One of life’s biggest ironies is that a lot of us find it easier to love others than to love ourselves.

We are wellsprings of love and want so much to pour our love onto others. The concept of loving ourselves as a pre-requisite to finding and keeping true love has been drilled into us via popular media but many of us still struggle with the “how”. You can start by practicing these eight ways.

1. Get to know yourself

Self-awareness really is the key to self-love. Spend some time alone in your head and get to know yourself. Why do you like the things you do? Why do you love the people you do? What do you want really want for yourself and your life? What makes you scared? What makes you angry? What makes you happy? What saddens you? What do you love about yourself? What do you absolutely detest about yourself? Become an expert on yourself. Everything else will then begin to fall into place.

2. Don’t be too hard on yourself

Society tells us we should not feel anger, sadness or shame so we try to push these feelings away instead of realising the only way to feel better is to actually process these feelings. Don’t blame yourself for experiencing feelings you can’t control. Instead, be kind to yourself and accept them for what they are. When things don’t go your way, cut yourself a little slack. That doesn’t mean you absolve yourself from responsibility every chance you get. But there’s no point in digging yourself into a craphole. If you’ve done something wrong, take responsibility and move on. Don’t hate yourself for your feelings or your failures. Instead, love yourself for how you deal with them.

3. Understand your insecurities

Many of us dislike ourselves because we’re insecure about one thing or another. For some of us, it’s how we look. For others, it might be the way we communicate or other behavioural traits and habits we’d prefer to break. Either way, identifying your insecurities isn’t enough. You have to understand them as well.

Life experiences often shape our beliefs and thoughts. Ask yourself which ones contributed to the development of your insecurities. Dig deep and identify the root of your insecurities.

Once you’ve learnt exactly how and why you’ve sustained these emotional injuries, you will realise that you are far from weak. Forgive yourself for your insecurities, fears and anxieties. Then, yank them out by the roots and cast them aside.

4. Life is fluid; so are you – take back the reins of your life

We often make the mistake of assuming we’re fixed, unchangeable creatures. And that our lives are, too. That’s not exactly true. Are you the same person you were when you were 5 years old? Nope. So why would you assume you can’t change?

We are all capable of change. While the possibility that we might change for the worse exists, taking control of your life also means that you get to CHOOSE to change for the better. Once you realise that you are the only one who can navigate through the transition between who you are and who you want to be, you’ll see that your possibilities are endless. If you don’t like something about yourself, all you have to do is change either your mindset and/or your actions. Go ahead and inform your Inner Hater that you’re in charge now and its services are no longer required because you’re working on it and that’s what counts.

5. Do things you enjoy

No matter how busy you get, always remember to engage in activities that make you truly happy. Make yourself a priority and take time off to live and laugh. Do things that make you feel like you will ease the exhaustion you get from the humdrum yet hectic routines that threaten to take over every now and again. Take time to enjoy yourself and fall in love with the ‘you’ who blossoms from the resultant happiness.

6. Believe the people who love you

When we hate ourselves, we don’t really understand why people love us. We get frustrated with them. Sometimes, we even try to test their limits. We say things we don’t mean and we push them away. When they do walk away (because we’ve simply become too toxic), we may even go one step further and end up resenting them for fulfilling the prophecy we set into motion. Eventually, we mope around, feeling lost, hurt and rejected while remaining blinded to how we might have hurt them in the first place.

But that’s not nice. For anyone. Instead of pushing people away, embrace them. Respect them as individuals who choose to love you. Find out why they love you. What do they see in you that you can’t seem to see on your own? Sometimes, we don’t really see how much we’ve grown from our experiences because we’re still judging ourselves through a different lens. So ask around. You might end up seeing yourself in a completely different light.

7. Live for yourself

Question every decision you make before you make it. Make sure that you know exactly why you do anything you do. Even when you do things for someone else, make sure it’s because you WANT to make them happy, not because you feel like you have to. I know, this sounds a tad selfish. But really, the most important aspect of doing things for yourself is the responsibility that comes with it. When you don’t live for yourself, you can’t claim responsibility for anything. You can’t revel in successes that aren’t truly yours and failing at endeavours that you don’t truly wish to undertake only results in even more self-hate and judgement. When you make decisions for yourself, it works in your favour even when it doesn’t. Because even if you make a wrong decision, it’s that much easier for you to take responsibility for the outcome, dust yourself off, pick yourself up and move along.

8. Accept that you will always be a work in progress

The best (or most annoying) thing about being human is that we will never be 100% satisfied with ourselves. Because there is always room for improvement. Change is a lot easier said than done. There will always be things we won’t be content with. Whether it has to do with our beliefs or our behaviour, change takes time to effect. The journey from self-loathing to self-love doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it’s actually easier to hate ourselves. Other times, we put so much effort into change and we realise we still don’t like ourselves, which only means we need to undertake the entire process of soul-searching again. And nothing about that is easy.

This journey consists largely of baby steps. Steps so tiny that there might be no discernible difference at first. But keep at it. Because the secret to self-love and its true value lies within the journey. Always remember that you’re a work in progress and that is precisely why you already are, and will always be, perfect.