Why self-love is important and how to cultivate it

Self-love may conjure up thoughts of tree-hugging hippies or tacky self-help books for many people. However, as several psychological studies show, self-love and -compassion are essential for mental health and well-being, helping to keep despair and anxiety at bay. We’ll look at some of the things you can do to cultivate this core feeling in the sections below.

“Why is self-love so important?” you may wonder. For many of us, self-love may appear to be a luxury rather than a necessity — or a new-age craze for individuals with too much free time.

Ironically, those of us who work too hard and are continually attempting to outdo ourselves and grasp the shape-shifting phantasm of perfection may require the most self-care and compassion.

Most of the time, when we are overly critical of ourselves, it is because we are driven by a desire to achieve and do everything perfectly all of the time. This implies a lot of self-criticism, and perfectionism is characterised by that persecutory inner voice that always reminds us how we could’ve done things better.

Perfectionism’s Flaws

Most of us in the Western world were trained to believe that perfectionism is a desirable trait. After all, obsessing over flawless details leads to perfect work, and this personality trait allows us to humblebrag during job interviews.

Perfectionism, on the other hand, is harmful to one’s health. Not merely “not optimal” or “harmful when overindulged,” but actively detrimental. As in smoking or fat.

A shortened lifespan, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, eating disorders, depression, and suicidal ideation are just a few of the negative health consequences associated with perfectionism.

Recovering from heart disease or cancer is even more difficult for perfectionists, as this feature predisposes survivors — as well as the general population — to worry and sadness.

Getting rid of perfectionism

So, what can we do to break the cycle of perfectionism? First and foremost, recognise that it is harmful for you; beating yourself up over minor mistakes gradually erodes your sense of self-worth and makes you unhappy. And you are deserving of better.

“Love, connection, and acceptance are your inheritance,” says Kristin Neff, a professor of human development at the University of Texas at Austin.

In other words, happiness is something you have a right to, not something you have to work for. Even the United Nations recognised that the “pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human objective” in a resolution.

You should also attempt to resist the need to punish yourself for punishing yourself. Perfectionists’ inner critic, according to Paul Hewitt, a clinical psychologist in Vancouver, Canada, and author of Perfectionism: A Relational Approach to Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatment, is like “a nasty adult beating the heck out of a young child.”

You develop an unconscious tendency to put yourself down for every tiny thing, no matter how silly or nonsensical, after years of training this inner bully.

From missing a deadline to spilling a teaspoon on the floor, perfectionists will continually criticise themselves for the most little of reasons — therefore criticising oneself for criticising yourself is not unusual.

Finally, you can begin to cultivate some much-needed self-compassion. You might believe that self-love is something you either have or don’t have, but psychologists disagree.

What exactly is self-compassion?

In specialised literature, the terms self-compassion and self-love are frequently used interchangeably. According to research, having more self-compassion increases resilience in the face of adversity, allowing people to recover from trauma or love separation more rapidly. It also aids us in dealing with failure or embarrassment.

But what precisely is it? Sbarra and colleagues define Trusted Source self-compassion as a construct that has three components, based on the work of Prof. Neff:

.”self-compassion” (i.e., treating oneself with understanding and forgiveness),

.acceptance of one’s role in the greater human family (i.e., acknowledgment that people are not perfect and that personal experiences are part of the larger human experience),

.as well as mindfulness (emotional serenity and avoidance of overidentification with painful emotions).”

“Rather of flagellating ourselves with self-criticism, self-kindness means being warm and compassionate toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate,” Profs. Neff and Germer wrote.

Isn’t it easier said than done? You might think so, but fortunately, the same researchers who worked hard to analyse and characterise the emotion have also developed a few practical techniques for improving it.

Mindfully cultivated self-compassion

Profs. Neff and Germer, who work at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, have devised a technique called “Mindful Self-Compassion […] Training,” which they have tested in clinical studies with encouraging outcomes.

“Self-compassion says, ‘Be kind to yourself in the face of suffering, and it will change,” the researchers write. ‘Open to pain with spacious awareness, and it will change,’ says mindfulness.

The programme includes meditations like “loving-kindness meditation” or “affectionate breathing,” as well as “informal practises for use in daily life” like “soothing touch” or “self-compassionate letter writing,” all of which have been shown to help study participants develop the habit of self-compassion.

The researchers found that applying these approaches for 40 minutes every day for eight weeks increased individuals’ levels of self-compassion by 43%.

There are numerous mindfulness techniques that can be used to cultivate self-compassion. During times of emotional pain, one simple exercise is to repeat the following three phrases:

“This is a difficult time,” “Suffering is a natural part of life,” and “May I be gentle with myself.” These three mantras correspond to the three components of self-love that we discussed previously.

Prof. Neff discusses many more excellent mantras in her book Self-Compassion and encourages the reader in developing their own. In addition, her website, self-compassion.org, provides a variety of free related exercises.

If you’re hesitant about the benefits of mindfully repeating mantras to yourself, you should know that research supports them.

Such self-compassion exercises have been shown to lower cortisol levels and enhance heart rate variability, which is your body’s physiological ability to deal with stressful events.

Developing the ability to listen to yourself

Listening to oneself might refer to one of two things. To begin, paying attention to how you communicate to yourself internally is critical for learning to create an intimate feeling of self-love.

Prof. Neff asks her readers in her book, “What kind of language do you use with yourself when you detect a problem or make a mistake?” Do you disrespect yourself or speak in a more gentle and sympathetic tone? How do you feel on the inside if you are overly critical of yourself?”

She explains that we are often tougher on ourselves than we are on others, or than we would expect others to treat us. To soften this harsh inner voice, merely recognise it — which is already a start toward silently subduing it — and deliberately endeavour to soften it.

Finally, you can try to reframe your first harsh observations in the language of a kinder, more forgiving person.

A second reason why listening to yourself is crucial is because, during times of emotional difficulty, asking oneself, “What do I need?” — and deliberately listening to the answer — may be extremely beneficial.

According to the researchers, “just asking the question is an exercise in self-compassion – the cultivation of good will toward oneself.”

But it’s also worth remembering, “What do I need?” “occasionally […] signifies that an emotionally overwhelmed individual should cease meditating entirely and respond to his or her emotional pain behaviorally, such as by sipping a cup of tea or caressing the dog.”

Yoga and the joy of relearning

As adults, mindfulness can help us relearn to love simple, ordinary things that we used to enjoy spontaneously as children. Reconnecting with pleasure in this way is a necessary component of self-kindness.

To improve self-compassion in study participants, researchers utilised activities such as the “Sense and Savor Walk” and “Mindful Eating,” which are focused at enjoying enjoyment in the environment and food, respectively. Such strategies are inextricably tied to the above-mentioned habit of listening to yourself and your needs.

Perhaps because yoga can help us reconnect with our bodies and reclaim a sense of pleasure from them, the practise can also assist to quiet our inner critic and improve emotions of self-love.

With only 2 minutes, yoga positions appear to be better for our self-esteem and bodily vitality than power poses. Trusted Source of being in “warrior position,” for example, which makes you feel ready to conquer the world.

The Internet is rife with free yoga videos, but “Yoga with Adriene” is likely one of the finest for fostering a compassionate inner voice. Adriene softly nudges you into your practise with terms like “find some softness” and “come into your small cave of love,” asking you to just “discover what feels wonderful.”

We hope that yoga, along with the other mindfulness methods listed above, can assist you on your (often rocky) journey to self-compassion.

Try to enjoy the voyage as you go; ideally, one day, you’ll notice that the nagging feeling of incompleteness that is so common in perfectionism has left you.

Instead, you will have developed a kinder, more self-forgiving sense of wholeness.

Your Ancestral Family

I grew up in a family of nine siblings. My family consisted of two older brothers, three older sisters, three younger sisters, and a younger brother.

I never felt like I belonged. My sisters were tall and slim, with long, rich hair. By the age of eleven, I was short and curvaceous. My hair was wild, fine, and thin.

My siblings, for the most part, did what they were taught. I was outspoken, uncontrollable, and rebellious.

I donned my sister’s old school outfits. I curled up the skirt hems and popped the buttons on the blouses. My appearance was untidy.

At home and at school, I was taunted and bullied. I didn’t, however, go gently into the night. I battled for my rightful place in my family. To defend myself, I developed a powerful punch and a razor-sharp tongue.

I was 27 years old, married with four children, and desperate enough to seek out my first therapist. I felt isolated, trapped, and unlovable. I was determined to make a difference.

I felt alive again after six months of working through my childhood difficulties, old attitudes, beliefs, and occurrences. It was similar to removing multiple layers of paint from an ancient piece of furniture. I discovered that I had been restored to my original beauty.

Cultural Affects

Society teaches us that our worth is based in our culture’s idols: technology, status, youth, sex, power, money, attractiveness, and love connections.

If you rely your self-worth on the outside world, you will never be able to love yourself.

“I’m not enough, I don’t have enough, and I don’t do enough,” your inner critic will tell you.

The feelings of scarcity are never-ending. Your ego will shift the line whenever you achieve a goal or acquire the next great thing.

Change Your Self-Concept

Feeling deserving necessitates seeing yourself with new eyes of self-awareness and love. Acceptance and love must originate within.

To be worthy, you don’t have to be unique. Your genuine worth is found in your true essence, which is a core of love and inner kindness. You are a radiant light. You embody love. We can bury our splendour, but it is difficult to destroy.

Loving ourselves is not a one-time occurrence. It’s a never-ending, never-ending process.

It starts with you, encircling yourself in your own love and adoration.

Continue reading to learn how to recognise your worth and surround yourself with respect and appreciation.

Why Is It Important to Love Yourself?

If you don’t love yourself, you may be harsher on yourself. You may engage in negative self-talk, such as “I’m worthless,” “I’ll never succeed at this,” or “I’m not smart enough.” Anxiety, despair, and hopelessness can result from these mental processes.

Having positive sentiments about yourself, on the other hand, has been demonstrated in research to be an important component of happiness, success, and popularity (Crocker, & Knight, 2005). As a result, self-love may be essential for living a happy life.

Fortunately, we can learn to appreciate ourselves better over time.

Leave a Comment