05/01/2015 03:31 pm ET | Updated May 01, 2016

The Little-Known Secret to Real Self-Love

Alexandra's Sunset Photography via Getty Images

Self-love can sound a little cheesy or even egotistical, right? The truth is, it's a hugely underrated key to finding long-term happiness, inner peace and living a full life.

Self-love is crucial because your external world will reflect how you feel about yourself.

Self-love also gives you a safety net to take risks and go after your dreams, because you know that no matter what the outcome, you'll be OK -- your self-worth is not on the line.

The problem is, many of the teachings on self-love can be surface-level only. Yes, it's great to be able to look in the mirror and embrace your flaws, but real self-love is about so much more than that.

So what is the secret to real self-love?

Real self-love is about recognizing that your true identity is your inner spirit -- you are a soul, not just a body. You simply have a body to carry your soul from place to place.

Real self-love is about understanding that you were created by the Universe, and you are made out of the same divine energy as the stars and flowers, the sun and the moon, and the greatest poets and painters.

Real self-love is about realizing you don't have to be perfect to be enough. You don't have to meet some invisible standard put in place by society or your parents, friends or colleagues in order to feel good about yourself. Sure, you may make mistakes, but you are not your mistakes.

Real self-love is about accepting that you aren't the same as Jessica next door or Ben who has already achieved all of those amazing things, but that's okay.

In fact, it's more than okay, because you know it's all part of your purpose here in the world -- to be you, a once-in-humankind blend of interests, passions, gifts and quirks. No one can compete with you at being you.

Real self-love is about claiming your entitlement to an abundant, love-filled, joyful, adventurous and fulfilling life. Not because you finally 'proved' yourself or you put in enough years of hard work -- but simply because you were born into this world. That alone entitles you to love, support and prosperity, if you will allow it in. If you will claim it.

Real self-love is about remembering the bigger picture of who you are -- you are the Universe, expressing itself as a human for a little while, wanting to grow and expand through you. You are meant to constantly renew yourself and your life, desire more, step into the unknown, take risks, and make mistakes. It's all part of the plan.

Real self-love is about embracing who you are. Having the courage to show your authentic self to the world without worrying what people will think. Giving yourself permission to design a life that feels right to you, rather than remaining bound in a life that other people expect you to live.

Real self-love is about treating yourself like you would treat a loved one or best friend. Talking to yourself with kind words, showing yourself compassion when you stumble, and becoming your own biggest cheerleader and fan.

As Diane Von Furstenberg reminds us, "the most important relationship is the relationship you have with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself."

This is the beginning of real self-love.

And you know what? When you start to believe and embrace these ideas, you automatically look and feel so much better in the mirror and on a daily basis, because you are at your best. It's a natural by-product of real self-love; it's not forced.

Elyse is a writer and happiness teacher at and the creater of the Beautiful Life Bootcamp eCourse. For updates and inspiration, sign up now.