Self-love and self-acceptance are key components of good mental health. Practicing self-love is easier said than done, though. We may offer words of affirmation to our friends and family and encourage them to accept themselves as they are, but we’re much more hesitant to extend this goodwill to ourselves. Our standards for ourselves tend to be far higher than our standards for others, which leads to self-doubt, self-criticism, and self-consciousness.
You are deserving of love and acceptance, and you should be the first person to offer these gestures to yourself. By practicing self-love and self-acceptance, you learn to treat yourself more kindly, which leads to better long-term mental health outcomes.
Why Self-love Is Important
Self-love and self-acceptance affect virtually every aspect of your health. Your physical, cognitive, social, and emotional well-being rely on your ability to love and accept yourself.
Self-love motivates you to take active steps in protecting or improving your health. When you love yourself, you realize how valuable your health is and how deserving you are of feeling well. You’re more likely to get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods, spend time in nature, and seek medical care if you have physical health symptoms.
These qualities also have a profound impact on your mental health. If you constantly criticize yourself, you’re at a severe risk of developing feelings of self-loathing, shame, and guilt, which can lead to depression and anxiety. A lack of self-love can cause learned helplessness, a state of mind that prevents you from trying to improve your life because you believe you’re hopeless.
By learning self-love and self-acceptance, you’ll offer yourself the compassion that you’d give to a close friend who makes a mistake. Instead of beating yourself up for your shortcomings, you’ll acknowledge that you’re still learning and growing. You can find an empowering balance of celebrating your strengths, realizing your weaknesses, and making efforts to improve because you recognize your full potential.
Self-love and self-acceptance don’t only affect your internal experiences. These attributes will strengthen your interpersonal relationships as well. When you truly love and accept yourself, you’ll no longer need to seek fulfillment and validation from others. Your relationships offer a valuable and powerful connection with others, but you won’t rely on them to feel worthy.
Relationships are simply stronger with underlying self-love, too. Positive people tend to attract positive people, and your self-acceptance can make you a more outgoing person. When you relate better to yourself, you also relate better to others.
What Self-love and Acceptance Look Like
Anyone would agree that self-love and acceptance are good qualities, but it’s less clear what these characteristics actually look like. They seem like vague, abstract terms that are hard to define. However, there are certain behaviors and beliefs that are common among people who have mastered self-acceptance. Here are some examples of what self-love and acceptance look like:
- Forgiving yourself for mistakes.
- Understanding and being proud of your strengths.
- Acknowledging your shortcomings without believing they make you a bad person.
- Allowing yourself to feel appropriately upset, angry, or frustrated during difficult situations.
- Dismissing thoughts that are overly self-critical or judgmental instead of responding emotionally to them.
- Trying new activities even if you’re not perfect at them.
- Taking care of your physical health.
- Spending time with those who make you feel loved and valued and letting go of those who don’t.
- Celebrating your successes.
- Reaching out for help when you need support.
How to Practice Self-love and Acceptance
Self-love and self-acceptance aren’t traits you can adopt right away. Deciding that you want to work toward these attributes is only the first step. Practicing self-acceptance may require you to overhaul your entire view of yourself and the world, and it takes a great deal of self-reflection to achieve this.
Fortunately, though, it is always possible to learn to love and accept yourself.
Here Are Some Actionable Steps You Can Take
Call Attention to Your Strengths
Most people let their positive qualities go unnoticed and ruminate on their flaws, but loving yourself is easier when you realize how many reasons there are to do so. Don’t think in vague terms about your positive attributes. Instead, write out a list of your favorite things about yourself. Having a physical document that outlines all of your strengths will feel much more valid, and you can always refer to the list if you’re feeling down.
Think about your positive behaviors in addition to your inherent personality traits. For example, if you worked hard to complete a big project at your job, that effort is worth recognizing and celebrating.
If you struggle with self-doubt, loving yourself may feel harder than loving others. Before taking the leap into self-love or self-acceptance, start by focusing on your love in general. Allow yourself to feel your love for your friends, family, pets, nature, and anyone or anything else in life you appreciate.
This is a great way to practice the act of loving. Just like your brain can develop negative thinking habits, you can also shift your mindset to be grateful by default. By making love a habitual feeling, it will become easier to direct that feeling toward yourself.
Pretend You’re a Friend
When self-critical thoughts enter your mind, think about what you’d say to a close friend if they said those words about themselves. You would probably remind them of all of their positive qualities and assure them that they’re worthy of love and respect. Their self-doubt may even seem unnecessary or unfounded from an outsider’s perspective.
We are our own worst critics, and the flaws or mistakes you see in yourself may not even be noticeable to someone else. If you tend to offer more love and support to others than to yourself, practice responding to your own negative self-talk like you would if a loved one made those statements.
Work with a Therapist
Sometimes, our self-doubt and self-criticism become so strong that it’s hard to overcome these challenges alone. Our thoughts become habits, and we may respond to negative thoughts with negative behaviors. If your negative thoughts or beliefs about yourself are interfering with your quality of life, it may be time to reach out for help.
Working with a therapist is an excellent way to develop self-acceptance. Your counselor can help you dismiss your negative self-talk and replace your unhealthy thoughts with positive ones. It may feel easier to discuss your relationship with yourself with an unbiased figure than with a friend or family member, so therapy is a great opportunity to learn about yourself.
Everyone deserves self-love and acceptance. This is a key step toward strengthening your mental health and improving your quality of life. If you’re struggling with self-acceptance or any other mental health concerns, reach out to The Beverly Hills Therapy Group today. Our licensed, experienced counselors are here to help.