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What Self-Love Truly Means and 5 Ways to Cultivate It

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Something I often hear when I talk to young adults is their curiosity about what self-love means. It is a great question since it is not something that we automatically get taught when we’re younger. We feel love for others and can express it, but what does it mean to love ourselves?  

What I’ve learned through my years of working as a licensed mental health provider is that loving ourselves is crucial if we want to have healthy and thriving relationships with others. 

Oftentimes we find ourselves constantly giving our time, energy, and love to others. In doing so, we sometimes neglect to nurture ourselves. 

In this article, we will explore the incredible benefits of self-love and share five practical techniques that will help you incorporate it into your daily life.  

Not only will self-love unlock your full potential, but you will also experience a profound shift in your overall well-being. 

What self-love means

Self-love means that you accept yourself fully. 

You treat yourself with kindness and respect. 

Most importantly, you nurture your growth and well-being. 

How to cultivate self-love: step-by-step guide 

It might sound easy huh? 

Just love yourself! 

“One of the best guides to how to be self-loving is to give ourselves the love we are often dreaming about receiving from others.”

Bell Hooks

It’s not though, especially when we tend to compare ourselves to others. 

In the age of social media and the constant flood of information on our screens today, it’s not always easy to accept and love ourselves and our lives. 

Instead, we must be proactive and take steps to unlock the power of self-love. 

1. Embrace Your Uniqueness

Want to know something incredible? 

There is only one YOU in the entire world. 

So take the first step and acknowledge your uniqueness. 

Unsure how to celebrate your uniqueness? 

  • Embrace your individual qualities that set you apart from others 
  • Surround yourself with positive people who support and encourage you 
  • Practice self-care 
  • Try new things to challenge yourself 

In a world that consists of over 7 billion people, there is no one else that is as unique as you are. 

Now that is pretty cool, isn’t it? 

2. Practice Self-Compassion 

One of the most essential elements of practicing self-love is cultivating self-compassion. 

Curious about what self-compassion is? 

The best way I can explain it is that you talk to yourself the same way you would talk to your best friend. 

“The hardest challenge is to be yourself in a world where everyone is trying to make you be somebody else.”

E.E. Cummings

When talking to your best friend, you are kind, understanding, forgiving, and supportive, right? 

To practice self-compassion, you acknowledge your imperfections and accept yourself just as you are. 

In a world that often emphasizes achievement and perfection, it can be easy to fall into the trap of self-criticism and self-judgment. 

We hold ourselves to impossibly high standards. 

As a result, we begin berating ourselves for every mistake or perceived flaw. 

However, self-compassion offers a powerful antidote to this destructive pattern. 

When we practice self-compassion, we replace self-criticism with self-acceptance. 

So next time you make a mistake, instead of beating yourself up, you recognize that you have made a mistake. 

Instead of getting upset with yourself, you acknowledge that facing challenges is a natural part of life. 

Remember, we’re all human and as humans, we are inherently flawed. 

Rather than dwelling on your failures, choose to learn from them and grow. 

My self-compassion 101 

Self-compassion also means honoring your emotions and treating yourself with kindness and understanding during challenging times. 

I know from experience that I tend to be my own worst critic

Instead, I’ve tried something new. I’ve begun to acknowledge that it’s okay to feel sad, angry, or frustrated. 

Pantea Rahimian and a cat

Instead of suppressing these emotions or judging myself for having them, I offer myself the same empathy and support I would give to a friend going through a tough situation. 

The result of this is that practicing self-compassion has helped me nurture my inner voice. The result? I’ve turned down the volume on the critical voice. 

We all have this inner dialogue and sometimes the volume of the critical voice is exceptionally high, especially when we’re stressed

My regular mindfulness meditation practice has helped me get more in tune with my body and quiet the critic. 

In short, when we are kinder and more forgiving toward ourselves, we become more compassionate and understanding toward others 

3. Set Healthy Boundaries 

What I’ve noticed about people who truly embrace what self-love is are those who know how to set healthy boundaries

Why? 

Setting healthy boundaries clearly defines what is acceptable and unacceptable to us in relationships, work environments, and other areas of life. 

Boundaries ensure that we maintain our personal space, protect our energy, and prevent others from taking advantage of us. 

what to say when someone is having a bad day

They allow us to establish limits and communicate them effectively. This helps empower us to maintain a healthy balance between our own needs and the needs of others. 

What self-love means… well, it is learning how to not feel guilty or selfish for saying no and prioritizing your well-being.  

Moreover, setting healthy boundaries not only protects our mental and emotional health, but it also fosters healthier and more respectful relationships. 

Healthy boundaries and how to make them 

  • First identify your values, needs, and limits.  
  • Reflect on what makes you feel comfortable and what crosses the line.  
  • Consider the activities, situations, or interactions that drain your energy or leave you feeling overwhelmed.  
  • Communicate your boundaries assertively and respectfully to those around you. 
  • Remember, setting boundaries is not about controlling others, but about honoring yourself. 

Still unsure how to approach this? Learn more about how to say “no” without feeling guilty.

4. Cultivate Mindfulness 

Cultivating mindfulness invites us to be fully present in the moment, observing our thoughts and feelings without judgment or attachment.  

By practicing mindfulness, we develop a deeper understanding of ourselves. We become more aware of our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. 

I can honestly say that my morning mindfulness meditation practice has shown me what self-love is because I exercise it daily. 

Pantea Rahimian meditating

It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos and stress of our fast-paced world. 

Mindfulness allows us to create space for reflection and self-awareness.  

It provides an opportunity to slow down, tune in, and connect with our inner selves.  

There are a variety of ways to practice mindfulness. 

My top 3 favorite mindfulness practices 

By being present and mindful, we can better understand our needs, desires, and emotions, leading to a stronger sense of self-love and acceptance. 

5. Nurture Your Inner Child 

Nurturing your inner child is an essential aspect of practicing self-love and embarking on a transformative journey of personal growth. 

Mindfulness allows us to connect with our inner selves. 

Tending to the needs and desires of our inner child creates an opportunity for healing and self-compassion.  

It is a way to acknowledge and honor the experiences, emotions, and vulnerabilities that shaped us as we grew. 

As we go through life, we often accumulate layers of responsibilities, expectations, and societal pressures. This can overshadow the childlike wonder and innocence within us. 

Neglecting our inner child can leave us feeling disconnected and unfulfilled.  

However, by consciously nurturing the child within us, we can cultivate a deeper sense of self-love and acceptance. 

How to cultivate your inner child 

Think back to your childhood and ask yourself these questions: 

  • What were the things that brought you joy, excitement, and a sense of wonder?  
  • What were your dreams, aspirations, and passions?  
  • What did you do for fun? 
  • How did you relax and decompress? 
  • Who did you enjoy spending time with? 

Reconnecting with these aspects of yourself can help you tap into the infinite potential and authenticity that lie within. 

One way to nurture your inner child is to engage in activities that bring you pure delight and allow you to rediscover the joy of simply being.  

Pantea Rahimian

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It might be painting, playing an instrument, riding a bicycle, or indulging in a favorite childhood hobby.  

By immersing yourself in these activities, you create space for your inner child to play, laugh, and express themselves freely. 

Another powerful way to nurture your inner child is through self-compassion. 

Next time you’re distressed, comfort and soothe yourself the same way you would a young child. Offer yourself the same kindness and understanding to yourself.  

What is incredible about this practice is that you will learn to validate your emotions, acknowledge your pain, and provide yourself with the love and support you need.  

Embracing your vulnerabilities and offering self-compassion allows your inner child to heal wounds from the past and feel safe in the present. 

What can also help you is to talk to a mental health provider since early childhood trauma can impact our ability to love ourselves. 

Lastly, do not forget to listen to your inner child’s needs and desires.  

Take a moment to reflect on what your younger self craved. 

Was it more time to explore nature, be with loved ones, or simply have fun without any pressures? 

By actively meeting these needs in your adult life, you show up for your inner child and create a nurturing environment for growth and self-love. 

Nurturing your inner child is not about clinging to the past or denying the responsibilities of adulthood.  

It is about creating a harmonious balance between your grown-up self and the child within, allowing for holistic personal transformation. 

By tending to your inner child’s needs, desires, and emotions, you open space for healing, growth, and self-compassion.

This can further deepen your self-love practice.

Wrap-up

Still, wondering what self-love means?

Well, one thing is for sure. Self-love is not a luxury. 

It is an essential ingredient for your overall well-being.  

Throughout this article, we have explored five transformative ways to practice self-love and discussed why it is so crucial.  

Embracing your uniqueness allows you to celebrate your individuality and appreciate the value you bring to the world.

By practicing self-compassion, you grant yourself the grace and understanding that you readily offer to others.

Setting healthy boundaries empowers you to prioritize your needs and protect your emotional and mental space. Cultivating mindfulness enables you to be fully present, fostering self-awareness and reducing stress.

Lastly, nurturing your inner child reconnects you with joy, curiosity, and the freedom to express yourself authentically. 

Now that you are armed with these practical techniques, are you ready to unleash the power of self-love in your life?  

Remember, self-love is not a destination but a lifelong journey.  

Take the first step today, and you’ll soon find that the more you love yourself, the more capacity you have to love and impact others. 

Think back on your childhood and share with us some of your favorite memories of what you loved to do. What are some ways you cultivate self-love? How would you answer what self-love means? Share your stories and comments below.

Now, it's up to you to take action!

  1. Share this article on social media to support me in publishing more high-quality content in the future
  2. Get started now and include what you’ve learned throughout this article in your daily routine
Pantea Rahimian

Take control. Feel better.

Start your Self-care Journey.

Take control.
Feel better.

Start your
Self-care Journey.

Comments

16 Responses

  1. Absolutely, that’s spot-on! I totally agree that we should learn how to love ourselves first. It’s like, if we’re not good with ourselves first, how can we expect to be good with anyone else, right? It’s the foundation for building strong and healthy connections with others.

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