How To Love Who You Are

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated April 25, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Self-love and self-esteem are often related and can connect to your mental well-being. However, many individuals find themselves with lower levels of self-love than they'd prefer. Research suggests that self-esteem can change over time, and there are several strategies that people who want to increase their self-esteem can try.

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Learn to love yourself

What’s the difference between self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-love?

Self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-love are often confused with one another. According to the ADDA, each term has its own unique definition:

  • Self-confidence may relate to how a person feels about their skills and abilities and how much they embrace the "love who you love" mantra. If this measure is positive, the person might feel more in control of their life and equipped to face challenges that could arise.
  • Self-esteem often relates to how a person perceives their value and worth. High self-esteem can manifest as relative ease in social situations and safety in oneself.
  • Self-love is often a broader, more general measure that relates to how you treat yourself. It may feel like the love you'd have for someone important but directed inward. Self-love can be about accepting who you are and acting with kindness, gentleness, and patience toward yourself.

These three qualities may show up in people in different measures. For example, someone can feel self-confident in their abilities and have no fear of putting themselves out there for a promotion but feel unworthy of love and have difficulties trying to date.  

Self-love may be considered the key to unlocking the trifecta. By working to increase their level of self-love, the person in the example could learn to accept and appreciate themselves, which could help them increase their conception of what they deserve out of life and relationships.

What causes a lack of self-love?

When it comes to struggling to feel self-love, every individual may be different. However, a few relatively common causes of low self-love have been identified. 

Unhealthy interpersonal relationships, especially in childhood, may cause difficulty with self-love. For example, a person who grew up in a context where perfection was expected from parents, teachers, or their culture may have lower self-esteem and self-love as an adult. 

Some other situations where someone may experience low self-love could include: 

  • A past of abusive or unhealthy relationships
  • Financial concerns
  • Difficulties at school or work 
  • Depression or anxiety 
  • A mental health diagnosis 
  • Physical disabilities 

If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7.

A lack of self-love could also be caused by hearing untrue or unkind messages from others, such as through bullying or strict standards opposed by caregivers. 

What does self-love look like?

Think about how you show love to friends, family, or romantic partners, and then imagine acting the same way toward yourself.

Self-love can take many forms, but there are a few options you might decide to try: 

  • Setting and defending boundaries that make you feel safe and comfortable
  • Offering yourself forgiveness when you make a mistake
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Starting an exercise routine
  • Practicing mindfulness or meditation 
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Spending time in nature 
  • Accepting yourself as you are, including your imperfections
  • Recognizing and appreciating your good qualities and achievements
  • Holding yourself to realistic rather than perfectionistic standards

Studies show that mindfulness and meditation, in particular, can be highly effective in increasing self-compassion and self-love. 

Having self-love doesn't necessarily mean you feel happy with yourself 100% of the time or never feel frustrated or disappointed with your actions or behavior. There are times when you may feel let down or unhappy with how someone you love behaves, and the same may happen with yourself. 

For example, if you react with anger and reject anyone in your life who ever makes a mistake, it could be challenging to maintain any relationship with them over the long term. The same may apply to you. Self-love can mean working on self-growth while still validating your feelings and eventually forgiving yourself for any mistakes. 


Why self-love can be beneficial

Plentiful academic research has been done on the topics of self-esteem and self-love. Studies suggest that the two concepts relate to happiness—even in times of stress—and that low levels of these qualities can sometimes be associated with conditions like depression. 

One review of studies on this topic concludes that higher self-esteem "helps individuals adapt to and succeed in various life domains, including having more satisfying relationships, performing better at school and work, enjoying improved mental and physical health, and refraining from anti-social behavior." 

For people with lower levels of self-esteem and self-love, working to increase these measures can have a range of positive effects on their lives.

How to practice self-love

If you're learning to love yourself more, what can you do? There are several strategies you can try to potentially enjoy better life outcomes. It may be worth noting that, like many skills and abilities, it can often take commitment to regular practice to start seeing results. 

1. Practice mindfulness

One potential benefit of mindfulness, which can be practiced through activities like meditation, is that you may learn to become more aware of your thoughts as they occur. This ability could be helpful in increasing self-love because you may not notice the unloving way you're speaking to yourself internally. 

Self-talk can be powerful. If you're constantly speaking harshly to yourself in your internal monologue, you may start to believe the negative messages you're sending. Becoming aware may be the first step toward change.  

One study found a positive correlation between mindfulness, self-esteem, and unconditional self-acceptance, and others reported similar findings. Practicing mindfulness can be an effective way to start increasing love for yourself.

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Learn to love yourself

2. Focus on positivity

Individuals with lower levels of self-love may experience a cognitive distortion called filtering. Filtering is a tendency to put disproportionate emphasis on the harmful elements of a situation and ignore the positive elements altogether. 

For example, a person may have given a presentation at work that was well-received by their boss and colleagues. Suppose they're prone to the cognitive distortion of filtering. In that case, they might lay in bed that night thinking only of the technical difficulties they had at the presentation's start rather than the praise they received for it afterward.

Trying to have a more balanced, fair perspective—especially regarding yourself and your actions—might help you be less harsh on yourself and increase your self-love. Practicing mindfulness in conjunction with this may help you notice when you're being affected by a distortion so you can learn to correct it.

3. Try exercise

You might be surprised to hear it, but research has uncovered a strong link between physical and mental health. A 2016 study found a correlation between physical exercise and self-esteem.  

Regular physical activity, such as walking, running, weightlifting, or sports, may decrease the odds of experiencing mental health symptoms or conditions. 

The relationship between the brain and body is often close and complex. If you want to improve your self-esteem and self-love levels, incorporating regular physical exercise into your routine may benefit you. 

4. Speak with a therapist

Understanding why you may feel lower levels of self-love may be critical in increasing those levels. A therapist may assist you in uncovering the possible roots of these feelings and can equip you with tools to change how you relate to yourself. Research suggests that working with a mental health professional in this capacity may help improve self-esteem.

Some individuals may feel most comfortable meeting a therapist online, which allows for a more affordable option than many traditional therapy practices. If you're experiencing difficulty with self-image, you may also feel more comfortable talking to a professional from home. 

According to recent research, virtual therapy offers similar benefits to in-person sessions, which makes it a convenient option for those seeking treatment. If you feel you might benefit from the guidance of a therapist, you can connect with a specialist through an online therapy service like BetterHelp. 


Finding self-love and learning to care for yourself can be a challenging task for some. You can try some of the tips above or reach out for professional support. If you're ready to ask for help, consider contacting a counselor to get started.
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