It was a few years ago when I first realized I didn’t love myself. At least not unconditionally.

Sounds harsh or maybe even crazy … ridiculous. How can you not love yourself? You’re smart, successful, pretty, [insert positive adjective of your choice], how could you possibly not love yourself?

Loving ourselves is something many of us don’t take time to think about. Some of us may even take for granted. OF COURSE I love myself… right?

Have you every really stopped to think about it?

Are you loving yourself?

Take a look at your day — what do you do? What do you think? What do you say?

Do you feed your body and your soul? Are you kind and compassionate to yourself? Do you tend to think or say things like: I’ll be happy when… I get that job, lose that weight, graduate school, finish this project… ?

Do you pin your value and worth on external things? Do you put your needs last — or, second — to work, to your friends, to your family?

Each and every day you have a hundred — if not more — opportunities to love yourself. The thoughts you think. The words you speak. The food you eat. All of these choices — big and small — present an opportunity to love yourself, or put yourself second (or last) — or, what I like to say: “lose yourself.”

When I’m putting up with a condescending remark from someone, I’m not loving myself — I’m losing myself. When I’m grinning and bearing things instead of honoring my true passions… losing myself. When I’m standing in front of the mirror critiquing every dimple and shadow… losing myself. Skipping breakfast or lunch or dinner just to finish that one last thing for work? Losing myself. When I’m chugging an energy drink (or three) to make it through the day… losing myself, not loving myself. Get the picture?

Why does it matter? I mean, you are doing just FINE rushing around and pounding coffee. Sure, life isn’t ideal but you are making it. You are getting through the day. Damn it, you are surviving. And, sometimes isn’t that all you can really ask for? To get through the day?

Yes. Absolutely. Making it through the day is a WIN. But, why not shoot a little higher than survival? Why not try to thrive? 😉

When you love yourself, life becomes brighter. Easier. You’ll feel more free. Happier. Stronger. Empowered. If you love yourself, you are unstoppable — there is nothing you can’t do. In the words of Kamal Ravikant, the author of Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It: “As you love yourself, life loves you back. I don’t think it has a choice either. I can’t explain how it works, but I know it to be true.”

I couldn’t agree more. But, you don’t have to believe me: you can try it yourself. I like to think of it this way, if what you’re doing now doesn’t feel good or isn’t working, then why not try on something new for size?

So how do you change things? How do you stop losing yourself and start loving yourself?

First, know this: It’s okay to lose yourself.

The goal is not perfection, it’s compassion. OF COURSE there will be times when you get frustrated with yourself and beat yourself up, when you stay up too late, when you are silent when you could advocate for yourself … you WILL lose yourself. Here’s the great thing, even when you lose yourself you have a choice to love yourself. Uh-huh. Magic, right?

That’s the thing about loving yourself — the thing about self-love: It is unconditional. It is ALWAYS available to us. Self-love is about not just getting up when you fall down, but telling yourself IT’S OKAY to fall down, and that you are every bit as worthy and deserving of all the good things in life whether you fall down or not. Self-love is accepting where you are. You can ABSOLUTELY want to grow and change — I know I do, but self-love is accepting where you are at, while acknowledging you’re a work in progress.

Second: Accept where you are at.

A few years ago when I realized I was losing myself instead of loving myself, I was burned out — I was running myself into the ground. I wasn’t passionate about my work. I was being a total perfectionist and super self-critical. I wasn’t sleeping enough. I wasn’t eating healthy. I was lost. Life felt like an opportunity to survive rather than thrive.

I looked at how I was treating myself and I accepted that I was doing the best I could with where I was and what I had — and you know what? That was the first step back to loving myself.

Start with acceptance. Be kind. Be grateful. Be compassionate with yourself. Make self-love a daily practice. Maybe Louise Hay’s mirror exercises will be your jam, or maybe it will be Kris Carr’s self-care planner. Maybe it will be journaling. Maybe you will want to write love letters to yourself, stick positive affirmations around your apartment, or start a morning routine.

Lastly: You do you.

Just let it be easy, and remember this: self-love is unconditional. It doesn’t depend on what you are — or are not — accomplishing. It doesn’t depend on your looks or your weight. It doesn’t depend on your grades, awards, accolades, number of friends, how many likes you get on Facebook or loves on Instagram.

Self-love comes from the inside, not the outside, and it is ALWAYS only one thought away.

The minute you realize you’re losing yourself, all you have to do is pause and accept where you are at (no judgment!). I like to say (or think) something simply like: “I am doing the best I can in this moment.” And, then, just like that with your acceptance and self-compassion … you’re back to loving yourself.

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  • Kirsten Lee Hill, Ph.D.

    Researcher, Creative, Entrepreneur

    Kirsten Lee Hill, Ph.D. is an expert in creatively leveraging traditional research expertise to support community-driven change, and has worked with global leaders in innovation such as Virgin Unite and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Kirsten partners with people and organizations with inspiring ideas for how to change the world so they can leverage the powers of research and personal wellbeing to advance their cause. She also inspires changemakers to embrace gracefully breaking rules through her podcast, Graceful Rulebreakers.