Self-Love: How To Love Yourself First Without Feeling Guilty

“Do you realize that the river that dies kills all its fish?”

Self-love is the water in that river.

Air hostesses always tell you to put on your own (oxygen) mask before helping others with their masks. Because low oxygen knocks you unconscious within 3-5 seconds, they want to make sure you can help others. That is a self-love prescription.

  • Self-love is knowing and tending to your own needs, wants, and desires.
  • Self-love is not being narcissistic and making personal gains using others.

An interesting fact from science is, if you cannot love yourself, you often find it difficult to love others.

So, love yourself first because the river that dies kills all of its fish.


Self-Love: How To Love Yourself First Without Feeling Guilty

Self-love is simple as treating yourself with the same compassion and kindness that you show to a loved one when they make a mistake.

First, stop being a narcissist‘s victim; they infuse you with shame in loving yourself.

Here are some helpful ways to love yourself without guilt:

1. Show unconditional self-acceptance to start loving yourself

Self-acceptance means you accept yourself for who you are, with all your faults and mistakes.

Simply put, it’s an agreement you make with yourself to fully embrace your entirety, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

You don’t need to adore or applaud yourself yet; just go easy and learn to accept without judgment or criticism.

Now you might ask, why is this tricky?

Because most of us grew up with this concept of conditional acceptance, often instilled by our well-meaning but critical parents.

We start viewing ourselves through a lens of negativity, internalizing the idea that we’re flawed or failing. This self-criticism roots deep within us, growing stronger as we age.

However, a crucial shift happens when we realize we’re humans, not gods. We all stumble, trip, and even fall flat on our faces in our lives.

We all have moments we’re not proud of and make all kinds of mistakes – tiny, medium, gigantic – you name it. But here’s the catch, accepting these parts of us is the very heart of self-acceptance.

Unconditional self-acceptance of this universal truth is your first step. Practicing mindfulness can help build our attitude of self-acceptance.

Being unconditionally accepting of your present self means you’re tolerant and accommodating of your flaws and imperfections. There are no qualifiers or buts, just wholehearted acceptance. So, go ahead, and accept yourself without guilt.

Are you waiting for closure from a toxic person? You often need closure when a relationship ends to move on. But realize that seeking closure from someone toxic only holds you back. It is only by accepting the situation and finding your own closure that you can move forward.

“If you love yourself, you love everybody else as you do yourself. As long as you love another person less than you love yourself, you will not really succeed in loving yourself.”

– Meister Eckhart, The Art of Loving, Eric Fromm

2. Get rid of your perfectionism to love yourself guilt-free

Perfectionism is the sneaky enemy of self-love.

Perfectionism is that pesky urge to be flawless, to show up as perfect in everything you do.

It’s like a buzzing bee, always nudging you to strive for that unattainable perfection, while at the same time whispering harsh criticisms and making you worry about how others see you.

What fuels this elusive chase for perfection? Fear and insecurity.

Perfectionists are often trapped in a cycle of fear that their performance might falter if they loosen their grip on their meticulous ways.

But, here’s the bitter truth: it’s an exhausting, self-defeating cycle.

We all are beautifully imperfect people, learning and growing through our mistakes.

Life is a journey where missteps pave the way for growth. Perfectionism, however, puts boulders on this perspective, making it hard for you to tolerate your own mistakes. It can lead to a habit of procrastination.

And there’s a darker side to it. Perfectionism can lead to a host of problems, like depression, anxiety, several phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, and even self-harm.

Here’s the reality check: striving to be a flawless person or produce impeccable work is like trying to catch a rainbow. It’s beautiful from a distance, but it’s not something you can grasp.

Perfectionism is a chase that never ends, robbing you of the joy in your achievements, and sometimes, even nudging you to put things off.

So, my friend, it’s time to ditch the perfectionist in you. Remind yourself, “Enough of this,” and move on to the next important thing.

Celebrate your efforts, not just the outcomes, and you’ll start loving yourself without any guilt.

Self-Love: How To Love Yourself First Without Feeling Guilty
Love begins with you.

3. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion to increase self-love

On the road to self-love, let’s take a moment to pause at a vital destination: self-compassion.

Self-compassion is being kind to yourself in the face of difficult situations and personal failures.”

It means you become your own rock during life’s storms.

If you find yourself being harsh on your mistakes and faults, change that self-chiding voice and stop punishing yourself.

Negative emotions like guilt and anger are normal. Don’t let them control your life.

Here’s a life hack: Be as good to yourself as you are to your best friend.

When you trip or tumble, treat yourself with the same kindness, empathy, and compassion that you’d show a friend who just had their world turned upside down.

Life’s hard knocks and personal letdowns are golden chances to wrap you in your warm self-compassion.

And there’s a beautiful upshot to this: people who can be their own allies experience a richer, brighter life.

They’re optimistic, more satisfied, and more resilient to adversities. They also score high on emotional intelligence and wisdom.

So, embrace self-compassion to start on a journey of guilt-free self-love.

Nurturing self-compassion also creates a ripple effect. As you become kinder to yourself, you’ll notice that you also grow more understanding and patient with others.

It’s like a love-booster shot that benefits not just you, but everyone around you. The purpose of self-love is to love yourself as much as you love your best friend.

So, get ready to give self-compassion a whirl and love yourself without a hint of guilt. After all, the kindest thing you can do for the world is to be kind to yourself.

4. Stop comparing yourself to others to increase self-love

Today, everyone on social media seems to show off a life that they don’t actually have — smiling selves, happy friendships, successful jobs, exciting vacations, and shiny Instagram stories.

All that makes you compare your real life to their fake life. The truth is, people are different, and what you mostly see are their happiest selves.

And comparisons often breed resentment towards yourself and others and make you unhappy. They make you less happy and less loved by yourself.

Please stop comparing yourself with others — their lifestyles, their possessions, their friends and relationships, their social influence, their education and post, their qualities, and their luck.

“A better game plan: Run your own race at your own pace.”

Do not lose sleep over what others might say or think. They could be dealing with their comparison-driven social envy.

Live up to your own goals and rules. Stop being sensitive to other people’s criticisms.

Stepping away from comparing yourself to others can lead to a more contented version of yourself. Focus on yourself; you’ll start loving yourself more without any guilt.

As Ted Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

How To Talk To Yourself With Love?

Do not fall for this trap of telling yourself that if you don’t love yourself, who else will?

Because someday, you may realize that it is possible for you to love others while depriving yourself of it. Worse, you may start believing that since you do not love yourself, possibly nobody else in the world can love you.

Instead, a few things you could say to yourself to proclaim self-love are:

  • “I’m only being human. Humans make mistakes. It’s okay.”
  • “I already tried to give it a reasonable shape. I shouldn’t try to perfect it now.”
  • “I care about myself. That isn’t being selfish because I care about others too.”
  • “It’s fair to love me, as it helps me empathize and bond with my partner better.”
  • “I can sit with my emotional self in love and concern, as I’d do with my best friend.”

You could set one of these messages as a reminder on your smartphone to buzz you at different times of the day.

Why You Can’t Seem To Love Yourself?

Self-love often seems difficult because of a deep-seated feeling of shame originating from the fear that loving oneself might allow others to judge them as selfish or narcissistic.

Let’s explore how it might have evolved. You probably stopped loving yourself when somebody told you self-love was selfish. You argued against it. But even then, it found its way deep into your unconscious. From that point, you started your walk through life believing it was wrong to love yourself.

  • First, you felt a little guilty about loving yourself.
  • Your guilt grew into a toxic shame.
  • You stopped seeing yourself as your friend.
  • You could not forgive your mistakes.
  • You started to blame and criticize yourself.
  • You even lost most of your empathy for yourself.
  • Started judging yourself harshly and obsessing over your wrongs.
  • Then came the self-flagellation and self-punishments.

Somewhere along, you even crossed the line. You kept yourself up without sleep for 48 hours straight. You made yourself go with no food for two days. Everything that was any fun in your life, you pulled yourself away from them all.

Remember, it started from guilt — a self-conscious emotion involving negative self-evaluation and feelings of distress and failure.

It might not be you. It might be someone else that you know who’s going through this. And you don’t know how to help. It’s a tragedy of our times that so many of us do not know how to help those who fall out of love with their own selves.

That is perhaps an irony too. We can help patch up two different people, but we cannot show them how to patch up with themselves. Again, it is because of the same guilt we carry in our minds — the catastrophic myth that self-love is selfish love.

Why Should You Love Yourself First?

Studies suggest self-love can help you improve your sleep, dietary habits, and coping with stress. Experts say the more you love yourself, the better your self-esteem, romantic capability, and survival chances. People who love themselves find it easy to start healthy habits, like exercising daily and building meaningful social connections.

Self-love also strengthens your resilience and makes it easier to bounce out of troubled times.

We should love ourselves as a priority because it improves our relationships with others. According to research, those who felt greater compassion for themselves reported higher satisfaction levels in their relationships.

  • In their 2006 study, psychologists Murray, Holmes, and Collins found that those who do not respect themselves also react with anger and hostility towards their partners.
  • Two other studies (here and here) found people who criticize themselves do not trust their partners as much. These people also had dissatisfaction in their relationships and had difficulty being intimate.
  • In 2014, University of Texas psychologists Neff and Beretvas got 104 couples to agree to take an online survey. For this, it promised them two free movie tickets each.

In the Neff & Beretvas survey, they went through a test on a lot of things, like their self-compassion, self-esteem, control, autonomy, verbal aggression, and relationship satisfaction.

Overall, it was a batch of around 170 questions. I know what’s going on in your head – that is a hefty price to pay for two movie tickets.

The results Neff and Beretvas pulled out after analyzing the data from these couples’ responses were:

  • Those who felt more compassion towards themselves had better satisfaction in their relationships.
  • These people did not try to control their partners as much and gave them more space.
  • They cared for and supported their partners more.
  • They also showed less verbal hostility towards them.
  • In a sentence, they had more positivity in their relationships.

So, if you want more romance and security in your relationships, make sure you are more kind to yourself too.

Book To Read: In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown emphasizes that above all other ingredients of living an emotionally healthy life is the importance of loving ourselves.

Final Words

Your feelings tell you what is right or what is wrong in your life. Your emotions contain many key messages. But if you are too busy moving forward while pushing yourself aside, you may end up missing all of those cues.

So, sit beside yourself, and listen to the messages your emotions are trying to deliver. Pay attention to that person who does not leave you wherever you go. Or else, you could be keeping yourself away from your greatest love.

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Author Bio: Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy — a medical doctor and psychology writer, with a unique focus on mental well-being, positive psychology, narcissism, and Stoicism. His empathic expertise has helped many mental abuse survivors find happiness again. Co-author of ‘Critique of Positive Psychology and Positive Interventions’.

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