Self-Love: What Is It & 11 Ways You Can Practice
Dr. Kara's Health Insights

Self-Love: What Is It & 11 Ways You Can Practice

by DK Kara MD on Feb 10, 2022

The month of February is often associated with love, and in recent years there’s been a paradigm shift where the importance of self-love is more prioritized.

To love and be loved… It's the essence of humanity. But what does that mean, and what are some ways you can actively participate in this?

What is Self-Love?

The idea behind self-love doesn’t have to mean you’re narcissistic. It can simply mean that you regard your own sense of well-being and happiness.

It can mean that you accept and appreciate your unique qualities. You’re aware that growth is a process, and you nurture that growth (1).

If you were to consult the ancient Greeks, you might be surprised to find a few other variations for the word love (2):

  • Eros: based on feelings, is usually “me” oriented.
  • Philos: warm, affectionate love, often found in friendships and family bonds. Based on shared interest, and is often “we” oriented.
  • Agape: sacrificial and unconditional, a quality that comes from God and is typically “others” oriented.

In this article, we’re going to explore the eros definition.

No doubt there must be a balance in relationships. We all grew up differently and have our own baggage, which can cause interactions to be misinterpreted or misunderstood.

You may have grown up with an unhealthy perception of yourself. Perhaps a family member would highlight a certain personality trait as a negative thing. Maybe someone you looked up to rarely acknowledged you.

Whatever the case may be, you were wounded. But you want to heal and move forward, and love is something that can truly set you free.

Self-love is often used interchangeably with self-care. If you love someone, you want to take care of them, right? The same principle applies to yourself.

To give you some helpful ideas, here are 11 ways you can practice self-love.

1. Accept It

Have you been accused of being too sensitive? Embrace it. Do people remark you’re too straightforward? So be it.

You were made uniquely, and trying to be everything to everyone not only doesn’t work, it will leave you exhausted and frustrated in the end.

There may be things you don’t like about yourself, but research shows that once you accept both your good and bad qualities, it can help your overall well-being (3).

2. Set Boundaries

This can be tough, especially if you see yourself as a people pleaser or a softer person. Unfortunately, there are people who will, whether knowingly or unknowingly, overstep their boundaries.

Healthy emotional boundaries are nice in theory, but sometimes hard to establish in reality. Some people build mental walls that are too rigid and nobody can get in. Other times, the wall is too thin and just about anyone can get in.

Effective boundaries have a few characteristics, like (4):

  • Clear and decisive limits, within reason.
  • Not a result of fear, worry, guilt or shame.
  • Based on reality, not desired reality.
  • Focused on authenticity, not playing the victim or pleasing others.
  • Values that are based on your needs, as well as those around you.
  • Can help you channel anger or frustration in a constructive way, instead of pushing you to shut down or have outbursts.

3. See Failure Differently

Maybe you decided to start your own business, but it was a total flop. Maybe you studied all night for that big test, and still didn’t get that A. Maybe you tried out for the team but didn’t make the cut.

It stings. You may feel like a total failure, and wonder how you’ll ever pick yourself back up.

There’s an acronym for F.A.I.L. that translates to “first attempt in learning”. Studies show that when you try to see failures as opportunities for growth, you can move forwards more confidently and feel positive about the future (6).

4. Be Patient with Yourself

You may have heard the famous adage, “Love is patient, love is kind…” (7).

Understanding that you don’t know it all, and that you’re learning as you go, can help take unnecessary pressures off you. Try to enjoy the journey, knowing that you will make mistakes but will also do incredible things.  

Celebrate the wins, no matter how small. You got out of bed today. You walked that mile. You finished that smoothie. Those help boost confidence and promote well-being.

5. Eat for Health

Self-sabotage is real, and unfortunately happens more than you think. Mental health is on the decline, and more research is finding a link between food and overall well-being (8).

Instead of always eating for what tastes good, focus on getting nutrients into your body. Ask yourself, “What’s high in protein?” or “how many different colored fruits and vegetables can I eat today?” Training your brain to eat for health is a great way to love yourself.

6. Move Your Body

Couch potatoes not only suffer from a lot of different health problems, they can also experience higher levels of sadness, depression, self-loathing, and low self-esteem.

Getting up and moving your body is one way you can practice self-care. It means you value yourself enough to give your body the movement it needs to stay healthy.

One survey showed that those who maintained regular exercise had higher levels of happiness and satisfaction in life (9).

7. Breathe Deeply

We live in a world of go-go-go. You’ve probably heard people say they’re so busy they’re “just trying to catch their breath”. Like our founder Dr Kara always says “We weren't built for the 21st century”.

Intentionally slowing down can be one way to show love to yourself. Running yourself ragged is hardly a prize worth striving for, but so many of us do it every day.

Start with something small, like your breathing. When you take a moment to breathe deeply, it can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and anger, and increase feelings of relaxation and pleasantness (10).

8. Speak Kindly to Yourself

You are your worst critic. And when things happen that could have played out differently, it’s easy to beat yourself up.

Don’t believe everything you think. Research finds that those who habitually tear themselves down are often encouraged to make irrational decisions (5).

Instead, remind yourself of the positive. A famous saying goes, “every cloud has a silver lining”. Reminding yourself of the good can shift your perspective and help you feel better about a situation or outcomeS

9. Try Affirmations

Giving yourself a pep talk can really help in stressful situations. Some research shows that value affirmations can help boost your ability to adapt and solve problems (11).

Affirmations are statements that you tell yourself. It doesn’t have to be woo-woo, they can be as simple as “I am capable” or “I am worthy of love”.

10. Make Sleep a Priority

Loving and caring for yourself means getting adequate sleep. The hustle culture often glorifies running on only a few hours of sleep, but research consistently shows that lack of good, quality sleep can lead to health concerns like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, lowered immune function, and a shortened lifespan overall  (12).

11. Make Time for Play

You may feel you’re too busy to take up a hobby, but research shows spending relaxing, leisurely time can positively impact your life (13).

One way to love and care for yourself is to find something you enjoy, and make it a priority. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Want to take up basket-weaving? Watch YouTube and give it a shot. Like the idea of working with clay? Look into finding a small pottery wheel to get started.

In Summary

Love is a powerful word, and can mean a few different things. Self-care and self-love are topics that are being talked about more, with lots of different ways to implement it into your life.

Embracing yourself, doing things you enjoy, and challenging yourself in tough circumstances are ways you can actively practice self-love.

You were made for purpose, and the journey of discovery is an exciting one. Which of these could you practice more in your life?

References & Disclaimers

(1) https://psychcentral.com/blog/imperfect/2019/05/what-is-self-love-and-why-is-it-so-important

(2) https://www.acalltoexcellence.com/three-kinds-of-love/

(3) https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/greater-self-acceptance-improves-emotional-well-201605169546

(4) https://www.vumc.org/health-wellness/news-resource-articles/establishing-effective-personal-boundaries

(5) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understand-other-people/202002/the-destructive-nature-negative-self-talk

(6) https://hbr.org/2019/07/use-failure-as-an-opportunity-to-reflect-on-your-strengths

(7) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%2013%3A4-8&version=MSG

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6769512/

(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7369812/

(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6137615/

(11) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/289984732_Self-Affirmation_Theory_and_the_Science_of_Well-Being

(12) https://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/health

(13) https://www.ucmerced.edu/sites/ucmerced.edu/files/documents/zawadzki-paper-2015.pdf

✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author