Whenever I advocate for self-love or acceptance, I don’t mean just love and accept yourself as you are and never work for or strive for better. I mean that you should love yourself unconditionally.
Let me explain…
Unconditional Love looks like
Think about someone that you love unconditionally. I’m going to use my mother for my example. My love for my mom isn’t based on how much she earns, what her body looks like, how intelligent she is or sounds, what she does with her days, how productive she is, or what she gives me.
I love my mom no matter what.
Her value doesn’t increase or decrease based on a list of factors.
Unconditional love for my mom means that even if we fight, I will still love her. That even if she says something hurtful, I still love her. That even if she disappoints me, I still love her. Even if she lets herself down and it makes me sad, I still love her.
Love without conditions. Deep, real, comfortable, warm love. Not surface-level, conditional, achievement-based love.
Love with conditions looks like
On the other hand, love with conditions is more of what I show towards myself (sometimes). I base my self-worth on my productivity and accomplishments more than anything else, personally.
I feel happy with myself, proud of myself, and in love with myself on days (weeks, months, years) when I’ve done a lot. When my to-do list is fully ticked off. When I have done something big and bold and gone out of my comfort zone and achieved something new.
This is great. This makes sense. But…
That means that on days when I don’t achieve big, I love myself less. I beat myself up. I get angry or sad. I compare. I decrease my value. I say “I better get my shit together.”
Now flip that around. Imagine saying that to your mother (or whoever you chose as someone you love unconditionally).
Mom, you didn’t achieve anything big today, this week, this month, and so I love you less.
Mom, you’re such a loser.
Mom, I hate you, you’re stupid, fat, poor and weak.
Mom, you’re not as cool, smart, or attractive and successful as my friend’s moms.
Mom, I value you less, you have no worth to me right now.
Mom, you made a mistake and that makes me so angry that I love you less.
Mom, you better get your shit together if you want me to love you.
Putting it this way, makes me feel sick to my stomach. It makes me want to cry. I wouldn’t dare say that to my mom or even think it. It’s awful. It’s wrong.
It should be no different with ourselves. We have every right (and it’s natural) to want to be and do our best. There’s nothing wrong with self-improvement and personal development and growth. But you must, MUST, cultivate unconditional love for yourself as the foundations for this growth journey.
Unconditional self-love looks like
I know you didn’t get much done today, and that’s OK, we’ll figure out why together and try again another day. I love you.
I know that your friend started writing after you and has found financial and personal success in ways you have yet to, and that’s OK. We each have our own timelines, and everything you do is bringing you a tiny step closer. We can do this together, focus on yourself, OK? I love you.
I know you don’t feel like going to the gym today, is it a real reason or one that we can work on and move past in order to go? I love you, and so I think we should go or at least work out at home, OK?
I know you are tired and stressed, how about you take a break and organise yourself so that you can work on things from a better state of mind? I love you.
Practising Unconditional Self-love
Set boundaries and mantras
A boundary is deciding and holding to what is and isn’t OK for you. This is something you can set for yourself personally, or for other people.
For example, “I don’t drink alcohol at home” or “I don’t use my phone or watch TV in bed”
Having healthy boundaries in place will help you to make better decisions, keep to your values, protect yourself and your space, and ensure others respect you. Why does this help with unconditional self-love? Because it encourages you to get clear on what your values are, what your beliefs are, and what is and isn’t OK.
Having a boundary like “I will always do my best and failure or shortcomings don’t mean that I get to beat myself up” is powerful and is enforcing unconditional self-love.
Boundaries or mantras for self-love:
- I will end each day with gratitude and love for myself
- I will start each day with intention and authenticity
- I won’t let others determine my worth
- I won’t like accomplishments determine my worth
- After 6pm is me-time
Every now and then, journal on topics like:
- What I love about myself
- What makes me feel worthy
- Who makes me feel worthy
- What brings me joy
- Thoughts that serve me; thoughts that don’t
Use this information to strengthen your self-love. Use this time to work on any insecurities or habits and behaviours that chip away at your self-love and self-worth in order to fix them and rewrite them.
Sometimes we aren’t aware of the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that we are habitually doing which tear away our self-worth. Like how you speak to yourself when you have a poor (or nonexistent) gym session. Or how you stuff yourself with food after a bad week at work.
Being self-aware can help you to spot and recognise reoccurring habits, thoughts, feelings and situations. Then, once we’re aware of them, we can begin rethinking, challenging, fixing, and replacing where needed.
Hold your hands up to your choices and habits that are making your life harder. This isn’t about blame or beating yourself up, of course, this is about saying “I’ve been hating myself with my thoughts and choices and this is leading to my constant unhappiness.”
Be self-aware to notice that when I do XYZ, this leads me to XYZ, which makes me feel XYZ and then hold yourself accountable for this in order to bring the power back to yourself and make a change.
*Blame, self-hate and conditions sounds like, “I can’t believe you ate that cake slice, you fat pig! You always do this. You have no self-control. You’re a loser. You will always be fat and it’s your own fault. No one is going to love you this way.”
*Accountability sounds like, “I know that I shouldn’t have eaten that cake slice and so I will put a plan in place and take action to ensure I know when I should and shouldn’t have the cake in the future.”
Hold yourself accountable for your actions and your life, but don’t ever put conditions on how much you’re worth.
This is the big one. It is usually our inner voice that is shouting out negative thoughts like “you aren’t worthy unless you XYZ.” It makes you hustle for your worth, as Brene Brown says.
Silence, tackle or talk over this negative inner voice.
Mantras help. Journalling helps. But awareness is usually what it takes to make a change.
Comparison: conditional versus unconditional self-love
I have £3 in my bank account, I’m a loser. I have £3,000 in my bank account, I’m the best.
I wrote 500 words today, I’m a failure. I wrote 3 chapters today, I’m the greatest writer ever!
I didn’t write a blog post today, and that’s OK, I’m still worthy. I wrote 5 blog posts today, and that’s great, I’m still just as worthy
I read 1 page today, and that’s OK, I’m still worthy. I read 50 pages today, and that’s great, I’m still just as worthy
Your self-worth, your value, your love for yourself cannot and should not be on the conditions that:
- You looked attractive and was complimented today
- You got many things done today
- You worked out and ate healthy today
- You read enough today
- You made good money and used your money well today
- You landed a job, opportunity, client, or whatever else today
- You were seen, validated, and approved by others today
- OR ANYTHING ELSE
This is not a matter of blind acceptance, complacency, laziness, enabling bad things, or anything else.
This is saying to yourself, and truly frickin believing, that you should love yourself no matter what. On the good days and the bad days.
Just like you wouldn’t dare love your mother on conditions, don’t except, enable, or believe that for yourself.
You are worthy of unconditional love.
Digestible summary and mantra:
I love myself unconditionally, on a deep level, which means no matter how things go or what I do, I still recognise that I am worthy of love every day.