What Self-Love Means: 20+ Ways to Be Good to Yourself

Heart with Hands

“Self-love requires you to be honest about your current choices and thought patterns and undertake new practices that reflect self-worth.” ~Caroline Kirk

If one more person told me to go love myself I was going to levitate into the air and pull one of those impossible martial arts moves from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I was sick of it!

What the heck does loving myself mean? Were they talking about bubble baths, pedicures, and cucumber masks? It turns out there is so much more to self-love than just pampering ourselves. I found this out the hard way.

About a year and a half ago, I almost died after a bad breakup. I had devoted so much of my energy to making the relationship work that I had completely neglected my own needs, and had given away my power and my responsibility for happiness.

As I wrote about here, when I finally developed the courage to end an addictive and painful relationship, I had to live with the effects of lack of self-love.

I struggled to eat, sleep, or continue my daily functioning. I spent every waking hour to myself, trying to understand how and why I had gotten there. I had to know, because whatever it was, if I did not attend to it, this was going to be the end of the road for me. I knew it.

I made mixed media collages, journaled, watched The Notebook five more times, cried, and called up friends to keep me company while I ate my few bites each day.

During this whole time, I found places in my story where I was not present to my own life, my body or my spirit. I was just there. I found the places where I had abandoned myself and then gotten mad at the other person for not meeting my needs.

The truth was, I did not have a big enough inner container to hold the love I so desired even if I received it, because my self-love tank had shrunk down to the size of a bottle cap.

It finally became very clear to me that there was one core reason I had gotten there: I did not know anything about self-love.

This realization launched me into a relentless search for the meaning of self-love, internally and externally.

I found that self-love is a not a destination; it’s a practice. Self-love is the foundation on which we build a happy life. Without self-love, we have nowhere to put the love or abundance that comes to us.

Not sure what it looks like to love yourself? Here is what I’ve learned. Self-love is…

1. Choosing ourselves, even if it means upsetting others and not being popular anymore. Even if it means we leave a party before anyone else because we feel tired, overwhelmed, or just plain feel done with the crowd.

2. Telling what is true for us, not swallowing words that express what we truly feel, think, or want to do.

3. Giving our body the nurturing, rest, exercise, and comfort it needs to the best of our ability.

4. Wearing clothes that make us feel good and fit our personality instead of wearing clothes that are in fashion that we use to impress others.

5. Building a life that we love while we are single instead of waiting for our prince/princess to show up to explore life and to be happy.

6. Accepting ourselves with the good, the bad, the ugly, the sexy, and the smelly—all of it—and appreciating ourselves as whole people.

7. Making time to do whatever we love, just to play, without worrying about wasting time.

8. Owning our inner and outer beauty and complimenting ourselves without feeling guilty, arrogant, or entitled.

9. Not rehashing our past mistakes and dragging ourselves to a dark place when we know that we can only learn from the past; we can’t change it.

10. Spending some quality, connected time with ourselves instead of always watching TV or wasting time on the Internet.

11. Using discretion when sharing our heart, self, and dreams with others.

12. Trusting the path that our soul is on and making a genuine effort to become a conscious co-creator of our destiny.

13. Not blaming our parents for our current issues, and looking for ways to heal our wounds and change our dysfunctional patterned behaviors by reaching out to ministers, therapists, coaches, and healers.

14. Following what our gut/intuition says instead of living out of our brain and ego.

15. Staying in our integrity, both when it comes to ourselves and when interacting with others out in the world. This includes keeping ourselves in check regarding patterns such as lying, manipulating, co-depending, withholding, and pretending.

16. Allowing ourselves to dream big, without contaminating these dreams with judgments, our perceived limitations, or a lack of sense of deserving.

17. Knowing how we’re spending our emotional, mental, financial, and physical energy, and whether these activities bring back joy, connection, nurturing, rest, and creativity to our lives.

18. Taking responsibility for all of our experiences. Knowing that we have the ability for deeper self-awareness and access to our intuition when it comes to making life choices.

19. Not labeling ourselves with others’ opinions of us, while having the courage to look inside to see if there might be some truth to them.

20. Learning to set boundaries that protect and nurture our relationships, with ourselves and others.

21. Allowing ourselves to make mistakes and not berating ourselves for making them. Instead, choosing to appreciate our desire to learn and grow.

22. Refusing to seek permission or approval to be ourselves. Recognizing that we, like everyone else, deserve to take up space on this planet just as who we are right now.

And lastly, self-love is:

23. Loving and accepting ourselves even when we fail miserably at some of these self-love goals.

No one else can offer these things to us. No one else can take our vitamins for us or prevent us from going into a self-loathing attack.

Even if we land the best partner on the planet, this person won’t be able to make us happy and feel loved unless we create the space for it inside by practicing self-love. This is why self-love is an inside job.

From my heart to your heart…

Photo by le vent le cri

About Banu Sekendur

Banu Sekendur is an Intuitive Coach for Business and Life. After two decades of running from one healer to another, she became the coach she needed when she was going through hell. She will give her last breath helping people discover, own, and live who they are. You can connect with her on Facebook and her website

See a typo, an inaccuracy, or something offensive? Please contact us so we can fix it!
  • lv2terp

    WONDERFUL list!!! Thank you for this post, and message! 🙂 Beautiful!

  • Banu

    So glad! Thank you for commenting.

  • DE

    Well written Banu, we are not perfect, we are human being and self love is the path to be happy and make other happy around you.

  • parul mahajan

    I believe in self love but still have hard times practicing it sometimes.. Thanks for sharing:)

  • Banu

    Yes, we are not perfect and we are human. I wish we would remember that more often. 🙂

  • Kex

    “I had devoted so much of my energy to making the relationship work that I had completely neglected my own needs, and had given away my power and my responsibility for happiness.”
    Exactly what I have done in mine, I gave her what I thought she wanted, and in the end she decided our relationship didnt work, and I have been devestated ever since.. Being dependant on someone else for love and then they abandon you, I never imagined it would be this rough.

    Thank you for writing this list and explaining, I will have to try it out and see if I can repair my damaged self.

  • Banu

    Hi Kex,
    I hear you!!! Like you, I found that without self-love, I will be stuck in that pattern, which is a recipe for unhappiness. Through challenges like that we learn the true love. We have to learn a new way to love, one that also feeds us. It is challanging! Allow your heart to heal. Question what you think what love is. When one person understands and practices love, the ripple effects of that reach generations before and after them. I command you for walking your path and being courageous to share your experience. Thank you for commenting.
    Much love,

  • sing sing

    I love this list. Thank you!

  • nora

    a great list of practical things to do, so many times I have heard the same comment. This puts it in black and white and a solid foundation upon which to build self-love. THANKS!

  • Banu

    Hi Nora, So glad to hear that! Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • Wow you must be so strong to go through all that !! But I am so happy you came out of it better than the person before 🙂 Its very inspiring and I can totally relate to you. Thank you xx

  • Pleng

    Thank you! It’s really good~!

  • wiee

    Hi Banu.
    What a lovely post.Thank you so much.I had a break up about a year ago and yes,Idk how to move on.I can’t move on.I stuck in my past relationship.Then,my ex do tell to love myself more.Idk why he need to tell me that?I felt so confused hatred towards him.After read your post,i feel more energetic and first I need to learn to love myself first.I want to forget him.What more important for now,is myself and be happy 🙂

  • Makayla

    Living from our soul, & not our ego, brain, etc.. this is one that really stands out to me. I feel like as we see other people doing things that “make them better”, we feel the need to compete. If we could just live from our soul, do what makes us happy, and not worry about others, we could be more happy. Atleast I could, anyway.
    Out of all the self love tips that I have ever read (alot) these are the only ones that spoke to me. Thank you for that! Hope your journey to self love is going well. 🙂

  • Banu

    Thank you for your beautiful comment, Krishna. I, myself, sometimes can’t believe that I made it through that. I thought I couldn’t. This goes to show, we are stronger than we realize. If I can do it, so can others.

  • Hi Banu,

    Thank you! What you share there is a great mirror for most women, I think. Your practice suggestions are super helpful.

    To me, the art of self-love came not so much through loss of love as through never having found it (at the time) and struggling with loneliness the first 40 years of my life.

    Long story short, what I have found (and continue to come back to) is that while self-love both is and requires practice (and is in this sense an active choice, a responsibility, a “job” of ours) it ultimately depends on one thing: our receptivity to the love that is there already.

    The energy of love is everywhere, it’s part of life, of god, of universe, of nature…

    The ultimate key to self-love is allowing ourselves to receive that love. From there giving it to ourselves becomes part of the natural circulation.

    Thanks again!

  • Banu

    Hi Wiee,
    I won’t lie and say that it was or is an easy journey. But it does get easier. I had felt lost in my pain before. The practice of self-love (not perfectly, I must add) gives me a homing place to come to.

    Anger is a natural response. We get angry at them for the ways we have allowed them to treat us. We are angry for the times we settled for the crumbs when we actually wanted the whole loaf. We are angry that they LET us be self-destructive. Allow yourself to feel and express the anger. Get into a physical activity (kickboxing, yoga, jogging) that allows for tissues and muscles to process pent up feelings. See an acupuncturist/Chinese medicine professional to work on your liver (it holds anger). These are just ideas. Your path will unfold on its own. Be open to being shown the way. Most importantly: don’t give up! Wishing you ease and surrender on your journey. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • Banu

    Hi Makayla,

    Thank you for adding to the conversation and your kind words. Comparison is something we all struggle with. We ALL forget that there is only one question in front of us that ONLY we are responsible for answering. That is: “Who am I here to be/what am I here to do? What is the purpose of MY life?”. It is scary as hell to be open to that question- especially when we are full of ideas about who we SHOULD be. Of course you’re not going to like your life or your prospective future if you’re trying to box yourself into an image of an ideal self that actually doesn’t exist. And if it (that ideal version of you) did, it would be miserable! She would be boring. Your inner being is longing to be known by you and by the world. That is your/our only job here. Your soul does not need you to be another Jessica Simpson, Oprah Winfrey or Klimt. They are great, they exist and add to the mosaic of life. So do you.

    I used to get sucked into the comparison game badly. I would lose every time. Because my perception of myself was skewed and was full of untrue judgments towards myself (see more posts below for link to that article). We learn that we are not who we think we are. We let go of who we think we are to find out who we really are. The crazy thing is, we are rejecting the person we *think* we are because we don’t know who we really are!!!! This is starting to sound like a riddle. I hope it makes sense. 🙂

    Hint: Explore how you “think” you fall short and who you think you “should” be. You might see that you are neither. That creates an opening for who you are to come through…

  • Banu

    Hi Halina,
    Yes, so true, it is our job. We all seem to arrive at this very point through experiences that shape us into who we are now. Your experience is actually the other side of the medal, the same problem. I love how you recognize that. And, again, me too: I also discovered how I flirt with life and tap into the love that makes up the planet. I was able to actually “see” flowers and was open to talking to strangers. Flow of life is love. So pround and simple. Thank you for commenting and sharing the confidence that only comes from dedication to love.

  • Nujcharee

    At the moment I’m struggling from a break up from a whirlwind romance. I went cold turkey but it didn’t last until it was his turn to go cold turkey on me.

    It’s for the best and I don’t like using the word regret cos I think its a pointless feeling. Having said that I wish we never taken the romantic path, he was my best friend and I hadn’t been this happy but it’s all over now.

    What I’m suffering on a day to day basis is in my head I keep picturing him and his new “friend” together – going to place we had been and maybe fall deeply in love the way we did. This story keeps playing in my head and it effects me to the point that my stomach hurts, I feel down. I come to this site to find tips to be happy with myself and everything else should be irrelevant. Yet I’m really suffering cos I live in a foreign country – no friends or family. And my ex was my best friend and now he doesn’t want to know me – it hurts so much 🙁

  • Brilliant article! You have to love yourself and give yourself the respect you deserve. How many people actually allocate themselves ‘me -time’? Think of the way you treat yourself – would you accept it if another person was to do that to you? Once you can love and be happy with yourself, then you will be ready to have genuinely happy relationships with others. Romance yourself – make time to read your favourite books, wine and dine yourself, take yourself to different places. Listen to your intutition and do not do things that insult your soul. Be courageous and follow your own path – it is yours alone to take.

    Once you love yourself, everything else will start to fall into place. Good luck on your journey! 🙂

  • Banu

    Hi Nujharee,

    Ohh, man! I am sorry that you are going through that. I know all about the story running in your mind and every time feeling more and more real. And you forget about the reality. The reality of why you left him in the first place. You imagine his best qualities and another woman enjoying them. You forget the pain you felt when you were together and how you had gotten to a point of not being able to enjoy his good qualities anymore. It is a tough stage to be in. And you will get through it. Once you realise what it is costing you to dwell on the fear scenario in your head, you will start living your life. The cost is: You can’t live your life. You walk around like a body without a soul because all this thinking and ruminating is taking all your joy and life energy away.

    Here is the truth sweetgirl: If you were happy with him, you wouldn’t have left. I don’t know of any woman who would leave a man who made them feel like the most important person in the world. People in our lives treat us the way we treat ourselves. If you weren’t the most important person for him, than you weren’t that for yourself either (self love!!). When you were with him, were you happy with yourself and your life? Sounds to me like you weren’t happy with your life AND with him. We can’t fix or change them. But we can fix our own life. Remember your point of power!

    What do you look forward to in your life? What would you regret dying without doing, being, experiencing, seeing, knowing, touching, kissing, loving? Have you smelled all the flowers you can smell? Have you had enough of sunsets, kids playing in the yard with joy or waking up to the sound of birds chirping? Take a few steps back and expand your vision of what life is. Right now, you are not living it. The courage to look at what you are missing is self-love.

    Turn your eyes and your energy back to your life. Make your mistakes, fail, get up and rock this movie called “my life”.

    I set myself free after I realized that ruminating on this disaster scenario where I feel like the loser, when I am the one who made the choice to love me first was only a crafty trick of my ego self trying to keep me away from facing my fears. When you put him down, you will see what you are afraid of.

    Find a community. If you are a knitter, find people who like knitting. Host a book club and invite a few friends to join you. Start doing something new and easy.

    Plus, from the sounds of it, it sounds like a typical pursuer-distancer relationship dynamic. I have a feeling that, this was the core dynamic that was running in the relationship when you were together as well…

    Phew, I am wordy this morning. 🙂

    Nujcharee, go live your life. Go discover you. Smell flowers and take pictures of sunsets. You’re worth it!!!


  • Banu

    True. We accept the love we think we deserve. It seems that, it is a lesson every human being has to learn on his/her path of spiritual growth. And only when we “earn” self love we can exude love and true confidence. We treat other people with respect and love and respect their boundaries, have compassion for their limitations exactly the same way we feel about ourselves. My parents used to say, “How you do anything is how you do everything”. Later on I learned that it is a Zen teaching. 🙂 Relationship is the core of life. Our relationship with ourselves, with money, with other people, with our bodies, with nature, with food, etc determine the level of our happiness. It is all linked. And it’s all a process. I now accept myself as a flawed human being who is dedicated to her highest version of self. The unfolding of my soul’s highest potential is a sacred process and I treat it that way. I enjoy being the co-creator of my destiny. 🙂 Thanks for commenting and adding to the conversation.

  • Great list you have here Banu! Self love is important, it affects everything. Thank you for writing this 🙂

  • Banu

    Thank you for commenting. You’re welcome. Human experience is the same everywhere. We just have different faces. 🙂

  • Naomi

    That was absolutely beautiful Banu, really connected with me and how I am feeling right now. Although I do find times where I show myself some self-love, I still struggle with it and sometimes rely on the love from others to pick myself up. This list that you have made is so true and it is things that we can try to achieve each day at a time, practicing this sense of self-love and believing we are worth that love. I’m planning to print these out and stick it on a wall so I can always be reminded that I need to find love for myself first before I can find that love in a partner. Thank you so much for your inspiring words, I will endeavor to practice more self love 🙂

  • Banu

    Naomi, thank you for your kind words and most of all I am so glad that you recognized the importance of self-love in your own life. The purpose of this post was to share what the ‘end of the road’ may look like when we don’t attend to our own needs. I love the idea of printing and posting it somewhere you can see. This is how we do it! Love, B

  • Banu

    Hi Jordina, you are so right. “Selfish” is one of the worst names you can call a person, right? It makes you feel like you just ate the whole pizza by yourself. 🙂 When all we need to do is just to know many clices of pizza that we need and reach our hand, pick them up and eat them. That is all. Good on you for changing the course of your life and creating the life that you wanted. Rock on!

  • Banu

    Would love to! How can I contribute?

  • Lily Bernal

    this is just awesome
    thank u so much for sharing!
    greetings from Mexico!

  • Catherine

    I spent my life choosing to be admired by my choices. That ultimately always meant being oriented to the other person’s well-being.
    Professionally and academically I have a lot of success, but when it comes down to my life… well, I am a shipwreck. My relationships tend to be abusive, and I’ve allowed them to endure because I was always afraid of disappointing others.
    I am alone now, because I decided it was time to face the facts. But honestly I have no clue… I don’t know what I want, what I like, what I am… I have a hard time sleeping, eating and doing the basics… I don’t feel depressed.. I feel numb…

  • Keila K.

    I absolutely enjoyed reading the article. There are some things I need to work on as far as falling in love with myself; right now I’d say I just love me. I definitely will be saving this for future reference.

  • YoginiLa

    Love this article, really hit home! Thank you Banu

  • Banu

    SO glad! Thanl you! 🙂

  • banu

    Hi Catharine, I am sorry ro hear that you are in the thick of it. It sucks while it sucks. Get support and help -without co-depending, if you can. Identify what u need and ask for that. I got to practice receiving A LOT when I wad on your shoes. I was too proud to ask for help. Ironically, getting to a place of needing help caused me to ask for it without victimiizing myself and manipulating them.

    Not knowing who you are is a GREAT place to start! Ypu have a blank canvas to build. Everything you thought you were is melting away. You can get through this. Take it on with pride. Do the work needed, look deep within. You will set yourself free…

  • Diana

    Thank you. This article has put peace in my heart…

  • Banu

    Hi Keila, self-love is a journey. It is the dedication to becoming a whole person, loving ALL of who we are. I think that is is a life-long journey. Hope yours unfolds with ease, grace and joy. Warmly, Banu

  • Banu

    Thank you, Lily! Greetings back at you and Mexico! 🙂

  • James

    Wow…. thank you for this. I am about 3 months out of an abusive relationship that I’ve had on/off for 6 years with a girl who had 7 out of 9 traits of Borderline Personality Disorder. I can tell you it is not fun. I’ve had the cops called numerous times because people thought I was beating her when she was actually flipping out and throwing herself around, arrested once, hit on, emotionally degraded, and financially hurt. She even moved from Oregon to Texas this last time to be with me. After suffering a broken ankle (not her fault), I saw how my needs didn’t really matter to her. The last straw was when she flipped out again and slammed the door, waited for me to open it so she could slam it again and ended up catching my finger in it. Out of everything that had happened over time, I now realize I lost myself in the relationship doing everything she wanted…. and all I ended up with was a broken and busted finger that she never apologized for nor took me to the ER for. I used to be such a peaceful and helpful person even to myself…. now I’m having to start over and relearn how to do for and love myself again. I can relate to the low self worth after a relationship like this, but I can assure everyone…. it does get better…. slowly with time and forgiveness to yourself for making mistakes, but these are what we learn from and learn how to love ourselves again. Thanks Banu!

  • Banu

    Hi James. Wow, to you. What a life!! I had to pause and close my eyes to hold the story in my heart for a minute. Then continued reading.

    My friend, the pain of betrayal and the acknowledging of it in words (what you just did) IS an amazing gift. (Though it really sucks in early stages!). People like us, who know the deep, excruciating pain of self-betrayal become teachers of Love. Not romantic love, but true love. We become people who love themselves enough to give the love tho those who ask for it in the most unloving ways. But we give it without giving ourselves away to heal them. You are a healer. You are just in school mastering your craft. Thank you for being on the team! Love, Banu

  • Phoenix Lily Rose

    Great Article – really helped re-inforce that self – love is a journey not a destination, as I to struggled with that that meant. This provide alot more clarity for me at the right time

  • pamela

    This list is powerful, it’s capable of making one live a better life. What is better than loving yourself? Thanks Banu for this article

  • Cassie

    I’m so grateful to have found this article this morning when O was given an assignment to define what it means to love myself. I had to Google it because I know God wanted me to have a deeper understanding of self-love. I struggle to fight codependency. It is so hard for me to know my self-worth, I have always lived unsatisfied and every person in my life could never love me enough could never give me enough attention to fill the void that is so painfully empty. I thought the best body wash, the best perfume lotion, the next Coach purse, or Tiffany Jewellery would feel that void but to no avail have I ever been able to achieve being happy with myself I’m so grateful for this article and my favorite part self-love is not a destination it is a journey. I look forward to the journey and any help and insight that anyone can give me so I can find happiness from within.

  • Guest

    When you say don’t put your needs on them are you speaking about basic needs such as affection, respect, intimacy and so on?

    What’s funny is some of the most loving people I’ve ever seen actually think very little of themselves. They don’t have the attitude of me, first you second, and it goes without saying to take care of yourself, and to not take shit from anyone. I doubt they think did I love myself today. I know I don’t. Sometimes I’m confident, sometimes is not. I’m kind and caring to others deserve it.

    Why so much emphasis on “own” and “self” We are built to connect and need others regardless of wether we like or accept ourselves. A good partner will want what’s best for us and encourage us either way. They’ll see the beauty inside you even if you don’t. Besides there’s nothing more attractive than a man that is humble.

    There’s also a song written that says “you don’t know your beautiful, but thats what makes you beautiful” …

  • Guest

    . Owning our inner and outer beauty and complimenting ourselves without feeling guilty, arrogant, or entitled.

    True – but also there was a hit song “written that says you don’t know your beautiful, but that’s what makes you beautiful” for a reason.

    Noone likes a selfie after selfie taking, person screaming “I love me some me”