The most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself.
We’ve all heard it before: The term “self-love.” But how many of us understand what it truly means? Or how it really feels?
Loving yourself is simpler than it seems. It’s reflected in your daily actions and habits, the standards you set for yourself, and the treatment you accept — both from you, and from others.
Let’s explore what self-love really looks (and feels) like to the ones who practice it.
1: Positive self-talk.
I believe that self-talk is one of the most important pieces in the self-love puzzle. It’s exactly what it sounds like: How you choose to talk to yourself.
I once had a private client who used to say: “I always date men who are bad for me!” By doing so, she was reinforcing the internal narrative that…well…she always dates men who are bad for her.
Not surprisingly, the pattern would continue.
Eventually, we started re-writing the story. She’d stop herself when having these (or similar) thoughts, and would consider how to re-word them.
“I used to date men who were bad for me.”
“I no longer accept men into my life who are bad for me.”
“The former version of myself used to date men who were bad for her.”
The same concept applies to any story that you’ve been telling yourself, no matter for how long.
“I don’t have the skills” can be changed to “I’m working on learning the skills.”
“I was never good at that” can be changed to “I’m learning to be better at that.”
No matter what you’re telling yourself — it’s you who is in control of the words.
As we begin to take charge of the words we use to ourselves, about ourselves, we quite literally spark changes within our identity that eventually get projected through our habits.
We’ll get into that more later.
You can’t change your internal narrative if you’re not recognizing it.
Building self-awareness is challenging because it requires us to look through an unfiltered lens…at ourselves. This means recognizing both the good and the bad. The strengths and the weaknesses. The positives and the negatives…in a way that removes the emotion from it.
We have to be willing to acknowledge our faults without feeling shame or guilt about them.
Instead, seeing them in a clear light will help us do what is necessary to work on and improve the areas that we wish to.
It’ll help us recognize the negative narratives mentioned in point #1 and therefore have the ability to shift them quickly.
If we ignore them, or feel shame once they arise, it will hinder our ability to do what is necessary for change.
Self-awareness is not about feeling bad about yourself and the things you wish were better…it’s about recognizing those very things and making the promise to yourself to turn negatives into positives.
Self-awareness is a sign of self-love because you don’t let these little shortcomings impact your opinion about yourself. You see them as areas of improvement and know that you are capable of making said improvements.
You can’t ignore a problem and fix it at the same time.
3: You have healthy emotional boundaries.
Emotional boundaries are a sign of self love because they communicate the treatment you’re willing (and not willing) to accept from others.
People with a strong sense of self-love don’t allow themselves to be bullied, talked down to, or taken advantage of.
They don’t allow themselves to be undervalued or unappreciated in a relationship.
They don’t allow themselves to be silenced in the workplace.
They don’t tolerate toxic or negative people within their mental or emotional walls — that space is reserved for those who deserve it.
Related reading: 8 Signs You Need Healthier Emotional Boundaries.
4: You build positive habits and routines.
Just like in a relationship with someone else, it’s not the grand romantic gestures that end up making it last. Those are the “icing on the cake” so to speak, but it’s the small everyday things that really build a foundation over time.
The same goes for your relationship with yourself — you build credibility with yourself every time you make a commitment and then stick to it, no matter how big or small.
Perhaps you decide to wake up 20 minutes earlier than usual and meditate. Or go for a walk during lunch at work, or listen to audiobooks on your commute rather than music or talk radio…
Whatever it is, each positive adjustment you make in your life is a chance to serve yourself better and, effectively, construct a more productive and fulfilling daily routine.
If you continue with these habits over time, you’ll have no choice but to improve, advance, and be proud of yourself for doing so.
5: Personal accountability.
What happens if you skip a day (or two…or three…) of those routines we talked about in point #4? Well, the easy response would be to make an excuse.
The kids woke you up too early. You’re too tired. You’re swamped with work. The WiFi went out.
The problem with these excuses is that they might actually be valid. There might be real, viable reasons why you didn’t do the thing…
But, the truth still remains that the thing didn’t get done, and if you don’t do it, nobody else is going to.
When you take full accountability for what you do or don’t do, you begin to find and create ways to actually get it done. You take responsibility for your own results and accountability for the actions needed to create those results.
6: Self forgiveness.
Here’s the flip side of point #5: Sometimes, you’re just not going to do the thing.
You really are too tired, or too busy, or feel like crap, or cannot bring yourself to get it done.
And in those moments, you must be able to give yourself the grace to simply let it go.
To accept that you are human, and that nobody is perfect 100% of the time.
To still maintain the same level of self-love and respect that you had at the beginning of the day — because life is a journey, and we all miss the shot from time to time.
The best athletes lose sometimes.
The best business people have failed more times than they can count.
The happiest couples are made up of two people who faced heartbreak before they met each other.
We cannot dwell on each little “failure” or missed opportunity. Self-love does not allow for that.
Self-love is forgiving and understanding.
7: You’re conscious about what you feed your body and mind.
Anyone who knows me or follows my personal social media knows that I am a car fanatic. I love high performance cars and the art and engineering that goes into creating them.
For these machines to perform at the highest level, they must take in the best quality fuels. The best oil. The highest attention to detail with maintenance.
Naturally, if we feed low octane fuels to a high performance car, it creates problems and the car begins to malfunction.
The same happens with our bodies and minds.
We simply do not perform at the same level with sub-par foods. We don’t feel as good. Don’t look as good. Don’t move as well.
Similarly, consuming “junk food” for the mind can decrease our mental performance, as we’re feeding it nothing but distractions, or misinformation, or mindless drivel. How can we expect to get good ideas out if we’re putting crap in?
8: You’re comfortable saying “no.”
“No” is a small word that can feel very large when we say it out loud.
“No thanks, I’d rather not attend.”
“No, I can’t help you with that right now.”
“No, I don’t have the capacity to take on another project.”
“No, I don’t want to see that person.”
The truth is that saying no can be just as important, if not more, than saying yes. “No” is how we protect the boundaries we discussed earlier. It’s how we prioritize our needs over trying to please others. It’s how we separate ourselves from the things and people that will not serve us.
Being comfortable saying no requires a high level of self-love because it means risking criticism or ridicule from others. It means hurting feelings, or separating ourselves from a friend or family member.
But the truth is that people who truly care about you will want what’s best for you, and if saying “no” is what you need to do, they should value and respect it.
It matters not whether they understand your reasoning, though — it’s your reasoning, and you can choose to stay true to it.
9: You approach your days with intention.
What was your plan when you started the day today?
Sure, you knew what you were going to do — get up, go through your morning routine (whatever that may be). Dress the kids if you have any. Dress yourself. Get them off to school. Get to work or back home to the computer.
All of that is well and good…but what is your intention for today? What do you intend to accomplish with the time that you have?
When we can set an intention for the day, we very often change our actions and decisions in order to bring it to fruition. We don’t just let things fly at us and spend our entire day reacting to stimuli, because that removes our control.
We stay focused and deliberate in what we do, so we can achieve the things we envision for ourselves.
10: You are clear on your identity and live in alignment with it.
In other words: You stay true to who you really are.
This is so hard for people because many of us don’t take the time to ask ourselves who we really are…or who we really want to be.
We start out in the world with a set of labels handed to us. We’re born into a certain family, in a certain place, who might practice a certain religion, and send us to certain type of school.
None of that is our decision.
Then we do what we think is right, and what we think is best. We work to get good grades, to be on the best sports teams, to get into the best colleges…so we can then go and get the best job.
Nowhere along the way do people stop us to ask what is going to make us fulfilled.
We don’t ask ourselves who we really are at our core and what life path is going to make us the happiest.
It’s easy to be influenced in our younger years when we really don’t know better, which is why so many of my private clients are highly successful entrepreneurs, executives, and athletes — they’ve spent decades doing what they thought they should be…and one day realized it might not be in alignment with who they really are.
There is no deeper form of self-love than choosing to evolve into the person you know you’ve chosen to be.
There is no greater gift you can give yourself, than the creation of that identity.
And then — once you’re clear on who you want to become — your actions will shift to create the life that that person should be living.
Your habits will change, your relationships will change, the way you look at the world (and yourself) will all change.
For the first time — you’ll be seeing through clear eyes and be approaching every single day in the only way you really need to:
As your most authentic self.
James Michael Sama is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and personal development coach.
Finding success in creating hundreds of viral articles and videos on building limitless confidence and healthier relationships, James has accumulated over 38 million visitors to his website and a collective social media following of over 400,000.
James speaks at live events and in the media across the U.S. and has become a go-to expert with outlets such as CNN, Bravo, The New York Post, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, CNBC, The Boston Globe, CBS, and more.