• Jessica Warren


Photo by Julia Mateian

We hear a lot about self-love these days, being told by everyone — from self-help gurus like Deepak Chopra to inspirational Instagram accounts — that we cannot truly love someone else until we love ourselves.

But what if we could work to grow this seemingly intangible, or even unachievable, “self-love,” and that doing so could totally upgrade our levels of life fulfillment, prosperity, the quality of our relationships, and more?

Up until a few years ago, I was running on self-love fumes, thinking my internal love and validation tanks could only be filled by other people. I was what one might call an “over-giver:” taking responsibility for fixing the problems of those around me, super-affectionate to the point of clinginess, and hoping to receive love in return.

One day, a wise friend told me that we need to be full of our own love, and only then can our love “overflow” go to other people. Once I viscerally understood what he meant, the concept blew me away.

Since this realization, I’ve worked to love others from a more solid emotional ground: it starts with loving ourselves.

What does it mean to love ourselves anyway?

Self-love can be defined as: “an appreciation of one's own worth or virtue;” “proper regard for and attention to one's own happiness or well-being;” or “inflated love of or pride in oneself.” Here we are talking about the first two definitions, rather than the egotistic (but commonly assumed) latter one.

When we learn to have higher self-worth, and to give regard to our happiness and well-being, we can then go into our relationships from a “full-hearted” place. We don’t take things as personally, we judge others less — instead of loving them from a place of emptiness, hurt or an insatiable need for love (or closing off our hearts to love all together). We actually love more selflessly because we know someone (ourselves) already has our back; we don’t need to fight for it.

In fact, it turns out that when we don’t love ourselves, it doesn’t matter how much admiration we receive from those around us — we still feel a deep lack inside. The only opinion of us that our self-esteem really depends on, is in fact our own.

As I’ve worked on loving myself more, the relationships I attract now are totally different to the ones I used to attract. I have friendships and a relationship where we both give love equally, from a non-co-dependent place.

We all know it’s often easier to love or give to someone we care about, than to ourselves. Here are some techniques I’ve practiced, that can work to boost our self-love:

1. Treat yourself like your own best friend

Often we are far harder on ourselves than we would be on anyone else. If your best friend made an honest mistake, would you immediately say (or even think) “Ugh, you are such an idiot!” or smile compassionately and give them comforting words or a hug?

One of the best ways to grow love for ourselves is to start noticing, and then reducing, the negative self-talk that goes on in our own heads — like the scolding we might give ourselves when we: accidentally drop our glass, say the wrong thing, or even simply notice a wrinkle when we look in the mirror. Sometimes it’s impossible to live up to the standards of perfection we unfairly place on ourselves — we are human after all.

A great way to observe the kinds of thoughts we have, without judgement, is to develop a regular meditation habit (you can try an app like Insight Timer, or Mind: Unlocked’s online course). Taking the quiet time and space to meditate helps us notice the thoughts that generally come into our minds — we can see them as clouds going past in the sky rather than ideas we need to react to.

Once you notice the types of thoughts you have, and recognise any negative self-talk patterns, you can tell yourself “ah, it’s just negative self-talk again, I wouldn’t say that to a friend.” Gradually, your thoughts should become more present and less negative as you meditate and notice them.

Like you might want for a friend, it can also be useful to be mindful about who you give your time and energy to. Notice how people around you make you feel, and prioritise those who make you feel inspired, energised and loved most. ICBRKR can help connect us to people and events that make us feel good, as well as improve our outlook.

In our busy world, it’s also important to make sure we take breaks. Switch off your phone an hour before you sleep, go for walks without it, and take real time off in the evenings or weekends — don’t feel bad about it either! Taking regular breaks has in fact been shown to boost our productivity too.

2. Love yourself like you’d like to be loved by a partner

Gary Chapman’s “Five Love Languages” suggests we all like giving and receiving love in five different ways, through: spending quality time — where we give someone our undivided attention; words of affirmation — for example, saying “I love you” or compliments; physical touch — such as hugging or making love; acts of service — like making a lovely dinner; and gifting. It can be useful to know the way(s) in which we most like to receive love, and treat ourselves to it in the way we respond to best.

If you enjoy good quality time as a love language, take yourself on “dates” — dress in a way that makes you feel beautiful and comfortable, and go somewhere you might enjoy going to with a partner. You might take a journal or book and go to a beautiful cafe — some of my favourite cosy books include Wabi-sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren, and The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking; or even on a short break to a city you’ve always wanted to go to. Make sure you regularly take part in hobbies and activities that feel fun and/or nourishing to you — whether that’s practicing a sport, going to shows or exhibitions or dancing.

If words of affirmation are important to you, an easy way to treat yourself like a loved partner is to tell yourself “I love you” out loud every night before you go to sleep. At first it might feel weird and you could find it hard to really mean it, but you may start noticing a change in how you feel when you say it. I do this every now and then if I am worrying about something before I go to sleep. It can also help to say a mantra that counteracts any negative self-talk you might give yourself five times when you wake up. Something like “I am enough / beautiful / successful / loving / worthy of love, and grateful to wake up to start a new day” can be powerful to boost our self-worth. Keeping a list of compliments you receive, and one about what you love about yourself can also boost your self-love.

You can also buy yourself gifts that boost your mood — like flowers, something beautiful for your home, or jewelry to adorn yourself with. We can also gift ourselves healing, education, or refreshing new ideas about life by treating ourselves to books, courses, coaching, or an experience on our “bucket list” to understand ourselves better and boost our self esteem. A relationship can be a great opportunity for personal growth, but we don’t have to be in one to develop ourselves.

If physical touch is important to you, book in a massage or another relaxing treatment where you receive touch. You can also start giving yourself a massage every night before you go to bed with a lotion you love the smell of, or a nice bath if you have one, to calm down before you settle in to sleep. Spending time with other people who enjoy physical touch, and feeling empowered to request and set boundaries for hugs and other forms of touch, can boost us too. If you don’t have time to have a dog yourself, you can even try Borrow My Doggy to find part-time puppy cuddles from — there are so many benefits to spending time with a furry friend.

If you want to give yourself loving acts of service, you could focus on improving your diet by learning to make a few new healthy meals for yourself that you love. Prioritising sleep and rest so that you feel refreshed for the day can also massively improve your headspace. Making time to practice meditation can also be an act of service for yourself. Looking after your home, and making it a place of sanctuary from busy life can also be a wonderful act to do for yourself (you can check out Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying” method).

In conclusion

We all know it can be hard to treat ourselves like we would treat a loved one, but it’s important to make sure we practice self-care so that we don’t become too drained. Gradually these exercises can help grow our self-love and improve our mindsets, so that we can also truly love and be there for others too.

Jessica is Co-Founder of Mind: Unlocked. To keep up with mental well-being events and free resources, sign up to their three-bullet weekly emails. Or, if you're ready to meditate to transform your life, check out Mind: Unlocked's 21-day online course.


Find your next best friend or soul mate on the ICBRKR app, available on iOS and Android, and share your positive energy with like-minded people.

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