Learning To Self Love And The Impact Of Self Love

Medically reviewed by Brianne Rehac, LMHC
Updated April 16, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

When some people think of “self-love,” they may think it sounds selfish or self-indulgent, but developing a loving relationship with yourself can be very important for many aspects of your life—including your physical and mental health and your relationships with others. If you struggle with loving yourself, you may experience low self-esteem and low self-confidence, and you may have a hard time feeling good about yourself unless someone else is providing you with validation.

Embarking on the journey to self-love can be challenging at times, so it may be helpful to consider a few strategies for cultivating self-love, such as being mindful, setting boundaries, and focusing on your happiness. Understanding the importance of self-love can help you make the right decision to prioritize your well-being and accept the reality that taking care of yourself is essential for a successful and fulfilling life.

What is self-love, and why does it matter?

People use self-love today to mean many things. Ultimately, self-love involves accepting yourself as you are and treating yourself with love, compassion, and kindness.

Self-love is not dependent on external validation; rather, it involves being aware of your worth and value as a person without the need for reminders or reassurance from others. When you love yourself, you take the first step in becoming your own friend: you treat yourself with understanding, forgiveness, and respect.

Self-love is important because it can affect many areas of your life, including your physical health, mental health, and relationships with others. By practicing self-love, you can experience joy and peace, leading to a more successful and fulfilling story in life.

Self-love can be hard to cultivate sometimes

How to practice self love for your physical and mental health

Treating ourselves with love can bring benefits for both mental and physical health. For instance, being kind to ourselves can lower anxiety, reduce stress levels, and help build resilience. And, treating ourselves with love and cultivating high self-esteem can bring physical benefits, as well: research has shown that “individuals with high self-esteem tend to be healthier than those with low self-esteem.” 

Relationships with others

When you love who you are and treat yourself with kindness and compassion, you may be more able to extend these same feelings toward others while also being attuned to your own needs and boundaries. This can allow for healthier, more positive relationships. Research indicates that individuals possessing self-compassion display “more positive relationship behavior” than those who lacked self-love and self-compassion.

How to learn to love yourself and improve low self-esteem
Self-love is not always easy—many of us don’t love ourselves and can be critical and hard on ourselves at times. As such, loving ourselves may take intentional effort and coincide with other journeys of personal growth. In this case, it may be helpful to consider some of the strategies below when trying to learning to love yourself more: 

1. Try improving self-talk


Some people may grapple with harsh self-talk that is not loving and can even lower self-esteem. This could involve saying things such as, "I am not good at anything," "I can't do anything right," or anything else that tears them down.

If this is something you deal with, you might want to try an exercise to fill your thoughts with more positive, loving phrases. For instance, you can decide to begin a journey towards a healthier mindset by writing down 10 things that you like about yourself. It could be anything, big or small—maybe you're a great cook, you're a good listener, you are good at your job, you're a good friend, or you're a successful athlete or musician. Then, on a daily basis, stand in front of a mirror and read the list out loud. This may help you to start replacing some of the negative self-talk with more loving, positive ideas and start to feel confident about your intrinsic worth.

For another approach to improve your self-talk, consider trying the following: when you notice a thought about yourself arise, consider if you would think it about a good friend. Sometimes, many of us are harsher on ourselves than we would be on a friend. If you wouldn't say those words to a friend you love, you might not want to say them about yourself either. Set boundaries for your inner dialogue and practice self-love and kindness as you would with others.

Positive self-talk isn’t just good for our self-esteem. Studies have found that positive self-talk may be linked to improved cardiovascular health, lower depression rates, better coping skills during tough times, reduced risk of death from cancer, and more.

2. Practice forgiveness

For some, another aspect is that they feel they can’t love themselves because they are holding on to feelings of guilt, blame, or shame from a past event or action, whatever that might be. But, as mentioned previously, a key piece of self-love is forgiveness. Loving yourself means being in control of your body, mind, and soul and being able to give yourself a break, too—just as you would a loved one.

If this is something you struggle with, it might be helpful to start small: if you often blame yourself for even minor (perceived) mistakes, it may be worth practicing self-forgiveness for those first. For instance, you can try forgiving yourself for small things, like if you spill your coffee or forget something at home. These helpful tips may help you build the skill of self-forgiveness for any larger things that you’re holding onto, or that may arise.

For other situations, it may be helpful to sit down and journal about the situations and the things that you are having trouble forgiving yourself for or letting go of. You can allow yourself to process certain emotions that you have from the situation, see the plain facts of the situation, and take responsibility as appropriate. As you read through what you’ve written, you may be able to see a new perspective and gain a sense of peace.

Though it may feel difficult to do, forgiveness and letting go can be powerful forms of self-love that can extend into your relationships with others. After all, learning how to be compassionate and forgiving toward yourself can be taught, and it may allow you to be more compassionate to others, as well.

3. Track successes

Another way you can start loving and respecting yourself more is to track the successes—of any size—that you have each day. By keeping track of things you’ve done well, both big and small, you may be creating opportunities to celebrate yourself and recognize your worth. 

If you’d like to try this, you could try making a list at the end of each day of at least three things you have done well that day as a form of self-care. These could be anything that you count as a “success:” Maybe you were a good listener to a friend, or you made a healthy dinner, or you completed a good workout, or you gave a great presentation at work. Whatever the size, try to track it and celebrate it. By doing this often, you may find that it helps you to build your confidence and love for yourself. 

Cultivating self-love through therapy
Self-love can be hard to cultivate sometimes

Learning to love yourself may also involve acknowledging and addressing any unfulfilled dreams or aspirations that may be contributing to a sense of pain or dissatisfaction in the present. This may involve taking steps to pursue those dreams or finding new goals and passions to pursue. It can also involve being present in the moment and cultivating a sense of mindfulness and gratitude for the present, even while working towards future goals. A sense of purpose and meaning can contribute to a greater sense of self-love and fulfillment. 

Online therapy has been shown to be effective for a variety of concerns, including self-esteem. For instance, one study examined the effectiveness of an online depression intervention to investigate the benefits of self-esteem, empowerment, and other “secondary” benefits. The study found immediate improvements in participants’ self-esteem and empowerment.  

If you are struggling to love yourself, the prospect of seeking help may feel like an intimidating process. One possible benefit of online therapy such as BetterHelp is that it may feel more convenient for some people, as you can connect with a therapist from home and have sessions wherever you have an internet connection.

Therapist reviews

Read below for reviews from individuals who have used BetterHelp for similar challenges:

“It’s been a hard couple of months and I’m so grateful the universe (or BetterHelp algorithm) has paired me with Katrice Hollins. Katrice is extremely patient, professional, non-judgemental, supportive and such a helpful guide as I navigate my recent breakup, insecurities in my sexuality, family trauma, and insecurities. She responds in a very timely manner and in a way that I know she’s listening and has my best interests at heart. With her guidance, I am learning to set a foundation of self-love and strong boundary setting in a way I’ve never established before.”

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

“Stephanie was nothing but a wonderful counselor. She is an amazing listener who helped me realize the importance of my well-being and self-love as I went through several transitions in my life. She is easy to talk to and provides tools and ideas for dealing with a variety of emotional issues. I really appreciate all of her help, and I am beyond grateful for her.”


It's important to remember that building self-love is beneficial not only for you but also for those around you, especially children. Children learn how to love and treat themselves by observing the adults in their lives. By cultivating self-love, you are setting a positive example and helping to break the cycle of negative self-talk and self-criticism. Addressing any anger or negative feelings towards yourself can also be an important point of focus in building self-love. If you are experiencing challenges in building self-love and would like further guidance, online therapy may be able to help.

Receive compassionate guidance in love
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started