Have you ever stopped and wondered about the benefits of self-love and how to develop it? It’s kind of a buzz term now, and I’ve been hesitant to write much about it. Not because self-love actions are bad, but because there is one definition that does not bring benefits to your life. I am more comfortable in my own skin now more than ever before. To me, that’s what self-love is about – realizing that I have value and taking the time to do the things I know are good for me. I’ll tell you more about becoming more comfortable in my own skin in a minute, but first, let’s look into what self-love means, how to develop it, and the benefits of self-love.
What is the Definition of Self-Love?
The Mirriam Webster dictionary gives three definitions for self-love. They read:
- an appreciation of one’s own worth or virtue
- proper regard for and attention to one’s own happiness or well-being
- inflated love of or pride in oneself
That last one, the “inflated love of or pride in oneself” is why I have been hesitant to embrace the terminology. Let me be very clear on this: that’s not the type of self-love that brings benefits into your life. If anything, it will drive away those that you love and care for if you act conceited or narcissistic.
The types of self-love that we are going to focus on are the first two definitions. Those are the types of self-love that will bring benefits to your life.
Self Love Psychology
According to Medical News Today, there have been studies done on the psychology of self-love, and it has proven benefits. These benefits of self-love that include better mental health suggest that it might play a role in keeping anxiety and depression at bay. Self-love is not just a state of feeling good, it’s a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions. When you value yourself, you take different actions than you do when you disregard your own worth.
While that statement might sound profound, it makes perfect logical sense when you stop and think about it. When you appreciate your own worth, you will take better care of yourself. Let’s look at a hypothetical situation where two people face the same issue, but handle it in different ways. (This is not the only way to show self-love. We’ll get to more ways in a minute.)
A Self-Love Vs. Self-Hate Example Comparison
Person A is feeling very down on themselves because they tried something and it failed. Person A goes to the freezer, takes out the ice cream box and binges on it, eating the whole box. Afterward, they despise themselves and beat themselves up with their inner critic calling themselves “a fat, ugly, failure with no self-control.” They give up on what they were trying to do since it’s no use anyway. Someone like them should have known better than to try something like what they failed at. It was doomed from the beginning.
Person B is also feeling very down on themselves because they tried something and it failed. Person B takes out their journal and writes it all down. They let it all out with pen and paper. All the hopes, fears, disappointments, and other feelings flood onto the page. After they do a brain dump of all their negative feelings. Then they are able to take a step back and analyze the situation more logically. They go back to the growth mindset philosophy and realize that “failures” are really just learning opportunities. They show compassion to themselves and instead of an inner critic beating them up, their self-talk is kinder. They tell themselves “Ouch. That really hurt and was disappointing, but it’s ok. This is not the end. I will pick myself up and try again. I can do this. Now, what can I learn from what just happened?”
Take-Home Lesson of the Self-Love Vs. Self-Hate Comparison
It’s the same situation that both people face, yet the reactions are completely different. Person B showed themselves kindness and compassion. They handled the disappointment in a much healthier way. That’s the self-love that brings benefits into your life. Poor person A, on the other hand, did not show themselves very much self-love. They took a bad situation and made it worse by the way they reacted to it. They did something ultimately harmful to themselves, and then beat themselves up to boot! Look at who’s ready to try again, and who’s given up before they got started.
How Do You Develop Self-Love?
The benefits of self-love are glaringly obvious in the example above. So how do you develop self-love? Below are some broad steps to developing self-love that I have followed. Look at this list if you want more specific and tangible ideas for self-love and self-care
Pray About It
No problem on Earth is too big for my Jesus – ever. This includes the battles in my mind and my heart. I remind myself that he loves Me. He values me and sees my worth. Whenever I feel that something is too big for me or I’m struggling with something, I take it to Him. I pour it all out at his feet, tell him everything on my heart, and maybe shed a few tears too. Then I do my best to leave it there, knowing that He will handle it and give me guidance and strength. I’m a child of the King! Sometimes I forget that and need to remind myself of it. (Isaiah 43: 1-4 is my go-to for this.)
No one can rip me to shreds emotionally more than my own inner critic. In our example above with Person A, notice how the inner critic really kicks them when they are down? Would you talk to a friend like that? Of course not! You would never kick your friend when they were down by calling them names like “fat, ugly, stupid, worthless, failure, etc.” So why do we do that to ourselves? It’s a habit that feeds self-hate. I have my own opinion on where it comes from, but what’s important is that you start talking back to your inner critic instead of taking it.
Just because you fail, does not make you a failure. Not understanding or knowing something does not mean that you are stupid. It just means that you have more to learn. Having a few extra pounds does not make you “fat” or “ugly.” Guess what? Your body shape will continue to change throughout your life.
No matter how much I exercise, I’m never getting back to my birth weight. Likewise, the weight I was when I was in high school was the weight of a person that was not yet fully grown. I want to be healthy, which is not defined by a number on the scale. If you are not happy with it, then don’t beat yourself up over it. Simply take steps to start changing it in the direction you want to go.
Speak Kindly to Yourself
Now that we have the inner critic out of the way, it’s time to replace him/her with a more positive influence. I’ll call it an inner coach. Our self-talk is huge. Talk to yourself as if you were encouraging a friend. Look back at our example and see if you can spot the inner coach with Person B. They tell themselves that “it’s ok.” They encourage themselves to pick back up, learn from what went wrong and try again. Inner coaches tell you “I can do this!” Have self-compassion – it’s one of the major benefits of self-love and also works to make you more happy and content with your life in general.
Become More Mindful
It’s very easy to get carried away in the moment. Likewise, it’s also very easy to get distracted and start thinking about everything else instead of what you happen to be doing right now. Mindfulness is living in the moment; it’s taking time to stop, experience, and enjoy what’s going on in the here and now. This means that if I am eating, I stop to taste, savor, and enjoy my food instead of gulping it all down in a big rush to get out the door while thinking of all the things on my to-do list. It also means that if I am playing with my kids, I say no to distractions. I stop and listen to their laugh and soak in the smile on their faces, and realize how happy it makes my heart.
A growth mindset means that you commit to learning and growing as you go. It means that you see a direct connection between effort, success, and learning. Kids hear about growth mindset in school, but it applies to grown-ups too. Just because you grow up does not mean that you stop learning. It just means that you are now responsible for your own learning. When you have a growth mindset, it helps you take setbacks in stride and helps you realize that you haven’t really “failed” until you have stopped trying.
Accept and Celebrate Your Quirks
We all have quirks – At least I know that I have quirks, and I’m willing to bet that you have a few of your own as well. When I was a teen, I tried to desperately hide my quirks with an often awkward result. I wanted to “fit in” so badly and be like everyone else. I beat myself up over every tiny misstep that most people forgot after 30 seconds had passed. Those were the things that kept me up at night replaying my mistakes.
Related: Transforming Perfectionism
As I have gotten older, I have learned to love myself more and also to be kinder to myself. (yet another benefit of self-love.) It’s ok if I have an awkward moment every now and then. They keep me humble and more authentic. Sometimes I make a joke that falls flat. Also, despite exercising regularly, I’m still a bit awkward at times. (Like the time I tried to sneak in late to Barre class and then promptly had to chase my bright pink ball across the room. After that, I bumped into the person beside me. Oops.) I laughed about it, and so did everyone else. You don’t have to be perfect to be well-liked, accepted, or loved.
Learn to laugh at yourself. Realize that you aren’t perfect and that your quirks make you more uniquely “you.”
You take care of those that you love. This includes yourself. When you take the time to fill your cup when you need it, your gifts to others are better. I’m not talking about physical gifts – I’m talking about the time, attention, and service that you give to your friends and your family. If you walk around mentally or emotionally depleted all the time, you are running on empty. You have to stop and fill your cup. Don’t always put yourself on the back burner.
Self-care is not all bubble baths and candles. It also includes eating healthy (or healthier), going to the doctor when you are sick, grooming yourself, as well as taking care of your physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.
Know Your Core Values and Stay True to Them
Knowing your core values and staying true to them is another major benefit of self-love as well as a way to develop it. Our core values serve as the compass for our lives. They are what we base our decisions, choices, and actions around. Our core values help us determine our course of right and wrong and help make sure that we are heading in the direction we want to go. If you have not defined your core values yet, then how do you know that you are staying true to yourself?
Benefits of Self-Love
Now we know how to develop self-love, let’s dig deeper into the benefits of self-love. I hope that you will agree that there are some awesome side-effects!
More kindness is the first major benefit of self-love that comes to mind. When you love yourself, it’s much easier to be kind to others as well. You are more at peace with yourself, you are happier and more content with your life, and it comes out in all your interactions, whether it’s more laughter and smiles or simply taking the high road and forgiving someone that said something unkind.
More confidence is a natural benefit of self-love. When you love yourself and generally like who you are, you become more comfortable in your own skin. You accept who you are, and you don’t beat yourself up over little mistakes. You take the time to take care of yourself so that you look and feel your best. All these things have a direct correlation to our self-confidence.
Enjoying Alone Time
How do you like spending time alone? Some people hate it, but I rather enjoy it. If your inner critic is always calling you out and your mind wanders to everything that you’ve done wrong over the course of the day or your life, alone time is not very enjoyable. If you worry all the time when you are alone and have no confidence in yourself or your ability to handle life, being alone will be scary. However, one of the benefits of self-love is that you don’t mind spending time with yourself. You have confidence in your abilities and you are free to do whatever pleases you. Alone time relaxes you instead of stresses you.
I have always had a tendency to take things personally. Learning how to stop has been one of my struggles. It has gotten easier as I have come to feel more comfortable being me and have learned to love myself more. This is another of the benefits of self-love because as you grow in confidence, and understanding you not only grow more compassionate for yourself, but also for other people. Forgiveness for others comes more easily when you realize that how they treat you is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves. If you see someone that’s very negative towards everyone, odds are they are negative toward themselves as well.
With confidence in yourself and trust in your abilities, also comes stronger motivation and courage to pursue your goals. With more self-love and self-regard, you stop being scared to pursue your dreams. Reaching beyond your comfort zone, while still scary does not seem as risky as it once did. You start reaching down and finding your inner drive. What an awesome benefit of self-love!
Just like confidence is a natural benefit of self-love, so is more resilience. When you love yourself, you don’t tear yourself down with every mistake. You develop the ability to laugh at yourself and move forward. Added together with practicing more self-compassion, you start giving yourself pep talks when you need a pick-me-up. This allows you to become more resilient in the face of setbacks.
When you love someone, you want to take care of them. The same can be said when you love yourself. That’s why healthier choices are yet another benefit of self-love. You might start eating better or maybe going for a walk. You start to develop healthier habits because you place value on yourself.
Less Anxiety and Stress
When you don’t love yourself, you tend to beat yourself up over even minor things. You also worry too much about pretty much everything else. All that worrying causes stress and anxiety, especially when you add overthinking to the mix. The last benefit of self-love that I want to mention is less anxiety and stress. Worrying is a habit. That may sound weird, but it’s actually neuroscience. Our brain’s neuropathways become more closely wired together the more we use a particular path. If you constantly use the worry pathway, that’s going to become our brain’s default state.
However, we can also use the principle of “neurons that fire together, wire together” to our advantage if we start turning our thoughts towards the positive. This is much easier to do if you realize your worth and have confidence in your abilities.
Related: What to do When You Worry Too Much
The Last Thing You Need to Know About the Benefits of Self-Love and How to Develop It
While self-love is a term that I at first hesitated to embrace, I do agree with the first two definitions of holding yourself in high regard and realizing that you have value. As I have gotten older I have become more confident and much less self-conscious. I have learned to laugh at myself and embrace my quirks. Feeling comfortable being yourself and liking yourself is a huge part of finding your personal happiness.
Among the benefits of self-love are more kindness, confidence, enjoyment of alone time, not taking things personally, stronger motivation, more resilience, healthier choices, and less anxiety and stress. You can start developing self-love by praying about it, silencing your inner critic and speaking kindly to yourself, becoming more mindful, adopting a growth mindset, accepting and celebrating your quirks, taking time for self-care and knowing and staying true to your core values.
What are the benefits of self-love for you? Leave me a comment and let me know! I love hearing from you.