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A realistic guide to authentic self-love

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Summary: It’s said that self-love is the key to happiness. What’s the secret to getting there? Here’s an ultimate guide to starting a lifelong romance with yourself.

Love makes the world go ‘round,” so the saying goes. More often than not, it’s associated with romance, passion, and grand gestures to the person who makes our hearts go a-thumpin’. Little do we realize that for the world to truly go ‘round, love begins with oneself (or it should, anyway).

The truth is, self-love is the cornerstone of all things good in this life. It’s the foundation of the different aspects of the self—awareness, acceptance, care, compassion, trust, esteem, empowerment, respect, pleasure, and expression. And it’s essential to truly connect with who you really are.

Take Eat, Pray, Love, for instance. Elizabeth Gilbert embarks on a journey to find something to believe in and be passionate about, including herself. As she writes in the book, “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort.

Sure, having the adoration of others is quite an amazing feeling. But when you love yourself unconditionally? Now that’s power.

What is self-love?

As the name suggests, self-love is your full appreciation for yourself. It stems from how you care for yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually. And it leads to feeling worthy, inner peace, and happiness.

There are various “self” components that serve as pillars of self-love. The main ones include:

  • Self-awareness. Your ability to be conscious of your actions, thoughts, and emotions. You use it as a foundation to align your perspective with your values and not sacrifice your well-being to please others.
  • Self-honesty. It’s about being real and authentic. You always act, think, and speak per your beliefs, regardless of the unpleasantness or inconvenience.
  • Self-compassion. You’re accepting, kind, and forgiving of yourself. Turning this love inward can be a powerful tool for emotional resilience.
  • Self-trust. You have a strong enough relationship with yourself to manage your inner critic and not settle for less than you deserve. And by doing so, you stay consistently true to yourself.
  • Self-esteem. It takes a certain level of self-respect to have high regard for your own well-being and happiness. But you’re confident in your abilities, and you value your worth. 

Due to our individual uniqueness, it can mean something different from one person to the next. So figuring out what self-love looks like for you is an integral part of your mind, body, and soul.

What is radical self-love?

While self-love is finding ways to appreciate yourself, radical self-love takes it a notch higher. It’s not something you achieve; rather, it’s inherent and enables you access to your highest self.

The word “radical” itself means “affecting the fundamental nature of something,” according to Google Dictionary. So in the sense of love, it shakes up the core beliefs that the culturescape has taught you, opening you up to your authenticity.

Almost all the bad things that we do to other people are because we don’t truly love ourselves,” explains Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, co-founder of Mindvalley and trainer of the Live By Your Own Rules Quest. “If we truly love and accept ourselves, we don’t need to prove anything to anyone.

So it’s not about the desperate need to be better or more deserving than others, nor is it being selfish or vain. And it’s definitely not the exaggerated sense of importance that stems from egoism and classic narcissism.

Instead, radical self-love is the ultimate commitment to getting to know and accepting yourself as you are, experiencing life as it happens to you fully, and seeking ways to grow from these experiences.

Man meditating in a park as one of the self-love techniques

Why is self-love important?

There’s a certain sweetness that comes with loving yourself. Because you understand the importance of nurturing your well-being, you may find yourself moving through the world with a deeper sense of joy, pleasure, as well as compassion for others.

Only when you know what you are, you are capable of moving towards what you want to become.

— Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, co-founder of Mindvalley and trainer of the Live By Your Own Rules Quest

Unfortunately, according to The Self Love Index, a unique global study by The Body Shop, there seems to be a dilemma with putting oneself above others. It found that nearly one in two people worldwide are more doubtful about themselves than loving themselves.

It seems that social media plays a huge role in this dilemma. The study found that those who are on social media more frequently have lower levels of self-love than those who aren’t, chalking it up to influencers, celebrities, and models as one of the largest contributors to this problem.

Thankfully, there’s an upside to the findings: those with high self-love are…

  • More likely to bounce back quickly after hard times.
  • Less emotionally impacted by global disasters, like the pandemic.
  • More likely to get emotional support from family and friends.

There is plenty of research that backs up the importance of loving oneself. One study, in particular, looked into how self-love and self-esteem affect the brain. 

The results suggest that when one feels they’re not good enough, it contributes to reduced gray matter (the brain region that enables control of movement, memory, and emotions). Though it may have to be in an extreme or prolonged case of low self-esteem, a decline in gray matter can possibly lead to motor function issues and loss of cognitive function.

So cultivating self-love as part of your nature is beneficial to your overall well-being. Serving as your fuel and foundation, you’ll be able to build greater resilience and know that at any given moment of adversity, it, too, shall pass.

How to find self-love: 3 important steps to your authenticity

Life happens, and finding reasons to love yourself can sometimes be challenging. It’s a journey, of course. Not a destination. 

And while you don’t have to visit Italy, India, and Indonesia as Elizabeth Gilbert did in Eat, Pray, Love, the love for yourself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.

Before diving into self-love rituals, here are three important steps to take:

1. Identify what’s holding you back

It’s called “facing the dragon”—the name Kristina gave this exercise to symbolize facing your fears and imperfections. It simply means identifying the happiness myths that are holding you back from stepping into your most authentic self.

It could be your negative inner voice—the beliefs and values that no longer serve your highest good, or the masks you wear so that you “fit in” and aren’t judged. 

You are your own critic,” reminds Kristina. “No one is going to judge you or criticize you.

Granted, “facing the dragon” may be challenging to do so, but it’s the most crucial. 

2. Acknowledge what’s holding you back

While identifying “the dragon” helps to highlight your blockers, it’s only the first step. Now, it’s time to acknowledge it by “naming the dragon.” This allows you to disassociate yourself from it.

A great example of this, specifically about your inner critic, comes from psychologist Christa Smith. In an article in Psychology Today, she writes, “When you name your critic, it loses some of its power because you are acknowledging that you are not the problem. You don’t need to be fixed. The real problem is that you believe everything the critic is telling you.

It takes some shadow work, but it’ll help you discard the demeaning thoughts and behaviors and direct your mind and actions to positive ones instead.

3. Draw power from your “imperfections”

Chances are, you’ve compared yourself with others—that person has prettier hair, a nicer body, a smarter brain, a nicer car, a better job, and what have you. And, as Kristina points out, you’ll certainly discover yourself inadequate when you start comparing yourself facet to facet.

Fret not, for we’re all guilty of it. Because perfection always seems to be the ultimate goal. However, the reality is, none of us are. 

We’re filled with imperfections. And that’s okay.

Those faults and those imperfections are exactly the things that make you beautiful,” says Kristina. And when you accept yourself completely, viewing those “imperfections” as gifts, then you’ll transform into the wholeness of your being.

And that’s authentic self-love.

How to practice self-love: 5 techniques to transform your life

Rumi once said, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

The love we have for ourselves is innate. However, society continuously finds ways to tell us we’re less than we truly are—we’re not pretty enough, smart enough, successful enough…the list goes on.

So what can you do to rise above the noise? Here are five self-love techniques you can use to get you going.

1. Mind your inner voice

The mind is always operating from a place of duality, so to feel inferior or superior is normal. 

Become aware and conscious of how you treat yourself in your own mind. Pay attention to your self-talk and how it makes you feel. Discard the demeaning thoughts and direct your mind and actions to positive behaviors.

Try affirmations: Interrupt your inner critic with affirmations for self-love, like “I am worthy” and “I am enough.” It can help your subconscious deliver messages of compassion and empowerment when you aren’t even thinking about it.

Get started today with 20 positive affirmations you can use to inspire your life.

2. Clear your mind

Observe and understand your current beliefs and values and the real motivations behind them (make sure you don’t carry other people’s beliefs and values). If your beliefs and values are not serving your highest good, question why you’re holding onto them.

Try meditation: Since your happiness co-depends on experiencing inner peace, incorporate any form of meditation into your daily life. Gradually reduce and eliminate your negative, disturbed states of mind and replace them with positive, peaceful states.

Get started today with Mindvalley’s Inner Smile Meditation for Self-Love and Peace.

3. Invest in self-care

Nourish yourself daily with self-love routines, like good nutrition, exercise, proper sleep, intimacy, and healthy social interactions. When you fuel and take care of your body properly, you’ll have optimum energy and vitality, which builds upon self-esteem. 

Self-esteem and self-love go hand in hand, and participating in things you’re good at will boost endorphins and bring out the best version of yourself.

Try journaling your gratitude: Writing down what you’re grateful for on a daily basis forces you to pay attention to the good things that you’d otherwise take for granted. Keeping a gratitude journal practice has plenty of benefits, including finding beauty in the moments, mood improvement, and lower stress levels.

4. Set boundaries

Identify what is and isn’t good for you, and gain the clarity you need to understand what you will and will not accept in your life. Don’t ever tolerate being treated like a doormat. 

Bring the right people who reflect your self-respect and reputation into your life. Live intentionally with purpose and design.

Try effective communication: As the speaker, it’s your responsibility to ensure you deliver the message in a way your listener understands. And when you’re clear about your boundaries, others will understand when to draw the line and adjust their behavior accordingly.

5. Explore your spirituality

Faith is the foundation for self-love, no matter what religion or system you believe in. Believing in something opens up your soul to the beauty of belief and trust itself. 

Exploring your spirituality will take you on a journey to learning things about yourself, and those new thoughts, feelings, passions, and raw emotions will help you appreciate yourself for being authentically you. This will enhance your intuition and help you make decisions based on your gut.

Try shadow work: This technique helps you become aware of all the things you’ve pushed down into your unconscious mind, like parts of your personality that you may see as troublesome. By practicing shadow work, you’ll be able to build a foundation to connect with your authentic self.

Get started today with our A go-to guide on how to do shadow work.

Self-love insights from experts on The Mindvalley Show

Self-love is one of the most popular topics often covered by experts on The Mindvalley Podcast. Here’s a list of episodes that can help you gain insight into your own journey.

1. Kamal Ravikant on how to love yourself

Kamal Ravikant is no ordinary venture capitalist. He’s also famously known as the author of Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It

This podcast episode is about the unique story of his path into entrepreneurship. Among the plenty of knowledge nuggets he drops throughout the talk, he also shares this amazing bit-sized wisdom:

  • The one consistent pattern of happy and successful people
  • Four keys to a fulfilling life
  • Why gratitude changes everything

The takeaway? It’s this: if you put your heart into everything you do, the world has an incredible ability to give you back so much more.

2. Sarah Pendrick on how to get rid of self-doubt

As the founder of GirlTalk Network, the women’s empowerment and lifestyle brand, Sarah Pendrick is no stranger to embracing who she’s meant to be. In fact, that’s the basis of the network—to help women shine their brightest, share their gifts, and live a passionate, purpose-driven life.

To get there, it takes some self-love. In this episode of Selling With Love (formerly known as Superhumans at Work by Mindvalley), Sarah sits down with host Jason Marc Campbell to talk about:

  • Ways you can change your expectations
  • How to start dealing with self-doubt
  • Techniques to have more self-love and be more self-aware

The lesson here is that you matter. And loving yourself is the first step to embodying your true power.

3. Lisa Nichols on the importance of self-love and its impact on our lives

One of the most equipped people to talk about self-love is Lisa Nichols, trainer of Mindvalley’s Speak and Inspire Quest. Her personal transformation from struggling single mom to CEO of Motivating the Masses is a story of “if I can do it, you can do it, too.”

In this episode, motivational speaker Lisa Nichols will show you:

  • The reason why relationships, even professional ones, are strained
  • Why you need to find out what you are committed to
  • The importance of falling in love with yourself

What you’ll take home is how to stop serving and loving from a place of lack and start doing so from your overflow.

4. Shadé Zahrai on the truth about self-love

You’d be surprised at how many people believe that self-love is the authority to be selfish. But what if you decided to define it differently instead? 

Self-mastery expert Shadé Zahrai shares a better definition of self-love, and her version is the antidote to imposter syndrome, the secret culprit that holds many people back. Here’s what to listen out for:

  • The definition of self-efficacy
  • The difference between self-love and self-esteem
  • The true definition of imposter syndrome and how to overcome it

This episode may be short, but it can help you become the master of your confidence and, ultimately, how you love yourself.

5. Tara Emad on bullying, self-belief, and making the world a better place

Bullying is something celebrities, like Egyptian actress and model Tara Emad, are all too familiar with. It’s incredibly detrimental to a person’s well-being and consequently affects their self-love.

This episode is dedicated to just that. Tara highlights her experiences of being bullied, what bullying is and why it happens, and its effects on people’s psyches. Here’s what you’ll find:

  • Routines you can follow to stay mentally and physically healthy
  • The secret to staying calm when a lot is expected from you
  • The key to self-confidence and self-love

While Tara’s talk is geared toward women and how they can help change the world, for men, there is tons of great wisdom that may help you or the women in your life.

Great change starts with self-love

Loving yourself is one of the best things you can do for yourself, if not the best. That divine relationship you build with yourself can help improve every single aspect of your life.

As with any kind of transformation, the journey of self-love begins with a single step. For Elizabeth Gilbert, it began with Italy. But for you, it can begin with Mindvalley.

Here, you can learn from incredible teachers and experts, like Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani. With their guidance, you’ll be able to find kindness, patience, gentleness, and compassion so that you can give yourself the love that you so unconditionally give to others.

As Kristina says, “There is no such thing as too much love for yourself.” So it’s time you let embrace all the goodness that is you. 

Welcome in.

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Written by

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. She brings a wealth of experience in writing and storytelling to her work, honed through her background in journalism. Drawing on her years in spa and wellness and having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Picture of Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. She brings a wealth of experience in writing and storytelling to her work, honed through her background in journalism. Drawing on her years in spa and wellness and having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Kristina Mand-Lakhiani, co-founder of Mindvalley
Expertise by

Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani is a co-founder of Mindvalley.

Born and raised in Estonia, she started her career in government before moving to non-profit roles with organizations like the UN and Oxfam. Shifting to entrepreneurship, Kristina founded Mindvalley Russian and has co-created courses for the transformational platform that fuses wisdom and personal growth.

She was recognized as one of the top 10 influential people online making a difference in the world today and was awarded the Influencers for Change (IFC) by the Global Impact Creators (GIC).

Kristina’s journey has been marked by a commitment to living authentically, overcoming perfectionism, and embracing a philosophy of self-love and authenticity.

She now inspires others through her best-selling book, Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life; her Live By Your Own Rules, 7 Days to Happiness, and From Awesome to Flawesome quests on Mindvalley; and her latest passion project, the Mindvalley Book Club.

How we reviewed this article
Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.


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Fact-Checking: Our Process

Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. 

We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. 

The Mindvalley fact-checking guidelines are based on:

To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.