I am very grateful to the following people, in general, and for their helpful feedback on this post: Nick Cammarata, Kaj Sotala, Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg, Sam Clarke, Mrinank Sharma, Matej Vrzala, Vlad Firoiu, Ollie Bray, Alan Taylor, Max Heitmann, Rose Hadshar, and Michelle Hutchinson.

I was on a plane to Malta when I realised I had lost something precious. I was struggling to meditate. I knew there was some disposition that made meditation easier for me in the past, something to do with internal harmony and compassion and affection. Alas, these handles failed to impact me. On a whim, I decided to read and meditate on some of my notes. 3h later, I had recovered the precious thing. It was one of the most special experiences of my life. I felt massive relief, but I was also a little scared--I knew that this state would likely pass. I made a promise to myself to not forget what I felt like, then, and to live from that place more. This post is, in part, an attempt to honour that promise. I spent most of my holiday in Malta reading about and meditating on the precious thing, and I now feel like I'm in a place where I can share something useful.

This post is about self-love. Until recently, I didn’t know that self-love was something I could aim for; that it was something worth aiming for. My guess is that I thought of self-love as something vaguely Good, a bit boring, a bit of a chore, a bit projection-loaded (I’m lovable; I love me so you can love me too), and lumped together with self-care (e.g. taking a bath). Then I found Nick Cammarata on Twitter and was blown away by the experiences he was describing. Nick tweeted about self-love from Sep 2020 to May 2021, and then moved on to other things. His is the main body of work related to self-love that I’m aware of, and I don't want it to be lost to time. My main intention with this post is to summarise Nick’s work and build on it with my experiences; I want to get the word out on self-love, so that you can figure out whether it’s something you want to aim for. But I'm also going to talk a little about how to cultivate it and the potential risks to doing that. One caveat to get out of the way is that I’m a beginner--I’ve been doing this stuff for under a year, for way less than 1h/day. Another is that I expect that my positive experiences with self-love are strongly linked to me being moderately depressed before I started.

What is self-love?

Self-love is related to a lot of things and I'm not sure which are central. But I can point to some experiences that I have when I'm in high self-love states. While my baseline for well-being and self-love is significantly higher than it used to be, and I can mostly access self-love states when I want to, most of the time I am not in very high self-love states, because my attention is elsewhere. Some of the following experiences point to the core of what self-love feels like, some are actions or tendencies that self-love spins up out of, and some are consequences of self-love. It is hard to untangle these categories so I don’t try to. 

  • Take a second to imagine the love you might feel towards a newborn child or a cute animal. They probably haven't done anything to ‘earn’ your love; they might even be acting unskillfully (admittedly, I don't know what a skilful baby looks like). But you might love them anyway. Self-love feels quite like that for me: unconditional, newborn love.
  • I feel bad about myself a lot less: I'll notice a character defect or a way I acted unskillfully, and won't feel bad about myself--similarly to how I would feel about a close friend messing up. It doesn't follow from this that I don't feel bad (I think traditionally ‘negative’ emotions can be functional), don't want to change, or act differently in the future. More on this later. A consequence of this is that it is easier to see my imperfections, and to see the world, as opposed to flinching away from them. When states of the world directly impact your perceived self-worth, it can be really scary to see the world as it is. Some examples: a kid who wants to be a writer and cannot admit that she made a spelling mistake; my aversion to studying AI safety because doing that puts me in contact with the fact that I don’t know that much and hence that I’m worthless.
  • Affection: I'll drop and smash a plate, and where previously there might have been some frustration or self-judgement, the mental motion might be "Oh, silly Charlie, I still love you". Or when I toned down a claim in this post just now I was like "Oh thank you for protecting me". Importantly, I'm not saying empty words--I'm translating my feelings into words. The examples of affection above closely resemble how I’d feel towards a small child, but the affection can also feel more friend or partner-like. For example, I got drunk for the first time in a while last weekend, and found drunk Charlie really adorable.
  • Compassionate awareness: I’ll define “compassion” as seeing suffering and being moved by it, where “being moved” might connote warmth and caring and non-judgement and desire to help. I’m often including my experience (emotions, thoughts, sensations) in my moment-to-moment awareness, greeting and feeling what’s happening to me. Sometimes I’ll notice that I’m conflicted or struggling or suffering, and will dive deeper. I find it useful to view myself as having many parts, who have different feelings and goals and functions. So I'll often be talking to my parts and figuring out what they want and why, how they’re feeling, what they think of each other--and holding compassionate space for all of that to happen in. I find the parts model pretty useful for compassion and affection, in part because it’s easier for me to feel/send love when there’s some distance between the lover and the loved.
  • Nick Cammarata says that a heuristic for self-love is that you feel like you're walking around with someone you have a crush on (here is a thread from him about this, and here is one where he discusses the controversy that thread caused). It feels like that for me: romantic. But read “romantic” more as beautiful and exciting than including desire or projection, if those are part of your dating experience. There's curiosity--wanting to know more about my experience--and awe and affection, and joy, at being able to share these moments with myself.
  • Relatedly, I feel like I’m “with myself”, as opposed to “by myself”. This is how Nick describes feeling too: “My body feels different. Being in my body used to feel a bit like being in a neutrally-charged hollow shell interacting with the world, now it feels a bit like a stable and warm castle with a cozy quality. I feel like I am “with myself” inside of it. Others are outside, and I can open the castle and feel close to them, but staying inside with myself is the default."
  • Loving action: For example, attending to my experiences; paying attention to what I want and acting to make that happen; prioritising resolving internal conflict; not ignoring or shutting parts of me down; noticing a flicker of not-ok-ness while watching TV and pausing the TV to figure out what’s wrong and whether it’s ok to continue watching.
  • I feel substantially safer, like I have a blanket wrapped around me. I don't fully understand this, but I think it's because I'm clinging less to external conditions being satisfied in order to feel worthwhile. I feel like I’m more capable of taking whatever the world throws at me. I still care about the external things, like whether a partner loves me, but I don’t cling to them in the same way.
  • Worthiness/self-esteem: I used to have a strongly bad filter on my self-perception. Now I can more easily remember (to some extent) my inherent goodness and preciousness and beauty. I can also more clearly see all of the amazing things about me.
  • Spending time with myself used to be unbearable--I would sink into awareness-collapsing distractions. In these states, spending time with myself is really fun, often more fun than spending time with friends. Time alone is nourishing and special.
  • Happiness: In my experience, it is a lot easier to do anything when I have surplus happiness, and it is extremely difficult to do anything when depressed. Self-love makes me very happy so I’m able to do the things that matter to me. This is a tweet thread where Nick writes that raising happiness baselines is possible and incredibly important.
  • Energy: Part of this is fighting myself less, which includes less suffering-based motivation and internal conflict. Freeing up those resources has been astonishingly powerful for me. Part is not needing to invest emotional resources into trying and needing to feel loved, because I have a wellspring within.
  • More love for others and the world. 

But won’t I turn into jello?

It’s easy to imagine that, if you feel unconditionally worthwhile, if you have access to a deep source of self-compassion and affection and joy, then you will care less about changing or pursuing your goals. This was my worry, so I want to tackle it head-on. 

I think turning into jello is a very understandable worry. A lot of people go their whole lives making their self-worth conditional in order to act better: they take damage--dislike or judge themselves--whenever they act imperfectly or realise they are imperfect or don’t achieve the things they want to. In a world as unfair and uncontrollable as this one, I think taking so much damage is often not that functional. Moreover, I claim that you can care deeply while feeling worthwhile and suffused with compassion and affection and joy. All that said, messing with the strategy that helps you act better is a big deal (see Risks). 

I don’t have any good arguments about how often we’d expect people to turn to jello, besides looking at the people who have walked the path. However, I’m confident that more self-love does not necessitate less caring, because I and many others have experienced that more self-love leads to more caring. Nick Cammarata says that he has never seen people turn into jello, and that, “In fact, it usually pushes [people] far in the other direction”. This accords with the behaviourism literature (at least as summarized in "Don't Shoot the Dog"), which claims that both animals and humans are best trained by only giving them rewards and no punishments. This probably generalizes to internal rewards and punishments, which are largely learned and internalized based on how people have treated us in the past.

I’m reminded of Nate Soares’ writings on Replacing Guilt. He writes that it's you that cares about your goals, that wants to become stronger or save the world. Those things that you actually care about won’t go away with more self-love; what changes is your strategy for pursuing them. You no longer pursue things in order to feel worthwhile, but simply because you want to. Indeed, it is not self-loving to shut down those parts of you that care about things. An essential component of self-love, as I see it, is being there with and feeling fully whatever is happening for me, especially when I want things to be different.


  • Your goals and strategies might change, even if your values remain the same. For example, I was aiming to pursue a PhD in machine learning, partly because I thought it would make me worthwhile. When I felt worthwhile I stopped that; I was able to think more freely about which strategy looked best according to my values.
  • Changing your brain might have negative effects in the short term, even if things are good in the end. For example, as I walked down the self-love path I felt my external obligations start to drop away. While things are clearly better now, I’m still figuring out how to be internally motivated and also get shit done, and for a while I got less shit done than when I was able to coerce myself.
  • It’s easy to misunderstand what you’re aiming for.
  • It’s also easy to miss your target. For example, for a while, I used to throw what I thought was compassion at negative emotions and they would go away. And on the surface that seems kinda reasonable. But, for me, industry-grade compassion requires seeing the emotions fully--holding them and understanding them and letting them be felt as strongly as they want to be felt.
  • The techniques you use to develop self-love might have side effects of their own. For example, if you’re doing a lot of meditation I would be surprised if you didn’t have some negative experiences at some point. (That said, lovingkindness meditation seems like one of the safer types, and I’m broadly pro-meditation.) 

How to self-love

I’m really confused about this, sorry. The path is muddy, at least to me. That’s why I focused on describing self-love. I realise that this might be frustrating, especially if I managed to get you excited about self-love. That said, I decided to write something here rather than nothing. Please take this section with a bunch of salt.

Nick thinks that the two most promising avenues are solo MDMA trips and metta (lovingkindness) meditation. 

MDMA: I am not recommending that people take MDMA, because that would be illegal, and because I have no idea what your situation is. If you intend to take MDMA, please do some research on safety (e.g. read at least this and this) to get a sense of the costs, and because you can substantially reduce risks and side effects if you do decide to take it. Here is my impression of the benefits: MDMA makes you feel a lot of love--very likely a lot more than you’ve ever experienced, possibly orders of magnitude more--including self-love. I’ve seen and heard of many people experiencing extremely large and lasting improvements to self-love when they take MDMA alone, close their eyes, and focus on investigating their experiences--including how they relate to themselves. This accords with preliminary research on the efficacy of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD. My guess for why this happens is that MDMA is extremely good at memory reconsolidation a la Unlocking the Emotional Brain, presumably because it makes painful experiences/memories safe to look at and the love makes them easy to rewrite. Another benefit is that it gives you some information about what it’s like to have self-love--for example, you might for the first time experience complete self-acceptance while also caring deeply about doing things and changing, and that’s cool if that was a crux for you wanting more self-love. It also substantially clarifies what to aim for when sober, which is important: 

Nick: “I can't overstate how impossible it would have been for me to get to a state of self-love without MDMA, even after hundreds of hours of metta (which I did before the MDMA). Not sure it'll be the case for everyone, but I suspect it makes things way easier”.

Lovingkindness meditation (metta): Metta is a slower way to increase your capacity for love, albeit substantially. You could think of metta as doing reps to strengthen the love muscle (but more beautiful than that). Alongside love, metta also builds awareness, indistractability, sensory clarity, and equanimity--all of which are pretty useful for self-love. Below, I discuss some introspection techniques that might be useful. One reason to expect metta to be better than those techniques is that, when you’re good at it, metta has feedback loops that can get you into very high self-love states. Resources: The canonical metta book is this one, but I think it’s mostly good for giving you models and not for practice. Kaj Sotala says that lots of people find TWIM really effective. Here’s a guided meditation and here’s one with a different style. You can do concentration meditation with love as the object of concentration instead of the breath, and can get coaching for that here


Other things that might help

I wrote this section for someone like me a year ago--someone who strongly wants self-love and is desperate to read anything they can about how to get it. Consequently, this section is long and lower-quality; feel free to skip it!

Deepen your understanding of self-love: If you have an hour or two, searching for ‘@nickcammarata self-love’ might be the best use of your self-love time. You could also try to spend lots of time with/read/take workshops with/take retreats with people who are really good at self-love. I don’t know of specific people but you might find some within Nick’s Twitter circles and (lovingkindness/metta) meditation communities (Tara Brach, Sharon Salzburg). 

Be with yourself: Being with yourself (your experiences) is the training ground for self-love. It is hard to become your best friend if you do not know yourself. Being with yourself requires some baseline self-love, though--it might not be good or advisable at first. One idea is to walk around without external input when possible. You can also be with yourself whenever you notice suffering, or even moment-to-moment (e.g. while working)--though this requires some skill to be able to do with little cost (see this course). I refresh my awareness about my experiences very frequently, and sometimes the awareness is roughly continuous.

Figure out what you believe: The ability to self-love seems strongly mediated by ones (implicit) beliefs about whether it’s safe and good to do so. So I would focus on figuring out what you believe. Indeed, many of the introspection techniques I list below work to facilitate this process, and could be done with this process in mind. You can ask yourself, with gentle curiosity, why you don’t want self-love or why you think it’s good to make your self-worth conditional. This is important because there are probably reasons, and your current set-up might be doing something very useful (such as guilt-based motivation). And until you understand those functions it will be hard and maybe bad to shift things up.

Introspection/therapy techniques: Explaining each technique well is beyond the scope of this post, but I have linked to a short blog post and a more comprehensive resource where possible.

  • Coherence therapy (book) and memory reconsolidation for self-affection. I think these posts are worth reading even if you don’t intend to practice the techniques, because they have useful models of how therapy progress works.
  • Focusing (book) is a bread-and-butter self-inquiry technique. Getting good at focusing will probably aid many self-love strategies. You can also use focusing to enquire directly about self-love. Jack from CFAR facilitates high-quality and very reasonably-priced focusing sessions.
  • Internal family systems (book) is a type of therapy that works with your parts. You could try to find an IFS therapist but I expect the average therapist to bad.
  • I haven’t tried this but my therapist (who I trust) recommends compassion-focused therapy. “The primary focus of CFT is identifying sources of resistance to (self-)compassion and then building and strengthening the compassionate self (the Healthy Adult mode in Schema Therapy; the Wise Mind in Dialectical Behavior Therapy).”
  • I just heard about Core Transformation (book) and it seems really cool but I don’t know how cool. Maybe read the blog post?
  • Kaj Sotala says he got significant value from guided Ideal Parent Figure practice (guided meditation, course, book--see chapter 8). The idea is that a lot of our emotional conditioning around self-worth comes from childhood, where we learn what kinds of behaviours get us love and acceptance from our caregivers. IPF exploits the fact that the emotional brain doesn't fully distinguish between the real and the imagined, so you can reprogram your mind by imagining yourself as a young child with ideal parents who always express unconditional love and delight towards you.
  • The exercises from Self-Compassion (book) seem pretty good. I read the book a while ago but can't remember how good it was.


  • Other meditation: either concentration (this is mostly what I did) or noting (what I weakly recommend now). These techniques build skills (concentration, sensory clarity, equanimity, and awareness) that I expect to indirectly affect all of your other self-love endeavors (including MDMA). You can get coaching for concentration (and metta) meditation here.
  • Expanded awareness: A big part of self-love is holding your experience in awareness. This course will help you do that.
  • Therapy.

Other books:

  • Radical Acceptance (I remember really enjoying this). It worked strongly on the belief level for me. Some people might be a bit allergic to the Buddhist stuff.
  • Replacing Guilt (is truly awesome). Also works really strongly on the belief level. Written for people like you.
  • Mindful Compassion (my therapist recommends this and I trust her but I haven’t read it).


New Comment
15 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 1:30 AM

In part inspired by this post, I did one hour a day of loving-kindness meditation for ten days and the results were phenomenal. It's too soon to tell if it'll stick, but I think it's fixed about 80% of my impostor syndrome and anxiety around impact, which have been a major source of stress for me for years.

I've tried everything before, like CBT, ACT, concentration practice, IFS, exercise, therapy, etc etc. Nothing had worked. And this has been by far the most successful thing I've tried.

Will be writing about it in more detail on LessWrong when I write the review about the Finder's Course in a few weeks. Thank you so much for writing this article that gave me the extra push and framework I needed.


This has inspired me to try this too. I think I won't do 1h per day because I'm out of practice with meditation so 1h sounds real hard, but I commit to doing 20 mins per day for 10 days sometime in February.

What resources did you use to learn/practice? (Anything additional to the ones recommended in this post?) Was there anything else that helped?

I've since been told about Tasshin Fogleman's guided metta meditations, and have found their aesethic to be much more up my alley than the others I've tried. I'd expect others who prefer a more rationalist-y aesthetic to feel similarly.

The one called 'Loving our parts' seems particularly good for self-love practice.

So glad to hear it! I don't use any particular resource. Just the general principle of generate the feeling of loving-kindness on something easy for you, then maintain that emotion while thinking of something that's slightly harder to feel loving-kindness towards, then slowly level up, until you're working on people really hard for you. 

Good luck! Would love to hear how it goes :) 

Thanks for this! I found this much more approachable than other writing on this topic, which I've generally had trouble engaging with because it's felt like it's (implicitly or explicitly) claiming that: 1) this mindset is right for ~everyone; and 2) there are ~no tradeoffs (at least in the medium-term) for (almost?) anyone.

Had a few questions:

Your goals and strategies might change, even if your values remain the same.

Have your values in fact remained the same?

For example, as I walked down the self-love path I felt my external obligations start to drop away. 

What is your current relationship to external obligations? Do they feel like they exist for you now (whatever that means)?

While things are clearly better now, I’m still figuring out how to be internally motivated and also get shit done, and for a while I got less shit done than when I was able to coerce myself.

Do you now feel as able to get things done as you did when you were able to coerce yourself? What do you expect will be the medium-to-long run effect on your ability to get things done? How confident do you feel in that?


More broadly, I'm curious whether this has felt like an unamibiguously positive change by the lights of Charlie from 1-3 years ago (whatever seems like the relevant time period)? In the long-run do you expect it to be a Pareto improvement by past Charlie's lights?

Hey Howie, thanks for writing this! I'm really happy that you found it more approachable, and I think your questions are awesome! One thing I wanna say off the bat is that this is all quite new to me. I don't have much data yet, and I'm not stable--things seem to be improving at an increasing rate right now. 

1) this mindset is right for ~everyone

Yeah, my guess is that that's not true, but I'm uncertain. I think you need some risk tolerance, and people in a great place might (rightly) not have that. Idk. When I look back, it seems like a lot of what drove me was desperation. OTOH, I think if the stuff succeeds then it can be really awesome, and maybe there's an impact argument there based on heavy-tail impact stuff. That argument has definitely influenced my actions.

2) there are ~no tradeoffs (at least in the medium-term) for (almost?) anyone.

This one I'm confident is not true haha, depending on how you define medium-term. This post talks about this a bit.

Have your values in fact remained the same?

It seems like I used to "care" about only one thing: saving the world. I use quotes because at some point I really did care, and then quite quickly lost touch with that and was left with obligations, and because I shut down all the parts of me that didn't care about saving the world. I viewed myself almost entirely instrumentally. The biggest shift in values is that I care about myself a lot more than I ever have. But it feels more like a framework shift than a values shift, because I was an obligation machine, and now everything is internal. I'm now much more operating from the position of 'what does Charlie want to do?' and then doing that. And very often the thing I really want to do is try to save the world. That said, if I want to do other things, I'll do those instead. Another way of putting this is that saving the world used to be at the centre of my universe, and now my wants are at the centre of my universe. Idk, maybe this doesn't answer your question.

What is your current relationship to external obligations? Do they feel like they exist for you now (whatever that means)?

Yeah, they deffo exist. They're substantially less strong. It seems like there's a part of my brain that still turns 'oh this would be so cool to do' into an obligation later down the line (not sure whether this counts as 'external'). I'm not sure this is even bad--it's a good reminder that I cared about a thing. I'm better at noticing obligations when they pass above some threshold strength, and when I notice that I usually perform the step of internalising/understanding why I cared about the thing in the first place. And after that the obligation mostly goes away. The whole process is pretty fast and nice. That said, sometimes I miss big things.

It seems like the thrust of your questioning is the following: "do I expect that these changes to produce (or have produced) outcomes that look good according to my previous values?".

The answer is pretty clearly yes, already. But my situation is a little complicated, because I was depressed when I decided to start this. Depressed Charlie loves current Charlie's life, unambiguously. Charlie at peak productivity also endorses the decision to start and continue self-love stuff when I did. It's the best way he knows of to do the most good. I don't think this is a coincidence--I don't think I'd have been able to make the transition if I didn't believe at every step that it was good for what I "cared" about at the time. If peak productivity Charlie could push a button and make the shift, I think he would, if he knew that there was a decent chance of burnout and depression under his current trajectory. If he knew his current trajectory definitely wouldn't lead to depression and burnout, then it's more difficult. There are lots of benefits conferred by internalising things and self-love--like energy and happiness. But you probably lose stuff too. I'm genuinely uncertain. But fortunately for me, it's pretty clear that the depression and burnout were and still are the bottlenecks to my impact, and I don't know of better fixes to those (with respect to doing the most good) than the stuff I described in the post (for me).

Do you now feel as able to get things done as you did when you were able to coerce yourself? What do you expect will be the medium-to-long run effect on your ability to get things done? How confident do you feel in that?

Nice. Mmmm. I'm very clearly more competent than when I was depressed. There was a period in 2017 when I was killing it. I'm getting closer to that level now, but I'm definitely not there yet. (TBC, I produce significantly more value in total now, but most of that is not due to self-love, just general increases in competency). The main part of that is lost confidence/general overhang from the depression. And part is that I'm still figuring out a lot of the details of non-coercive motivation. I don't know how to operationalise "getting things done". I think it's 85% that I'll be killing it more than I ever have some time in the next 2 years. 

First of all - thank you for sharing this. 

It resonates a lot and I have recently also wrote about my process of developing self-love over the past year. What I found interesting was that the act of loving myself was actually not that hard when I intentionally put my head and heart to it. What was much harder (both intellectually and emotionally) was understanding why I stopped loving myself in the first place - and what role it played in my life until then. Why it felt like such an alien skill, why no one ever talked to me about it before. Current take: hating myself was a good mechanism to push forward and achieve goals, but it runs out as fuel. That's when self-love emerges as a new strategy. and a source of energy. Also, society does not provide better strategies, so it perpetuates self-hate being the default.

Some very real outcomes I can attribute to my experiments with self-love is feeling more resilient, confident, relaxed and understanding how to work with the feeling of loneliness better (the better the relationship with myself, the less I need others to validate me). 

Regarding the initial skepticism, I remember my biggest worry was that it will make me go too easy on myself. I think you did a great job explaining how both that gets a bit true, but also that it does not feel like a drawback within the self-loving frame. What helped me was checking out some studies where they found that increased self-compassion made people more productive, not less. The basic mechanism goes like this: inject self-compassion > reduce cortisol > increase oxytocin> feel safe/comforted > achieve optimal mind state to do your best. 

I just heard about Core Transformation (book) and it seems really cool but I don’t know how cool.

I've had a chance to do some peer-to-peer CT sessions last year and it's pretty amazing the first couple of times. I also found that on its own it has a certain shelf life. I then started doing much more parts work and I discovered these two modalities compliment each other very well. 

You could try to find an IFS therapist but I expect the average therapist to bad.

This might be true, although I think you don't really need a therapist to get a lot of initial value. I recommend this audiobook which is basically like a guided meditation with mini-lectures. You can basically do self-therapy with it and get familiar with the method. I also recommend people this podcast where Tim Ferriss is guided into a live IFS session by the 'father' of the method, Richard Schwartz (around 40th minute). It will give you a sense of the potential of this approach, which is non-pathologising (unlike traditional therapy that assumes you are broken and need help). 

Based on my experiences, IFS is great for discovering the landscape of your parts and understanding what role they play for the system, what they fear would happen without them and teaches you how to re-negotiate their roles. It's also really cool to work on relationships between parts, not just between you and the parts.  I found that CT focuses more on going deep into one part and what it wants, ultimately. And then realising that the desired core state (e.g. love, safety, compassion, peace) is already available and trying to just 'step into it and have it'. In many cases it reduces the sense of 'trying' or 'desperation' that some agitated parts create in the system.

Kaj Sotala says he got significant value from guided Ideal Parent Figure practice (guided meditation, course, book--see chapter 8). The idea is that a lot of our emotional conditioning around self-worth comes from childhood, where we learn what kinds of behaviours get us love and acceptance from our caregivers.

I found this specifically useful in places where it's genuinely hard to love myself, i.e. when I think of something stupid I've done in the past, was not aware of/did not understand my needs, received negative feedback from people whose opinion I care about,  etc. In those places, imagining someone like an ideal older sister (or even just my current, wiser self) supporting myself from the past creates the necessary distance to be able to see more ways in which I was just trying my best and did not know better. It's like a proxy to be able to experience some compassionate, caring feelings where the first reaction is self-hate or resentment. 

I have some advice on the "how": 
It is unfortunately common to learn self-injurious patterns. And if you do, it will not necessarily seem odd or extreme to you. Take a few minutes to seriously consider if you regularly do something that hurts or harms you- Do you do exercises that hurt? Do you deny yourself food when hungry? Do you force yourself to work past the point of exhaustion? Do you call yourself names?

How would you naturally feel about someone that did those things to you? Probably not great. If you're finding it hard to feel positively about yourself, you may need to stop hurting yourself, or at least commit to trying to stop, and apologize first.

It may feel silly to apologize to yourself, but it can help immensely. Make it a real apology, too: "I'm sorry I hurt you by ________. That was not kind. In the future I will _______, because you deserve to be treated kindly."

Like any other relationship, the apology won't immediately fix it, but it is a first step. The next step is following through on your commitment and consciously choosing to treat yourself like a beloved friend. Every time you slip up or "have to" hurt yourself in the future, apologize to yourself again, like you would to a friend "hey, I'm sorry I took on more than we can handle. Thanks for working overtime to get it done. In the future, I'll be more careful with our time."

To further repair the relationship, "give yourself" your daily self-maintenance as acts of kindness. For example, instead of mindlessly making food because you have to, consciously make it "for your friend(you)". Say something along the lines of "Here, I made this for you, because I like you :)" like you would to a friend. Try to notice something you do well and acknowledge it. Give yourself a compliment. Give yourself little gifts.

Even in the case of a truly unavoidable hurt, like getting a painful medical procedure, acknowledge the pain and show yourself sympathy: "Oof, yeah, it really sucks that this hurts. Thank you for doing this to keep us safe." It is unfortunately common to instead say to yourself something like "Suck it up! Everyone hurts sometimes- that's life!", despite this being extremely dysfunctional. Imagine saying something like that out loud to a friend, and it becomes immediately obvious: if you talk to yourself like this, maybe you hate yourself because you are being kind of an a-hole


Partly I just want to signal-boost this kind of message.

But I also just really like the way this post covers the topic. I didn't have words for some of these effects before, like how your goals and strategies might change even if your values stay the same.

The whole post feels like a great invitation to the topic IMO.

I didn't reread it in detail just now. I might have more thoughts were I to do so. I just want this to have a shot at inclusion in final voting. Getting unconfused about self-love is, IMO, way more important than most models people discuss on this site.

Just stumbled on this, wanted to give an upvote and add that for people who weren't brought up with warmth or acceptance, even the concept of what "love" is, is challenging. For me, I would read a lot of these books that talked about healing by loving your inner child or sending beams of white light and whatnot and it went right over my head. I had to break things down into simpler contexts, e.g.:

  • Love is lighting up when you see someone
  • Love is being on someone's side, standing between them and danger
  • Love is being happy they're happy, sad they're sad -- their emotions and well-being have weight in your utility function
  • Love is wanting someone to grow into their potential
  • Love is telling the truth (vs. lying, concealment, and emotional blackmail)
  • Love is the absence of disapproval towards a person's being

etc. etc. in order to reconstruct the moves in my head, to be able to give aspects of myself some semblance of love.

I guess what I'm saying is that for a lot of people, learning not to self-hate is kind of a prerequisite for self-love, because a huge amount of what I was taught was "love" as a child was actually hate, manipulation, emotional blackmail, one-sided bargaining, and exploitation.

Thank you Charlie for this inspiring post! I found the encouragement to explicitly aim for self-love very helpful. 

After a bad year of responding to chronic stress with a lot of self-judgment, I realized that I need to reset my relationship with myself, and I have an intention for this year to get better at self-love and practice every day. I found some self-love meditations on Insight Timer and have been doing them daily for a few weeks. I'm definitely feeling better but it's too early to tell if this is a stable change.

I found that meditation that specifically aims at self-love works better for me than loving-kindness meditation. The loving-kindness meditation recordings I have encountered usually focus on "wishing well" to yourself or others, which feels different and somehow more neutral than "sending love" or something like that. Connecting the intention with the breath and imagining that I'm breathing in love for myself and breathing out love for others also makes the meditation more powerful for me.


Thanks so much for this!

  1. Curious about

For example, I was aiming to pursue a PhD in machine learning, partly because I thought it would make me worthwhile. When I felt worthwhile I stopped that; I was able to think more freely about which strategy looked best according to my values.

If you have a chance I’d love to hear more about what this process looked like. What did thinking something would make you worthwhile feel like? Do you think that self love helped you care less about the status of a PhD? Or was it some other mechanisms? In general, how self-love stuff intersects with career planning sounds like an important sub-topic.

  1. Kendrick Lamar loves himself.

Cross-posting this from the EA forum, in case somebody here finds it useful:

I enjoyed this post and really appreciate all the great resources! Recently I have also been thinking about this and just posted a short article on how to make metta meditation a bit easier for people who struggle with it. Maybe it will be useful to some of you, I would love to hear your feedback.

Here is an excerpt:

Instead of beginning with yourself, you first picture someone with whom you have a really uncomplicated and positive relationship. Wishing them well is much easier. Not only does this help with getting into the groove of building up the feeling of metta, but a certain framing can help you transition the focus to yourself more easily. Personally, I find this works best with a pet.

For example, I may start with thinking of my dog and wishing him well using my preferred metta phrases. Then I try to imagine viewing myself through the eyes of my dog and also silently saying phrases like "May You be well." To me, it comes very natural to imagine that my dog loves me a lot and is really happy to see me. Because of that, it isn't hard to put myself into the position of my dog, imagining him e.g. being petted by me and wishing me all the best.

Now comes the interesting part. Mirghafori gives the instruction of "joining voices" with, in this case, my dog. That means switching the phrasing to "May I be well" instead of You. Instead of viewing myself from the outside perspective of a friend, I now try to have a loving awareness of the body and mind which I experience from the inside.

Thank you so much for writing this!

Some books that have really helped in my understanding of this topic are Self Compassion, Good Morning I love you, and The Gifts of Imperfection

I remember when my therapist first suggested practicing self compassion, I felt like I had discovered something that would benefit me in any situation for the rest of my life. In practice, I often lapse into old self critical habits fairly easily, but when I find myself returning to my practice of self-love consistently, things quickly turn around. I think developing a consistent practice of self-love that you feel on an emotional level, rather than just an intellectual level is the key.

The analogy that really helps motivate me to stick with the practice is that of learning a new piano piece. At first, your fingers feel awkward and you use enormous energy to not make mistakes and still you often do, but as you keep with it, you will soon find yourself intuitively and effortlessly playing the piece. I think that this is the ideal level for self love to reside and benefit your life. Practicing it at first feels awkward and forced, but over time, it becomes an intuitive response that arises in moments that you most need it, moments where self-love is often the opposite response to your default one.

I am actually attempting to develop a meditation/mental health app with this philosophy at the center: daily mindful/emotional practice of self love. I think that it's one thing to engage the material intellectually in the form of books and audiobooks, but another entirely to soak in it day after day, mindfully and slowly. It's still in it's early phases but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I like the piano analogy, in the sense that it seems like self-love is a groove that gets well-trodden and much easier to access on demand. Personally, I did not do any forcing of any kind. It never really felt unnatural or awkward. But I've now heard from a couple of people now that that's how they got started.

It's still in it's early phases but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Happy to, though I'm very busy atm. My email is