Ask any therapist, relationship expert, yogi, psychic or your mama or best friend, and they’ll tell you the same thing: the most important — and complicated — relationship of your life is the one you have with yourself. Before you can be a true partner in a romantic relationship, an awesome friend, a kickass boss or a functioning member of society, you have to build your own self-confidence, self-worth, and self-value.
“Self-love is important because it lays the framework for how we love others, and how we let them love us in return. If we do not love ourselves, how can we accept and give love to others?,” psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. “If we have a strong sense of self, love and appreciate who we are, we are a stronger partner. It is true that we attract individuals who are a reflection of how we feel about ourselves.”
But when you think of coming from a place of confidence and acceptance but doesn’t come across as elitist or boastful, it might be tough to separate the two. Here, experts explain what it really means to self-love and why it matters more than we realize:
1. Self-Love Is A Solo Act
It’s easy to believe in yourself when you have a cheering section. Or when you’re getting that raise at work. Or your boyfriend or girlfriend reminds you every day. But really investing in self-love means you understand that it has to come from you — and only you. “I think the most important misconception about self-love is that we can look to another to find it. Some people base their esteem and how they feel about themselves, based on if others like them or are attracted to them. They only feel loved and worthy when someone loves and is interested in them,” Martinez explains. “They fail to realize that they are capable of giving this love and acceptance to themselves,and if they depend on someone to give this feeling to them, then they are also giving them the power to take it away.”
2. Self-Love Is Starting Your Day With a Positive Mindset
If you wake up, rub your eyes and automatically start thinking about the brand new zit that appeared on your forehead or check your phone, only to see your friend didn’t text you back or your boss didn’t reply to your e-mail, you are bashing yourself before you even pull off the covers. Instead, Martinez advises to set the mood of your day by refocusing your mindset. “Practice starting your day with positive and loving morning mantras. This starts your day with positive and loving thoughts for and about yourself, and sets a tone for the day,” she says.
3. Self-Love Is Standing Up For What You Need
No matter who you are or how outspoken you are, confrontation can be intimidating and difficult to navigate. But when you value your own happiness, needs and future, you have to be willing to let others know when something isn’t working for you or brings you down. You also have to be unafraid to be unapologetically the brilliant you that you are — no excuses needed. “Tell people what’s important to you, and be authentic when you do so. Love yourself for who you are and don’t try to be someone you’re not,” psychologist and sex therapist, Dr. Holly Richmond tells Bustle.
4. Self-Love Means Being Unafraid To Be Alone
Even if it seems like all fun, games, and swiping, learning to love the skin you’re in, the life you have and the future you’re dreaming about when you’re totally single isn’t easy for everyone. But there is such a strength that comes from being single because it gives you the opportunity to truly evaluate your needs, your deal-breakers and your happiness-triggers without considering someone else. “Take a time in your life when you are single. This is an exercise each of us should do. Take this time to really get to know and love who you are as an individual,” Martinez says. “The more you know yourself, and the more you grow to love yourself as a unique individual, the better quality partner you will attract or accept when the time comes.”
5. Self-Love Means Letting Go Of What Doesn’t Serve You
Breaking up is hard to do and maybe even more draining when you have to end a friendship. Unlike a romantic affair, when you have to step away from someone you were once close to because you’re not headed in the right direction, can’t find common ground or they’re just flat-out toxic in your life, you might feel hesitant to pull the plug. But Martinez says so much self-love can be built (and celebrated!) when you are brave enough to walk away. “Remove toxic people from your life, no matter who they are. This is hard for some people, but an important and loving act. If there is someone in your life that makes you feel bad about yourself, and tries to cut you down to build themselves up, remove them from your life. This is one of the most loving and healthy acts you can do for yourself,” she says.
6. Self-Love Means Doing Things You Love
There is no other person in the entire world (or the Facebook planet or the Internet) who knows what makes you happier than you do. No one — not even the person you’re married to, your mom or your therapist. That’s why Richmond says it’s so essential to nurture self-love by simply doing the things that make you full of joy. “You have to know what you like. And love yourself by allowing it. Ask the question — What makes me feel good?,” she says. "If traveling makes you happy, travel.”
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