“Accepting yourself only as long as you look a certain way isn’t self-love. It’s self-destruction.” – Laci Green
We have the ultimate power to support, nurture, and love our bodies even when they don’t look like we want or don’t respond the way we expect. That powerful realization can radically improve your life if you let it. Indeed, shifting from an attitude of self-criticism to one of self-love can help you live happier, healthier, and even achieve personal goals (like significant weight loss). There is a growing body of actual scientific research which confirms the positive “side effects” of self-love.
These very real side effects include:
- Improved self-image
- Improved personal and professional performance
- Reduced stress levels
- Increased energy levels
- Increased empathy
Self-compassion has even been scientifically proven to reduce body inflammation  and the risk of inflammation-related diseases.
Life is full of challenges. And while everyone’s life is different, everyone experiences roadblocks that sometimes seem unsurpassable. During these trying times we question everything and our healthy goal of losing excess weight can begin to seem trivial, unnecessary, and even impossible. But these are not the times to give in to self-loathing. In fact, these are the very times when we should turn up the self-love.
Love Yourself Now—Don’t Wait for the Finished Product
Until you begin to understand the true power of self-love, it may seem a bit hokey, even a bit embarrassing to talk about. So let’s take a closer look at what self-love really is. Dr. Kristin Neff , associate professor of Human Development and Culture at the University of Texas and pioneer of research on self-compassion has done much to develop a healthy definition of self-love.
Your Self-Worth is Not Defined by Comparison
When we base our self-worth on out-competing others, we become more anxious, insecure, and unwilling to make the changes necessary to dig ourselves out of that self-loathing. However, when we learn to divorce our self-worth from comparison, to accept ourselves as unique individuals with inherent value, we begin to give ourselves permission to truly live our lives:
- To fail the right way
- To change as we see fit
- To accept ourselves as we are now (without comparing the present to some mythical future)
Self-Love Prepares Us to Learn from Failure
Scientific studies have shown that people with self-compassion are more likely to improve performance after failure. Why? Because instead of dwelling on self-criticism, those who practice self-love are able to maintain peace of mind and see failure as a stepping stone rather than a roadblock. This shift in viewpoint allows us to retain energy and maintain forward momentum.
Self-Love Teaches Us Responsibility
Recognizing we are the source of our happiness can be scary. But it can also be extremely empowering. When we realize we are responsible for the outcome of our lives (not the outside forces that act upon us) it helps us realize that we have the power to change our situation, if we want to. Indeed, that self-empowerment has been scientifically shown to help us overcome procrastination .
The Three Tenets of Self-Love
Dr. Emma Seppala , Science Director at Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and Co-Director Wellness at Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, explains that there are basically three tenets or pillars of self-love:
Self-kindness requires you to be forgiving of your mistakes and accepting of your flaws. Essentially you must be as kind to yourself as you would a friend. This allows us to love ourselves as we are now—no matter how far along on our weight loss journey.
2) Common Humanity
We are all the same. We are not alone in our mistakes; failure and imperfection are natural, universal human experiences. Sometimes when we backslide or cheat on our diets it feels like the end of the world. It is not. Anyone who has ever succeeded has failed just as we have. The important thing is to accept that failure, learn from it, and move on.
Recognizing and understanding your emotions without giving them power over your actions is essential. Doing so will help you avoid emotional overeating, stress eating, and procrastination.
5 Easy Ways to Cultivate Healthy Self-Love
Writing down your thoughts can help cultivate self-love and has been scientifically shown to improve health and wellbeing . So, pick up a pen and paper.
1) Write Yourself a Letter
Often, we’re much more forgiving of and compassionate towards others than we are ourselves. Write as if you were giving advice to a friend. This allows you to “trick” yourself into engaging that self-compassion that’s an essential component of self-love.
2) Write Down Your Self-Talk
Really hearing your self-talk can be a crucial step in cultivating self-compassion. We’re often so critical that it’s hard for us to even celebrate our victories. Write these mental comments down, then examine them. Would you say these things to a stranger? To a friend? To family? If not, why are you saying them to yourself?
3) Develop a Self-Compassion Mantra
Dr.Neff uses mantras—easily memorized mental phrases—to help support herself during trying times. Reciting these self-compassionate mantras (either aloud or in your head) give you time to pause and re-center yourself in the face of a crisis. These are not affirmations. They’re reminders. Here is hers: “This is a moment of suffering, suffering is part of life, may I be kind to myself in this moment, may I give myself the compassion that I need.”
Meditation is combined contemplation and relaxation that helps us spot a self-critical thought and “work through it.” Meditative practices include:
- Reciting mantras
- Breathing exercises
According to one study , practicing these techniques for 40 minutes a day for 8 weeks could raise your self-love by 43 percent.
5) Give Your Body the Nutrition it Needs
Starving yourself is a form of self-punishment, not self-love. Dieting doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Instead, give your body the nutrition to work as it should without the calories it doesn’t need. The Hollywood Cookie Diet®  offers meal replacement cookies and wafers that are tasty, healthy, and can be enjoyed any time you need to show yourself a little love.
Self-Love Helps You live a Better Life
Self-love can help you live significantly healthier—both mentally and physically. Indeed, self-love, self-compassion, and self-forgiveness may indeed be the most powerful tools you have on your weight loss journey. Remember, you are in charge of change and failure is just a stepping stone.