The 7 Disciplines of Self-Love
“You complete me.”
Remember that line in Jerry Maguire when Tom Cruise (Jerry) walks into the living room looking for his wife (played by actor Renee Zellweger)? For us hopeless romantics, that line made our hearts melt. And her response equally so when she said, “Shut up. You had me at hello.”
Whenever we think of love, we romanticize it. We imagine love as that “thing” that burns within us and makes our hearts leap. And almost always, it’s in connection with someone else. Rarely do we give much thought to how we love ourselves. I believe that’s a mistake, one that has a detrimental impact to our happiness and wellbeing.
Scholar, renowned writer, and feminist bell hooks wrote:
“Self-love is the foundation of our loving practice. Without it our other efforts to love fail. Giving ourselves love, we provide our inner being with the opportunity to have the unconditional love we may have always longed to receive from someone else.”
Intellectually most of us will agree that self-love makes sense, but then we are at a loss as to what it really means and how to love ourselves. The first step is to move beyond conceptualizing love as a feeling, and instead learn to regard love as a verb.
Love is active, and we can learn how to love ourselves by practicing these seven disciplines or qualities of love:
1. Self-knowledge – knowledge and understanding of one’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and desires and how those bear on one’s choices and behaviors.
Ways to increase self-knowledge: get to know yourself by practicing reflective activities, e.g., keep a journal, meditate, pray; ask trusted friends for feedback; examine yourself and your choices objectively; be mindful of your aspirations, goals, and dreams; explore your interests.
2. Self-acceptance – embracing who you are without qualifications, conditions, or exceptions (Seltzer, 2008, as cited in Ackerman, 2021)
Ways to increase self-acceptance: acknowledge and celebrate your strengths and accomplishments; turn your inner critic into your inner coach; grieve your lost hopes, past mistakes or failures, forgive yourself and let go; practice gratitude and include things about yourself.
3. Self-affirmation – the act of affirming one’s own worthiness and value as an individual.
Ways to increase self-affirmation: practice affirmations daily; make them believable; align your affirmations with your values; use affirmations that celebrate your strengths and value as an individual, e.g., “I am loving, and I am worthy to be loved.”
4. Self-care – the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, especially during times of stress.
Ways to increase self-care: check-in daily on your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing; set boundaries that support your happiness and wellbeing; exercise regularly to reduce stress; get quality sleep; schedule annual wellness exams.
5. Self-trust – the firm reliance on the integrity of oneself.
Ways to increase self-trust: tell yourself the truth; make decisions that align with your beliefs and values; keep promises you make to yourself; admit when you’re wrong and apologize when you’re at fault.
6. Self-respect – the act of holding oneself in esteem; a feeling that one is behaving with dignity and honor and is worthy of being treated well.
Ways to increase self-respect: speak up for yourself; don’t accept disrespect from others; forgive others and forgive yourself; make decisions that reflect your values; speak confidently about yourself with appropriate humility.
7. Self-responsibility – the act of taking responsibility for aspects of one’s life that are within one’s control.
Ways to increase self-responsibility: be accountable for your decisions and actions without placing blame on others; see yourself as the author of your life; practice discipline and form positive habits; don’t accept responsibility for others’ mistakes.
When we cultivate these seven disciplines, we will give ourselves the love that we’re often waiting to receive from others. Self-love is self-fulfilling.
 hooks, bell. (2001). All about love: new visions. HarperCollins Publishers.
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With love and authenticity,
Learn My Story