How to Cultivate Self-Love
Since it is sort of the month of “love”, I thought I would dedicate this month to talking about one of my favourite kinds of love- you guessed it, “self-love”.
I know what you’re thinking- “sure, sure Olive, self-love. Some catch phrase that is meant for “girlbosses” and hippies, but not me. Besides, how does one even go about ‘loving themselves?” Or something to that effect, yeah?
I assure you, self-love is not as lame as it sounds and is for everyone.
Even if it doesn’t feel accessible now, it can be cultivated. Though sadly, there is no magic formula. Cultivating self-love is something that takes time and persistence. It’s like a muscle you have to a keep flexing. But I promise the more you flex it, the stronger it gets.
Generally when I refer to self-love I mean believing that we are worthy, even when we don’t feel like we are.
Choosing love over and over.
Treating ourselves lovingly.
Softening our view of ourselves to be less critical and more loving.
We may not always feel love towards ourselves but we continue to try and make choices and treat ourselves from a place of love.
I like to think of it like any loving relationship. I am in a relationship with myself- like any relationship it needs work.
So here’s a few, non-exhaustive ways, to help cultivate self-love:
(And don’t worry, if self-acceptance is your goal, these will help with that too)
Pay attention to your thoughts
Not surprisingly the first thing I am going to suggest is paying attention to your thoughts; getting some good ol’ inventory on how you talk to yourself.
What are your common thoughts you say about yourself?
Where do they come from?
How might you have been socialized to believe them?
Are they true? Are they fair? Is believing them helping you?
What is it costing you? Do you want to believe them?
Pay attention to them as they come up, get curious, and write them down. Then go about answering some of the above questions.
Speak to yourself kindly
Once you have some inventory on how you speak to yourself, you can set about trying to replace those thoughts with more loving thoughts.
Start small with things you can believe and work your way up. Even being less of a jerk to yourself is a great place to start.
If you want some more help on how to do this, you can check out my blog on How to Change Your Thoughts here.
I’ve even started using terms of affection sometimes when I’m being really hard on myself, like “Don’t worry honey, you tried your best and that’s good enough”. I find it helps me bring a gentleness I need. Regardless, pay attention to how you speak to yourself, you’re listening.
Take care of yourself
Obviously. Do things to take care of yourself and show yourself care.
Whether that’s drinking water, moving your bod, practicing a skin care routine, making yourself delicious food, journaling, or getting enough sleep, do things that show yourself you care.
Do them with intention.
Put love in it, like you would for someone else you love.
Tell yourself you deserve to be cared for.
Doing things from a place of love and care rather than because you have to (or worse, from a place of punishment) will not only feel way better, but be much easier to do and maintain.
Do nice things for yourself, just like you would a loved one.
Treat yourself once in awhile to something (and not always something that makes you more ‘conventionally attractive’ though those things can be nice too).
Treat yourself to a nice dinner, or outfit, or holiday, or plant or movie, or lay-in-bed-and-read-all-day kinda day, or whatever is within your means.
Again doing this from a place of intention and with love (rather than necessity or to numb yourself or distract yourself) will have bigger impacts.
Which brings me to my next point; romance yourself.
Take yourself out, light candles, watch sunsets, set the mood, buy yourself flowers, write yourself poetry, dance with yourself.
Find moments with yourself and be present.
Romance the ever loving shit out of yourself.
Life can be so overwhelmingly beautiful and there’s so many places to find romance- you don’t need a partner for it. I swear, if you start romancing yourself, your whole relationship with yourself with change [more on this next month].
Do a cleanse
Of people, media, grudges, or anything else that makes you feel less loveable.
Pay attention to how people make you feel about yourself, how they talk about themselves, and how they talk to you.
Pay attention to where you’re needlessly comparing yourself to others or what things are making you feel like less (thought work really helps with this too) and get rid of or set some serious boundaries around what makes you question your own worth.
Touch yourself lovingly
Not just sexually (but do this too- lovingly and with intention, not just always focused on orgasm), but sensually and ‘platonically’.
Touch yourself like you long to be touched.
Be present with it, notice how it feels to be the toucher and the touchee. See what sensations you can feel. Notice where you feel pleasure. What feels good, what doesn’t.
Touch yourself like you lovingly touch a lover- see if you can conjur up that sense of love and passion that you have for others and impart it on yourself.
Additionally, touch yourself lovingly regularly.
Hug yourself. Rub your arms. Place a hand on your heart and/or belly. Cup your face in your hands. Do whatever feels good. Whatever feels soothing. And do it with love and intention (I like to accompany this with loving affirmations)
Quit holding onto shit that isn’t serving you.
Do what you can to make amends if it involves another and if you can’t, do what you can to let it go and forgive yourself.
Practice saying to yourself what you would to a friend.
Write yourself an apology letter from past self (and a response from present self can be super powerful).
Make meaning and derive lessons.
Know that you are not the same person now and that you were doing the best you could with what you had. And our best is different every day.
Even if it’s for something you did or didn’t do to yourself like eating a bunch of oreos until you feel sick (This may have just happened to me about half an hour ago)- remind yourself that you are human, that you make mistakes, that you do things out of fear or anxiety or any other emotion, try to be more aware of it in the future, and see if you can let it go. Lovingly.
Which brings me to my next point- practice self-compassion.You’re an empathetic person towards others- try and turn that onto yourself.
As Kristin Neff says, “what is the common humanity in this?”
Have other people done this?
Is this part of being human? Do humans make mistakes?
Are you human? Therefore are you allowed to make mistakes (spoiler alert, yes you are).
Are you trying to be perfect? Is that realistic? Is there something you can let go of?
Is there a loving thought that could help (“I’m allowed to make mistakes” or “I’m flawed and loveable” or “I’m human” are some of my favs).
I’ve lots to say on this, which that’s why I teach whole courses around these topics. But you get the idea.
You’re amazing, celebrate that.
Celebrate what you’ve accomplished.
Celebrate what you’ve overcome.
Celebrate what your body has done for you.
Celebrate when you break old patterns.
Celebrate when you respond rather than react.
Celebrate when you speak more kindly to yourself.
Celebrate it all. Seriously. Make a list. Write it down.
Celebrate a small win each day.
This is NOT the same as being self- absorbed (celebrating your wins does not take away from other people’s wins and wonder) and I promise this will not make you conceded. What it will do is start to shift your thinking and your mood.
Similarly to self-forgiveness and compassion- are there places you can practice radical acceptance for the way things are- your body, your situation, you choices? They are that way simply because they are.
This isn’t to say nothing can ever change but accepting where things are now instead of punishing or forcing or wishing things, can bring about a sense of peace and ease and can make it easier to love yourself (as you are now, flawed and beautiful).
Seriously. Whatever this means to you. Treat yourself like the queen/goddess/god/goddex/king/empress/emprex/warrior/witch/whatever resonates with you, that you are.
Give yourself moments of worship. Adorn yourself. Dress up. Look in the mirror. Admire your various body parts. Or strength. Or walk. Or mannerisms. Dance around. Feed yourself fucking grapes and lie around, I don’t know. Do whatever makes you feel worshipped and amazing.
I feel like I could keep going, but I think that’s a good place to start.
Notice what comes up for you as you read and try these things.
Notice where and why you might be resistant and get curious about it.
See if you can play a little more or go a bit deeper in these areas.
And above all, don’t give up. Keep practicing. Keep flexing that muscle. Keep working on that relationship. I promise it will be worth it.
If you'd like to deepen your relationship with yourself while tapping into self love and pleasure, check out my new on-demand workshop: