How you feel about yourself varies.

It depends on how you look, how much you weigh, how many items you’ve checked off your to-do list. It depends on your ability to land a big client, to get an A, to make more money, to have a tidy home, to accomplish any number of goals.

It is conditional.

How you feel about yourself depends on ever-changing dynamics. On things that form a shaky foundation. One gust of wind, and all the cards fall. One gust of wind— one goal not accomplished, one task not completed—and you feel terrible about yourself.

You punish yourself. You force yourself to wake up at 5 a.m. to take cardio classes you don’t even like. You force yourself to eat under “x” number of calories. You force yourself to work 12 hours a day. You don’t let yourself relax; at all. You ruminate about all your faults, flaws, mistakes, missteps. And there are many.

You convince yourself that you don’t deserve kindness or support or good things because you haven’t fulfilled your conditions. Your many, many conditions.

Now here’s the truth: You don’t need to earn your own love or appreciation or respect. It is yours. Inherently.

In her brilliant book White Hot Truth: Clarity for Keeping It Real on Your Spiritual Path—from One Seeker to AnotherDanielle LaPorte shares a list of signs that we love ourselves—signs that are also helpful suggestions we can follow, practical actions we can take to care for ourselves, to show ourselves love, appreciation and respect—and it doesn’t require doing anything. It doesn’t require proving yourself. It doesn’t require coming up with evidence of your worth. Here are five of my favorites:

  1. Start where you are. Love what you can about yourself. Love the color of your hair. Love the way you write your name. Love the way you mix and match outfits. Love your smile. Love how you organize your bookshelves. Love your legs for helping you walk where you’d like to go every day. Some days, your love will be small. Other days, you’ll love yourself because you know that you’re magnificent, and you feel it. Either way, meet yourself where you are today.
  2. Have empathy for yourself. According to Danielle, “Love says, ‘you poor thing. No wonder you feel this way. It’s been tough.” Love is empathizing with yourself. It is empathizing with your pain, your trials, your triumphs. Don’t minimize your feelings, your grief, your struggles, your fatigue, your joy, your excitement, your hope. How you feel is how you feel. And how you feel is not wrong. You are not wrong. Sit with your feelings. Know that they are valid.
  3. Create an inner circle with people who love you. “This isn’t elitist or self-help snobbery; it’s a minimum health requirement,” Danielle writes. (I love this.) “You grow most vigorously in conditions of kindness, resonance, and good laughter.” Danielle also reminds us that it only takes one person to create an inner circle.
  4. Prioritize pleasure. Danielle notes that pleasure empowers and heals us. It makes life’s inevitable hardships easier to manage. Give yourself permission to feel and to seek pleasure. Give yourself permission to seek out pleasurable experiences, to spark your senses, to wear comfortable fabrics, to savor your favorite foods, to listen to beautiful music, to lounge in bed, to watch the sky (and to do nothing else while doing so). What is pleasurable to you, big and small?
  5. Commend yourself for showing up. Don’t reward yourself only for achieving a goal. Don’t create consequences for “failing.” In fact, remind yourself that failure is a wise teacher. Remind yourself that we often learn more and grow more from failure than we do from success. Reward yourself for trying and for showing up.

Loving yourself isn’t a guarantee that others will love you, Danielle notes. In fact, some people might get upset that you’re setting boundaries, that you’re advocating for yourself. Some people might think you’re arrogant. That’s OK.

“The only guaranteed result of Loving yourself is that you will Love yourself,” Danielle writes. “You’re the one. Because you said so.”

Love yourself like it’s your job. Love is “how you discern what stays and what goes in your life. Love is the reason you adorn your body and invest in your ideas. Love is your life force, the deciding factor, and your greatest intelligence,” Danielle writes.

“Love yourself like your life depends on it—because it does.”

Photo by Ileana Skakun.