Loving yourself goes above and beyond thinking you look to-die-for in that little black dress and 3-inch heels. It’s more than just an inner confidence and feeling comfortable in a relationship with your man. It’s all about being completely happy with the person that you are — the amazing traits and the flaws all in one without any qualms. Self-love is essential in having a truly fulfilling relationship with a partner. It’s the basis for self-esteem and self-worth. It is not ego-based or thinking of yourself first at the expense of others. Self-love is the quintessential element in developing and maintaining a healthy sense of self. It’s far easier to know your self honestly and completely when you like – and ideally love – the person that you are. If your abs aren’t that flat this year, so what? You still love you for you.

Without self-love you lack the confidence of knowing that you are able to provide basic needs and desires for yourself. As successful a woman as you may be (as a parent, in your role at work, as a sibling, friend, or mentor), without self-love you continue to struggle with feeling worthy and emotionally independent. You rely on others for evidence of your value and self-worth, and continue to question evidence even when it is presented to you.

Cultivating self-love in 5 simple ways:

1. Pay attention to what you need in any given moment and respond to those needs accordingly. Take action to learn what your needs are by practising self-awareness.

2. Speak up (using your voice) to express your needs. Honour what you believe to be right and best for you even though it may be different from that of your mate (or others).

3. Make time each day to do things that nurture your soul Take a walk at lunch so that you can enjoy the outdoors as you create some time all to yourself, go to the gym, listen to the kind of music that you most enjoy, rebuild the engine in your car, enjoy a long, hot bath, get a massage, and so on.

4. Take care of your self first, by attending to your fundamental needs such as self-care, exercise, proper sleep, healthy eating.

5. Say "no" (without guilt or angst) as a way of honoring what is right for you. Those that truly care about and respect you will honor your answer of "no".

Without self-love, you are less likely to take optimal care of your physical, emotional and mental health. Being the ‘best Mom’ for your four-year old daughter, but neglecting many of your basic needs (sleep, exercise, time alone, intimacy with your partner) in order to do so, indicates a need for greater self-love. Remaining in a love relationship where your partner is verbally abusive and disrespectful would suggest dangerously unhealthy levels of self-love.

In a love relationship, you experience how your capacity to love another increases exponentially the more self-love and self-respect you possess. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to start loving yourself for who you are — and be proud of it!

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Dorothy Ratusny, M.A., (C). OACCPP is a Toronto-based Psychotherapist in private practice and the author of
The Purpose of Love: A guidebook to defining and cultivating your most significant relationship. For more information, visit her website: www.dorothyratusny.com.