What Does It Mean To Love Yourself

Written by Andrea Lieberstein

Bestselling author of ‘Well Nourished: Mindful Practices to Heal Your Relationship to Food, Feed Your Whole Self and End Overeating’, Faculty at eMindful, Speaker, Mindfulness and Mindful Eating Coach, Trainer

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the theme of love is in the air. I am noticing the images of red hearts and chocolate popping up across my computer screen or appearing in grocery store aisles. The big question is “What are you doing on Feb. 14?  Whether or not you are in a romantic partnership, or pay much attention to Valentine’s Day, it invites us to reflect on the questions, “What does it mean to be loved? And how do we know when we’re being loved?”

So often we think of love focused outwardly toward others. And when we solely focus on the love between ourselves and others, we may overlook the most important human relationship we have. The one with ourselves. This Valentine’s Day, let’s expand the theme of love to focus on what it really means to love yourself and what it takes to do so – trusting that when you invest in learning to love yourself, you can be the best partner, friend and parent to those you care about.

But what does it mean to love yourself? Self-love can be equated with self-care. They are closely related because if we don’t love ourselves, if our mind is filled with judgements and self-loathing, we are less apt to take actions that bring wellness, caring and fulfillment to our lives. My own personal journey of learning to do this has been life changing. Recognizing over the years all the ways that I was blocking a loving relationship with myself, (prioritizing others or work, criticizing myself when things didn’t go perfectly, and missing the many ways I could treat myself with more kindness and compassion), has allowed me to create a very different, happier and healthier relationship with myself and others.

Practicing mindfulness can be a great supporter of learning to love ourselves. By developing mindful awareness, we can become more clear about the kind of relationship we want to have with ourselves, and what we need in order to have that relationship. Here are some mindful self-care strategies that can help.

Mindful Check-In. Take a few minutes each day to check in with yourself. How are you feeling? Are you tired or energized? Excited about or dreading your day ahead? How’s your mood? Are you feeling loved? What are you needing right now? 

Prioritize Your Well-being. Remember that this is the only body you will ever have in this life. It requires care and attention to thrive. What would you be eating if eating was an act of self-care? How would you move your body if this was an act of love? What about sleep? When we think about our day-to-day choices as acts of love it can feel easier to make healthy choices.

Challenge Your Thoughts. What beliefs or ‘but’s’’ come up for you when you think about offering yourself love and kindness? Do you feel undeserving or that’s just plain silly? Did someone tell you you weren’t worth it and you believed them? Does it feel selfish? Did you know that we automatically believe many of our thoughts, but they are not actually true?  Mindfulness helps us to become more aware of our thoughts, and to challenge them to see if they are helpful and true. If they aren’t helpful or true, practice letting them go, receding to the background of your awareness, eventually disappearing like passing clouds in the sky. When they arise again, practice letting go of them again. In the space between these thoughts and beliefs you can begin to see that you are endlessly worthy and deserving of love and kindness.

Extend Kindness. You can extend kindness to yourself when you notice you are beating yourself, not prioritizing your well-being, or just going through a tough time. Intentionally direct loving thoughts to yourself such as phrases from the lovingkindness meditation, “May I be Well,” “May I be Happy,” “May I be Peaceful and at Ease,” “May I be Safe and Free.” Or you might find offering gentle phrases of encouragement to be just what you need.  “You can do it,” “it’s okay, you don’t have to be perfect, you are human.”

Loving Actions. It’s often said that actions speak louder than words. With mindful awareness, you can change how you plan your day. Consider how you can leave time for self-care and for the things you really love to do or people you love to be with. How can you give yourself the space to make meaningful contributions to work, friends, family, community, causes you feel strongly about? What about time for pleasure and fun? Making a list of loving actions for the day can be helpful.

At eMindful, our team will be celebrating loving ourselves from the inside out as we explore the way we talk to ourselves, schedule our lives, invest in ourselves, and much more. So this week, where we traditionally celebrate love, be sure to participate in our live Mindful Daily practice sessions to reinforce loving ourselves as we also love others.


Also published on Medium.