‘I’ve struggled to love myself for years’: How small changes have helped me lead a happier life

05 Mar 2020
By Ugne V., Student at De Montfort University

I’m never quite sure what people mean when they say “you should love yourself”. Loving, caring for and accepting yourself is different from person to person, and it’s a topic that people have written hundreds of books about.

I’ve struggled to love myself for years. But one day I realised how untrue it is to not love yourself and it all changed. Now, I’m going to share how I started loving myself and how I’ve dealt with my own lack of self-acceptance.

1) Change the environment in your room

One of my top tips is to always change the environment around you. Your room is somewhere where you spend most of your time. Just tidying your room, adding pictures of your friends or a collection of postcards from places you’ve visited can have a huge impact.

Doing this helps me feel refreshed, renewed and happy. I also like to add some warm colours to the room, as they tend to make me feel safer, warmer, and even influence my attitude towards myself. Don’t be hesitant to change something in your room. Sometimes, even throwing things away and having a clear-out can make me feel better about myself.

2) Choose your friends carefully

Some might find it hard to stop hanging out with other people, or they prefer to have a huge friend list but few close friendships.

Friends can be helpful and supportive, but they can also be bad for you, especially when someone makes you feel inadequate. If that is the case, it’s okay to admit that you might want to break your bond with them. You might want to speak to someone you’re close with for advice, as they’ll be able to help you figure out if it’s a good, healthy relationship or one that you’d be better without. 

On the face of it, having a huge list of friends is a positive thing, but this isn’t always the case. I’ve found that although I have lots of connections, only a certain number of them actually think about me or stay in touch. 

Instead of wasting time trying to keep in touch with so many people, I prefer to focus on closer friendships, where we’re able to really connect and support each other. Consider who you spend your time with and don’t be afraid to change.

3) Recognise the impact of stress

Stress can have a huge impact on how you feel about yourself, especially when you’re piled under lots of work or are struggling with your studies. But I have found that reducing my stress levels can actually help me feel better about myself. Here are a few of the ways that I do exactly that:

  • Go for a brisk walk
  • Enjoy some exercise
  • Reflect on anything good that happened throughout the day (try journaling or a personal reflection task)
  • Paint, play or listen to good music
  • Read a book
  • Meditate
  • Socialise
  • Practise some self-awareness (think about how you feel and why; if you find reasons for your emotions, you can work around them for a positive outcome).

4) Help people close to you

Don’t forget that you’re not alone. Any one of your friends could also be struggling with self-love and self-acceptance, so make some time for them and ask them how they feel. Helping other people can help with your own struggles, especially when it’s self-love. Proving to yourself that you’re a good, caring person always encourages me to appreciate myself.

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I’m a first year psychology student at De Montfort University. I like writing for my blogs, books and journal articles.