Why Self-Love Matters And How To Increase It

Medically reviewed by Brianne Rehac, LMHC
Updated May 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you search the term “self-love,” you might find a series of “how to practice self-care” tips and different ways to practice self-love, such as taking a luxurious bubble bath or listening to your favorite music as you relax. While this might be a good place to start for many of us, achieving true self-love that has the potential to meaningfully improve your life generally requires more than a moment with a face mask and feel-good music every now and then. Before you fall in love with another person or set up a date, it may be beneficial to focus on loving yourself.

What is self-love?

Self-love is an important part of your overall health and well-being. True self-love is typically the result of introspection, self-compassion, and self-awareness, all of which require time, effort, energy, desire, and attention to cultivate.

Part of self-love means recognizing this—that you see aspects of yourself that no one else ever can and also that others likely have similar thoughts, feelings, and challenges going on inside, too. You’re not the only one who sometimes thinks judgmental thoughts about others or who feels annoyed by that one coworker’s behavior. While we can always work on self-improvement, self-love entails accepting the parts of yourself you think need to be changed right alongside the things you like about yourself. It’s about acknowledging your faults and the fact that you may fail with an “...and that’s okay!” attitude instead of looking at yourself with judgment and condemnation. It boils down to being gentle and loving yourself (mind, body, personality, and all) the way you would want and expect others to love you.

Why is it important?

Self-love and self-esteem are topics that have been studied quite extensively. A review of studies in this field sums up findings by saying that higher self-esteem “helps individuals adapt to and succeed in a variety of life domains, including having more satisfying relationships, performing better at school and work, enjoying improved mental and physical health, and refraining from antisocial behavior.” While you may strongly dislike a particular aspect of yourself, it is important not to let that hurt your self-confidence and self-love overall. A strong sense of self can also help you safeguard yourself by prioritizing situations that will be positive for your well-being and avoiding those that you know will not. This can take the form of setting boundaries in relationships, for instance, or pursuing positive work, living, and/or romantic situations that will allow you to thrive. 

How the way you view yourself impacts relationships

Even though self-love is about how you relate to yourself, it can also impact the way you relate to others. Research suggests that low self-esteem in one person can affect the satisfaction levels of both parties in a relationship. There can be a variety of factors that may contribute to this. In romantic relationships, the partner with low self-esteem may feel higher anxiety about the relationship, for instance, constantly worried that their partner is unhappy or is thinking about leaving them. It can also manifest as jealousy and a need for constant validation, which can wear on the other partner.

It may also be difficult for a person with low self-esteem to fully accept themselves enough to be truly vulnerable, honest, and authentic in their relationships, either romantically or with friends. Since research suggests that the reported benefits of close relationships (which include better overall health and well-being) stem from the experience of intimacy within those relationships, a lack of vulnerability can be detrimental to the dynamic overall.

Learn to love yourself

Finally, the way we view ourselves can sometimes be reflected in the way we view others. If we’re judgmental, perfectionistic, and hold ourselves to an impossibly high standard where we’re harsh about mistakes, we might tend to take this same approach with other people. Of course, nobody's perfect, and everyone in the world has faults and makes mistakes. Love is the ability to still hold ourselves and others in high regard despite these. In other words, increasing your own self-love can help you extend more love and compassion to others, too.

How to practice improve self-esteem

Feeling more love for yourself is a journey that requires commitment and learning. Self-love is a habit and skill that can be learned over time. If you are motivated to improve your self-love, there are steps you can take to get started. Trying some of the strategies below may help you practice self-love over time:  

Cultivate mindfulness

Research has found links between mindfulness and a range of positive outcomes, including healthy self-esteem and spiritual growth, which are linked to overall life satisfaction. Cultivating mindfulness is most often pursued through regular meditation practice. Even ten or fifteen minutes per day of focusing on your breath in a quiet space and developing an awareness of your thoughts can put you on the right track. After some practice, you may find that you’re able to keep a more balanced perspective on things, including your view of yourself.

Speak positively to yourself

Self-talk, or the way you speak to yourself internally, can be powerful. Studies have found that negative self-talk can be linked to depression and anxiety. Most people wouldn’t criticize and tear down someone they love, like a child, so harshly—so why do we sometimes do it to ourselves? It’s easy to slip into these negative thought patterns, and we may even feel that we deserve them, but with practice, it is possible to alter them. It’s likely worth the effort, too, since positive self-talk is linked to higher self-esteem, calm, and motivation.

First, the sense of mindfulness that you can cultivate through regular meditation practice can help you become more aware of how you talk to yourself. This awareness is often the first step toward being able to imagine making changes. Next, you can try being more intentional about recognizing the positives in a situation: acknowledging your strengths and achievements rather than fixating only on your mistakes. Finally, you might challenge yourself to look at a situation from the perspective of someone else and see if what you’re thinking or feeling is really objectively true or likely. Negative thoughts can sometimes be exaggerated or based on flawed logic, so changing perspectives may help that become clear.

Take time for introspection

Do you take issue with two characters falling in love and getting married after one day in children’s movies? Remember to apply this same logic to your relationship with yourself. Loving yourself is more difficult if you don’t take the time to truly get to know yourself. Checking in regularly with your emotional well-being is one way to do this. Take a few minutes to evaluate why you reacted the way you did to a difficult or uncomfortable situation or why you’re feeling bad about something. Writing in a journal can be a useful tool to help you realize what you’re feeling and why. The idea is to get to know how you work so you can identify both what your strengths are and what your areas for improvement might be. Using emotions as signposts and looking out for patterns can both be helpful in this process—which is generally a continual, ongoing one.


Discover self-care that works for you

This can look like taking bubble baths or indulging in your favorite foods if that’s what works best for you, but in general, true self-care often goes deeper than that. It’s about advocating for yourself, spending time giving yourself what you need, and developing healthy habits. Some ways to practice self-care could look like this:

  • Turning down a social invitation to spend some time alone to rest, recharge, and meet your own needs

  • Making plans to spend time with a friend when you feel you need support or to feel a little joy

  • Saying “no” to a work project that would put you at risk for burnout

  • Setting a boundary with a friend, family member, or partner, even if it upsets them

  • Prioritizing sleep over chores when you’re exhausted and need a break

  • Speaking up to ask for what you need from others to feel more comfortable and safe

Taking care of yourself in these ways is a method of putting yourself first and can lower stress. It’s not a frivolous undertaking like some might think when they hear about self-care advice and associate it with bubble baths. You should not feel bad about taking time for yourself; embrace it. Making healthy choices that show that you value yourself can be a legitimate, powerful form of self-love.

You can improve your mental health with online therapy

A licensed counselor can help you in learning to love yourself and discover more strategies to develop self-love and improve your overall well-being. You can work together on improving your self-talk and finding the right self-care methods for you, and they can help you adopt a more balanced, compassionate perspective on yourself and prioritize your own well-being.

Some people who decide to pursue the guidance of a counselor choose virtual therapy. Research suggests that it’s a viable alternative to in-person sessions as it offers similar benefits but has the potential to be delivered at a lower cost and in a more convenient format. An online therapy platform like BetterHelp makes it easy to connect with a licensed professional you can trust via phone, video, or chat—all from the comfort of your own home. Regardless of whether you choose online or in-person therapy, remember that therapists are specially trained to help people explore their feelings without judgment.


Self-esteem is generally considered to be an important component of mental health; plenty of research supports this. Consider trying some of the strategies we’ve outlined here to increase it through self-love. Whether you undertake this journey on your own or with the help of a mental health professional, a consistent commitment to it has the potential to positively impact your happiness and your life.

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