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What Does “Love Yourself First” Actually Look Like?

6 ways to love yourself better right now.s


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Kaia Tingley

3 years ago | 6 min read

Love is… many things to many people. Love lies in the thoughts and beliefs we have. Love also lies in the actions we take. Love is something relational that we share with the world.

We also share it with ourselves. Love is recursive, ideally at least.

If upon the altar at the center of our selves, we do not find the light of the divine? We will not find it anywhere.

Love lives inside of us. It comes to us from the same place that gave us life in the first place. It is a mystery.

It wells up from the middle of the bottom of our feet as we stand on the bare earth, barefoot. It flows down from the stars into the crowns of our bared heads. It is always here. It is a river we can tap into.

Love is a choice.

Love is the actions that you, we, we all take. Sometimes the actions are big, but most of the time the actions, the choices, they’re small.

The choice to go for a walk in the morning by yourself for exercise or for meditation, as often as you feel like it. The choice to avoid the foods you know won’t make you feel good later. The choice to drink a lot of water as a spiritual practice. Little things you can do, almost anywhere.

The journey to love goes within. It’s cliche, I know. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

Where NOT to Look for Love

There are some sneaky places that will look like they will give us the love we so crave. This is what our culture teaches us. Men and women both. That our value actually comes from the value someone else is able to derive from us.

That our right to self-determination is earned by some dollar amount we contribute to a bank account somewhere. (This is a mirror of an inability to self-value, btw.)

These relationships are not the same as the open-flowing feeling of love. These are merely arrangements, full of obligations. Beware.

These are not the same as the deep love of self.

Your Partner

Don’t look for perfect, all-fulfilling love from your spouse. They may love you, yes. Ideally, we all love our partners deeply.

But until you both turn towards your final initiation, and face the shadows y’all have within, nothing will make either of you feel valued or appreciated on the deepest level. You have to face death before you begin to really get to enjoy life. Fights are going to happen. They’re part of the crucible of relationship. Use them as tools.

Hint — I’m talking to everyone here. Self included.

Everyone has to learn to value themselves properly first.

The fact that most of us don’t is obvious when we start to examine our souls. Hint — if you feel undervalued, it typically isn’t your partner making you feel that way. It usually stems from childhood crap that hasn’t been processed yet.

Life curriculum you know? And then, if we jump the shark at some point, and start to love and value ourselves so we can feel the way we want to feel, then we might evolve enough to stop being a selfish jerk that’s causing misery and suffering today.

You can call this “the work.” You’re welcome.

Your Kids

Love your little kids to the fullness of your abilities. Your grown kids too. But hopefully, you won’t look to them to fill your love tank. Not entirely at least.

Teach your children the art of how to love. Teach them that love is not a zero-sum game. Teach them all you know about the reality of the fact that love is born of gratitude and appreciation of nature, and it flows from the divine, into us, and out into the world.

That we could all be fountains of love if we only chose to stop being so scared that the world out there wouldn’t really love us enough. That love is not something we have to hoard for ourselves. That real love is never a power play or a weapon.

Teach them that love comes from the way we chose to be.

Other People In General

No one will or can fill any unrequited longing you have within you for love if you don’t first learn to love yourself. Not a boss, not a friend, not any kind of other situation. The lesson will reflect itself from the world no matter where you look. As long as you are looking to people instead of the real source of love, you will always end up disappointed.

What is the Real Source of Love Then?

I’m calling it the divine here in lieu of a better term. Perhaps Source? Great Spirit? People know it all over the world by many different names and guises. I think of it as Mother Nature. I think of it as the divinity of the circles of life and death, and deep wonder at the mysteries from whence we came and where we are going. It’s bigger than other people to me.

Love does not come entirely from other people. It does come partially from other people, but you must lay the foundation of love within yourself first if you want to be able to receive the love of others too.

When you realize that you are a part of everything, and everything is a part of you, you might start to actively participate in cultivating a practice of loving yourself and the world in your immediate vicinity. You might start to wonder deeply at the things your partner is passionate about, and admire their dedication to their path, and marvel with them at their work.

You might start to garden the soil and tend some plants. You might start to clean up the garbage alongside your street. You might start to pause on a morning walk and listen to nature and spend a few moments with your hot cup, just wondering at it all. Grateful to be alive.

This is where love starts. Real love at least.

What Does “Love Yourself First” Actually Look Like?

6 Ways to Love Yourself Better Right Now.

  1. Make time for yourself to do things that are just for you. Do this regularly.
  2. Get present with your body a minimum of one time per day. Ideally, do this more than once per day. Move. Breathe. Feel what’s going on inside of yourself. Just be for a few minutes.
  3. Recognize where you need to work on your boundaries. Where are you feeling like you’re losing power in the world? Do certain people drain you? Do you need to relate to the television or your screens in a healthier way? Do you need to start exercising and eating better? What does your intuition tell you? Do you need to go take a long bath under the full moon with a couple of candles and a jug of cool water? Do it. Work on your damn boundaries.
  4. Speak your mind. Don’t be afraid of the repercussions. I know. Easier said than done, and not always possible. But if you can, speak your mind. If the only thing holding you back is the fear of hurting other people’s feelings, then speak the fuck up. No one is going to value your voice and opinions if you don’t first find value in them yourself.
  5. Allow yourself enough time to rest. Being overworked is not a burden of honor. Being sleep-deprived messes with your brain and makes you less functional, less internally healthy, more prone to high emotions, anxiety, stress, and it is a vicious cycle. Give yourself a damn bedtime and try your best to stick to it. Delegate tasks. Perfection is a huge lie. Just do your best, but learn to prioritize sleep.
  6. And hydrate. Seriously. Why the hell aren’t you drinking enough water? Apologies if you're in the minority that’s doing this. Just hydrate. It’s the best.

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