Self-Love Is Not Vanity

Growing up I remember being warned repeatedly about vanity. It seemed if one had confidence or approved of their appearance or any quality they had for that matter, they were considered vain—or “stuck up” as we called it.

This was taken to an unhealthy extreme by many of us. I internalized a self-hatred instead of a healthy appreciation for myself, including my body.

So what is self-love? Certainly it is not staring at your own reflection all day long believing you are the “fairest of them all.” That is narcissism, which was really what my parents and other adults were trying to teach us to avoid. Unfortunately these well-intentioned adults had their own self-esteem issues and didn’t know how to teach self-love. Most likely they taught us exactly the way they were taught. In the end it became my job to learn what healthy self-love I and to teach myself. And so it is your job too—and I am here to help.

Vanity, arrogance or being “stuck up” is not love, rather that actually stems from fear—the opposite of love. It may be a fear of loss or a fear of being “less than.” It is always based on something external (and I don’t just mean external beauty.) It is based on SOMEONE ELSE’S perception of us. This may be literally that someone tells us we are beautiful or smart or capable. Or it may be our idea of what they think of us. Whether it is actually said by others or we merely think that is what their perception is, does not change the effect it has on our self-esteem and our ability to love ourselves.

When we judge our self-worth based on some external measure than that image is fragile and may be shattered by something as insignificant as a pimple that no one else can see. Or it may be shattered by a careless remark, or one that is cruelly crafted with damaging us as its purpose.

We may appear to be confident and may actually feel pretty good about ourselves as long as we get more positive input than negative. Rather than being based in something solid, this is a false self-confidence with its foundation in sand that is subject to the ebb and flow of the tides of other people’s opinions tugging away at its base.

Most of us have issues of not being “good enough.” We may even suspect that we are frauds and that if people knew “The Truth” about us they wouldn’t like us or approve of us. These feelings come from not loving ourselves and are the root of our problems. When we don’t feel “good enough” (it might be that we aren’t smart enough, pretty enough, athletic enough, dainty enough, rich enough…) we tend to want to run from these feelings because they don’t feel good.

Running away from our feelings isn’t really possible. As much as we try to stuff them down or numb ourselves to them, they remain—only now we also have a weight problem and so we feel even worse about ourselves. We are caught in a vicious cycle of our own making.

The good news is that we can get ourselves out of that vicious cycle! And learning to love and approve of ourselves complete, as we are right now…skinny or fat, the good and the “bad”…that is when we begin to take charge and break that cycle.

When we learn to love ourselves we have an appreciation and respect for ourselves—our minds and our bodies. Loving ourselves allows us to honor our difference and recognize the similarities we share with others. Thus, true self-love makes us better people, parents and citizens.

This is hard for a lot of people to comprehend and I believe mothers in particular think they must love their child more than themselves and that their children must always come first. This requires a major shift in your mindset if you want to have weight loss success and if you want to teach your children to be healthy as well.

One of my favorite analogies about self-love is the example of oxygen masks on airplanes. The crew reminds us at the beginning of every flight that in the event of an emergency we are to don our won mask first, THEN assist others including your child. We can help no one if we pass out from lack of oxygen. Our child is placed at greater risk if we do not attend to our own needs first.

We must love ourselves enough to care for ourselves, to give our bodies and minds the right fuel, rest and exercise. In that way we can then share that love with others.

Exercises to Learn to Love Self


See yourself as the vibrant, healthy person you want to be. Spend a few minutes every day visualizing yourself doing the things you want to do, looking and feeling the way you want to feel, having the energy you desire, the strength to do what you want, succeeding at achieving your goals.

Photo Tricks that help

It can be hard to visualize your body differently than how the mirror reflects it back to us. If you were ever at a weight that you want to return to, you can use that picture to help you visualize your goal. If you have aged significantly since that time you can paste a picture of your current hairstyle on top of the other photo so your subconscious recognizes it is possible for you to achieve this body NOW.

The photo can be of you somewhere on the way towards a healthy weight, too…it doesn’t have to be the perfect body. It will be more believable for you to have a photo of a weight you have already achieved than you never have—so don’t give up on this trick just because you’ve never been all the way at your goal before.

If you don’t have a photo of you at a more healthy weight, then take a photo of you now and use a marker to draw out the excess fat you are going to get rid of. This gives you a visual reference that shows you the end result that is possible for you. When using this trick be sure to keep in mind your bone structure! You don’t have to be exact and you don’t need to be a great artist…but don’t expect to become a size 2 if your bone structure is that of a size 10.


Say your affirmations all day long. We must “rewire” our minds to accept these positive messages and replace the old unhealthy ones that so readily come to mind! Affirmations should be worded in a positive way and in the present tense. Forget any “should” or “wills” or any negative statements like “I stop overeating.”


I have a healthy, energetic body. I care for my body by eating foods that are healthy for it. My body craves foods that nourish it. I deserve a healthy body and I accept my health now. I feel better when I make healthy food choices and move my body.

What if you don’t believe it (yet)—go ahead and say the affirmations anyway! If you have that little voice (or big one!) repeatedly saying in your ear that the affirmation is a lie, then figure out a way to make an affirmation that your little voice can accept. For example, “I am open to the possibility that I can achieve health,” or “Other people have demonstrated losing weight is possible so I can do it, too,” or “My body changes as I make small changes in my behavior—small steps made over time yield big results.”

Mirror Work

Look in the mirror every day and say something positive about yourself. Look in your eyes when you do this. Mirror Work is a great way to practice your affirmations. I also encourage you to look yourself in the eye and say “I love you ____.” I learned this from Louise Hay and it was really difficult for me at first. I believe this is probably the single most important exercise you can do—so if you can only do one, start with this one.

Tip: I struggled with this one so much that I couldn’t do it at all until I got the idea of looking at a baby picture of myself! What’s not to love about a baby? Find a picture of yourself that you can look at with love (hint: you may have to find one that is before puberty) and look at it and tell that little kid how much you love her…and be sure to include her (your) name. When you can do that, look into your own eyes and find the eyes of that child and tell the little kid inside of you that you love her.

More exercises and details are available in my book Refuse To Diet: Weight Loss Success Starts with Your Mind…Not Your Mouth, available on Amazon.

Recommended Supplemental Resource:

Experience Your Good Now, Louise Hay. This book and CD teaches more about affirmations, why they work and how to create them. The only downside is the CD is all on 1 track and so you can’t replay specific sections repeatedly.
Hay House, Inc. 125x125

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