All humans, at their very core, love themselves. But from the moment we’re born and as we grow up, we immediately begin the process of learning that to earn acceptance and love from others, we have to fit certain expectations they hold. Expressing ourselves genuinely and authentically unfortunately doesn’t always fit those expectations.

We learn that to receive consistent love and adoration from our parents as toddlers, we must do what we’re told and avoid misbehaving. We learn that when we want to fit in at school, we have to look and act the same way the other kids look and act. We learn that to be considered successful in our society, we have to achieve certain goals that satisfy general standards of success.

It’s no wonder loving ourselves unconditionally often seems so difficult. We’ve been taught to do the exact opposite.

Knowing That You Are Worthy of Love

Those who desire love but feel insecure about being lovable often look outside themselves by seeking love from others or by building up their egos. Feeling worthy of love, however, is something you must cultivate and requires nothing more than looking inside yourself. It starts with a willingness to connect with yourself at a spiritual level.

Meditation is perhaps one of the best tools you can use to connect with your eternal spirit — the part of you that lies beyond the self-identity created by your mind. The true nature of your spirit is nothing other than pure love, and through meditation practice, you can prove it to yourself.

Being Kind to Yourself

Stripping away the conditions you’ve been taught to place on your own sense of self-love is no easy feat, especially if you’ve been doing it for decades. You may find it feels totally natural to praise yourself when you do something right, but when you mess up on something, your negative voice starts spitting out an endless stream of self-criticism as you sink deeper into guilt, shame, and other negative feelings.

The only way to break the cycle is to start treating yourself like your own best friend, using compassionate thinking and self-talk. Write a letter to yourself to practice this new behavior if it seems foreign to you. Over time, it will become more of a habit.

Practicing Self Care

Loving yourself doesn’t just involve the way you speak to yourself — it involves your actions too. Even if you learn to speak toward yourself more compassionately, your spirit is also nurtured by the healthy, joyful activities you treat your body and mind to on a regular basis.

Self care means eating and exercising not to change yourself, but to simply feel good in the moment. It means making time in your schedule to rest not to be lazy, but to be remain aware of your energy. It means engaging in hobbies and activities that truly bring you joy not for achieving success, but for the practice itself. Self care shouldn’t feel forced or like a chore — it should make you feel loved and happy.

Being Mindful of Old Habits

You likely won’t learn to love yourself unconditionally overnight. In fact, it may take years to make significant progress, and even then, perfection will never be reached. Old behaviors that go dormant after spending lots of time and effort on cultivating self-love may still be triggered even years later, and that’s totally normal.

Just becoming mindful of negative self-talk, intense feelings of shame, or any other old behavior as they occur is enough. Mindfulness enables you to let go of them and choose the new, unconditional self-loving behaviors you’ve been working to develop.

Learning to love ourselves is a never ending process. There is no destination or final result to strive for — only a journey in self-awareness that should be embraced at every stage.