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How to Increase Self-Love and Improve Your Relationships

Healthy relationships aren’t just built on love; they’re rooted in self-love. Learn how increasing self-love will improve your relationship in powerful ways, and change how you see yourself.

healthy self-love relationshipsHow do you see yourself? This is an important question, because how you see yourself is how you see everything. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t genuinely love someone else. If you can’t accept yourself, you won’t be able to accept others. If you don’t have compassion for yourself, then you’ll have no compassion for others.

If you can’t forgive yourself, you won’t be able to sincerely forgive others. That’s why increasing self-love is crucial for healthy relationships! A healthy sense of self-love will improve your relationship with yourself, which will improve your relationships with others. After reading this article, you’ll see that if you don’t love yourself, you can’t sincerely love other people. ou’ll learn how to find love by starting with the most important person: yourself.

In this post, I describe four topics:

  1. What self-love is
  2. The difference between healthy self-love and unhealthy self-love (narcissism)
  3. The main source of healthy self-love
  4. How self-love improves relationships

My next Blossom blog post is called How to Love Yourself; in it, I’ll share at least 10 tips on how to increase self-love. I’ll link to it at the end of this article as soon as it’s written.

Resources I used:

  • Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles? in Psychological Science in the Public Interest.
  • Gender differences in narcissism by the American Psychological Association
  • Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem: A Guide to Building Confidence and Connection One Step at a Time by Marie Hartnell-Walker

I’ll link to the resources as I refer to them below.

1. What is healthy self-love?

It makes me sad to say that I hated myself for all of my childhood and most of my adult life. I grew up without a dad, I was in and out of foster homes, and my mom was repeatedly hospitalized because she was schizophrenic. I was overweight and struggled with bulimia. I stole stuff. I made friends easily, but was always moving so I never enjoyed long-term friendships.

Why Your Husband is Having an Affair and How to Recover

Why Your Husband is Having an Affair and How to Recover

I always felt like I was no good, and I definitely didn’t believe I deserved a relationship. I had no idea what marriage was like.

Through counselling I learned that healthy self-love is accepting myself for who I am. It’s not judging my thoughts or opinions, not beating myself up for making mistakes, not focusing on my weaknesses and flaws, and not hurting my body by binging and purging (I struggle with bulimia for many years). I love myself when I let go of my judgement and self-condemnation.

Healthy self-love is:

  • Accepting yourself no matter where you’re at right now in your life, warts and all
  • Valuing yourself enough to recognize the warning signs of bad relationships
  • Striving to build healthy relationships with people who love themselves
  • Forgiving yourself for making mistakes
  • Learning from the past, and then letting the past sleep
  • Continually learning what self-love means to you
  • Focusing on improving your relationship with yourself so you can have healthy relationships with others

To me, healthy self-love is being comfortable with and accepting who I am. Healthy self-love is enjoying my own company and seeking time alone so I can reconnect with myself.

What is self-love to you? Don’t use my definition; part of honestly loving yourself is trusting yourself enough to create your own definition.

2. The difference between healthy self-love and unhealthy self-love (narcissism)

Unhealthy self-love does not lead to healthy relationships. The psychological term for unhealthy self-love (or egoism) is “narcissism.”

In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a handsome, nimble, healthy man. He was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. He was proud – and he didn’t love or respect the people who loved him.

Nemesis was the goddess of revenge; she noticed how proud, egocentric, and self-centered Narcissus was. So she led him to a pool of water. When he saw his own reflection in the water, he fell in love with himself. He didn’t realize it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus stared at his reflection until he died.

Fun fact: Narcissus is also the name of a fragile, beautiful flower that is usually found at the banks of rivers and lakes.

Narcissism is an extreme form of unhealthy self-love, and it will not improve your relationship.

Narcissistic people:

  • Are fixated on themselves and their physical appearance
  • Have a strong need to be admired
  • Lack empathy for the feelings and needs of others
  • Are egotistical, self-focused, and vain
  • Tend to be charming at first, but then alienate others
  • Tend to be more aggressive when their pride is wounded

The last two traits of narcissists are from Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles? in Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

An extreme form of unhealthy self-love is called narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Men are more likely to be labelled narcissistic – but this may not be true, according to the American Psychological Association’s Gender differences in narcissism: A meta-analytic review. Narcissism is characterized by an excessive preoccupation with power, prestige and vanity. Narcissistic men are unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and to others.

How to Increase Self-Love and Improve Your Relationship

Can you see the difference between healthy self-love and narcissism (which is not “self-love” because it’s destructive and unhealthy)? Then you might already know how self-love can create healthy relationships in your life.

The main source of healthy self-love

Learning how to love yourself can’t come from external sources. Not even your mom, husband, or children. Self-love doesn’t come from selfies, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, or the number of text messages you get every day.

self love healthy relationshipsIn Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem: A Guide to Building Confidence and Connection One Step at a Time, Maria Hartwell-Walker shares practical, step-by-step strategies and skills to help you develop feelings of competency, gain resiliency, rebuild self-confidence, and feel good by engaging in positive actions.

One of her tips for increasing self-love is to create a “bragging box.” You store things that remind you of your strengths, such as thank-you notes, certificates of appreciation, cards you’ve received, and other objects that remind you of successes and achievements.

Here’s the problem with this approach: it focuses on what OTHER people think of you. I believe the real secret to increasing self-love is to get in touch with what YOU love about yourself. What are your strengths, delightful quirks, eccentricities?

What makes you YOU?

How I learned how to love myself

Even though I encouraged you to increase self-love by getting in touch with what you love about yourself, I challenge you to take it one step further. There is an even better way to increase self-love! It’s stable, unchanging, and consistent. It is ever-present, never-failing, and always-loving.

It’s God.

During a Bible Study two years ago, I was asked to write the answers to a few questions about self love in my journal.

How does God see you?

Here’s what I wrote: “I see a little girl, pigtails and ribbons and a dress, jumping up and down with excitement, wonder, joy, hope, energy, vibrancy, voice, freedom, and space! You are my girl, so sweet and bouncy and vulnerable and innocent. My heart overflows with love for you. You are so precious, special, and wonderful.”

What does God want you to know?

Here’s what I wrote: “You were broken, untaught, hurt. You didn’t feel like you were as good as everyone else, and you felt superior to ‘less worthy’ people than you. You saw everyone as better or worse than you, and you constantly put yourself on trial. You were lonely. You needed to be filled. You were empty and alone, so you couldn’t connect with other people. You didn’t even notice that I was there the whole time.”

How to Increase Self-Love and Improve Your Relationship

How to Increase Self-Love and Improve Your Relationship

I challenge you to write your own answers to those questions. This is so much more than a tip on how to increase self-love…it’s your chance to connect with a never-ending source of joy, peace, love, and forgiveness.

God loves you, and He wants you to love yourself. The foundation of healthy self-love is Him. Nothing else can compare – not “bragging boxes”, Facebook friends, or even a healthy relationship with someone you love.

It’s God.

4. How self-love improves relationships

If we were talking in person, I’d ask you this question: How can increasing the love you feel for yourself help you build healthy relationships? Because your answer will be different than mine.

Self-love creates healthy relationships in my life. The most dramatic change is with my husband, who used to feel the sting of my insecurity and jealousy. And my lack of forgiveness and acceptance of who he is. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m definitely healthier and more loving than I’ve ever been.

When you have a healthy sense of self-love, you approach your relationships with freedom and acceptance because you accept and free yourself. You’re more likely to forgive because you forgive yourself. You value your loved ones for who they are – not who you think they should be – because you value yourself for who you are. You allow your loved ones to be themselves and make mistakes, because you allow yourself to be yourself and make mistakes.

Ah, the bliss and easy rest of self-forgiveness and self-love – especially when it’s centred on God!

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this post. Here’s a brief recap:

  1. What self-love is
  2. The difference between healthy self-love and unhealthy self-love (narcissism)
  3. The main source of healthy self-love
  4. How self-love improves relationships

Here’s one last takeaway for you: Learning how to love yourself is a process that takes time. I spend 30 minutes with God every morning because His Holy Spirit fills me with an abundance of joy, love, peace, forgiveness, and sense of freedom that surpasses all understanding! I LOVE His presence…but I need to tap into Him every day.

Learning self-love doesn’t happen overnight. Neither do healthy relationships. But they’re both worth the time, effort, and energy.

If you struggle with insecurity, read How to Gain Confidence and Create Healthy Relationships.

Self-Love and You

how to increase self-loveRead Choosing ME Before WE: Every Woman’s Guide to Life and Love if you tend to choose unhealthy relationships because you don’t love yourself.

In this book, author Christine Arylo – who almost married the wrong guy for all the wrong reasons – teaches women to stop settling, to get real about the kind of partner they’re looking for, and to start exploring and creating what they truly want in themselves and their relationships.

What do you think – is it contradictory or even selfish to think that self-love is necessary for healthy relationships?

What’s your experience with self-love? Take time to listen to the still small voice inside of you – because you are wiser and more courageous than you think.

While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of learning how to love yourself and build healthy relationships. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” ~ St. Augustine.

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4 thoughts on “How to Increase Self-Love and Improve Your Relationships”

  1. Thank you for your post. I was drowning in self-hate, I cried out to God and asked Him “what is wrong with me”? Why do I see my family so happy, smiling, loving and enjoying life. This post gave me insight.

  2. Yes — my favorite devotional is Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. It’s deep, but really practical too.

    And I listen to Joyce Meyers’ podcasts almost every day. They’re free — I listen to them while I’m running first thing in the morning. Again, very practical yet deep :-)

  3. Hi Laurie,
    Your site is the best combo of psychology, spirituality taken from all faiths, and a relationship with Jesus. I have realized I appreciate the intersection of all these paths while still coming back to the center- God. I’ve found some other Christian sites a little too dogmatic and psychology sites lacking in my core faith. Thank you for what you do.

    I’m finally grieving a breakup from over three months ago. The relationship was truly a gift, as it came unexpectedly, when I was in a self-destructive mode and needed to heal from hurts of the past to truly give to my partner the respect he deserved. I was so devastated that I had hurt him (cheated on him while he had been very considerate of my past wounds), that I have spend the last few months growing but also trying to get him back. I’ve realized he has forgiven me, and to that extent, the relationship is mended as he sees that I am more than the past failures and says I am a person of good character for coming clean and showing him friendship during the hard times he is now facing, but he has moved on from the romantic feelings towards me. I care about him a lot but realize I need now to grieve that loss to open myself to what else God has in store.

    The upside is getting closer to my mother, who has reminded me that there are unfortunately always consequences for our actions, yet if I keep my path aligned to God’s will, the best is yet to come. Part of me is clinging to him because he was unfortunately the best boyfriend I’ve had, and there is a part of me that is worried that was my last chance.

    Do you recommend any books or Bible devotions to jump start the process of growing deeper as a women of faith?

  4. Laurie,

    I really like your article about self love. I have struggled w/that for over 20 years and I cannot blame my mother, but I do know she is part of the cause. My husband believes that there is no such thing as hell. He says that everyone will pay back for all their sins here on earth until they die and the longer they live, the more sins they have to justify and be forgiven. Ironically, my mother is alone, in an elderly assisted living complex, hates it, and constantly calls me for company or to borrow money. When I was a teen/young adult, she treated me like crap. I was very close w/my grandparents because I just could not have a civilized conversation w/my mother, but I felt obligated to help her because she was a single parent. As a teen/young adult, I had a very hard time loving myself b/c my mother treated me so horribly. No matter how many mistakes she made, her opinion still mattered to me b/c it is my mother. Now I am married and I still struggle w/this b/c I constantly think I am being judged by my husband, like my mother always judged and criticized me, and I tend to speak when spoken to since that was how I was raised w/my mother, otherwise she always had a negative comment about my opinions. My husband is getting annoyed w/my ways b/c he wants me to talk more and be more open and stop worrying about what he will think and just be myself! Well, your article was very helpful, at least in my situation, so thank you so much!

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