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Loving Yourself: Why It’s Important and How to Do It

By , 18, Contributor Originally Published: June 30, 2024 Revised: June 30, 2024

One of life’s most significant relationships is often overlooked: your relationship with yourself.

“Somebody’s relationship with themselves is incredibly nuanced,” says Lucy, 14, of Portland, OR. “I’ve always found it hard to practice self-love because I don’t always feel like I am worthy of it.”

Treating yourself with care and respect in terms of your physical, emotional and sexual health is a gift you deserve. But getting comfortable being you is not always easy. It’s an ongoing journey for most, and at times, it can feel impossible. But just like relationships with others can change and grow, you can do the same with yourself.

Try giving yourself time and space. Know that the grace you give others also applies to yourself. “The more forgiving you can be of others’ faults and failures, the gentler you will be toward yourself and the more doable self-love becomes,” says Ben, 18, of Reston, VA.

It’s hard work, but it’s worth it, and can have an impact on different parts of your life. Below are some ways that you can begin to show yourself some love.

Getting comfortable being you is not always easy. It’s an ongoing journey for most.

Caring for Your Mind and Body

Physically caring for yourself—by doing things like eating enough, drinking water and getting enough sleep—is one aspect of self-love. Eating regularly gives you energy to do what you love. Hydration keeps your organs working. Sleep enhances your focus, memory and learning (and  mood!).

Physical care can also mean exercising in a way you enjoy, which for me, looks like dancing or taking a walk. Sometimes it’s yoga, and sometimes it’s nothing at all, which is also OK! Taking breaks is just as important, as you deserve (and need) to rest.

Your emotional health is equally important. Understanding yourself better can come from identifying and processing your feelings, which can be hard work. This might mean seeking professional support.

I began therapy in my freshman year of high school, which truly changed my life. It helped me accept myself and learn that self-love takes time. Asking for help is a sign of strength. Reaching out to a friend, trusted adult or mental health professional is always an option.

Nurturing Your Relationships

Learning to maintain healthy relationships is another important part of self-love. Allison Cahill, my health teacher, taught me a lot about the importance of taking care of relationships, including being honest with ourselves. “Being able to be vulnerable and honest with ourselves is necessary so that we can be open and empathetic to others,” she explains.

Recognizing this helped me confront the fact that not every relationship in my life was healthy. Focusing on changing this was an act of self-love because I made sure I was treated with love and respect. Speaking up when something is wrong as well as owning up to my mistakes has been hard, but has led me to healthier relationships.

Considering Your Sexual Health

If you have had sex or plan to, prioritizing your health also means choosing safer sex. Figuring out how to communicate clearly with partners will likely also lead to better sexual relationships. “Caring for your sexual health supports a significant part of one’s identity,” explains Regina Schaefer, LCSW, a therapist who works with adolescents. “As you would seek information and understanding around your physical and emotional health, seeking knowledge and advocating for your sexual health is equally important.”

It’s important to get in touch with how you feel about sex. You can speak up and say no, or change your mind about something sexual (even if you’ve done it before). Communication is so important when it comes to sex. Knowing what you both want and need means checking in, talking and asking questions.

Safer sex—in terms of using protection and getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)—is also an important aspect of sexual health. Condoms and any other contraceptives are great options; condoms are the only contraceptive that prevents both STIs and unintended pregnancy.

It’s also important to take time to understand, explore and define your sexual identity, including your sexual orientation, in your own way.

Sex is meant to be a fun, expressive and comfortable experience, where you care for your partner and yourself. But learning to care for yourself and love who you are doesn’t always happen overnight.

Have Patience

“It can take decades to finally be OK with oneself,” says Cahill. “Be patient. Every person has worth and value. Own it. Cherish it. You deserve it.”

She’s right—you’re human, and just like everyone else, it’s OK to take time to figure it out.

Be gentle with yourself. Maybe reading this piece is a first step on a long stroll to the self-acceptance you deserve.

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