How to practice self-love (with this 14-minute self-care ritual) - The Self-Worth Experiment

How to practice self-love (with this 14-minute self-care ritual)

By Dr Berni Sewell | Love yourself

What's your self-worth score? TAKE THE TEST NOW!

Feb 01
How to practice self-love

Tell me.

Do you love yourself?

If your response to this question is “No” or “Uhmmm…” or a doubtful “Sometimes?” (usually accompanied by a knotting of the brows), answer me this.

Why not? Why can you not love yourself?

And that’s when your mind kicks in…

  • Because I am not perfect, not good enough, not attractive, fit, wealthy enough.
  • I am too old, too fat, too short, too lazy, stupid or selfish.
  • My parents neglected me, my friends rejected me, my partner left me.
  • I made too many mistakes, failed too many times, hurt too many people.
  • Because I feel guilty for letting others down, am ashamed and disappointed with myself.
  • Because I am single, lonely, behind in my career.
  • I suffer from anxiety, depression or health issues.
  • Because I am worthless and don’t deserve to be loved.

So many reasons to hate yourself.

But are your past mistakes really reason enough to abstain from self-love? After all, you are a different person now. You grew, evolved, make better choices. 

And wouldn’t you look past other people’s flaws and shortcomings and still love them regardless? So why can’t you extend the same courtesy to yourself?

Even if nobody in this world loved you or cared for you (which is highly unlikely, by the way, no matter what your mind may tell you), wouldn’t this just be more reason to love yourself? Everybody needs love, right?

So, what’s the real reason why self-love is such a struggle for you?

The true reason why you can’t love yourself

Imagine, you wanted to play the piano.

So, you sit down, with a concerto composed by Liszt and you start playing. But you never played before and your fingers can’t bend into the required positions. The sheet music looks like hieroglyphs. And the whole thing is an ear-numbing disaster.

And, helpful as always, your mind is quick to offer reasons for your fiasco

Your hands may be too short, or your fingers too stubby. Maybe the piano is faulty, or the piece of music is impossible to play. Or, most likely, you are just a hopeless loser. Incapable of ever getting anything right.

So, you quit. 

Convinced that you are a failure, you beat yourself up for your incompetence. Determined never to touch another piano again. To avoid the shame, disappointment and embarrassment.

But wait, I hear you say.

You can’t just expect to know how to play the piano if you never learned it. You have to start with “Three blind mice” and work your way up. It takes years of consistent practice and repetition to be able to play like a pro.

And you are right, of course.

If you want to be good at something, you have to keep practicing it. This applies to every new skill from playing an instrument, to riding a bike, driving a car or perfecting a yoga pose.

And self-love is no exception. We have to practice self-love.

Yet, for some odd reason, we think we should be instant self-love pros. And when we aren’t, when our first attempts flop, we start to believe that we are impossible to love. 

When the truth is that we just never learned how to love ourselves.

The disastrous lie about self-love we mistake for the truth

As babies, we instinctively know how to love ourselves. We are born with all the required skills for self-love.

But over the years, we start to neglect this crucial ability. We no longer practice self-love on a regular basis. Because we become too busy learning how to fit into society. And, like with any other skill, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Until, at some point, we can’t even remember that we were ever able to love ourselves.

We begin to believe that we only deserve love once we fulfil a strict set of criteria. Once we achieved certain milestones and are no longer worthless

I will be able to love myself when I have a better job, earn more money, get a qualification. 

I will deserve my own love when I lose weight, find the perfect relationship, correct my mistakes.

The list goes on.

But, let’s be honest. Do you think you will ever be able to reach the standards required?

No, me neither.

Not because you aren’t good enough. But because the criteria are unattainable nonsense. Fictitious poppycock that keeps us stuck in self-condemnation and misery. 

We accepted them as our truth.

But, ultimately, they are irrelevant. Fulfilling random criteria will not increase our ability for self-love.

Because the only thing that will ever be able to help you love yourself is to practice self-love. Every day.

The only way you will ever learn to love yourself

I know you believe that you can’t love yourself. I know you tried before. And you failed.

Now you blame yourself. You beat yourself up. Feel worthless.

But chances are that you never really learned how to practice self-love.

Yes, you dabbled. Tried a few techniques now and then. Attempted some affirmations here and there. Maybe you journaled or meditated for a couple of weeks.

But you quickly felt down-hearted. You didn’t see much progress. Which confirmed your belief that you are irredeemably unlovable. 

And you gave up. Resigning yourself to a loveless existence of self-condemnation.

The thing is though, that you can’t just sit down once every few days to practice your Liszt sonata and expect to play it perfectly within a month. 

It doesn’t work like this.

You have to get the basics right first. Study the notes, get familiar with the keys. Learn the chords until they become second nature. After that, you put them together. Connect the notes and chords to a song.

And then you practice. Practice. And practice some more. For however long it takes.

The same applies if you want to learn self-love.

So, let’s start with the basics.

How to practice self-love Part 1: Getting the basics right

 Self-love is your desired outcome. Your Liszt sonata. 

And your ability to play that song, to love yourself, depends on seven prerequisites. Seven pillars of self-love:

  1. 1
    Self-worth
  2. 2
    Positivity
  3. 3
    Protection
  4. 4
    An open heart
  5. 5
    Forgiveness
  6. 6
    Self-compassion
  7. 7
    Embracing your infinite nature

These seven basics, when put together and practiced regularly, will combine into a beautiful end result.

Unconditional self-love.

So, let’s get familiar with them. One at a time.

Self-love pillar #1: Self-worth

Healthy self-worth is the #1 prerequisite for self-love. It’s tough to try and love yourself if you, deep down, believe that you are worthless.

Like with self-love, we make our sense of worthiness dependent on how well we fulfil pre-defined criteria. If we are attractive, successful, wealthy, perfect, we have worth. 

If not, bad luck.

But again, the conditions we put on a worthy existence are society-imposed, arbitrary nonsense. And they are irrelevant.

Because we don’t need to have, earn or gain worth.

We ARE worth. Personified.

Worth is the essence of our Being. An inherent part of our true Self. Worth is who we are, not what we have. As such, we can never be worthless. Or worth less than others.

And what we accomplish, achieve or accumulate makes no difference to our worth. Nor do our failures, mistakes and shortcomings.

Once we realise this, we are on the way to healthy self-worth. To the awareness that infinite worth is within us. 

So, repeat after me: “I AM worth.”

If you would like some help on your journey to realising your true worth, you can sign up to the free “Healthy Self-Worth Starter Kit”. It’s the first, and most important, step to self-love.

Self-love pillar #2: Positivity

For reasons originating in the evolution of our species, the human mind is hardwired for negativity.

And, especially when our self-worth is low and we believe that we are worthless, this negativity extends to ourselves. 

We struggle to find anything good about ourselves. Only focussing on our flaws, mistakes and shortcomings. Unwilling to even believe the compliments other people may pay us.

This self-negativity quickly becomes a habit that sabotages your ability to love yourself.

So, when you practice self-love, learning to be positive about yourself is essential.

Every day, be mindful of how you talk to yourself. Recognise the negativity you hold against yourself. And reply to every self-condemnation with a compliment (no matter how small):

“How could you muck this up? You stupid idiot! You’re good for nothing.” Stop. Recognise the negativity, pause, breathe, counter: “But you did really well with the dishes today. Your hair looks really nice. And you ARE worth.”

Just for example. You get the gist.

Self-love pillar #3: Protection

Most of us are terrible at setting boundaries. We are notorious people-pleasers, desperate to become worthy of love through constant service and self-sacrifice.

We feel guilty when we say “no” to others. Even if saying “yes” means neglecting, torturing or draining ourselves.

We no longer know how to get me-time, how to not be stressed and rush around. We have no time to just rest and enjoy the moment. Or to practice self-love.

But it’s unnecessary. 

We deserve love, here and now. No need to kill ourselves in the futile attempt to prove our worthiness. We ARE worth.

And an important part of self-love is to learn how to prioritise ourselves. Sure, it’s imperative to be kind, compassionate and helpful to others. But it’s never selfish to satisfy our own needs. And it’s vital to have boundaries.

And this doesn't only apply to other people and their demands, it also relates to their energies. 

Have you ever felt fine and then interacted with someone who was surrounded by a cloud of negativity? And suddenly you were angry, fed up or felt down? And you had no idea where these emotions had come from?

That’s because they weren’t your feelings. They were the other person’s energies invading your own energy body. Making you feel like the other person felt.

Which can only happen because you have no defences. So, make sure, that you power up your shields every morning. Put full power to the shields when you interact with others. And generally keep them up throughout the day to only allow positive energies to enter your space.

Power Up Your Shields

We can't always avoid the proximity of negative people. But we can protect ourselves using a force field (yes, like in Star Trek!).

Just imagine an invisible energy field that envelops your whole body and only allows positive energy to permeate while blocking all negativity. I agree this sounds geeky, but it works. 

So, full power to the shields!

Self-love pillar #4: An open heart

We’ve all experienced rejection, betrayal and heartache.

And the natural reaction to any such pain is to close our heart. To shut our most vulnerable core off from the world. So, nobody can hurt us ever again.

But, while closing our heart is an automatic response, it leaves us isolated, in darkness. It makes us prone to depression. And cuts us off from other people’s love.

And our own.

So, it’s essential that we counteract it. We must open our heart. Every day. 

To allow in light, joy. And make room for self-love.

"Open Your Heart" Visualisation

  • 1
    Sit or lie down comfortably. Avoid crossing your arms or legs (it impedes the energy flow).
  • 2
    Now, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Relax your body as good as you can.
  • 3
    Focus on your heart centre in the middle of your chest. How does it feel? Tight, choked, tense? Do you experience any pressure? 
  • 4
    Now imagine your heart centre as a house, with all shutters, curtains and blackout blinds closed. Maybe the windows are boarded up. Maybe it’s too dark to see.
  • 5
    Affirm: “I am safe. All is well.”
  • 6
    You don’t need to protect yourself from the world. You are strong, capable, deserving of love. Closing your heart only hurts you. Before today, you didn’t know you were doing it. But you can now choose to open up.
  • 7
    Visualise that you open the blinds and shutters, take a hammer to the wooden boards, drill through metal plates. Do whatever you must to let the light in. Enjoy the warmth of the sun streaming through the glass, energising, revitalising you. Next, open all the windows. Let fresh air in. Let the clean breeze wash away all negativity and despondency. Take deep breaths. Inhaling life, hope and love for as long as you want.

Self-love pillar #5: Forgiveness

Low self-worth tricks us into believing that we aren’t good enough. That we are doomed to a worthless existence. When all we really want is to have worth. 

So, we blame ourselves. We hate our imperfections. Detest all those faults and failures that cost us valuable worth points.

We beat ourselves up for being behind in our career compared to others. For not being as successful, slim or popular. For being worth less.

And we resent ourselves for our past behaviour, actions or mistakes that diminish our worth in society’s (and our own) eyes.

But resentment corrodes love. It’s almost impossible to love someone who you deeply resent. That’s especially true when it’s yourself.

And the only way out of resentment is forgiveness.

You can stop right now to resent yourself for not meeting society’s imaginary criteria. Success, wealth, fame, possessions, beauty are nothing more than the Emperor’s new clothes. Desperate attempts to cover up our inherent worthlessness. Which was a lie to begin with.

You ARE worth. You are good enough. You are ok.

Just the way you are. And it is time to forgive yourself. 

So, make forgiveness part of your regular self-love ritual. Because you deserve your own love.

Self-Forgiveness Visualisation

  • 1
    Sit or lie down comfortably. Avoid crossing your arms or legs (it impedes the energy flow).
  • 2
    Now, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Relax your body as good as you can.
  • 3
    Visualise yourself standing in front of yourself as a small child. Innocent, vulnerable, alone.
  • 4
    Look at yourself and explore what you feel. Is there disappointment, regret, anger?
  • 5
    Take a deep breath and say: “I forgive you. You are doing your best. I am here to support you. You ARE worth. And I love you.”
  • 6
    You may need several attempts at this and there may be tears. Don’t worry about it. It happens to everybody. Just keep trying. Be patient. If you can’t say it today, attempt it again tomorrow. If you cannot bring yourself to say the words, hug your child. Give it some love in any way you can.
  • 7
    Once you can forgive yourself as a child, move on to forgiving yourself as a teenager, a grown-up throughout the different stages of your life and the person you are now. Or work on forgiving yourself for particular mistakes.
  • 8
    Take your time. Only do a few minutes at a time. And always remember: you deserve forgiveness. Especially your own.

Self-love pillar #6: Self-compassion

You could argue that compassion is a result of love, not a prerequisite for it. 

But you don’t have to love someone to show understanding for their situation. You can even feel compassion for your enemies (and, in fact, it is healthy to do just that).

The thing is though that self-compassion, showing kindness, understanding and patience towards oneself, nurtures self-respect. And it is easier to love someone we respect than someone we disdain.

Yet, we are far more likely to be kind and patient to others than to ourselves. 

Because we believe that we are so inferior compared to others that we must push ourselves harder than anybody else to even have a chance to be worth the same. As such, we can’t allow ourselves to slack, we can’t afford sympathy.

We think we have to lash ourselves onwards, without consideration for our needs. Punish ourselves without mercy. 

We believe we don’t deserve kindness.

But you now know that’s not true. You know that you ARE worth.

And, let’s be honest, if anybody else talked to you like you talk to yourself sometimes, or treat you like you treat yourself, you would be outraged.

So, start with compassion now.

Self-Compassion Meditation

  • 1
    Sit or lie down comfortably. Avoid crossing your arms or legs (it impedes the energy flow).
  • 2
    Now, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Relax your body as good as you can.
  • 3
    Focus your attention on your heart. Feel inside and ask to see your inner child. Your inner child is the most vulnerable part of you. The creative, sensitive bit of your soul that you mistreated for years. 
  • 4
    Be patient. Especially if your inner child has not experienced much compassion from you, it may be hurt, scared or depressed, It can take a while until it shows itself to you. 
  • 5
    Even if you can’t make contact straight away, talk to it like you would talk to an upset or anxious toddler. Treat it as if it was the person you love most in this world. Ask for forgiveness, tell your inner child that you love it. Make it feel comfortable and cared for. Once it interacts with you (this may take a few sessions depending on the extent of dysfunction in your relationship), listen to its concerns, comfort it and support its ideas.
  • 6
    Try to visit your inner child regularly as part of your daily self-love ritual to repair the relationship, gain trust. And develop compassion, understanding and patience. With yourself.

Self-love pillar #7: Embracing your infinite nature

As a society, we tend to believe that we are confined to our limited physical body, separated from everything and everybody else. So, we feel small, powerless. And isolated.

We struggle to love our irrelevant selves. Terrified of the vast, horrible world that “little me” faces alone. With our heart torn apart by the pain of lonesomeness.

When the truth is that our energy body and consciousness, like our worth, are infinite.

With a bit of practice and guidance, we can expand them to the size of the Universe. Which not only eliminates the crushing feeling of smallness, but also helps to feel empowered and connected. All of which goes a long way to developing self-love and alleviating anxiety and loneliness.

You are not small. No matter where you are and what you are doing, your life is not meaningless. And you are not alone.

You just need to stop focussing on your limitations. And start discovering your greatness.

Expand Your Consciousness Meditation

  • 1
    Sit or lie down comfortably. Avoid crossing your arms or legs (it impedes the energy flow).
  • 2
    Now, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Relax your body as good as you can.
  • 3
    Imagine a ball of light illuminating your heart. It dissolves negativity, transforms pain into love. Allow the light to cleanse, heal and comfort you.
  • 4
    Take a deep breath. As you exhale, expand the light. Grow the sphere until it envelops your entire Self. Visualise your light surrounding you.  
  • 5
    With your next exhalation, expand your light to the size of the room you’re in. It is safe to grow. Safe to be more.
  • 6
    With every new exhalation, further expand your light. To the size of your house, the size of your town, the size of the country you live in, the size of the planet. Until you expand your light past the moon, past the sun. Until you are the centre of your solar system and your light fills the entire Universe.
  • 7
    You are an infinite Being. Your life is boundless, your worth limitless. You can cope with life. You can handle your emotions and fears. They are tiny, irrelevant compared to the significance of your soul.
  • 8
    You are greatness. You are love, peace and joy. You are worth. And you deserve your own love.

If you prefer to listen to the guided meditations for your self-love practice, you can purchase my "Expand Your Consciousness" guided meditation for only $9 and add the "Heal Your Inner Child" guided meditation for only $5. They are specifically designed to guide you gently through the processes described above without the need to memorise it all.

How to practice self-love

How to practice self-love Part 2: Putting the pieces together

I know what you’re thinking.

Too much information!

If you have to do all of these things every day, you might as well quit your job now. Who has the time, right?

But it’s crucial to be familiar with all the basic pieces before you put them together into a daily ritual to practice self-love.

You won’t use all these pieces every time, like you won’t use all chords and notes every time you play the piano. But you still need to know them all.

So, become familiar with the seven exercises. Practice all pillars of self-love at least two or three times. Do it in your own time, whenever you get a minute (discover how to carve out enough me-time here, in case you struggle).

And then combine the exercises in a way that suits you, your life and your daily schedule. Mix, match, rearrange. Make it work for you. Compose your very own song.

Or use the sheet music I provide for you.

A daily, 14-minute self-care ritual to practice self-love

Below you find the self-love routine I recommend you start with. 

Once you feel comfortable with the individual parts, you can develop your own ritual. Leave parts out, add new things. Whatever your heart desires and your soul requires.

Your daily self-love practice plan

Spread the love bites throughout the day. Whenever you think of them or need them.

And take at least 14 minutes to practice self-love as part of the ritual. Make yourself comfortable, whether it's sitting or lying down.

Start by opening your heart. Forgive yourself for at least one shortcoming or mistake. And do either the self-compassion of expansion meditation.

And that's it.

Of course, you can do more and spend as much time as feels comfortable with this practice. But don't force it.

How to practice self-love Part 3: Keep going

I know you want to love yourself. 

But wanting it is not enough. You can want to be a pianist. But you still need to practice to make this wish a reality.

You think self-love should come naturally. You believe that it would be easy to love yourself if only you were a better person. More worthy, more successful and popular. 

So, you try to fix yourself to be deserving of your own love. And expect self-love to appear. 

Just like that. 

But it doesn’t happen. And you assume that you still aren’t good enough. It’s an endless, unproductive cycle that will never end in you loving yourself.

Because there are no prerequisites for self-love. No criteria that need to be fulfilled so you can love yourself.

Self-love is a skill. And, like any skill, you need to practice it.

With patience, persistence and consistency. Until you are good at it. Until you rock the socks off loving, respecting and appreciating yourself.

So, forget all your imperfections, mistakes and rejections. Disregard the reasons why you don’t deserve your own love. Because they are mere excuses for not practicing.

Self-love is a skill. And a choice.

You can choose to start practising self-love, right here and now. And with every passing day, your self-love skills will grow.

You see, every being in this Universe deserves love. And you are no exception.

But it is your choice.

You can decide to be unworthy. To blame yourself for the struggles in your life, ashamed of who you are

Or you choose to practice self-love. To take action and invest a few minutes a day into your relationship with yourself.

It’s up to you.

But if you choose to practice, you will soon see that self-love is inevitable.