self-acceptance, self-esteem, self-love

“I Can’t Love Myself.”

Dear Lisa,

I’m always seeing and hearing things about ‘self-love’ and ‘until you can love yourself, you can’t really love anyone else.’ I have an impossible time loving myself. I always have.

What is this self-love thing and how can I love myself when I look in the mirror and just see a plain, fat-thighed woman, past her prime? Even when I was pretty and young I couldn’t love myself. I’ve always had a low self-esteem. So how can I now?  I have a decent job I enjoy, some great friends. My life is okay, but there’s just nothing really special about me.

I can love others, though. I love my family, friends, my pets. This self-love thing seems like a cliché more than anything. But I am jealous of the people who seem to be able to do it. And because they do it, it makes me believe it’s possible. Is it possible for me?

Can you help me or am I as hopeless as I feel?

Linda Love-less


Dear Linda,

I feel your despair, yet there’s something in you that senses the possibility of a loving relationship with yourself, for why else would you have written? That’s a great place to start. In fact, where you are in this moment is the beginning.

I’ve always struggled with the idea of ‘until you can love yourself, you can’t really love anyone else.’ I’ve known people, and at some points in my life I’ve BEEN someone who did not love myself, yet loved others, with all my heart. But my heart had so much more capacity than I knew, and it grew as my ability to love myself grew. What I prefer to believe is that we can love so much better when we love ourselves. When you love yourself, you have a greater capacity for loving others. We become better lovers, better parents, better friends when we can love from a place of self-love.

Believe it or not, you are ON a path to self-love. I can’t pluck you up from where you are now and drop you off in self-love-land, but I can offer you a few tips:

  1. Instead of thinking you need self-esteem to love yourself, see if you can practice loving yourself AS IS… low self-esteem and all. If you can’t feel “LOVE” in this moment, what about tenderness? Kindness? Can you extend compassion to yourself, for now, just gentle, kind compassion, trusting that where and who you are right now is perfect? Start there.
  2. Make a list of 100 things you can love about yourself. Yes, I said 100. There’s something magical about 100. Start each list item with “I love…” Can you love that you are a generous friend or a great dog parent or have curvy, sensual hips? Can you love the sparkle in your eyes or your love for nature or that you do your job well? Keep the list nearby so that you can read it daily. Whether you FEEL love or not, just keep reading it.
  3. Reach out. Your friends obviously see great things in you worth loving. Don’t be afraid to ask them. Tell them you are working on loving yourself better and it would help you to know what they love about you. Seeing yourself in someone else’s eyes is not the be-all, end-all of our self-worth, not by any means, but I’m not gonna lie. It feels good to be reminded of what makes us great.
  4. Fake it ‘til you make it. Pretend you are someone who exquisitely loves and treasures yourself. Ask yourself “what would someone who loves herself do with this body butter?” And spend some time lovingly applying it to your body, as someone who loves herself would do. “What would someone who loves herself do in this moment?” And then DO what someone who loves herself would do. Do this enough, and eventually, I kid you not, you will BE someone who exquisitely loves and treasures herself.
  5. Tap into a bigger love when you need it. When you are experiencing a moment of self-loathing, say for example, in the mirror loathing your thighs, get vigilant about stopping yourself, mid-thought and asking “can I love my thighs in this moment?” and try to conjure up love in your heart. If the answer is “no, I can’t.” ask yourself “can I have a higher, bigger love run through me to love my thighs?” There is a limitless supply of love floating around you, always. Grab it, funnel it, direct it to your thighs. Steal a bigger love, when your love won’t cut it.
  6. Lastly, try the “love bait and switch.”  Spend a couple moments conjuring up “easy love” in your heart … like for your pet, or your best friend, or your nieces and nephews. Feel the love welling up in you, until your heart space swells and glows, and feels warm inside. Then BAM! Switch and aim it at yourself. Feel what it feels like to feel your love aimed at YOU. Even if it lasts for two seconds, that’s two seconds toward a grand and glorious love affair with yourself.

Trust your journey, it really is perfect. Stay open, and welcome yourself to this new path: deliberate, attentive and conscious self-love cultivation! It’s the adventure of a lifetime.

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong love affair.” – Oscar Wilde


I invite you to write with your questions or topic suggestions. I will answer all either privately or in this space. It’s my intention that my words will bring hope and new clarity. Email your question to me at


The suggestions and opinions offered on this site are not meant to dissuade any reader from seeking the advice and care of his or her own appropriate and licensed health care provider. The reader is strongly encouraged to seek out and establish a meaningful relationship with such a provider who will have the opportunity and responsibility to examine him or her and offer individualized health care suggestions and services.


  1. Great response, Lisa. I’d like to add this: I often have a therapy client find a photo of herself as a young child, and put it where she’ll see it every day … bedside, make-up area, etc. It’s much easier to love a little one than to immediately jump to loving your grown-up self. The she can write a loving letter to her Child and start the process. I love YOU! Roz

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