Why I Had to Love Other People Before I Could Love Myself

It sounds weird, right? Down right counterintuitive to what everyone always says, “You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.” But for me, to truly love myself, the former was true. I realized about two years ago that I looked at most people in one of two ways:

You’re so good looking, thin, fit, etc. that I’m not good enough anymore.


I’d simply judge what they were wearing and how they looked, like they weren’t good enough.

Notice the pattern here: “good enough.”

I realized this outlook was a reflection of how I looked at myself and the perfectionism that was so pervasive in my life. While I’m not proud of the thoughts I had toward myself or others—and it’s really something I’ve only admitted to my therapist—I think it’s something many of us likely do subconsciously.

So, when I realized this was going on, I made up a game: Give everyone around me a less judgmental critique. The thought process was that perhaps if I was less harsh with them, I’d be less harsh with myself.

I started by complimenting every single person I walked or biked by. No matter who it was, what they were wearing, or how they looked, I had to come up with at least one thing to say to myself that was kind about that person. At any given moment, I’d be thinking:

  • “Oh, I love that shirt.”
  • “Oh, those shoes are cute.”
  • “Wow, she’s really killing it with her run right now!”

This process was similar to the one where I give myself 3 very specific compliments every time I look in the mirror. (See more about that in How I Learned to Love My Body).

The change in mindset was amazing. I found that more I followed this practice, the less harsh I was with myself. It was almost as if I was giving myself permission to be okay with me, because I was okay with everyone around me. That instant, “not enough” started to fade into the background.

I also began loving this complimenting as I walked or ran by every person. It was fun finding something cool or pretty or awesome about what these strangers were doing or wearing. The best part: I felt great doing it.

This love and appreciation for other people blossomed into stronger sense of self love. With less “competition” I was free to appreciate myself. I was no longer “not enough”—everyone was enough, so I was on an equal playing field.

Find Your Own Sense of Self Love ❤

Tune into your inner dialogue as you see other people—is it negative? Do you find yourself yearning to look like that person? If so, what comes next? A lack of confidence? A feeling of not being enough? Negative self talk?

If so, start complimenting others in your mind—find at least one thing you think is great about that person and say it to yourself. Make this a regular practice and see if you notice a difference in your own self talk and self love.

While life is not about how people look, this small act can have a significant impact on how you see yourself. When you lift others up, you inadvertently allow yourself to be lifted up as well. This releases the weight of negative self talk or that feeling of not being enough.

Without such a heavy burden, I was free to love myself and everyone else around me—and the same can be true for you.

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Jessica Thiefels

Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years. She's the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Honest Body Fitness, where women are warriors who love their bodies. She's also a a full-time writer, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist. She’s written for Shape, Reader’s Digest, AARP, Snap Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness and more. Follow Jessica and Honest Body Fitness on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for health articles, workouts tips and more.

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