02/13/2012 06:03 pm ET | Updated Apr 14, 2012

Love Thy Self, Inside and Out

As Valentine's Day approaches, many of us are looking for love, or maybe an improvement in an existing loving relationship. But if you can't love yourself, then who can you love? If you're having trouble loving the person you are, then finding a connection with another person may seem daunting. We've all been told to be good to ourselves and treat our bodies and minds to good health and tranquility, but finding a good relationship with yourself can be harder than you think.

After talking to and meeting various people in my career, and training people who are looking for better self-esteem, I have found that self-esteem and self-love are issues that often go hand in hand. So many people find that a better body image leads to self-acceptance. If you suffer from low self-esteem, it is possible that the root cause is a case of insufficient self-love. For many of us, loving yourself is difficult because your mind has been filled with self-sabotaging thoughts for a long time.

There's no instant remedy to loving yourself, but feeling comfortable in your own skin is fundamental in attaining self-esteem. As a fitness professional, I cannot stress enough the importance of a consistent exercise program and healthful eating habits, and their positive effects on your mind and body. Liking your reflection in the mirror and feeling good about the perception people have of you are huge self-esteem boosters. And this doesn't mean you have to be a size four or an avid athlete. Just respecting your health and liking the person you see in the mirror are very important in the way you carry yourself and live your life.

If you've hit some hurdles on achieving self-esteem, here are ways to love who you are.

  • Eliminate Self-Criticism. Do you sometimes berate yourself over the tiniest thing? Is there a little voice inside your head that often tells you that you've made mistakes or are lacking somewhere? If you find that you criticize yourself often, make an effort to stop.

  • Be Positive. When you start to think positively about yourself, that attitude becomes evident to other people. Make it a habit to praise yourself every day, in front of the mirror and in other situations. This will help you naturally undertake empowering actions that support your development.
  • Acknowledge Your Effort. It is not always about winning or coming up on top in everything that you do. Many times, it is the effort that counts! Acknowledge that you have done your best, even if the results aren't tangible.
  • Be Truthful To Yourself. Loving yourself requires you to be truthful about your own feelings. If you are happy, acknowledge the joy. If you are sad, acknowledge the sorrow. When you are truthful about your feelings, you won't lie to yourself or seek to bury your negative emotions. Instead, acknowledging what you feel provides a good guide to what your thoughts are. And as we all know, thoughts can be changed, so that healing and self improvement can take place.
  • Boost Your Self Confidence. Make a deliberate attempt to look for opportunities that can help improve your confidence. For instance, if you are particularly good at doing something, set aside more time to indulge and improve your skills on it. Knowing that you have particular gifts can boost your self-esteem.
  • Relax. Give yourself space to take breaks every now and then. If you spend your time working, without paying attention to your health, it may be a sign that you do not love yourself well enough to take care of your own body. Escape in an indoor cycling class... Fill your time with silence in a yoga class... Just sit listening to soothing music... Or get a much-needed massage -- anything that nourishes your soul.
  • Look After Your Body. It is important to strengthen yourself with proper nutrition and regular exercise. Your body is a temple and you should treat it with respect, love and care.
  • Don't underestimate the importance of self-acceptance. It can put an end to any emotional pain that you feel, open doors to new and exciting people into your life or even lead to the spiritual experience you want. Invest in yourself -- your mind AND body -- and you can achieve a full and rich relationship with not only yourself, but somebody else as well!

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