We tell our friends and family, “I love you,” but how often do you say it to yourself? You might’ve heard the term self-love but what does it actually mean? From a young age, we’re trained to think that love and self-worth must be gained and found from external sources. We chase success in our career, academics, and relationships, hoping to find value and worthiness in our achievements.

When we don’t think we’re enough, we seek toxic relationships, self-sabotage. We don’t think we’re worthy of something good, because we don’t have x, y, or z.

The truth is when we are our best selves, we’re worthy of love. Right now. It’s a beautiful thought and it’s not far out of reach. However, truly loving yourself as is means undoing years of familial and societal conditioning. Translation: it ain’t gonna be a smooth ride.

As you learn to love yourself, you will face a number of challenges, but you’re worth it.

1. Stop Mistaking Self-Love for Narcissism
Learn to celebrate yourself for who you are and put your needs first. For some people that notion equates with selfishness or narcissism, but it’s not. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you’re an egomaniac. It simply means you recognize your worth. But it’s easier to say the words than to live them.

2. Don’t Equate Your Value to Your Earnings
Most of us don’t call ourselves successful until we receive a promotion. Likewise we might not believe we’re worthy of love until we’re offered commitment from someone else. In these instances, we’re deriving our value from others. While these examples are barometers of career achievement and relationship progression, they don’t accurately reflect our inherent self-worth. You’re worthy of love because you’re the person you want to be. When we seek validation from others, we are saying we are incomplete when, in reality, we are complete because we live life on our own terms.

3. Your Past Has Made You Feel Unlovable
We all have some baggage, and some of it is worse than others. Feelings of scarcity can stem from childhood neglect or a past breakup. Negative past experiences that caused hurt and confusion are often triggers in our present. When we’re dealt similar situations in the present (an upset with a new love interest or a friend who occasionally ghosts), we reinforce these beliefs about our unlovability with similar narratives from our past. We act on these feelings of inadequacy with self-sabotage and other destructive tendencies. Triggers are tricky to deal with but therapy and self-soothing, like meditation or journaling can help.

Learning to love yourself is a life-long journey with many ups and downs. The process will feel confrontational and uncomfortable, but if there’s one key to happiness, this is it. Because when we truly love ourselves, we’re able to show up authentically and allow for love to blossom—real love.

Brianne Hogan

Freelance Writer

Brianne is a Canadian freelance writer who’s been writing about dating and relationships longer than any of her relationships. She applies a “do what I say, not do what I do” approach to her articles, and believes you can find Your Person mostly when you aren’t looking. So enjoy your life, and eat lots of cheese (at least that’s her motto). Her byline’s been featured on Thrillist, The Huffington Post, HelloGiggles, Elle Canada, Flare, Awesomeness TV, among others.