The most important relationship throughout your life, no matter who you are, is your relationship with yourself.
Self love is not about being arrogant, egoistic or conceited, not about denying every time you make a mistake, it’s not about comparing yourself to others and thinking you are better than them.
Self love, however, is about accepting, trusting and taking care of yourself.
Being able to love yourself while knowing all your flaws, all the embarrassing things you have ever done, every time you have messed up is not easy – but you also know all the times the times you’ve made somebody smile, made yourself smile, and the long list of good things you’ve done in your life, and those are worth focusing on.
DEALING WITH MISTAKES
I am my own worst critic – sometimes to such a degree that it becomes destructive. I can get the top grade at an oral exam, but only remember all the things I said wrong. Sometimes the problem isn’t even the fact that I said something wrong, I just said in a less perfect way.
It can’t surprise you that this is not constructive behaviour. Self-criticism leads to feelings like insecurity and anxiety, and the criticism might have greater negative consequences than the “mistake” in itself. You get defensive when someone criticizes you, no matter how kind and constructive it is – even though feedback from people around you can help you do better.
You might also find yourself defining your-self worth in relation to other people; you scored higher on the test than the person next to you, so you did okay. Or maybe somebody completes a run faster than you, so you are failure – even if you ran faster than you have ever done before. Constantly competing and comparing yourself to others makes it harder to form relationships, and it does not make you feel good either.
When the fear of failing becomes greater than the thirst for success, we tend to give up without trying, and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: You don’t think you are capable of ever completing a 5K, and you become preoccupied by imagining how wrong it’s going to go, rather than actually preparing for the run. Of course it’s difficult for most people to run a race with out training for it, but if you are a harsh self critic, you will wrongfully see this as a sign of your lack of ability to get in shape – ever.
So how does the way we think manifest in our bodies physically? This is quite complicated, but harsh self-criticism and negative thinking elevates stress levels by causing an increased amount of cortisol in our bodies. Cortisol is part of the ‘Fight or flight’ response: it speeds up your heart rate and empowers you to immediately react in order for you to get out of danger – but you’re not in immediate danger, and the person you want to run from is yourself. Experiencing this is as an isolated event is not dangerous – it evolved because it helped our ancestors survive. But high levels of cortisol for a prolonged period of time is what causes stress, which in turn has many negative physical effects.
SHOW YOURSELF COMPASSION
Self-compassion means treating yourself as you would treat your best friend. It’s knowing that you, like everybody else deserves love and respect. In regards to the last example, self compassion can both be pushing yourself to go running so you can get better, and it can just as well be having a rest day, because your body needs both exercise and time to recover.
In a study investigating how self-compassionate people deal with unpleasant life events emotionally and cognitively, they found that self-compassionate people were able to acknowledge their part in negative outcomes, but only with moderately negative self feelings, nothing that overwhelmed them – unlike the people who lack self compassion often underestimated their performance, no matter what the outcome was. 
Let self compassion be your motivation, and focus on making an effort, rather than the result. Understand that failure is not a bad thing – failure does not equal defeat, defeat is when you stop trying. Embrace challenges with open arms, because they give you a chance to grow – this will in turn allow you to perform better, since you actually think you have a shot at this. And by the end, you will hopefully have grown so strong you can handle a less than perfect outcome, knowing you did your best.
So let the self-love help you become a more well-balanced person, and be able to enjoy your own as well as others success without jealousy. Find peace of mind, so outside events and opinions isn’t what makes or breaks your day.
You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.– Siddhartha Gautama Buddha
Self-love might just be the greatest love of all.
Give yourself a smile and a hug from me,
Note: This post was originally written for my old blog 2 years ago
1. Self-compassion and reactions to unpleasant self-relevant events: The implications of treating oneself kindly. Leary, Mark R.; Tate, Eleanor B.; Adams, Claire E.; Batts Allen, Ashley; Hancock, Jessica
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 92(5), May 2007, 887-904. doi: 10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.117