What to Do When You Can’t Seem to Love Yourself

“You’ll be amazed at what you attract when you start believing in what you deserve.” ~Unknown

You just need to love yourself more.

I’ve heard that advice so many times when I’ve felt rejected, inadequate, and not enough. And instead of that advice helping me, it has just made me feel even more rejected, inadequate, and not enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t angry at the person giving me the advice—I was angry with myself for not being able to love myself unconditionally.

It’s easier to feel love for yourself when things are going well. When you succeed at something, feel appreciated by someone, or when you feel good about yourself and your life. That’s not when the rubber hits the road. Instead, that happens when things don’t go well. When you fail, mess up, or find yourself with a heart smashed into a thousand pieces.

It’s in those moments of darkness that love and appreciation for myself have been replaced by judgment, self-loathing, and criticism. That’s when I ‘should’ all over myself.

It’s in those moments when I’ve been in the company of shame, rejection, and inadequacy that I’ve been told to love myself more. And that’s frankly, much easier said than done.

Building solid self-esteem is crucial, no doubt about that. But there are different ways to build it. If you also fall into the category of people who struggle with your self-esteem, here’s another approach that truly helped me.

You Can’t Jump from Inadequacy to Self-Love in an Instant

In a tough period of my life, I spoke to a therapist. She told me, like so many before her had, to focus on loving myself in those dark moments. When I asked her if she herself was capable of this brilliant advice, her reply was “Oh, I know, it’s actually really hard.

Something can sound good in theory, but if it’s not doable to put into practice it won’t make any difference. I needed some more concrete advice I could actually use in my daily life.

For years, I was under the impression that self-love meant loving yourself in all circumstances, no matter what. In times of happiness, success, satisfaction, gratitude, and joy—as well as in moments of darkness, failure, misery, hurt, and feelings of unworthiness.

Later on, I realized that the step I was asked to take in those moments was too high. I understood that you can’t go from feeling angry, hurt, or inadequate to loving yourself in an instant. That’s like asking someone to walk a long staircase in one giant step. It’s pretty much impossible.

In my experience, trying to jump too far too fast means setting yourself up for failure. And what does this lead to? Yep, even more frustration, anger, and feelings of inadequacy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to practice self-love and to tell ourselves “I love you.” But this may only resonate when you are in a somewhat good-feeling place.

When I’ve tried to fetch too far on the love scale in moments of stress, despair, and frustration it’s made my mind go: “What the h*ck are you talking about?!” Instead of letting those words sink in, my mind has given me a long list of reasons I don’t love myself at that moment.

And you know what? I’ve realized that’s perfectly okay. Because it’s hard to think thoughts beyond what we feel in a given moment when that emotion is overpowering. If you’re angry, you access angry thoughts. If you’re feeling insecure, you reach thoughts related to insecurity. If you’re feeling hopeful, you have thoughts connected to hopefulness.

My point is this: We need to go step by step. We can’t expect ourselves to feel self-love, self-appreciation, and self-respect when we’re not even close to feeling these things. Instead, we need to take the next logical step that will help us feel better about ourselves. Then from that place, we can take another step in the right direction.

Replace Love with Acceptance

For me, everything changed when I stumbled upon these words: “I’m enough.” According to Marisa Peer, a world-renowned speaker and pioneering hypnotherapist trainer, these three words will actually change your life.

“In my three decades as a therapist […], I’ve discovered that the root of so many modern problems— smoking, excessive drinking, compulsive shopping, depression, and overeating—come right back to a need to fill the inner emptiness of not feeling enough’ with external things.”

Although loving ourselves under all conditions would be ideal, it’s not easy. Maybe it’s not even realistic. And what I’ve realized is that we don’t necessarily need to feel love for ourselves at all times. Instead, what we need to reach in those dark moments is a place of acceptance.

All of our insecurities and, at times, dislike of ourselves, come from a place of not feeling enough. That time I was standing in front of a crowd, sweating and shaking, I didn’t feel competent enough. Those times I’ve questioned myself in meetings and have kept my mouth shut as a result, I haven’t felt smart enough. Those moments when I’ve looked at other people’s pictures and compared myself, I haven’t felt pretty enough.

When we feel low on self-esteem we don’t feel enough, simple as that.

And it’s no wonder that many of us don’t feel enough. That’s what the media and advertising keep telling us over and over again. “You need to weigh this much to be sexy.” “You need this jacket to prove that you’re in style.” “You need this car to show people that you’ve made it.” All in all, they take advantage of our insecurities.

Self-esteem is about your overall sense of self-worth or personal value. And to truly know and feel that you are worthy, you need to feel that you are enough.

So, to boost your self-esteem, you need to tell yourself these simple but powerful words: “I’m enough.” To remind yourself over and over and over again (because this is how adults learn: by repetition) that you are enough, no matter the circumstances.

Realizing this was a huge relief to me. There was nothing wrong with me. There was nothing major that needed to “be fixed.” There was no need to dig into my past to figure out where my self-esteem got bruised. Instead, it’s about repeating and telling yourself that you’re enough.

If you fail at a project and mess up, remind yourself that you are enough.

If you come late to a meeting and feel bad for making everyone wait for you, tell yourself that, no matter the situation, you are enough.

If you get rejected, stood up, or are left with a bruised heart, keep reminding yourself that you are enough, that you’ve always been enough, and that you always will be enough.

Feeling enough is the baseline to strive for when you feel bad. To remind yourself that, no matter what is going on in your life, you are enough. You are smart enough, pretty enough, valuable enough, kind enough, and intelligent enough. You are enough and that is enough.

Focus on Your Bounce-Back Rate

What makes us often fail? That’s right, when we set the bar too high. So even if we’ve put it on a reasonable level by going from loving ourselves to knowing that we are enough, we still can’t expect that we’ll feel enough 24/7 (let’s be realistic here).

So here’s another piece of advice that has helped me come back faster and quicker than before: When you dip into a dark hole, focus not on why you are lacking self-esteem, but on your bounce-back rate.

How quickly can you go from feeling insecure, inadequate, and shameful to coming back to feeling enough?

Take count, not on how many times you fall down, but instead on how quickly you manage to come back. When you fall back into negative thoughts and patterns, use it as your signal to shift and to remind yourself that you are enough.

Remind Yourself of the Three Little Words

Developing and nurturing your self-esteem and sense of value is crucial in life. It’s the key to giving and receiving love. It’s the doorway to self-love, self-respect, and self-compassion. And it starts with feeling enough, just the way you are.

So, use the words “I am enough” as your foundation. Keep reminding yourself of this over and over again, until your mind starts believing you. Put up reminders on your phone, notes in your drawers, and write “I’m enough” on your bathroom mirror.

Simply, set yourself up for success and solid self-esteem by constantly telling your mind that, no matter what is going on in your life, you are enough. “I’m enough” is the small, but very powerful sentence that will boost your self-esteem.

Whenever you fall back into a dark hole, remind yourself that it’s not about the number of times you fall down, but about your bounce-back rate.

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