July 2012: I’m awake and hung over. Against my will, reality has come crashing back down. I can’t stop my mind or my heart from reciting the facts of my recent past.

  • Three weeks ago my best friend moved away.
  • Two weeks ago E* and I broke up after several years of being together. We used to talk about getting married.
  • A few days ago R* passed away. He was 28 years old.

     

I’m terrified of the future, afraid that it will only hold more pain, more loss, more suffering.

I don’t know how many days it’s been since I collapsed and I don’t really care either.

I drag myself out of bed and look in the mirror. I look exactly how I feel.

Suddenly, almost like it does in the movies, it hits me: if I ever want to get back on my feet, I need to learn to love myself…

That moment was the first time I realized that I had a relationship to myself. It inspired three years of study during which I read countless books and articles, experimented with dozens of ideas, worked with professionals, and eventually repaired the broken relationship I had to myself.

Here is what I learned about how to love yourself. I hope it is of service to you…

The negativity bias, attentional filters, and other things that make loving yourself difficult

Imagine that two articles about you have just been published. The first raves about you and your work. It claims that you are God’s gift to humanity, showers you in praise, and encourages everyone to follow your lead.

The second proclaims that you are a complete idiot and a blight upon this world. It insults you and dismisses your work as a waste of time. It encourages people to completely ignore you.

Which of those two articles would get more of your energy and attention?

If you’re anything like me the negative article would be far more impactful than the positive one. As it turns out this is normal. It’s the result of what psychologists call the “Negativity Bias.”

The negativity bias is the phenomenon that if there are two equally charged stimuli, the negative one will attract more of your mind’s attention.

The funny thing about the negativity bias is that from an evolutionary perspective, it was a huge competitive advantage. Say that you are a hunter-gatherer out looking for food. Suddenly, a poisonous snake starts slithering up to you and a wild boar that could feed your family for weeks runs across your path. Your subconscious has milliseconds to decide which animal to pay attention to.

Choose to hunt the boar and you’ll be vulnerable to the snake and likely to get bitten. Choose to defend yourself against the snake, and you will avoid getting bitten, but the boar will get away.

All of our ancestors who naturally paid attention to the positive stimuli in their environment (the boar) died out because they failed to identify the threats around them (the snake).

In the past, the negativity bias was a useful adaptive response. Today it just makes you pay too much attention to what’s wrong with you and the world.

Attentional filters: in any given moment you are bombarded with more stimulation than your mind can actively process. In order to function in an environment that is supersaturated with data, your mind filters out almost all of the information around you. This is called attentional filtering.

A side effect of attentional filtering is that the world ends up looking like whatever it is you’re focused on.

For example, as you read this sentence, you are not not actively paying attention to how your toes feel in your socks; however now that your attention has been called to your toes, you notice them. That’s the attentional filter in action.

The combined effect and the media: minds are not very good at processing reality. First, your mind is much more likely to pay attention to what’s wrong, than what’s right (the negativity bias). Second, your mind is forced to filter out almost all of the stimulation in any given situation (attentional filters).

Because of this, your mind has a tendency to view you as being far less intelligent, capable, good looking, charming, and ultimately, worthy of love than you actually are.

This is further exacerbated by a media culture that preys on fear, and an advertising culture that strives to make you feel small unless you’re up to date with all of the latest trends.

Simply put, if you are having trouble loving yourself, there is nothing wrong with you. It’s a side effect of modernity.

Fortunately, loving yourself is a skill that can be learned and mastered. The first step is realizing the truth about your importance…

You are the singular most important person in your world.

Everything in your life flows from your relationship to yourself. Learn to treat yourself like someone worthy of love, respect, and compassion, and your life will flow more effortlessly, abundantly, and joyfully than you can imagine.

Treat yourself like someone worthy of contempt, disdain, and indifference, and each day will be a struggle to keep your head above water.

The unfortunate part is that most people never put much energy into their relationship with themselves. They drift through life acting as their own worst critic, working to inhibit their potential, and keeping their hearts and minds guarded.

I know that sounds dramatic, but pause for a moment. If you spoke to your friends the way you speak to yourself in your head, would you have any friends left? Before I started working on my relationship to myself, I wouldn’t.

Or at a deeper level: have you ever felt fully loved by yourself or someone else?

You’d be surprised by how many people’s honest answer is, “No.” I’ll come back to that in a bit.

I spent years of my life quietly but cleverly telling myself I’m not worthy. I obsessed over mistakes from my past. I endlessly replayed embarrassing moments (while somehow neglecting the beautiful ones). I failed to forgive myself for being a human, (a very real part of me wants to be a demi-God).

If you can relate to any of that, don’t worry; it just means you’re human too.

Long time readers will know that I tackled the topic of self-love several years ago. At the time, I shared everything I knew. But here’s the truth: I still had a few boulders preventing me from fully seeing and loving myself when I wrote that article (though I wasn’t aware of them at the time).

My journey isn’t complete and never will be (self-love is a process, not a destination), but I have come a long way in my practice, and hope to help you with yours; because the truth of all this is that loving yourself is really fucking hard. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

The easy path is to distract yourself with drugs, alcohol, stress, white lies, busyness, bad relationships, external validation, and pretend happiness. But doing this makes you more of a cold, unfeeling robot, than a vivacious, hot blooded human. One of my deepest wishes is that you wake up to how amazing and powerful you truly are. That journey requires finding the courage (and it does take courage) to live and love while you’re still alive.

The four levels of self-love: an overview

Think of your relationship to yourself in four levels:

Level 1: the day-to-day. Do you treat yourself like an important person who deserves love and respect, or are you subtly placing unreasonable expectations on yourself? What do your behaviors say about your relationship to yourself?

If you do not treat yourself as you would treat someone you love, you’ll never feel the love that flows from your core.

Level 2: embrace your dark side. Do you accept and acknowledge your dark side when it surfaces? Do you embrace the part of you that is pessimistic, lazy, depressed, violent, crude and offensive? Or do you pretend that everything is rainbows, gumdrops, and unicorn shits. Do you pretend that every day is a good day?

To be human is to be stormy and tempestuous one day (or moment), and then calm and sunny the next. To pretend otherwise is to deny who you truly are, and denying your truth is an act of self-loathing.

Level 3: the deep work. Have you truly seen yourself for who you are? Can you grasp that your imperfections are what make you perfect? Have you owned the reality that life was inflicted upon you without asking and with it came trauma, abuse, disappointment and eventually death? Do you acknowledge that these struggles will forever shape your life until you confront them and begin the healing process?

One of the most beautiful truths about the human experience is that it’s never too late to become the man or woman you truly are. You can begin healing, growing, and flourishing now. Doing so requires the courage and clarity to see yourself, so that you may begin the process of tearing down the walls that protect your heart.

As you do this you will open to the flow of love and life around you.

Level 4: the highest form of love. Every single person was born with unique gifts. The gifts can be anything from athletic performance, to empathy, to humor, to spirituality, to business acumen, and everything in between.

The real work of learning to love yourself is learning to see who you truly are and accepting it all. Along the path, you’ll discover deep gifts that you were born with.

The highest expression of love for yourself and the world is sharing those gifts freely and abundantly.

Your path is yours and yours alone…

What follows are guidelines for learning to love yourself. They are the things that consistently get results, laid out in a sequence that is congruent with how the heart and the mind tend to work.

But there is no singular path forward. Your job is to find your path. I’ll do my best to help, but you’re the one who must walk it.

My advice to you: when you find a step or a suggestion that excites you, experiment with it. See if it opens you and makes you happier. If so, keep working with it. If not, let it go.

When you find a step or suggestion that inspires fear, reluctance, or disgust, approach it with curiosity. Ask yourself why you’re having such a strong reaction. Instead of allowing intense emotion to be a brick wall, use curiosity and patience to feel through it.

Let your strong emotions be your guides.

Level 1 – do you treat yourself like someone you love?

The complicated relationship between feelings and actions. One of the secrets of human behavior is that how we feel and how we behave act reciprocally upon one another. In other words, if you treat yourself like shit, you’ll feel like shit. If you treat yourself like an amazing person, you’ll feel like an amazing person.

Pause and take inventory of the actions that you perform throughout the day. Are they reflective of the actions you would take if you truly loved yourself?

For most, the answer is no. Most people don’t get enough sleep or exercise, have crappy diets, work in jobs they hate, and go to great lengths to avoid spending any real time in their own company.

You can take a huge step forward by treating yourself as though you are intrinsically worthy of love. By creating the behaviors and signals that you are in fact an amazing human you’ll notice that you begin to feel that way.

There is no prescriptive blend of behaviors that works for everyone. However the actions below are unusually effective and worth experimenting with. You’ll notice that none of them are obscure or complicated. In fact, they are common. Don’t dismiss these ideas simply because you’ve heard them before. Instead try one or two. Take the risk of treating yourself well and see what happens.

  • Prioritize sleep: aim to get enough sleep so you wake up feeling refreshed. The easiest way to do this is to get up at the same time each day, and go to bed when you’re tired.
  • Exercise: spend at least 30 minutes a day 3 days a week getting decent exercise. This can be jogging, lifting, frisbee, yoga, team sports, whatever.
  • Meditation or silent reflection: personally, I practice Vipassana (Pali for “Insight”) meditation. My suggestion to you is that you experiment with a few different forms until you find one that resonates.
  • Express gratitude: share your sincere appreciation for the people around you. Or write down a few things that you’re grateful for each day. I use the Five Minute Journal for this and love it.
  • Hold space for your religion or spirituality: attend services, study groups, prayer sessions, or read from the texts.
  • Eat a healthy, nutrient-dense diet: if you need guidance on understanding health and nutrition, I suggest starting with Michael Pollan’s excellent (and quick) book, “Food Rules.”
  • Set boundaries: are you allowing toxic people, activities, or habits into your life? If so, slowly start removing them.
  • Play: are you having fun, and enjoying your day-to-day? If not, play more! Shoot your coworker with a Nerf gun, play mini-golf with your friends, or take an improv class.
  • Give yourself small treats throughout the day. Treat yourself to a soy latte. Watch a few cat videos guilt free. Go for a walk. Call in “sick.” Wear your favorite shirt. Giving yourself small gifts throughout the day signals to yourself that you’re an awesome person worthy of a nice life.

The more you act like someone who loves yourself, the more you’ll feel like someone who loves yourself.

Level 2 – embrace your dark side

When I was living in Montreal, I had a roommate who pretended that every day was amazing. She said she loved God, loved life, and felt grateful just to be on Earth.

She also drank a lot, kept a terrible diet, complained that she didn’t have a boyfriend (while also sleeping with countless men), struggled at work, and lacked a social life.

There was a huge disconnect between the stories she told everyone (including herself) and her reality. She wanted every day to be bright, sunny, and joyful.

Just one little problem: it’s not possible to make every day a good day. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s desirable.

Look to nature. Even the most beautiful, ancient forests are sometimes struck by lightning and burnt to the ground. At first glance, this seems like tragic, wasteful destruction. But it’s not. It’s all a part of the natural cycle of life. The fire destroys the forest; the ashes feed the soil; the soil provides a stronger, more nurturing environment; the forest grows back more radiant than before.

Beneath the pain, darkness and destruction rests a quiet core of growth, love, and beauty. This is true of a forest, and this is also true of a human.

To step fully into the human experience you must embrace the darkness. At it’s highest level, this means internalizing that you will die one day (as will everyone you’ve ever loved and everyone who ever loved you). At a more mundane level, it means realizing that suffering is part of the human experience. To deny your suffering is to deny your humanity.

To pretend that you are ok when you’re broken, that you are unafraid when you’re terrified, or that you’re calm when you are rageful is to deny your true nature.

You are a human. Sometimes you’re stormy. Sometimes you’re placid. Sometimes you’re in between. You can’t be any other way. And that’s perfect.

The second level of learning to love yourself is embracing who you really are. Cast away the societal bullshit of trying to be happy and content every second of your life and step into the greater reality of being honest about who you are and how you experience life. By doing so, you will create space to give and receive love.

Doing this requires being honest about who you are, and that means embracing that you have a shadow side.

Three tips for embracing your shadow

  • Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. You’re not a computer. Your perfections are found through your imperfections. If you didn’t fuck up from time to time, you wouldn’t be a human. If you’ve been beating yourself up for things that happened in your past, release yourself. Accept that you’re human and flawed, and that it’s ok. Stop expecting yourself to be perfect. Instead, revel in the imperfections that make you beautiful.If you’re having trouble forgiving yourself, begin by being more forgiving of others.
  • Realize that it’s human to be disgusting, lazy, jealous, and aggressive from time to time. It’s normal to have dark thoughts and feelings. You can even act on these feelings as long as you find a safe outlet to do so without harming yourself or others. I like to release rage from my system by throwing temper tantrums alone in my apartment. Bottling strong feelings is never a productive idea. An even worse idea is pretending that you don’t have strong feelings or rough edges. Instead, see the truth of who you are. Accept it. When you do, you’ll notice that you can more fully surrender into love.You’d never fault a cat for being a cat. Don’t’ fault yourself for being a human.
  • Spend time alone in silence. Most people fill their lives with white noise. They use podcasts and music and TV and gossip and busyness and the internet and a million other things to avoid being completely alone in their own company. If you ask someone why they fill their lives with so much noise, they’ll say it’s because they hate boredom. In reality, they are afraid of what they may find if they spent time alone and undistracted.In order to fully see yourself, you need to spend time in silence. Turn your phone and computer off and be by yourself. Alone, in silence, undistracted. Don’t be afraid of what comes up. If it’s darkness, trust me, it will pass.

    You might be surprised to find a neglected sense of enchantment, joy, and compassion resting deep inside, waiting for you to create the space for it to come out.

 

Level 3 – the deep work of removing the walls that protect your heart

Let’s return to one of the questions we started with: have you ever felt fully loved?

I know that’s a heavy question, and I’m not going to ask you to share the answer with anyone besides yourself, but pause for a moment and contemplate deeply into your life. Have you ever felt fully loved?

Far more people than you’d guess have never truly felt love in their lives. I know this because I’ve dealt with this myself, and I have worked with thousands of people who needed help allowing love in.

Realize this: it’s not your fault. I promise; it’s not your fault. We live in a world that values a head far more than it values a heart. The only way a heart could survive is to protect itself with thick walls.

The third and most difficult step involves finding, accepting, and removing the walls that protect your heart.

I’m going to share what I can, but I want to be upfront about something: most people will need a guide to help them fully surrender into their true nature. Personally, I’ve worked with coaches and mentors to do the deep work. I had a huge blind spot around being a child entertainer, that I simply could not have seen without a talented professional.

Be sure to pick your guide carefully because many people who claim to be able to do deep, open hearted work, simply can’t. Look for someone who has already done the hard work of opening herself, is deeply empathetic, unintimidated by other people’s realities, and who you feel very comfortable with. You’ll know you’ve found her when you meet her. You’ll recognize the rare resonance of someone who can truly help you.

If you’d like to start moving down the path on your own, here is what I suggest…

Begin by digging into your life story. The easiest way to do this is to create a space where you can express yourself freely. I suggest either writing in a journal or engaging in a verbal monologue, out loud, to yourself. Your task is to tell your life story from start to finish.

Keep a photo of yourself as a child nearby while you go through these exercises. It’s often easier to love the innocent child you were than the experienced adult you are. The picture helps cement that though you’re older and bigger, you’re still you and totally worthy of the love and light you’ve been yearning for.

As you express yourself, go out of your way to be honest, vulnerable, and forthright. Lean into your rough edges, your humanity, and your rawness.

Within your story, look for a few things:

  • Times when you were being cruel to yourself in a way you wouldn’t be cruel to a loved one.
  • Times when you misperceived reality.
  • Abuse – both subtle and profound – from caretakers. Many people are victims of emotional abuse though they don’t realize it. In fact many people confuse emotional abuse with love. A useful exercise here is to judge your parents.
  • Any traumas, blatant or hidden.
  • Recurring themes, feelings, and situations. Ask yourself, “What feels familiar here?” during particularly emotional episodes of your life.

It’s important to understand that everyone has experienced all of the above. We all beat ourselves up; we all get confused; we’ve all been victims of our loved ones’ bad decisions.

A word about traumas and abuse

One of my friends is a survivor of repeated childhood sexual abuse. Worse still, her parents were aware of the abuse and did nothing to stop it.

One of the many beautiful things about her is how deeply she’s worked on herself and learned to love through it all.

A few months ago, I was sharing something with her about how terrible it was being a child entertainer. In the middle of opening up, I got self-conscious and said, “I’m so sorry. I realize that I’m bitching about something trivial, especially compared to the shit you’ve been through.”

She simply looked at me and said, “Jason, pain is pain. There’s no judgment here.1

“Pain is pain” was one of the most beautiful, liberating phrases of my life. Until that moment, I had been a victim of myself. I pretended that my trauma wasn’t valid, simply because it wasn’t obvious. For years, I had been telling myself that doing 300 magic shows before my 18th birthday, at the expense of my childhood, had no negative effects on me.

The truth is, I was wrong. My past was affecting me. Deeply. And there is an extremely good chance that if you’re reading this, you have endured experiences in your life that were deeply traumatic too.

It’s time to stop lying to yourself. It was a big deal. It’s not your fault. And now, it’s time to heal.

Trauma and pain can be caused by obvious things like being raised by abusive parents, subtle things like a cruel word, and everything in between. Your pain is yours, and it’s real. Where it comes from is not a reflection of your worthiness, strength, or ability as a human.  As you embrace this, you will start to feel an opening.

The deep work of learning to love is done by shining a bright light on yourself and accepting the truth about things that happened in your past.

Level 4 – the highest form of love: accepting yourself and sharing your gift

Concert

I am tempted to picture a fully formed, loving human as someone who lives in total bliss. She’s always happy, and her radiance and commitment to love is so strong that her mere presence alleviates suffering. Fawns eat from her hand and humming birds land on her shoulder to share their secrets.

Only one problem with this image: it’s complete and utter bullshit. If a creature like that existed, it wouldn’t be a human.

To be human is to be both stormy and sunny. It is to always be moving through the levels of self-love and self-compassion.

There will be times in your life when it makes sense to do the deep work. Take those opportunities when you can.

There will be times when you’ll accept your shadow and your daily habits will be on point.

There will be times when you’ll step fully into your power.

There will be times when you can feel – and even influence – the flow of the world around you.

And life ebbs and flows.

There will be times when stress catches up to you and even your favorite person pisses you off.

There will be times when you lose someone you love and you’ll be wrecked for months.

There will be times when you wish you didn’t have to deal with being human.

And it’s all ok.

The practice of love involves working with yourself wherever you’re at. Having a shitty day? Accept that. It’s ok. In one of those stretches where everything you touch turns to gold? Beautiful. Use it for good.

Your ultimate work in self-love is simply this: step fully and boldly into your life. When times are tough, be gentle on yourself. When times are good, relish them.

As you grow closer to yourself (and you’ll notice that in doing so, you become more powerful) your final task is simple: use everything you have in service of yourself and in service of others. Share your gift.

When you do this, everything in the world will burn brighter because of you.

Footnotes

  1. Earlier I was talking about the difficulty of finding a guide to help you through this heart opening work. Someone like my friend is exactly who you want to guide you through this. She’s done the hard work of opening herself, she’s deeply empathetic, and she’s not threatened by other people’s realities.
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105 Comments Loving yourself is really f***ing hard: here’s how to do it

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  13. Vivienne

    Thank you so much for writing and publishing this. I can’t tell you how much it’s affected me. This is so open, honest and it’s obvious that you have integrity.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Vivienne – this note means the world to me. Thank you. I’m honored to have written something that affected you. Good luck on your journey.

      Reply
      1. Brooke

        Hi Jason,
        Everything you said was on point. Perfectly worded, and really connected with me. I have a lot of trouble with consentrating whilst reading and always get distracted easily. I did not miss one word and there’s some amazing tips in the article that I won’t forget. You are unique and very talented, you have connected with so many people and inspired people by being raw, genuine and wording things perfectly (as if you have an amazing understanding of how we feel)
        You truly have a gift and have given me a brand new outlook. Can’t Thankyou enough!

        Reply
        1. Jason

          Brooke – I’m speechless. Thank you. I’m honored to hear that my work resonates with you. And I appreciate the affirmation more than I can tell you. Im so happy to have you as a reader, and grateful for this note.

          Reply
    2. Abraham

      Thank you so much for years I have not been happy as a child I took care of my mother who was had a manic depressive disorder, missed out on my teen age years and did not have a chance to go to university. I have done very well for my self but never felt really loved thank you I think your article is very well written and has inspired me to be who I a warm caring person with more empathy towards human suffering than most folks on the planet. Thank you

      Reply
      1. Jason

        Abraham – I’m so glad to hear that you’ve found this article. Your path has been a tough one – needing to take care of the person who was supposed to take care of you is really, really hard. I’m so glad to hear that you feel more like the warm, caring, empathetic person you truly are.

        Reply
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  16. Wes

    Thank you for this Jason, all my life I have thought being strong is having the ability to brush aside aside the negtive thoughts, but all I have done is suppressed them, pushed them down when ever they start to suface, making them stronger each time they do, I think it’s time to face them and learn to truly love myself. Thank you

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Wes – I’m so glad you found my work and honored to hear that it resonates with you. It’s kind of crazy – we’ve all been trained to ignore and suppress our negative emotions and feel as though there’s something wrong with us when they arise. You’re brave – and completely on the right track – to face them. Bravo, and welcome to your new life.

      Reply
  17. JL

    This is a wonderful article. You should make into a little booklet. I would buy some, keep one in my purse and give some to people I love! 👏👏👏 I’m struggling with anxiety this week and these are the words I’ve needed to hear. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Jason

      JL – this totally delights me, I’m so touched to hear that my work resonates with you that deeply. While I don’t have a book planned in the immediate future (but…..), you are more than welcome to print this, or any of my articles out, and share them with people who would benefit. The thought alone makes me smile…

      Reply
  18. Chris

    I was lucky to have found this article as I start my journey. Very supportive and beautifully honest and frank. Thanks for sharing this knowledge with me Jason, you are part of my life changing journey. Hugs

    Reply
  19. Diane

    This article is so on point. I am the worst with self-loathing. And you are so right, why would you treat yourself this way when you would never treat someone else you love this way. I’m making my way through and started some of the steps you mention. We have one life to live, why spend it feeling unloved. Peace to you. You write with honesty and heart.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Diane, thank you. I really appreciate your comment and sincerity. Give yourself credit for being on the path; that alone is one of the most difficult steps. Something tells me this is going to go really well for you… 🙂

      Reply
  20. Suzanne

    I am so glad I’ve found you and your writing, Jason. Thank you so much for doing what you do so well and sharing it with us. I’m looking forward to continuing my journey with you by my side 🙂

    Love, Suzanne xx

    (p.s. it was your brilliant “Tony Robbins” rant that led me to you. Goodness, that really opened my eyes and woke me up to reality!)

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Suzanne – this totally delighted me. I’m honored to have you along on the journey. Hahahah, and glad to hear that the TR article helped you… that was certainly a controversial one. 🙂

      Reply
  21. Adeola

    Dear Jason, this article truly spoke volumes to me especially because I’ve been going through lots of anxiety and depression, and it’s been affecting my sleep pattern. I always stay up really late on my phone to avoid my inner thoughts at night and I’ve always struggled with self-love and confidence. Growing up, my family never taught me the concept of self-love, so I’d seek validation from others and it always backfired. Self-love isn’t easy but it’s worth it.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Adeola – so glad you found this article, and I’m honored to hear it resonates with you. I used to (and occasionally still do) stay up late on my phone/computer too. I try to turn them all the way off at 10:30pm to help fall asleep. Keep moving forward – you’re doing great!

      Reply
  22. Ry

    Hey Jason,

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I’ve been going through a tough season of my life, and I’ve been struggling to pull myself out of one emotional rut after another. This post enabled to me have introspective epiphanies about things in my past that have negatively affected me in a significant way. Things that I tried to brush over and never truly deal with. Now I feel like I have brought some of these issues to light, and I will be able to tackle them head on. Now I feel like I can begin a healing process that I’ve never experienced before. I’m looking forward to the honest, vulnerable, and forthright journey of self exploration that is to come.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Ry – whoa. You totally made my night. I’m so glad that 1) My work resonates with you, and 2) That I get to play a small path on your return to yourself. That’s beautiful. Keep it up mon ami… good things are ahead of you. In fact, if you squint a bit, I suspect you’ll notice tons of good things happening in your life right now…

      Reply
  23. Raquel

    I too wish to thank you for sharing what you’ve learned. I’m an older woman who began learning about things like this about 13 years ago and I thought I’d learned how to love myself but began suspecting only 2 days ago that I wasn’t quite there yet. I really needed to read the part about embracing our “dark side” because as a lifelong perfectionist my tendency has been to beat on myself whenever I mess up and there’s been a thing or two that it seems I really didn’t forgive myself for because when I remember them for any reason I berate myself all over again and/or feel bad about it for a while. I guess I’ve always struggled with my humanity as I don’t have the greatest opinion of the human race in general. But your article has made me see the futility of punishing myself because I can’t be “perfect” all the time. Your advice has reminded me that it’s ok for me to be human too, I’d been giving lip service to that but not fully practiced it.

    Be very blessed!

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Raquel – that’s beautiful. Im honored that my work resonates with you and that it helps you along your path. Loving yourself is a process, not a destination (something I constantly remind myself of). It would be nice if there were some way to complete the practice and be done, but of course, there isn’t. And congrats on embracing your dark side… there’s a lot of beauty in doing that.

      On a personal note, people like you, who continue reflecting and improving themselves and challenging themselves all through their lives inspire me. I aspire towards that. Thank you.

      Reply
  24. Monica

    This is the most beautiful way someone has put the idea of loving yourself together. In this day and age when I struggle to hold onto one sentence with full attention, I think I read this article while not breathing..I stumbled across it looking for a little help, and I just felt the stress and tention leaving my shoulders while I read this..I will keep this as my ‘to read during dark moments’ self help article. Purely wonderful. Thank you so much!

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Monica. I’m kind of speechless. I am so touched to hear that this article helped you and resonated with you. As a writer/thinker/random-ass-guy – I really REALLY couldn’t ask for anything more. Though that may sound trite or cliche as you read it, know that as I type it, it is deeply sincere. Im honored to be able to accompany you during the dark moments – remember, they pass. They always do.

      Reply
  25. Raquel

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply! I had noticed how you replied so kindly to every person before so I wondered if I’d be blessed too with that “personal touch”, so I was delighted to read your kind words once again, they meant a lot to me.

    It appears you are a true giver and like someone said in a TEDTalk givers make the world a better place. I am a giver too but sometimes wasn’t too sure it was really a good thing but now I can “rest easy”, haha! So I want to tell you to please keep doing what you’ve been doing, your contributions really matter!

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Whoa. Raquel. Thank you. I appreciate that more than you know. In fact, one of the very few ideas I have A LOT of faith in is that if we give without expecting (or demanding) much in return, the better everything goes. Im glad to see I’m not the only one with that philosophy. 🙂

      Reply
  26. Lisa

    So…as I stand at the precipice of attempting the journey to love myself, Ive found your article resonates so deeply.
    Your words were almost like hearing my voice in my own head.
    From an alcoholic dad, a child of divorce, being molested as a child, domestic violence as an adult, a drug addicted brother, another brother I lost to suicide and now fighting my own battle with loneliness, inadequacy and relentless anxiety about my own failings…..I have tried and failed many times to forgive myself, to love myself and each time I come up empty and broken.
    I felt so moved and so familiar with what you have written in this piece that I just had to reply.
    Wish me luck…..

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Lisa – so glad to hear that this article resonates deeply with you and I really appreciate your note. That’s beautiful. You’ve been dealt a hard hand in life. I’m so glad that there’s still some light within you that realizes you’re worthy of love, respect, happiness, etc. Keep fighting for that light. It will grow brighter. You’re not broken, I promise. A lot of times, the hardest part is owning the decision to invest in yourself. It sounds like you’ve already done exactly that. Good luck!

      Reply
  27. Anon

    I can’t believe I found this, it is fate.

    I’m in the darkest moment of my entire life and this guide is pulling me through so much. Thank you for making this available for those who are suffering with themselves and not hiding enlightenment behind a paywall; like most others would.

    Every sentence is like a punch to the gut in terms of how true it is to me. It will be a long and rocky road, but the new me will be stronger than ever 🙂

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Im so insanely honored to act as a light amidst some of the darkest moments in your life, and I’m so glad you found this. Good luck on your path.

      Reply
  28. M.

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for this article. This really hits home. I have been working hard all my life hoping some time that I would love myself. Now wonderful wife and daughter and still the same daemon as in I am the one holding myself back with negative imaging. Started with magic morning just now and lots of meditation. I can’t no longer ignore it. I believe that when I move past this I can reach a whole new level in life. I have beaten so many odds already that logically speaking I should be able to beat this.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      M. You’ll be able to beat it. Keep investing in yourself, keep reading things that nurture you, get help and support when you need it, and perhaps most importantly, be as honest with yourself as you can. You’re on the right path. You’ll be able to beat this.

      Reply
    2. carolina g

      Jason, I’m joining so many others in thanking you for writing this article. It was so good, I took many many notes. It was very easy to read and truly a guide. Big Hugs.

      All the best,
      C

      Reply
      1. Jason

        C – I’m so happy to hear this article found you at the right time and benefitted you. Thank you for reading and good luck on your path. 🙂

        Reply
  29. Zack

    Wow man.
    I try to learn self love for a long time but never really got it. All other self help teachers just talk too much “pinky”. To affirm yourself with too positive affirmation,looking at the mirror and saying that all is well is just imposible for my subconscious mind to accepte. As I read your article i reliased that to love yourself, words are just not enough, you need to really do something good for you and than the feeling of love will apear. I really needed this. Thanke you.

    Best wishes! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Jason

      You’re welcome Zack. Im beyond glad to hear that I’ve been able to help you. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Reply
  30. Ryan

    I was feeling very lost and this article really stood out to me. I am very excited to see what this journey has in store for me. Thank you for what you do, keep up the great work.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Ryan – I so appreciate the kind words. Thank you. And Im thrilled to hear that this article stands out in a time when you’re feeling lost. I’m excited to see what the journey has in store for you too.

      Reply
  31. Kara

    This is an insanely amazing article. Thank you for sharing your story. I see that I’ve been trying too hard to change myself into something “better”. I’m going to relax a bit and embrace myself as I am right now. Thank you, I really needed this.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Kara – I’m so glad you found this article when you need it. And thanks for sharing what you’re dealing with; I’ve been there. If you’re even vaguely involved with personal/professional development, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced tons of needless pressure to morph yourself into someone your not. The funny part is that when we relax, a lot of times, we start to grow on our own. Good luck!

      Reply
  32. Lorie

    Hello Jason,
    I just happened to find your post through google…and I am so thankful I did. I have had depression and anxiety as long as I can remember. The last few months I am going through the lowest, darkest, and most difficult time I have ever delt with. As my life unfolded I have been through my share of treatments. I never realized and never been told that my main problem is I don’t love myself, not until now. I cant remember a time where i can honestly say I have. I raised two wonderful children on my own. I pushed a lot of emotions and feelings down deep because I felt I could not let my children see them. I had to be the strong mother to make sure they grew up able to deal with life. Just recently my seventeen year old son seen me cry…well maybe it was sobbing. lol He just sat there next to me with his arm around me and let me cry. I kept saying sorry for letting him to see me like this. His response was…”mom it’s ok, you’re human, we all have bad time.” I was never so proud of him! Thank you for sharing this because i feel i would have never figured out what I really needed to work on. I now know I truly do not love myself and that is the first thing I will be working on. I am finally looking forward to what the future has in store for me. Again, thank you, i will be reading more of your post to help me on my journey!!

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Oh my God Lorie, I’m so honored to have helped you along your path. That’s amazing. It sounds like you’ve had a rough go of it. Really really glad that you can see some light at the end of the tunnel. And if I may, it sounds like you raised an amazing son. I hope you feel good about that. Honored to have you as a reader. 🙂

      Reply
  33. Jolinda

    Thank you Jason! I have thankfully found it easy in the past to practice gratitude and self love, but sometimes life happens and and I have definitely veered off that path as of late. Feeling lately like I was going through an off-season. This made me laugh and cry, and then hug myself, and then cry some more, but now I feel lighter and much easier on myself! Just kinda stumbled onto this while looking up things. I see from all the comments how awesome and weird that it looks like many others just stumble onto this just when needed! Thanks for being!! This kinda steered my feet back to the path I normally try to walk on! I can see it, and I’m heading up the hill to it right now!! 😉 good for you! Good for everybody!!

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Jolinda – first of all, thank you for the note. I read part of it aloud to my girlfriend. I’m touched. And I’m honored to have played a part in helping you find your way back to the path of self-love and gratitude. That’s a beautiful thing. Thank you for being too. 🙂

      Reply
  34. Adrienne Gilliver

    Jason,
    Thank you so much for this post. I could really resonate with your story and could feel your authenticity- which lacks so much from many of the other articles on this topic. Have been struggling with self love for years. More recently it has gotten worse since I divorced someone I loved so much for 20 years and who was unfaithful to me…then I began to experience the negative bias – though I didn’t realize this until I read this. I will use your tools as I so want to love myself again, so need to be back in touch with ME. I found a coach whom I trust – as you advise – to help me through my story. I am ready to take that step forward instead of being steeped in self hate and pretending everything is OK. I realize that by doing this delays the evolution of me….and I am thankful I found this post now…as I look ahead and not behind.
    Thank you!

    I will check out your other posts!
    Warmest
    Adrienne

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Adrienne – first of all, I’m so honored to hear that my post resonated with you and helped provide a bit of light during a dark period of your life, that’s beautiful. And I’m sorry to hear about the pain that must has ensued from one of the people you loved the most being unfaithful. As far as I can tell, you’re on the right track. Be gentle with yourself. You deserve it. This being a human stuff is hard. Can’t wait to hear about the future you create for yourself!

      Reply
  35. Kaste

    I just wanted to let you know that after I read this, my life had changed. I don’t mean sound dramatic or cheesy. Honestly, it brought me to tears of joy to realize that there is someone there who understands, (even if you are stranger) my confusion, pain and doubt and turned it to ambition, self-respect and most of all hope. I read this every time I feel close to being defeated and you somehow without even a sound have changed my life. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Kaste – I can’t tell you how honored I am by your comment. It means soooo much more to me than you’d ever understand to hear that my words help re-orient you towards ambition, self-respect, and hope. From the bottom of my heart, this has made my night (and probably my week). Thank you for letting me know, and thank you for reading. Keep fighting the good fight!

      Reply
  36. andra

    Whoa! This is an awesome article. I love the levels of self-love. I found that when I stopped trying so hard to change myself, my whole world changed. The faults, the mistakes, the times where we feel like a failure, where we feel small…where we feel like we’re poor or letting the world down…it’s about being OK with it all.

    https://youtu.be/HYDdMNTcdAA

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Thanks Andra – and I’m with you! I think the real win revolves not around changing yourself, but accepting yourself. Besides it’s our imperfections that make us beautiful and human. 🙂

      Reply
  37. Roxanne Bodill

    Hi Jason
    Thank you so much for this incredible read.
    I went through a tough time with panic attacks and slight depression and my therapist made me realise that it all stems from the fact that I see myself as worthless and not good enough in all areas of life.
    Your article has made me realise that in order to feel good enough and worthy of others I need to learn to love myself first. I think the hardest part for me is to embrace who I really am and what I really want from life because I still don’t quite know that answer yet myself. Your post though is thought provoking and I definitely intend to start meditation in order to focus on who I am and eventually love my physical and emotional self.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Roxanne – so glad to hear the article resonated with you. 🙂 And so glad to hear that you’re investing in your self-worth and self-love. You’d be hard pressed to find anything more important. Learning to accept and embrace yourself can be challenging but is BIG TIME rewarding. Enjoy the meditation practice, and thanks for reading. 🙂

      Reply
  38. Krista

    Jason,
    Thank you so much for writing this. My sister in law died unexpectedly. 12 hours later her husband, my brother in law committed suicide. 3 months later I found my husband of 20 years in bed with my colleague 20 years younger than me. He proceeded to beat me in front of my daughter. He then has physically and emotionally beat her since then. My very best friend, 20 years my senior, we fell in love and we’re on our way for perfect love. While with my daughter in toe, I found him dead in the shower. I’ve decided to pick up, sell my house and move to florida near my family for a new start. I have now learned how to start loving myself so others can. Thank you for your candidness, honest and caring. You have given me hope. I cannot thank you enough. God bless you.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Krista – I’m so sorry to hear about the pain and loss in your life. Reading about your story makes my heart flicker. It means more to me than you would know to hear that I’ve been able to give you a bit of hope along the path. Im touched. I can’t help but think to myself that your daughter is lucky to have you. Good luck on your path and I hope you find some peace and stability in sunny Florida. I actually spent a few years in school there.

      Reply
  39. Roxana

    Probably one of the best articles I’ve read on self love and its challenges ! I resonated a lot with this thought “You are human. Sometimes you are stormy. Sometimes you are placid.” I feel that we have so much the tendency to fight with ourselves when we are having a bad day as if we are not allowed to feel any negativity. And we just make ourselves feel worse this way… It’s such a release to make a shift in attitude and accept our human nature exactly as it is, complex, contrasting sometimes and above all, just amazing ! Thank you so much for sharing this wisdom !

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Roxana – so glad to hear the article resonated with you. Thank you! And I feel ya: somewhere along the lines we learned to fault ourselves for being upset or having a crappy day; somewhere along they lines we were saddled with the insane expectation that it’s possible (and desirable…) to always be happy. Pretty liberating to just let yourself be human. 🙂

      Reply
  40. Chris

    This shit brought some tears to my eyes because that shit you wrote was true no matter how much I said it wasn’t. I wish I could have a conversation with you Jason. I’ve got so much to say, but I feel like time is running out. I’m so close to losing my mind again. I need help, but I just don’t know what it is or where to go. I’m broken and really fucked up. Lost in the ways of the wicked.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Hi Chris – I’m more honored than I can express to hear that my work resonated with you. Please- PLEASE – if anything I’ve written has inspired you to trust me, trust me now: seek the help of a licensed mental health professional. Ask your friends if they know of any good therapists and book an appointment. If no one can give you a recommendation, ask your doctor. Im so sorry to hear that you feel like you’re losing your mind. Life gets hard – crippling at times. You’re not broken, I promise. Work with someone you trust to come back to yourself. I don’t know you, but I suspect that beneath it all, you’re an amazing person and you 100% deserve to feel that way.

      Reply
  41. Fay

    Totally broke down when you suggested writing the life story and keeping a picture nearby. I had such a strong emotional reaction..im going to try it. I’m going to try all of this. My mum died when I was 13. Devastating. I got on with it though and here I am now 39 with two children and some repeating dysfunctional behaviours. When i was thinking back on my life before my mum passed it got me thinking a can’t remember a single conversation we ever had (bar two around her illness (cancer). I find this so upsetting I’m crying as I type this. I’ve never allowed myself to feel vulnerable since she died. Just getting on with things (making stupid unreasonable demands of myself) has become the norm. Unless im struggling then I’m not ok. That’s what I’ve come to do every single day. Whether it’s endless chores, being a perfect partner. If life isnt hard then it’s somehow wrong. I think I’m coming to realise that its an opinion I’ve brought with me to this day from when my mum passed and I just had to get on with things. I’m still angry, I’m still sad but im going to learn to accept that life doesn’t have to be hard to be ok. It’s not normal. Normal is going easy on myself, loving myself. I don’t need to predict every catastrophic problem around the corner to protect myself. I obsess about the perfect relationship and guess what.. .I haven’t got one. My striving to ensure I’m desired, loved etc means I make too many demands…I make life hard. I obsess about not being loved enough, not wanted enough so I constantly make plans, suggestions to make things better when its not needed. My partner feels manipulated, criticised and I can see why. He feels like he’s not good enough bevause im always looking for or imagining a problem. I create hurdles to overcome because that’s what my life did to me once. Gave me a massive one. That life changing event became my reality and the fact is. It’s ot my reality anymore. I can relax and still be ok. Still be loved. I need to accept that I have since created the hurdles in my life and I dont need to anymore. Thank you so much for your words and suggestions. I have a feeling theyre going to continue to have a positive impact on me.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Fay – first of all, thanks for sharing your story. I can only imagine how difficult it is to lose your mother at 13, and then feel the need to – in your words – get on with it. Though I’m not a psychologist, I imagine that type of thing is deeply, deeply traumatizing. Im so glad you’ve decided to work on being easier on yourself. That’s beautiful, and I’m honored to play a small part in that. Keep in mind that if things ever get really tough, a mental health professional can often speed up your healing and happiness. Good luck, and thank you for being here.

      Reply
  42. Paulette

    Thank you Jason it’s comforting to know I’m not alone in how I feel. Taking the courage you suggested I hope to find healing and to help others hurting too.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Paulette – you’re welcome. And you’re certainly not alone. Many many many people struggle with this stuff. I’m thrilled to hear you’re going to work towards healing and helping others too. What a gift – both for yourself, and the world!

      Reply
  43. Callum

    This is an exceptional article which has really inspired me. I am just starting my journey and i’m lucky enough to of come across this content. Recovery in any capacity can be overwhelming because you don’t know where to start but this has really given me a push in the right direction and for that I thank you Jason.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Callum – I’m so happy to hear that this article inspired you. Good luck with your recovery, and I’m honored to be a small part of your path. Thanks for reading. 🙂

      Reply
  44. Wings

    Thank you for this article. I am reading it in what is possibly the darkest time of my life, I have been struggling and was feeling so overwhelmed and guilty for feeling overwhelmed with my struggle. A friend suggested that I would never attract love if I didn’t have it for myself, so I googled how to love yourself. I’ve always considered my own worth to be dependent on how others see me, but deep inside I just knew this was wrong, and so many things you have written sound like the cries from deep inside that I have been forced to ignore because society says so. I too have often comforted friends with comments similar to “pain is pain”, because everyone’s pain is valid. I became alarmed when you suggested to look for recurring themes in your life – I want to share this article with my partner because we are struggling in our relationship, and I am afraid to be a recurring theme to him, another partner who isn’t bringing him all the happiness he expected, and I truly don’t want to do that, I want to be a rich, textured, meaningful presence in his life. 🙁 I hope by loving myself more that I can enrich my own life, and in turn his. Thanks again.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Wings – I’m so glad that you found my article at one of the darkest times in your life, and honored to hear that it resonates with you. Im excited to hear that you’re starting down the path of internal validation. While it can be a challenging road, the rewards are well worth the journey many times over. More than that, I really feel like you have great things ahead of you. And it’s beautiful that you want to make your partner happy – he’s a lucky guy. Also, nobody really talks about this, but building a healthy nurturing relaitonship with someone you love requires thought and effort. Just because it’s hard right now doesn’t mean you’re not right for each other. Good luck, Wings!

      Reply
  45. Anonymous

    What would your advice to somebody who has all this knowledge, but they still can’t change. They desperately want to love themselves and be confident but it seems so unachievable. This person has had issues and problems since childhood and doesn’t even really know who they are..

    Reply
  46. Shell

    “Love yourself” can feel like such a buzz phrase that it’s hard to know what it even means. This article has broken it down much better than most things I’ve read thus far. Thanks for the quality content!

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Shell, THANK YOU! I strive to provide ideas that are both coherent and actionable. Thrilled to hear I hit the mark here. 🙂

      Reply
  47. Marissa

    Hi Jason,

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve recently started the journey of self-love, and this is one of most honest, beautiful and helpful things I’ve read. When I read the phrase “pain is pain,” I immediately thought to myself “That is so beautiful” just as you described in the next sentence. I will constantly remind myself this every time I catch myself invalidating a struggle or pain. Thank you for this, and I can’t wait to read more of your articles.

    Best,
    Marissa

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Marissa – I’m so happy to hear that you’re starting your journey of self-love and that this article was able to help you. That’s awesome! Good luck, and thanks for reading. 🙂

      Reply
  48. Jessica

    I am so incredibly happy that I found this! I could not stop reading it! I just started to really look within and be a happier version of me. I am going to take this whole article and bring it to life for myself. Thank you thank you

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Jessica – I can’t tell you how amazing it is for me to read this. It’s an honor to hear that you’re going to work to bring this to life for yourself. I’m so incredibly happy you found it too. 🙂

      Reply
    1. Jason

      K – I cant tell you how glad I am to hear it. From the bottom of my heart, you’re welcome. And thank you for the kind words – you’ve made my evening!

      Reply
  49. Joyce

    This is the most beautiful thing I have ever come across. Everything was worded so perfectly and filled with so much insight. You don’t know how much this has impacted me by just reading it. It’s the first step I’m taking in trying to love who I am as a person. Like you said, it will be long and it will be difficult. But seeing the changes you’ve made for yourself inspire me so much. Thank you

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Joyce – I’m so touched by your words, thank you! I’m more happy than I can easily express to hear that this piece touched you and acted as a good first step for you. It’s an honor to have you as a reader, and good luck on your journey!

      Reply
  50. Shay

    Thank you for the article. I was sitting here reading through everyone’s comments and wondering what is truly wrong with me. You had some really thought-provoking pointers, but nothing that I haven’t heard before. I’m just wondering why things are not resonating with me the same way that they are with everyone else. I want to be touched to the point where I am moved to make extreme actions and changes in my life, but what do you do or say to a person that has taken the steps to get more sleep, exercise, confront their depression and acknowledge that they have no friends or really anyone that cares? My depression has caused every single person that was around me to turn it back on me as if I discuss them because there have been many days where I had to cancel plans because I simply could not get out of the bed. How can someone like me love themselves when they’ve taken all of the steps that these articles say take and they are still stuck in a lonely rut? Confused about what they actually need to do. What are some concrete action steps just to get started other than sleep exercise and eat right and talk to a professional? I apologize for not being one of your upbeat and inspiring readers but I am just so tired of being tired and lost and reading the same advice over and over again. By the way, I can totally relate to the passing out and getting up off of the floor drunk wondering what has become of your life because that’s been my life for the last couple of years.

    Thank you for the important work that you are doing for so many people.

    Reply
    1. Jason

      Hi Shay. First of all, nothing is wrong with you. Like anything else, my work resonates with some people, and not with others. That’s… normal. Perhaps I’m just not the right writer / thinker for you. I’m also not a mental health professional so take everything with a grain of salt.

      I’m sorry to hear that you feel like you have no friends. That must be tough. I suspect that to some degree, you haven’t found the right treatment for your depression. To those ends I encourage you to keep searching for qualified licensed providers and being open to their suggestions. The sad part is that there are a lot of shitty therapists out there. Don’t give up the fight. Healing is always possible. Also, if it’s possible, you may want to experiment with how you communicate to people when you’re depressed. If you can muster it, something along the lines of, “I love you more than I can easily express, but I can’t make it out tonight. I’m getting torn apart by my demons” my go further than you expect. And if you can, start letting people in a bit while you’re depressed too (easier said than done, I’m sure).

      Also, you asked for actionable advice: stop drinking / doing drugs. You wrote that passing out and getting up off of the floor drunk has been your life for the past few years. Get in a 12-step program (even if you think they’re stupid) and fight the demons around alcohol. I would guess that would have a measurable impact on your depression. That’s the best advice I can give you right now.

      Reply

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