Self-Love is such a common term these days; it’s like the american cheese of self-help. But it’s way easier said than done. Do you find yourself self-sabotaging or not doing things that are good for you because you don’t think you’re worth it? Do you feel uncomfortable every time you try to say an affirmation about yourself? Here are five tips for learning how to build self-love and change your relationship with yourself.

1. Know that you don’t need to like yourself to love yourself. 

You love your dog even if it pees on the carpet. You love your family even if they’re insane and make you want to flee to another planet. Love isn’t worship or approval or appreciation; it’s something you extend to someone else because you hold space for the feeling for them despite their shortcomings. Often when we love people we don’t even notice things about them that would drive us crazy otherwise.

So let yourself fall in love with yourself. Don’t worry about whether there are things about yourself you don’t like, or even if you just don’t like you. Give yourself the same benefit of the doubt you give to other people. If you hate people, then pretend you’re one of your favorite plants. See how you grow with the nourishment of any amount of affection you can shower on yourself.

2. Embrace your imperfections.

So much of the time we want to be perfect, or think that we’d love ourself if only we weren’t something or other. But we all have parts that embarrass us, that got shoved under the carpet when we were little so we could make ourselves look more lovable to others. These are parts of us, though, and just as deserving of love as the “good” parts. You need to integrate all your parts in order to be whole, not pretend they don’t exist.

Regardless of what you do or don’t like about yourself, you’re you! There’s no one else like you. Give yourself credit for being here on this planet in your awesome imperfection. Don’t hold yourself to a standard you wouldn’t even hold your appliances to. Did you ever get a car recall notice saying something like “Don’t park your car in or near a building because it might explode?” I bet you still did, and you still loved your car. Give yourself a break.

3. Look yourself in the eye.

Like, in a mirror. For real. And don’t give yourself any shit or start listing what you don’t like. We all like to be seen and acknowledged by others, and this is just as true when it comes to seeing ourselves. It makes a huge difference to stand in front of a mirror and look yourself in the eye.  There’s no reason you can’t do this daily, unless you brush your teeth in a closet or you don’t have any mirrors because you’re a vampire.

Ideally, instead of just staring at yourself, say some affirmations. Don’t worry about how cheesy it sounds or if anyone will hear. You can always whisper, or sign “I love you.” Find one of two things that you like about yourself, and if you want to go the mile write them down. If you can’t do that, just say “Hello, me! I hope you have a good day.”

4. Court yourself.

When we talk about self-love, it’s often in terms of the end-feeling, not the action. But how does anyone believe you love them unless you treat them that way, whatever “that way” is? We tend to amp up the loving action when we’re dating someone, because we want them to know we think they’re special. Why not treat yourself that way? Buy yourself flowers. Dress up for yourself. Go on a date 🙂

You’ve heard the phrase “Fake it till you make it?” You don’t need to pretend that you love yourself. Just act like you would if you did. Maybe you haven’t had anyone else do this for you, so why not start yourself? The better you treat yourself, the more likely you are to feel loved. It’s also quite possible that if no one’s gone through this effort for you that that’s why you don’t feel lovable. Love is a language, not just a feeling.

5. Identify and terminate limiting beliefs.

Many of the reasons we don’t love ourselves sometimes aren’t even ours! They’re beliefs about ourselves we’ve carried with us since childhood or from judgements we’ve accumulated over the course of our lives. If you can find those beliefs and chip away at them, you may find a nice lovable core in the center. Examples of limiting beliefs are “I’m not good enough,” “I’m just like (x disfunctional relative),” “I’m ugly,” “I’m fat,” “I don’t deserve anything good.”

This is the kind of work that it’s easier to do with some form of accountability and help, such as with a coach, because they’re often buried or insistently clingy. It’s hard to go against a lifetime of conditioning, never mind all by yourself. On the other hand, it can be really amazing how quickly you can feel better when you realize that you’re being hard on yourself because of something that’s total bullshit.