What is unconditional love?- Let’s look at it with the help of a story. Riddhi has just given birth to a beautiful baby boy. He is the apple of her eye. She loves him when he laughs, she loves him when he cries, she loves him when he’s stubborn, when he’s playing, sleeping, ALL THE TIME. She doesn’t put any conditions to love him. She doesn’t think “I love my son only when he’s laughing”. That’s unconditional love; ‘loving without putting any condition on it’.
Can you think of anyone whom you love unconditionally? Your partner, parents, children, anyone? I’m sure there’ll be at least one person coming to your mind. Now think about yourself. Do you love yourself? UNCONDITIONALLY??
That’s difficult, right?
If I have to be honest with you, I found it very difficult. I loved myself when I succeeded at something, when I finished all my tasks, when someone appreciated me (yes, others’ perception of you can affect your self-love). I hated myself (literally hated) when I failed, procrastinated, or when someone got disappointed with me.
How many times have you hated yourself because you goofed up something or you failed to work hard, or someone said they expected better from you? Remember a couple of such incidents?
It happens because we keep so many expectations from ourselves in order to be loved by ourselves.
“I love myself when I score more than my friends”
“I love myself when I earn more”
“I love myself when I meet the love of my life”
So many conditions...
Is it making us feel good? Not at all. For feeling better and doing better in life, we need to love ourselves unconditionally. Studies have shown that unconditional self-love can reduce anxiety, depression, and other mental illness. It can help us cope better with bad situations.
Why is it important to love yourself unconditionally?-
· It makes you happy
· It makes you confident.
· It is essential for your self-esteem
· It doesn’t make you feel like crap when you fail at something!
Why don’t we love ourselves unconditionally?
In most cases, it goes back to our childhood. Maybe you have a parent who is a perfectionist. You were rewarded and showered with love only when you did something right or achieved something. You might have dealt with a perfectionist teacher in school. You grew up with a belief that you have to be perfect in order to be accepted by the world and by yourself.
How to love yourself unconditionally?-
1. Reflect on yourself:
Self-reflection is the best way to be aware of what’s going on in your mind, your thoughts. Sit with yourself and observe what are you telling yourself? How are you talking to yourself? Ask yourself, what do you like? What do you not like? How do you face different situations in your life? When are you the happiest?
This can be done through everyday journaling. If you are new to journaling and confused about where to start, check out this article and download the freebie with interesting prompts (scroll to the bottom of this page to get your freebie now).
2. Write down what you love about yourself:
Of course, this will make you love yourself at least a little more, isn’t it? Take out your diary (or a sheet of paper) and make a list of everything you love about yourself. If you’re very self-critical, this exercise might be a little difficult for you. But there will be something you love about yourself.
As you go on searching for it in your mind, you will easily find minimum of 50 things, trust me on this. And as soon as you finish this list, you will feel uplifted and notice a tiny bit raise in your self-esteem!
3. Write down what you don’t like about yourself:
I know, this is like a paradox. But remember the word ‘unconditionally’? We should be able to love ourselves with all our flaws. No one is perfect, everyone messes up, everyone fails.
Make a list of things you don’t like about yourself. Some of them can be improved (like stage fear, not so good communication, etc) and some of them cannot be changed (like your hair, nose, skin, etc), don’t worry about that. NOW, at the end of this list, write in bold letters- “I STILL LOVE MYSELF WITH ALL MY FLAWS. I AM NOT PERFECT, BUT I’M BEAUTIFUL”. Read both the lists and tell this to yourself every day.
4. Do random acts of kindness:
Researches show that doing random acts of kindness to strangers boosts your self-esteem and makes you love yourself more. Studies have shown, volunteering or helping someone releases the feel-good hormone dopamine in your body. How wonderful is it?
Offer your neighbor to walk her dog, give a genuine appreciation on someone’s content on social media, feed a stray dog, or keep a bowl of water in your balcony for birds. When you see that smile on others’ faces, you’ll feel highly of yourself. You’ll love yourself more.
5. Your work/success doesn’t decide your worth:
Your worth is not dependent on anything in the world. You are just worthy as you are. No one and nothing can take that away from you except yourself. Believe this very very strongly. The author David Burns writes in his book ‘feeling good: the good mood therapy’- “Achievements can bring you satisfaction but not happiness.” You should stop attaching your self-love to your achievements. I know it’s not easy, but with time you’ll be able to do it.
6. Forgive yourself for your past mistakes:
Research has shown forgiving yourself will improve your mental health, reduces your anxiety, stress, and depression. Whatever it is that you’ve done in the past, be compassionate to yourself. That moment of time, you did the best you could. If you could’ve done better, you would’ve done it. Right? Stop beating yourself up.
Think- if your brother/sister/friend/a loved one had done the same mistake, how would you react? What would you tell them? Tell yourself the exact same thing!
7. Prioritize yourself, it’s not selfish:
Self-care is the secret to loving yourself. Self-care is not about going to expensive spa treatments or a luxurious vacation. Do every day a few things which make you really feel good. It may not be contributing to your growth, doesn’t matter. It might be just sitting and sipping your coffee in your balcony, might be a long walk with your partner, or singing in the bathroom! Take out time to feel good.
8. Quieten that inner critic:
You know who is your biggest enemy in your self-love journey? It’s that mean little voice in your head. That voice tells you such horrible things that no one else will tell you and you wouldn’t tell anyone! To start loving yourself, you need to stop that inner critic.
How to do it? You have to learn to talk back to that critic, question that critic. If the voice tells you “you are useless” talk back “what’s the proof for that? I have done so many useful things”. I know it looks ridiculous and weird but that’s how it works. This amazing book ‘feeling good: the new mood therapy’ by David Burns talks about it beautifully.
Let me know if you want to read an article on how to quieten your inner critic.
Self-love is a journey. Even after applying all these techniques, there might be times when you feel worthless and hate yourself. That’s okay! Just make sure you hush that inner critic and love yourself again!