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Who to Fall in Love with First: 6 Ways to Love Yourself

By

Hand Heart

“Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~Rumi

We’re so busy waiting for someone to love us that we’ve forgotten about the one person we need to love first—ourselves.

Ironically, it was when my ten-year marriage fizzled that I began the innermost process of self-discovery about love.

While discouraged and saddened at the crumbling of our relationship, I began to explore love more. How had it fizzled? Why had we stopped loving each other, and what had happened to our love?

The People Who Were to Have Loved Us

I grew up in a rather patriarchal culture and family, which had trouble expressing or showing love.

In fact, they showed love in unusual and unhealthy of ways. My mother used harsh language, put-downs, and comparisons to others to berate, embarrass, and ridicule me about personal habits, lack of achievement in school, and potential career choices.

My dad showed love in the form of his belt, which lashed against my body throughout my childhood. I remember horrific lashes, which left marks around my legs, buttocks, and back. If I were lucky, the lashes were made by the softer leathery-parts of the belt. If I wasn’t, it was the buckle, which did the scarring.

The violent strikes resulted from disobedience, for challenging my parents’ authority, and mediocre grades.

My adolescent years were filled with memories of some of these physical scars, which have disappeared but emotional scars which continued to linger.

My ex-wife’s parents similarly showed love in unhealthy ways: ignoring her feelings, constantly criticizing and comparing her to others, and not expressing their love for her.

What I’ve realized since our divorce was that we were two damaged people who had trouble loving ourselves, let alone each other. When the love you’ve known has been physically harmful, emotionally painful, and psychology scarring, how do you love another person?  

With this realization, I’ve had to find ways to love myself first.

You too may have been unloved or shown love in unhealthy ways in your life. Here are some tips on loving yourself first before searching for love in your life.

1. Be kind to yourself.

You may have hurts, emotional pain, and shortcomings. Learn to accept yourself, shortcomings and all, even if your family and previous partners may have berated you about your inadequacies.

We tend to be harsh on ourselves, often because the people who were supposed to love us were unusually cruel and heartless to us. We hear their non-stop chatter in our minds and our beings.

Focus on your many positive qualities. Focus on your strengths, your abilities, and your admirable traits. Let go of harsh judgments, comparisons to others, and self-hatred.

When you can see yourself as the soulful and divinely inspired person you are, the damaging internal dialogue doesn’t hold up.

Be gentle with yourself.

2. Feel the love within you and be that love.

You may experience both self-hatred and self-love. Spend more time focusing on self-love.

Try loving and positive affirmations. Nourish your soul through a love-kindness meditation or spiritual practices that help you feel compassion and love toward yourself.

Once you feel vibrations of self-love or the peace of positive affirmations, try to be in that place of love throughout your day.

Infuse this love with your interactions with others in your life.

3. Give yourself a break.

You’re not perfect. No one is. You don’t have to be at the top of your game every day. No one is happy all the time. No one loves themselves always. No one lives without pain.

Be willing to embrace your imperfections and excuse your bad days. Don’t set such high standards for yourself emotionally and mentally. It’s normal to feel sadness and pain and to hit some low points in life.

Allow yourself to embrace these emotions without judging yourself for them.

4. Embrace yourself.

Are you content being alone by yourself without feelings of anxiety, fear, and judgment?

You may have to go within and seek solace in yourself to be comfortable in your own skin. Practice moments of alone time and be aware of how you treat yourself.

Learn to embrace solitude and allow yourself to be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about yourself.

The process of self-discovery can happen through the process of clinical therapy or counseling. This healing process can help you discover who you are and what your obstacles to loving yourself are.

In the alternative, periods of introspection, silent meditations, journaling, and sharing your feelings with supportive friends may help you be more aware of who you are.

The process of loving yourself starts with understanding your true nature.

It took a combination of meditation, therapy, writing, and silence to come to terms with my past and my present. Only once I realized I wasn’t loving myself could I attempt to change that.

5. Be grateful.

Rhonda Byrne, author of The Magic, shares with us a powerful way to change all of our relationships and our life.

Byrne encourages us to practice gratefulness and regularly count our blessings.

“When you’re grateful for the things you have, no matter how small they may be, you will see those things instantly increase,” Byrne says.

She includes 28 practices for 28 days of your life to help you feel gratitude more deeply. Her initial practice is a formula to count your blessings.

She encourages you to write out the following sentence for 10 items you’re grateful for everyday.

“I am truly blessed to have ____________________________, because __________________(why?)_____________.”

You will immediately start loving yourself more when you realize all the things you’re grateful for in your life.

6. Give yourself in service to others.

When you think about kindness toward others and being love to others, you open the door to divine love.

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” ~Rabindranath Tagore

Yes, giving to others is a gift of love you can often give yourself which brings you more love.

When you’re being kind, considerate, compassionate, and giving of yourself, your soul will rejoice. You’ve reached the highest level of self-love in this state of serving others.

Find ways to do small and large tasks to assist those living in your house, neighborhood, or community. Practice conscious acts of kindness and giving.

The love you’re sharing with others in the form of service will help you feel more love and fulfillment in your life.

You’ll realize you don’t need someone else to feel complete any longer. You’re complete.

A relationship will only make you shine brighter and bring more love in your life.

Photo here

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About Vishnu

Vishnu blogs about overcoming challenges in life and spirituality at his blog www.vishnusvirtues.com. He currently blogs from Biolley, Costa Rica.

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  • P. Baker

    I like this article so much. In order for us to be loved, it essential that we know how to love ourselves first. Thank you so much for the nugget of wisdom you shared with me today.

    - Pete, getting rid of age spots

  • Alexey Sunly

    Wonderful insight, Vishnu, thank you for sharing :-)

  • s

    amazing

  • C

    So what if you give in service to another and they just keep taking without giving back? Then what? Do you stop giving?

  • Le blanc

    Thank you Vishnu.

  • http://www.pinchmeliving.com/ Bernadette

    Nice post Vishnu, thank you. Loving yourself first, a great reminder for me to embrace all the ‘selfies’ – self-love, self-acceptance, self-expression, self-belief :)

  • Vijay

    To C -

    Yes, you should stop giving when you expect it back and it doesn’t come back to you, because give and take is business, and you are doing bad business.

    On the other hand, if you can find a way to give away things very close to your heart, knowing that you won’t get anything back, and yet not feel like you’ve lost something, please let us know and we will also follow your methodology!

    What did we come with into this world? Let it go, don’t expect anything back. Give away everything you get. Just don’t forget, like Vishnu is saying, that you have a duty to give to yourself too. Create a small world for yourself, in which you find some reason to cheer and forget all else.

    Please don’t think that I’m saying this without feeling your pain. I feel your pain much because that is what I’ve seen happen to me consistently.

    I’ve also seen, that because that has happened to me so much, for so long, I’m beginning to refuse to look at what the other person is giving me – the love they show me in ways other than what I’m looking for – that is also wrong, is it not?

    Anyway, first give to yourself for some months. If something is left, give it to others. May that be with love or material things. Time to try out something new if your current situation isn’t giving you respite from pain.

    Regards,

  • Razwana

    Vishnu. Loving this. Truly.

    One thing I read recently that would complement your post is if you have a list of things you would want in a person you love, be those things yourself. For example, if you want someone who is nurturing, or attentive, or honest – be those things yourself.

    - Razwana

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Your welcome:)

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    I’ll have to use that in the future – ‘selfies’ lol Thanks for sharing that your feedback.

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Appreciate the feedback, thanks.

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Thanks for your support and feedback Razwana.

    Yes, trying to be the best person we can be is good And usually by the time become the person we can become, we invite in others into our lives who are all those things.

    Law of attraction at work:) ?

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    grateful.
    :)

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Hi C, not so much giving to receive. Giving for the sake of service and nothing more. This was more on finding love for yourself than finding love in another person. By giving ourselves in service to others, I’ve found more love and fulfillment in my own life.

    When it comes to giving to another person, not having expectations or reducing expectations avoids disappointment with them. I’d say don’t stop giving, stop expecting reciprocation:)

    We regularly disappoint ourselves when others hold the key to our happiness. What do you think?

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Thanks for adding to the conversation Vijay. Your points are right on – this is not a business. No transactional relationship is needed for a fulfilling relationship. And people may also reciprocate love in their own ways and terms.

    But more than giving to a partner, as you point out, I’m talking about service in the sense of helping others. Giving to others is simply satisfying and brings much love into your own life.

  • Koren

    You make some excellent points, Vishnu. I think we all realise on some level that we need to love ourselves first but doing that is not always easy – your tips make it a little more so.

    On being grateful, I’ve created a simple exercise to ensure I’m practicing gratitude everyday. Each morning I take 10, deep, calming breaths when I wake up, and with each breath, mentally say one thing I am grateful for today. It’s a beautiful way to wake up and really frames my day positively.

    Thanks again!

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Koren, thanks for your comment and yes, a gratitude practice, especially in the morning, really helps reframe our days.

    And I’m not sure how this works but yesterday, I chose gratitude before starting a particularly long and grueling day. By being grateful, the external circumstances around me started changing more towards more favorable circumstances. lol Was it me (change in perspective) or the universe (a real change of circumstances) Hard to tell :)

  • Koren

    Probably a bit of both!

  • lv2terp

    WONDERFUL tips!!!! Thank you for sharing such wonderful insight, being vulnerable in writing about your journey! :)

  • http://www.reflectingalife.com/ Elle

    *Love* the quote by Tagore Vishnu.

    If we would generate love within we then radiate it outwards drawing to us more love. It’s a wonderful, self-perpetuating system.

    Life gives to us what we are, as opposed to what we want. And imho love is the highest level of consciousness that we can operate in.

    It’s the Divine in action and we get to participate in it to the degree we have it in ourselves.

    xoxo
    Elle

  • Lisa M

    Great post Vishnu! You are rocking the guest posts!

    These great reminders of the need to be kind and loving to ourselves. I am often my own harshest critic, which does a lot more to hinder me than it does to help me. I really appreciate your insight on gratitude and the gratefulness excercises from Rhonda Byrne.

    -Lisa M

  • Anna Puchalski

    I am so glad I found this article- after reading it I felt warm inside. It really helps with the practice of finding my true nature, which gets lost along the way. I remember your name, you posted on a article I had on here also. Great piece!

  • KD

    This could not have been a better day to read this post. The irony is unfathomable. If it is okay though I would like to ask for some advice.

    It is actually recently that I have been seeing an counselor about anxiety I have. Similar to what you have discussed in both point 3 and 4. With some work I have become much better with loving myself, including giving myself a break, not trying to always be perfect and knowing that it is okay to be upset sometimes (that it doesn’t mean I am emotionally unstable, instead it is a bodies natural way to saying “Hey, Somethings up.”). It is a process but I am growing each day.

    However, my struggle now is bringing this into my relationship. I have a partner who I have been dating for almost 2 and a half years now. I use to have trouble believing that they loved me because I use to not understand how anyone could. However now I am becoming accepting of the beautiful person I am, yet I am still having difficulty believing their love. The thing is, I believe that they love me, *when I am at my best*. But I fear they don’t see my beauty anymore in the tough times. They describe is as the times when “I am in one of my moods.” I just wish they saw it differently and could appreciate me even when I am upset because in reality it is my way of showing I am so passionate about something that it makes me emotional.

    Thank you again for sharing you wisdom!

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    thanks for your comments. It was hard to write and I wasn’t that vulnerable at first. It took a little prodding, self-examination and editing to get here:) glad I did and glad others could appreciate, relate, etc.

  • Kathy www.yinyangmother.com

    Thanks for sharing your story Vishnu. I truly believe too that we can’t really give love unless it is inside us, unless we have first given it to ourselves. I love that quote by Rabindranath Tagore, it does show how being kind and of service to people makes love and joy expotential.

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Glad you liked the article and the quote, Kathy. Yes!! love ourselves first and we’ll be able to love others better (and attract more love into our lives)

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Anna – yes, I remember your post – you too discussed a little bit about your family and childhood if I’m not mistaken. And glad you liked this article. We all lose ourselves along the way so the guides, compasses and people along the way to guide us along are especially helpful:)

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Thanks Lisa. For me, I’ve come to conclude that society, our community and even our families contribute to the self-loathing, self-critical talk we all hear. We have to break free from that after our childhood and the first step is awareness. ONce we realize how non-loving we are to ourselves, we can start taking more positive action.

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Thank you for this comment Elle! So much wisdom in it. Especially the line about love giving us what we are – good way of stating that! If love is indeed the highest level of consciousness, let’s love more – ourselves, our beings, and expand it to all around us:)

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    KD – glad you liked the post and it came at a fitting time. I’m not sure if I’m the best person to be giving ‘dating’ advice. :) But I would say you’ve come along way and loving yourself more. And continuing to do that everyday including today which will impact your relationship. It is a process so you may have a little more work to do which will only help you feel more love for yourself. And allow you to accept love more from the person you’re dating.

    I think you’re doing exactly what you need to do and working on building up more love within yourself via counseling etc. You can’t help others see you differently – that’s their issue. But you can definitely help yourself heal, love, change perspective and be grateful for the love you do have in your life.

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Ok, that’s a good compromise:)

  • Jody Lamb

    Awesome reminders! Thanks for sharing about your childhood, Vishnu. I’m so glad that you’ve grown so much as a person, that you’ve healed from those challenges. I was just driving in the car with my aunt who told me she’s only recently realized that she has a whole lot of healing to do from her life as a young person. She’s 48 now.

    I particularly appreciate the reminder today about being grateful. I think there’s a lot of power in writing what-I’m-grateful-for thoughts out on paper. Thanks for the reminder to do that!

  • Hira Khan

    As to your reply:

    Very true Vishnu.
    Giving, only when you are doing it for the sake of “self-happiness”, is the right thing to do. However, if you are giving with hope of getting something in return please do not do it, because then you will end up being disappointed 9 out of 10 times. As long as i gave to receive i was sad, but ever since i started giving for my own self i have never been more happier.

    And as to your Article:
    What an amazing article Vishnu, i am so glad i came across such a beautifully crafted masterpiece.
    More power to you!

  • terra1710

    I was very touched by your advice…and it is very good to be reminded of how to treat ourselves in order to feel peaceful release and embrace lovingkindness. Thank you for sharing.

  • Karen Samford

    Vishnu- What an insightful post. I loved point number 2-What a challenge! Feel the love inside you AND become that. Wow. And just when we thought it could just be paint by number. Thanks for your altruism and leadership here.

  • KD

    Thank you so much for all your wise words! I appreciated it so much as well as taking the time to give your feedback. I would like to let you know that this post had helped me even further on my journey to self love :-)

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Glad ot hear. Thank you for reading.

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    hi Karen – all of this is a challenge (especially #2) and especially if we’ve not grown up in the most loving homes or had the most positive relationships in our lives. It’s an ongoing process of growing. Thank you for reading.

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    I’m grateful that you read this post and took the time to comment. We all learn from each other and I’ve learned so much from the TB community.

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Jody – every post I read on gratefulness or book on the subject says what a great practice it is. And I’m continually trying to do more gratefulness. When we see gratefulness, we stop seeing lack, insufficiency, judgment or criticism. We see more of the positives in people and circumstances. I’m sure you’re also seeing the many positive benefits. Never too early or late to late to start the process to healing.

    Thanks for commenting Jody and for inspiring so many young people cope with difficult life circumstances.

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Lori, appreciate the chance to guest post on Tiny Buddha. Thank you for letting me, and all of us, tell our stories to encourage and inspire others.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You are most welcome Vishnu. And thank you so much for sharing your story and lessons. You’ve really inspired me. =)

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Thank you for the feedback and kind words Hira.

    And yes!! giving without expectations is the only way to give.

  • melissatandoc

    I could feel that the words aren’t superficial nor just mental but something that comes from deep reflection and learning from the past. Your sincerity towards all that you are experiencing is a blessing.

    Your post is a challenge my friends and I took at the start of the year. I am often reminded to be gentle and kind(er) to myself ~ not too be so harsh since I tend to go to ascetism…but I guess the measure of self love could also be seen by the way I relate to other people… Sometimes, I do need some time to just breathe and come to the Father to be reminded of His love for me.

    Beautiful beautiful words that need to come alive everyday Vishnu… thank you for sharing this ~ keep growing in love. God bless!

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Melissa – thanks for your kind words. Yes, it was based on much reflection and experience. We might be treating others the way we’re treating ourselves, as you point out. Or at least that might be a clue as to how we’re treating ourselves. hmmm… good insight:)

    Otherwise, nothing beats divine love! Thank you again for your comment.

  • mohamed

    I have been working on this loving yourself thing for months , but it seems like it’s not working , , I’m good when I’m just with myself but when I get out and meet people I start to worry again about what they think of me and be afraid that they will judge me ,even if those people are complete strangers ,, I even sweat when I have a conversation …I worked on this thing too long but it is just don’t work with me ..Please I need an advice. ..

  • http://BlissedOutBelle.com/ Shawna K: BlissedOutBelle.com

    Your upbringing is definitely similar to mine. I didn’t come from the most supportive environment, and I felt the affects of this when I reached adulthood. My process of healing took some soul searching, reading, prayers, and a whole lot of patients. Sometimes loving yourself can be so foreign, because we are never taught this. However, self love is a must in order to have a healthy relationship, because if you don’t work on loving yourself, you end up dragging the baggage into a relationship.

  • Anna Puchalski

    I come back to this article sometimes, such a good one. But I always remember this comment. And come back to it also. As I have grappled with this same questions, there is a way to see what we give wholeheartedly and without expectation, and that for me has been to give skillfully. I used to fall into the trap that I would give whatever the other person wanted, to the point where I lost myself and did not help them either since sometimes what we want is not necessarily what we need. Now with the idea of giving skillfully I can step back and give honestly- be compassionate without having to solve everyone’s problems, listen instead of give advice, so on and so forth. With skillful giving comes an exchange because it allows for both people to give and receive. Giving should be uplifting and not draining.

  • self love and acceptance

    This blog truly hits the core of what all of us have such a hard time accepting and believing! The most important person that we need to love is ourselves. Not saying this is selfish in any means, but its the true sign of confidence, acceptance and self worth. Like many bloggers on here, I strongly believe life led me to this site to not find answers or solutions but instead find that self worth and self love is the ultimate form of finding inner peace. Like so many people, I have also been struggling with many things in my life and marriage being the top one. I strongly believe I was guided by a higher power to tiny buddha where every night I find myself reading blogs and forums that are finally making me grow and love myself as a person. Unknowingly, many people we fall in love with can make us grow an unhealthy attachment to them and in return leave us empty of love,confidence and self-esteem. I couldn’t agree more with you Vishnu, the only person that we can truly give our unconditional love to and expect that in return is ourselves. For the first time since my marriage, I actually feel that inner peace and love for myself slowly seeping into my pores. And for the first time I ACTUALLY believe I am worthy of love. If not from anyone else, then from myself the most. Vishnu, assuming you are Indian I couldn’t relate more personally to this blog. It’s an amazing lifting of spirits and self worth. Thanks for all the great advice!

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Thank you for sharing your story and you’re absolutely right about the power and inspiration of the Tiny Buddha community. If it can help you grow, love yourself more and find inner peace, this blog is providing a great value and service to so many people. It’s wonderful to hear all the positive developments in your life. You’re definitely worth of love and deserve it :) but have to find it for yourself first and be willing to receive it (which is exactly what you seem to be doing!

    I am glad you liked the post and thank you for the kind words. I too learn & grow from the comments here, other bloggers and other posts that appear here on theTiny Buddha community.

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Hi Mohamed – it has really very little to do with people outside us. It has to do with ourselves. Sometimes, we grow up with very little love and support from our families. And our inner-talk says horrible things to us.

    Have you done affirmations? Repeat positive phrases which are beneficial to you and your growth? Maybe stick them up in your room to read regularly. When you feel like you’re being negative or harsh with yourself, acknowledge your mind doing this and counter those thoughts with more positive self-talk and beliefs. Remind yourself of why you are worthy and deserving of love. Be around more people who value and love you. A mindfulness or prayer practice can also help you connect with the divine within to help you find more love in your life.

    No need to experiment or test the outside world yet – just continue working on your own self-growth and worth. Loving yourself is a conscious practice that must be practiced over a period of time.

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Excellent points Shawna and I’m glad you worked on self love and came across the process of healing. When we do find our love and our worth, we become that shining diamond that was always there. Not only for ourselves but as you point out, our future relationships and partners depend on us bringing our best selves to that relationship.

    Our growth, healing and love can help us be there for others we love in our lives:)

  • http://meiridoll.tumblr.com/ Meili Wu

    Great post! Really helpful!

  • Karen

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your article makes me realize that i have been loved in unhealthy since I was a child unhealthy ways and that’s why I’m emotionally painful to the people who loved me, I always to compare myself to others, all this years I’ve been extremely hard with everyone in this particular case with my son and my boyfriend always expecting more and more from them, not only I’ve caused such pain to them, I’m suffering for not loving myself, I start to realize few month ago that i am not a bad person, that I have the capacity to do great things in my life and most all, that I’m able to give, to care, and most of all the capacity to LOVE. I start looking for counseling, I really want learn how to love in a healthy way without harm other people. Thank you again.

    Greeting from France

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    Glad you liked it Meili.

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    I love this comment, Karen, because you realize that you have the power to love others more by choosing to consciously love yourself more.

    Yes, counseling and other actions we can take can help us learn to love ourselves better. Your understanding of yourself is a true realization. And your action to improve and love yourself more is wisdom. And the exciting part is that the growth, development and love you create for yourself will naturally touch all the other important people in your life.

    Thank you for sharing your journey and story.

  • Shivkumar

    Bookmarking this page!… About to start my own journey after years of self loathing….thank you so much!

  • Dona

    This has to be one of the best articles I have read on tiny buddha, I can totally relate to you Vishnu, we might not have had the same painful experiences but the damages those childhood and formation years left in us are quite similar. Thank you for such an honest article.

  • Mike

    Hello, I also deal with severe anxiety on a daily basis. I have to take meds for it. It’s been about 7 years now. Doctors tell me that once you have an anxiety disorder you usually have it for life. I don’t want to believe that. But I have been swimming every day, meditating, chanting, doing yoga and other breathing exercises and nothing seems to work long term. It seems like Anxiety is immune to any physical or spiritual practice and this depresses me. Any uplifting advice? Thank you!!