“Don’t forget to fall in love with yourself first.” Carrie Bradshaw said it, and if the words came from her, then they must be true.
Still, at first it sounds ridiculous. We usually think of falling in love as a process specific to dating, but in reality, we fall in love in so many different ways and with so many different things. We fall in love with people, places, literature, art, and even states of mind. There is no wrong way to love, other than to not love at all. The problem becomes our own familiarity with ourselves. We often become so complacent that we see ourselves as being plain, and are unable to see what others see when they look at us.
Falling in love is something that many women dream about from a young age, and while there’s nothing wrong with loving love, it doesn’t make you selfish to want to spend some time on you. It’s important that we never get so wrapped up in loving each other that we forget to love ourselves first. Spend time with yourself. Learn to appreciate yourself the same way you would appreciate your loved ones. Learn to embrace your quirks, because they’re what make you you. Learn to see the beauty in your birthmarks. Learn to enjoy time spent with your own thoughts, rather than shying away from them.
Loving yourself can range from learning about your needs and how to meet them, to acknowledging your value and self worth, to embracing everything about yourself, the good and the bad. But none of it is bad, it just is. Here are some ways to start your journey to a loving relationship—with yourself.
1. Start a journal. No one’s saying you have to pen the next great novel, but one of the best ways to get to know yourself is writing down your thoughts. Even if you only write a few sentences a day, you never know what you might learn about yourself.
2. Give yourself a compliment. Or two. Or three. Get in the habit of acknowledging the good things about yourself as you notice them.
3. Go to the movies—alone. How much talking do you do during a movie anyway? Treat yourself to a date. Whether it’s a deep and soulful experience or just a night off from your hectic life, we all deserve a break sometimes, and there is no greater company than you.
4. Take yourself out to dinner. There’s no law written that you can’t eat out at a restaurant without a date or a friend glued to your side. Bring along your favorite book and order your favorite meal.
5. Volunteer. Giving back not only helps others—it can also help you. Find a cause that interests you and get involved.
6. Get lost in a bookstore. We’ve all seen those cute used bookstores that seem to be exploding with material. Wander in one day and browse. Get lost in the store, or in the books themselves.
7. Binge watch your favorite movies. Romantic or comedic, take a day to sit down with yourself and binge watch your top three or five movies.
8. Make a vision board. What do you want out of life? What are your goals? Grab the stack of old magazines from your living room and a pair of scissors and cut out anything that you feel represents you or your aspirations. Glue them on a poster board and put it on your wall. Use it to remind yourself that your goals are within your reach and that you are worthy of your aspirations.
9. Learn more about something you have an interest in. Remember that psychology class you took for one of your core credits during your freshman year of college? It’s not too late to learn more if it interests you. Rent a book from the library or find some material online.
10. Go for a hike. Not the hiking type? No problem. A walk around your neighborhood will do the trick. Get outside, breathe in the fresh air, take a look around at the world around you and think about how you fit into it.
11. Take a long bath. Light a few candles, turn on some relaxing music, and let go of your stress and conflicts as you soak.
12. Go for a drive. It’s a cliché for a reason. Get in your car, turn up the music, and drive for a few miles to clear your mind.
13. Examine your idols. You probably have a lot more in common with them than you think. Do your research. Think about why you admire them. Then think about why others might admire you.
14. Splurge a little. You know that perfect pair of jeans you’ve been dreaming about? Treat yourself. Irresponsible spending won’t help you love yourself, but it’s OK to occasionally remind yourself that you deserve to give gifts to you.
15. Travel. It doesn’t have to be far, but visit somewhere you have never visited before. Throw compromise out the window and travel alone so you can see exactly what you want to see.
Whatever you choose to do, the most important step to falling in love with yourself is learning to appreciate and accept yourself. As Wayne Dyer said, “You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” But loving yourself isn’t all about spending all of your time alone. It’s about finding the confidence inside to love all of you—especially the parts that might be different than the people around you, because you have something no one else in the world has: you.
Katie Ziraldo is your typical 20-year-old woman living in a cramped space in Los Angeles, trying to find a way to make a living by her ability to make a clever turn of phrase. She is an aspiring writer, a television enthusiast, and a Netflix professional. Over the last few years she has written for The Huffington Post, The Detroit Free Press, and The State News. Weirdly, she has just joined Twitter and can be found at @katieziraldo.