How To Cultivate A Loving Relationship With Yourself

When you think of love, what comes to mind? First love? Puppy love? The love a parent has for their child? Romantic love? There often isn’t very much thought given to self-love, but really, to love anyone else fully, having a loving relationship with yourself first, is vital..Bette Midler had it right when she said “learning to love yourself, is the greatest love of all”. How do you begin to love yourself if you’ve spent most of your life with low self-worth or lacking confidence? Small, sustainable steps.

man shoveling snow

Step One: Discover Your Own Interests And Opinions

As a child, you probably knew exactly what you liked and didn’t like. Perhaps you were interested in reptiles, and your favorite colour was green. You didn’t like broccoli and you LOVED chocolate cupcakes. As you grow older, it’s normal to become influenced by peers. Maybe, because of what your friends said, you decided that you shouldn’t like frogs, or that boys and baking shouldn’t mix so much. Feeling loved enough in romantic relationships might have meant you had to eat endless bowls of pasta, when really you’ve always been more of a sushi person. If you let your peers and loved ones influence you enough, sometimes you can completely lose touch with what you actually like and dislike, and what your own opinions are on certain subjects.

Now is as good a time as any to begin to take a little “me time” and start to look at your beliefs and interests to see if they are really yours at all. A great way to begin this is to start going out to restaurants and movies… by yourself, or, since this might not be an option depending on current safety restrictions, you can also order take-out alone, or watch movies by yourself. A big part of this exercise is making sure you do these things alone and that you do not tell anyone you are doing them, in order for you to not consider the opinions of others in your choices. Before choosing a restaurant, really check in with yourself, do you WANT Thai food, or is that just familiar to you?
Would you like to try something new? What might that new thing be? It could just be as simple as ordering a pizza with only the topping that appeals to you on it (hello pineapple and olives!) Do the same with movies. If you’re able to go into a theater, walk in without any choice in your head and just look at the posters, which one seems like a good fit for your current mood?

Trust your desires, after all, if you don’t like the movie, you can always just get up and walk out (that is actually a very liberating feeling!) This same idea applies to watching films at home. Once you begin to tune into your own personal likes and dislikes, you’ll find this can spread into digging deeper on other subjects, like politics. You may find yourself reading up on candidates or political parties to see if their beliefs actually resonate with your own, rather than just voting based on the opinions of your friends and family.

Step two Two: Date Yourself

How do you “date” yourself? This is actually a wonderful way to learn to appreciate yourself and also to raise your standard for how you’ll allow yourself to be treated by others. I recommend first sitting down and writing a list of your “dream partner” focused not on their looks, but how they make you feel, how they will treat you, and what things they would do to bring joy into your life. those things for yourself!
Pick a personal date night for yourself each week and try to really embody your dream partner. Buy yourself a weekly bouquet of flowers (if that is something you’d love to receive from a romantic partner). Treat yourself to something special each month, it doesn’t have to be expensive, but a small gift to yourself, just for being you.

For your date day dress up nicely, and plan special dates to places you’d love to be taken to. Maybe that’s an art museum, a peaceful walk by the lake, or enjoying a homemade dinner with yummy pie for dessert! Once you start treating yourself this way, as someone deserving of a loving partner, it’s amazing what an impact that can have on your relationship with yourself.

Step Three: Challenge The Negative Self Talk

Negative self talk can be a very hard habit to break. It’s a groove carved deep in your brain, and it will take time to smooth it out. A step in the right direction with negative self talk, is to immediately counter it. Bring in another voice to counter the criticism. Think of someone who really loves or appreciates you, maybe that’s your grandmother, or a favorite teacher. What would they say to you if they heard you saying that you’ll never get promoted? If they really care about you, they’d probably say that you are a hard worker and that hard work pays off! Each time a self criticism shows up in your head, bring out Grams to challenge that thought. Really try to think of how their voice sounds and try to connect their voice with countering the thoughts that you are not enough, because in their eyes, you definitely are.

Learning To Love Yourself Is Something That You Do Over A Lifetime

You are always changing, just like the world around you. Loving the new and ever changing “you” is something that won’t ever end. As you go through your life, there will be times when it will be hard to accept your changing body (from middle school to midlife and beyond.) Your identity may also go through metamorphosis (from a student, to a professional, from single to married, or transitioning to parenthood). You may even move countries and eventually feel more like a Canadian, rather than your country of origin.

However you change, embracing and appreciating who you are now will help you to continue to love yourself, and in turn, be more available to love those closest to you in your life.