Learning to Love Yourself

By Pat Matuszak

Young woman winter dayRelationships can be hard when you struggle with depression, including your relationship with yourself. Your mailbox and Facebook feed are stuffed with photos of thriving families and couples who seem to be on top of the world. You may find yourself busy with shopping and social activities, but afterward you’re all alone and facing your usual feelings of sadness.

Being alone doesn’t have to be a negative experience any more than being with another person would be. But imagine if the other person you were spending time with kept telling you how awful you are. You might decide to invite someone else to come over instead, right? But if that negative someone lives in your head, it’s a little hard to uninvite them to the party. Your best strategy is to convert your inner critic over to your side and turn it into a true friend instead of a buzzkill. This might take a serious boot camp type of makeover, but it will be worth the effort.

First, let’s take a look at your inner voice and see what makeover magic it needs to become a better friend. Does it only pipe up when there is something to criticize and never speaks a word of praise when you succeed? Does it zap your energy and limit your progress by telling you that your plan will never work? Does it tend to have hissy fits about the future that consume your day with worry instead of positive action?

If so, here are some tips you can incorporate into your daily routine:

  1. Practice Positive Self-talk – Start the day with 10 positive or encouraging affirmations. One way to thwart that critical spirit is to take the negative thought and turn it on its head. If it says you are too old to start a new hobby, turn that around and tell yourself you are now old enough to decide to choose a new hobby without anyone else’s approval. If it says you have failed at something and shouldn’t try it again, tell the voice you learned a lot from failure and will surely succeed this time. Try consulting Psychology Today’s “50 Best Quotes on Self-Love” list for even more inspiration.2
  2. Take Care of Your Body – The food you consume truly does fuel your body, thoughts and overall outlook on life. We may easily give ourselves permission to be good to those around us but deny our own desires. Fuel your inner positivity by spending time treating yourself to the things you were about to do for someone else. Take yourself out to dinner and a movie, on a refreshing walk, buy a new book or go on an interesting day trip. This will energize you and help you store fuel to conquer your next battle with depression.
  3. Do something You Love Every Day – Choose an activity that feeds your soul. Do you like to dance? Turn up the volume and go for it, even if it feels silly. Take a course on a new language, art form, cooking or travel. These activities are both relaxing and revitalizing. Give yourself permission to grow and your inner voice will start to sound more mature too.
  4. Build Community – Inhale people who are loving and nonjudgmental and exhale the “Debbie Downers” who have been feeding your old inner critic. Circuits of positive reinforcement with a group of supportive friends will help your inner voice become more joyful and affirming. If you hear negative words from others, ask yourself if you’d let them talk like that to your best friend. If not, remember you are becoming your own best friend and don’t give them space to talk to you that way either.3
  5. Manage Stress – Take time to care for your own physical and emotional well-being. Manage stress with spiritual guidance, meditation, massage or relaxation exercises. Put worry about the future on a back shelf and resolve to take life one day at a time. Once you get release from your own tensions, you will have energy to support and care for others.4

“Love of self is directly related to heart health and well-being. When we love ourselves, we take better care of ourselves and are less likely to engage in harmful or unhealthy behavior,” says Psychology Today columnist Cynthia M. Thaik, MD, who suggests we embrace ourselves in a way that does our heart good. “Loving yourself is not about being selfish. It’s about taking care of your own needs so that you can be the best person possible to yourself and others. When you truly start to love yourself, you will find that your health improves, you become happier and more balanced, and you are able to enjoy good people and good things in your life.”1


1 Thaik, Cynthia M, M.D. “The Kind of Love That Does Your Heart Good.” Psychologytoday.com, March 6, 2014.

2 Greenberg, Melanie PhD. “The 50 Best Quotes on Self-Love.” Psychologytoday.com, October 1, 2012.

3 Halonen, Susanna M, MAPP. “Love Yourself Before You Love Others.” Psychologytoday.com, February 26, 2015.

4 Kathryn. “Learning What It Means To Love Yourself.” Heroesinrecovery.com, February 14, 2012.