Complimenting your friends and family is usually a no-brainer, but how much time do you devote to appreciating yourself? Despite what you might think, self-love isn’t the same as vanity. It’s making yourself and your needs a priority — saying yes to the activities and people that make you happy, dropping the self-judgment and forgiving yourself when you fail.
If you’re ready to become a more authentic version of yourself start feeling good in your own skin, there are hundreds of books available on everything from embracing imperfection to changing the way you talk to yourself. But don’t worry about sifting through all of them. We asked a few experts to recommend their favorite self-love reads so you can light a candle, open a bottle of wine and let the self-love flow.
1. The Next Happy by Tracey Cleantis
Your 8-year-old self may have had a lot of plans for the adult you, but that doesn't mean you necessarily have to see them through. For letting go of old dreams, Jeanette Schneider, founder of Lore Advocacy and author of LORE: Harnessing Your Past to Create Your Future, recommends The Next Happy.
“Tracey Cleantis is a psychotherapist with an amazing fertility journey that inspired her works,” Schneider says. “Tracey refers to herself as "Childless, but not by choice." After hundreds of thousands of dollars in fertility treatments and a failed adoption, she realized it was time to redefine her version of happiness. She artfully explains the beauty of letting go and re-imagining the dreams you once held so dear in The Next Happy.
2. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
Most of the negative things you tell yourself — that you're not smart or pretty enough, that you're unlovable or deserve the bad things that happen to you — are a load of B.S., according to founder of The Chic Site and CEO of Chic Media Rachel Hollis.
You'll learn about these and other lies that are holding you back in her book, Girl, Wash Your Face. "It highlights the lies we believe about ourselves and goes hard after self talk,” Amanda Patrick, founder of Bliss Health Coaching, says. “She shows us that most of the time, we are our biggest critic and fear isn’t a reason to put off our hearts’ desires.”
3. Dietland by Sarai Walker
If self-help books aren’t your jam, delve into Dietland, a fictional novel that calls into question society's very real obsession with dieting, being skinny and looking like everyone else. Dietland follows Plum Kettle, a woman who's put her life on hold while waiting for her weight-loss surgery.
One day, Kettle unwittingly plunges into the world of Calliope House, a underground group of women who reject society’s standards of beauty, and is forced to confront her inner demons. If you’re looking for a read that’s both body-positive and thrilling, Dietland is exactly what you’ve been waiting for.
4. Claim Your Power by Mastin Kipp
“Mastin Kipp's Claim Your Power is a must-read,” says Schneider. In his book, Kipp guides the reader through a 40-day journey that aims to heal the emotional trauma that may be blocking you from a bigger, fully realized life.
“The work of understanding your own deeply embedded traumas frees you from the compensating stories you tell yourself that keep you in troubling relationships, soul-sucking jobs and a cycle of lack,” Schneider says. “Get ready to get unstuck.”
5. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
“Her messages inspired sections of my book, and her methods helped me discover self-love,” Kaiser says. Niyc Pidgeon, positive psychologist, success coach and best-selling author of Now Is Your Chance, had a similar experience with Hay’s work. “This is one of the texts I’ve re-read a million times because it’s just filled with so much nurturing and love within those pages,” she says. "Louise was such a leader for us all in this space, and we can all be grateful that she left a legacy of work for us to learn from.”
6. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Trying to live up to all of society's expectations is like fighting a battle you know you’re going to lose — disappointing and unsustainable. That’s why it can be so incredibly freeing to say “f- it” and embrace your flaws, which is exactly what you’ll learn to do with Brene Brown’s The Gift of Imperfection.
“This book highlights the beauty of our weaknesses and helps us to step out of our shame and into vulnerability and authenticity,” Patrick says. “It does a great job of teaching us to hold tight to who we are and not apologize for it.”
Read more: The Best Books on Self Confidence
7. Loving What Is by Byron Katie
After years of slipping further and further into depression, Byron Katie experienced an epiphany she calls “the work,” which she describes in her book, Loving What Is. “The Work consists of four questions and a turn around,” says Cynthia Belmer, certified self-growth and relationship coach and author of Life Without Approval.
“It is so simple yet it was (and still is) so extremely effective at helping me question if my thought or belief was true about a specific situation or person.” Katie’s book helped Belmer reassess the way she viewed potential outcomes, allowing her to combat anxious thoughts. “The Work taught me that there are other possibilities to my story that could be also true — maybe even more true than the stressful thought I have. This helped me better my relationship with myself and with others.”
8. Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins
In his best-selling book, Awaken the Giant Within, life coach and business strategist Tony Robbins provides a research-based, step-by-step guide on how to achieve your goals through self-awareness.
Jillian Turecki, a New York-based yoga teacher and expert in the science of fulfillment, says that Robbins’ book helped her to gain control of her mind, emotions and subsequently, her life. “In my opinion, there is no greater act of self love than learning how to be autonomous of our lives and reach our full potential,” she says.
9. The Goddess Revolution by Mel Wells
Imagine the amount of time you’d have to do the things you love if you never had to worry about dieting, how much you weigh or what your body looks like. In her book, The Goddess Revolution, Mel Wells aims to heal your toxic relationship with food by teaching you how to love and embrace yourself exactly as you are.
“As a psychologist, I know our negative thoughts and behaviors are symptoms of something deeper,” Pidgeon says. “To release the patterns which are keeping you feeling stuck, you need to start by working on your own self esteem and self worth first."
Read more: 10 Self-Help Books That Aren't Super Cheesy