I used to look at people who were successful, healthy and happy, wondering, “What’s their secret? Why can’t I do that?”
After a decadelong struggle with eating disorders, addiction, and self-loathing, I realized that the reason I couldn’t be happy like the people I envied was that I didn’t love myself and they did.
For me, shifting from self-loathing to self-love has been profoundly healing and epiphany-inducing. I can hardly believe how simple it’s been for me to quit smoking, eat well, exercise daily, find a loving relationship, and have the career of my dreams. And it’s all thanks to self-love.
Now, I see happy people and I smile, knowing that their lives are products of a series of habits that support their relationships with themselves.
Here are seven things that self-loving people do differently.
1. They listen to their emotions.
Most people spend their lives doing one of two things to their emotions: numbing or venting. Often, they do a combination of the two (i.e. they numb until they can’t hold it in anymore, then they explode).
Self-loving people do something very different — they accept each emotion as a piece of communication and they try to decode it. This way, emotions can become important guideposts on the journey of self-discovery, rather than annoying roadblocks.
2. They choose responsibility over blame.
When something negative happens, self-loving people will look for a way to take responsibility, rather than searching for someone to blame. They know that placing blame doesn’t solve the problem — it only cultivates anxiety and helplessness. By choosing to take responsibility, self-loving people do themselves the favor of encouraging change and acceptance rather than stewing in stagnation and suffering.
3. They feed their passions and talents.
Every person in this world feels the gentle tug of fascination toward some hobby or activity. Sometimes that tug isn’t so gentle! Self-loving people learn to recognize that inner longing as something important, and they devote their time and energy to nourishing those desires. Self-loving people do something every single day that they love doing, and they allow themselves the space to explore new interests that arise. They know that nourishing their own inner hunger is much more important than any fears they might have about what feeding it looks like.
4. They spend time alone.
Those who have unhealthy, abusive relationships with themselves often have an intolerance of being alone. The moment they have some space with themselves, they feel the incoming discomfort of self-defeating thoughts and toxic emotions, so they reach for the phone or the vice. Self-loving people do the opposite. They look forward to their time by themselves, just as you’d look forward to a date with a beloved friend. They not only make time for themselves, they start to miss their time alone if they don’t take it.
5. They sleep on it.
As we learn to respect ourselves, we become more long-term oriented. Instead of caving to momentary impulses and immediate gratification, self-loving people will sleep on it and weigh the outcomes of important decisions. Paradoxically enough, being able to delay gratification and think about long-term outcomes gives us the ability to enjoy our lives more in every single moment, because that “long-term” that we’re always thinking about becomes our entire way of life.
6. They teach people how to treat them and walk away if they cannot.
Those who deny themselves love, respect, and approval will inevitably seek those necessities from other people. When we base our relationships with others on approval-seeking and love-hunger, we’re not really respecting ourselves or other people. We’re just running each other dry.
That’s why self-loving people approach relationships from a place of self-sufficiency. They know what they need to feel respected and they know what they have to offer. They gently teach the people around them about their boundaries and, if those are crossed repeatedly, they have the courage to walk away.
7. They admit their mistakes.
Those who don’t have self-respect are always measuring themselves against some outside standard. In many cases, that standard is being “right.” They feel good when they’re right and crestfallen when they’re wrong, because their whole sense of identity is wrapped up in these labels. Self-loving people tend to identify with more permanent parts of their experience, rather than temporary states like right/wrong, old/young, happy/sad. They feel a deep, unconditional acceptance of themselves, which gives them the power to practice self-improvement without losing self-love. Thus, they not only admit when they’re wrong, they expect to be.