc. Somewhere early on in one’s life – during the early formative years we develop our sense of self-worth. This is influenced by the relationships we have during this time with our core family unit and the environment we grow up in. If we are immersed in a destructive, negligent, or just plain emotionally distant or disruptive environment, it can impact our development of a strong foundation of self-love.
Spend some time exploring and thinking about your upbringing and consider what you find. Did you move around a lot as a child? Were your parents emotionally available? Did you suffer from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse? Were you a sensitive child? Did you have older siblings who picked on you? Where one or more of your parents absent from your life? The answers to these questions and others could be very informative to you.
How do you Love the “I” in “I Love You”?
To begin to build a stronger sense of self-love, you need to first change your mindset – those things you tell yourself about yourself. The best way I’ve found to do this is by using affirmations. This is writing a positive statement about yourself. Then, reading it over and over and over, until it starts to stick. Soon, you begin to believe it. The mind is a creature of habit and it is also very impressionable. It will believe what you tell it. In my case, I had been telling myself that I was unworthy of love and that I wasn’t lovable. You could see where that lead me – down a path of self-destruction. So I had to re-program my mind. It wasn’t until I could find some sense of self-love that I began to transform my life into something healthy and positive. It’s the same for any of us trying to transform our lives in some way.
Here’s what my affirmation said:
I am beautiful, smart, and kind. I am worthy of love.
That’s it. It was short. It was simple. And it was earth-shattering. Even if at first I didn’t believe it, I wrote it anyway. I kept it on my vanity mirror and read it every day. Soon, it started to take root and then those roots started to grow more roots and anchor themselves. Then branches started to sprout and blossom. Soon, I had a full blooming tree with deep roots. Suddenly, I felt these words were true. Suddenly, I started to believe them. Then one day, I quit drinking and smoking for good. This was because I had finally come to love myself enough to care enough about myself to get help. Since that day, my self-love has only gotten stronger and it is this self-love that keeps me on a positive life path to this day.
How do you Write a Self-Love Affirmation?
You can write a self-love affirmation in a few easy steps.
- Get out a piece of paper
- Write one sentence that identifies some positive traits about you
- Write one sentence that says “I am…” and insert a statement about love, such as, I am worthy of love, I am loveable, I am deserving of love, etc.
- Put this piece of paper somewhere you will see it every day
- Read it daily
Allow your affirmation to seep into your life and one day it will take root and blossom. Soon, you’ll see dramatic changes in your life too.