Self-love is sometimes dismissed as selfish or arrogant. However, it’s a vital and often overlooked aspect of mental health. If you want to teach someone to love themselves, help them build their self-esteem, and provide tips on keeping negative thoughts in check. In addition, explain how they can put self-love into practice by maintaining their physical and emotional well-being.
- Stress that they shouldn’t feel guilty about loving themselves. Some people think that self-love is selfish, and that feeling good about yourself is arrogant. If the person you’re helping is guilty about self-love, emphasize that there’s nothing wrong with having a positive self-image.
- Explain that healthy self-love involves recognizing their strengths, accepting their weaknesses, being proud of their achievements.
- Distinguish healthy self-love from boasting about accomplishments to make others feel bad, which is probably a sign of low self-esteem.
- Mention that taking care of themselves is part of self-love. For example, taking time off from work to avoid burnout isn’t selfish. It’s a necessary part of maintaining physical and mental health.
- Remind them that self-love is not the same as selfishness. Instead, describe it as being “self-full.” This means loving and caring for themselves, which ultimately will make it easier for them be there for others.
- Tell them to make a list of their positive qualities. Have them write down their talents, their positive personality traits, and the hobbies they enjoy. Examples might include gardening, having a great sense of humor, or being good at a sport.
- If they have trouble coming up with positive traits, let them know what you admire about them. Say, “You have so many great qualities! You’re a hard worker, you’re great at tennis, and you’re always eager to help your family and friends.”
- Encourage them to focus on their positive qualities, but try not to be bossy or give your loved one unsolicited advice.
- Explain that self-esteem shouldn’t be based on others’ opinions. Tell the person you’re helping that there are external and internal sources of self-esteem. External sources are based on the opinions of other people, and they’re more superficial than internal sources.
- Tell them, “Your self-worth should come from within, not from other people. Instead of wanting to get good grades so other people think you’re smart, study hard to reach your personal goals or because you value knowledge.”
- Say, “It’s fine to feel good when someone compliments you, but don’t let other people’s opinions define you. Suppose someone makes fun of you for taking piano lessons. You enjoy playing piano and you value music, so their approval shouldn’t make a difference.”
- Remind them that they shouldn’t compare themselves to others. Everyone has different abilities, qualities, and passions, so tell your loved one to accept their strengths and weaknesses. Tell them that they shouldn’t feel bad about themselves because of someone else’s talents or traits.
- Say, “Being jealous of someone or getting mad at yourself won’t do you any good. Be happy for someone who possesses a talent you admire. Don’t get down on yourself if you don’t share that ability. Instead, remind yourself of your own strengths.”
- Encourage them to work on things within their control, like getting into better shape or improving their time management skills. However, if they want to be a top gymnast but can’t do a cartwheel, tell them they must accept that they can’t be good at everything.
- Spending too much time on social media can lead to unhealthy comparisons. If necessary, advise them to limit their screen time.
- Encourage them to help others and volunteer for causes they value. In addition to teaching your loved one to develop a positive mindset, suggest that they help others whenever possible. Helping loved ones and doing charitable work are concrete ways of chipping away at low self-esteem.
- For instance, they could help their friend or relative study or lend a hand with household projects. They could also volunteer for their favorite cause, such as for animal shelter, soup kitchen, or youth mentorship program.
- Tell them, “It’s harder to hold onto negative thoughts about yourself when you’re helping someone. It’s tough to convince yourself that you’re no good when you made someone’s day better.”
EditChallenging Negative Thoughts
- Explain how to identify and redirect negative self-talk. Suggest that they call themselves out when they think things like, “I’m not good enough,” or “I’ll never be able to do this.” Advise that they tell themselves, “Stop! These are negative thoughts, they’re unproductive, and I have the power to change my thought process.”
- Ask them, “Would you tell a close friend ‘You’re a bad person,’ or criticize them harshly? More likely, you’d let them know they need to work on something in a much nicer way. Instead of practicing negative self-talk, treat yourself the way you would treat your friends.”
- Suggest that they replace negative thoughts with more neutral or realistic ones. For example, instead of “I’m so dumb, I’ll never be good at math,” suggest that they tell themselves, “This is a difficult subject for me, but I’m going to work on getting better at it.” This can help them transition to a more positive mindset.
- Make sure your friend is interested in hearing tips about controlling negative thoughts. If they don’t respond well, it might be best to give them some space instead of forcing the conversation.
- Remind them that negative situations are impermanent. Let your loved one know that you understand how life’s obstacles can seem unchanging, insurmountable, and all-encompassing. Tell them to think objectively instead of getting overwhelmed.
- Tell them, “Thinking in absolute, negative terms isn’t constructive. Instead of ‘I’ll never be good at this,’ say to yourself, ‘If I practice, I can improve,’ or ‘There are some things I’m not good at, and that’s okay.’”
- Say, “Bad things can seem like they’ll stick around forever, but nothing is permanent. Think about times that you’ve dealt with tough situations. Things got better in time; just say to yourself, ‘This too shall pass.’”
- Try encouraging them by saying, “Do your best to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You’ve overcome a lot, and you’ve become stronger by conquering past obstacles.”
- Assure your loved one that everyone makes mistakes. Tell them to forgive themselves for mistakes they’ve made, from saying something silly to deliberately doing something wrong. Instead of dwelling on the past, suggest that they approach mistakes as opportunities for growth.
- Lots of people lose sleep over making a faux pas or saying something embarrassing. If your loved one dwells on their mistakes, tell them, “Everyone does embarrassing things. You can’t change the past, so try to have a sense of humor about it.”
- Say, “If you messed up or made a bad decision, don’t dwell on what you could have done. Learn from a mistake, move on, and do your best not to do the same thing in the future.”
- Ask them to accept things that are beyond their control. Self-acceptance can be difficult, but it’s an essential component of healthy self-love. Tell your loved one to be proud of their accomplishments, strive to make improvements where possible, and acknowledge that some things are beyond their control.
- For example, they might criticize themselves for things within their control, such as performing poorly at work or school. They could make improvements by spending more time studying, getting a tutor, pursuing professional development opportunities, or asking their boss for tips on being more efficient.
- However, everyone has to be realistic about limitations beyond their control. For instance, you might say, “It’s okay if you feel sad that you didn’t get the lead role in the play. The script mentions how short the character is, and you’re so tall. Other opportunities will come your way.”
- Discuss the importance of a strong support system. When someone feels down, their loved ones can help them see the bigger picture. Tell the person you’re helping that their friends and family can remind them that they’re lovable no matter what. Additionally, mention that it’s important to surround themselves with positive, supportive people.
- They should avoid people who put them down or constantly criticize them. Instead, they should seek relationships with people who appreciate and encourage them.
- Give them tips about maintaining their overall health. When someone loves themselves, they put effort into taking care of their health. In turn, feeling healthy promotes a positive self-image, which reinforces self-love.
- Tell them to eat a healthy diet filled with vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains.
- Recommend that they exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. Suggest activities like brisk walks or jogs, cycling, swimming, and yoga.
- Let them know that getting rest is important, and that they should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
- Suggest that they pursue activities that bring them joy. Tell your loved one to set aside time for their hobbies and to give themselves permission to have fun. Whether their ideal activity is reading a good book or rock climbing, doing what they love nurtures the love they have for themselves.
- If they say they don’t have any hobbies or interests, offer suggestions or remind them of their passions. For example, you might say, “I know you have a dog; you could go to new parks or hike nature trails together. Maybe you could go to agility or trick training classes together.”
- Keep in mind you might not want to give too much unsolicited advice. Try not to be bossy, make sure the person is receptive, and back off if they’re not interested.
- If the person you’re helping has trouble seeing themselves in a positive light, they might benefit from counseling. Advise them to talk to a professional if they withdraw from regular activities, seem sad all of the time, or if you suspect they might hurt themselves.
- Ask them to think about their relationships. Is there anyone in their life who puts them down or does other things that lead them to feel bad about themselves? If so, they may need to cut ties or limit their time with those people.
EditSources and Citations
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