How to use visualisation to boost your self-love

Lots of people use visualisation. The most popular way is to visualise what you want. Some people picture their ideal house, their ideal car, or a perfect partner who ticks all the boxes, for instance.

The idea with this kind of visualisation is to picture what you want, the end result. It’s also useful to picture yourself in the visualisation; living in the house, driving the car, or with the perfect partner.

There’s a different kind of visualisation you can do for self-love, though. It’s centred on the fact that your muscles are in constant communication with your brain.

Why is that important?

Before I get into that, I’d first like to say what I mean by self-love. You can think ‘self-esteem’ instead of self-love if you prefer that term. The main reason I use the term self-love rather than self-esteem is that many people get their self-esteem from external sources, from their seeming successes in life and from other people’s positive opinions of them. But it’s not a stable self-esteem because failure, or a change in people’s opinions, give it a serious shake.

I think of self-love, on the other hand, as an inner sense of worthiness and value. It’s more of an inner self-esteem. It’s mostly independent of successes, achievements and external perceptions of you. It is stable, because if seeming failure occurs or opinions seem to change, the inner perception of yourself is untouched.

OK, so let’s get back to why it’s important that your muscles are in constant communication with your brain.

When you’re lacking in self-love, it comes across in your body language and in your facial expressions. Not all the time, of course, but especially when you’re challenged. This happens because your muscles are connected to your brain. It’s the same reason that your muscles and face tense when you feel stressed, or that your body feels light and floppy when you’re in love, and that you smile when you’re happy. In real ways, you wear your feelings on your body.

But it goes the other way too. Just as your body responds to how you feel, you can use your body to create how you want to feel. Making adjustment to how you sit, stand, how you move, and to your facial muscles, quickly impacts your feelings. A consistent practice of adjusting how you hold and move your body, so that it says, “I love myself,” or “I am enough,” or something else along those lines, can impact your self-love by literally creating the wiring of self-love in the brain.

More than this, though, is that your brain doesn’t distinguish real from imaginary. When you imagine moving your muscles, your brain processes it as if you actually are moving your muscles. Elite athletes and rehabilitation specialists use this fact all the time.

When you imagine holding and moving your body in way that says you have self-love, your brain processes it as if you do have self-love. The key difference between this and ‘classical’ visualisation (of the sort I mentioned at the beginning of this blog), is that you don’t put all your focus on an end result. Instead, you visualise the posture and movement of your body.

As you do this consistently, your brain wires in the habit of holding and moving your body in that way. As this happens, you start to feel the feelings that go with this new body posture and these new ways of moving. With enough consistent practice, the feelings of “I love myself,” or “I am enough,” or something along these lines, becomes habit too.

So to get started, simply notice right now how you’re holding your body. Is your body tense or relaxed? Is your spine straight or slumped? How about your facial muscles? Are you smiling or frowning? Is your brow relaxed or furrowed? Then make some shifts.

Do this as often as you can remember to.

Watch what happens!

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  1. Leighton Gosai on September 9, 2016 at 8:41 am

    Hi David, this is a great article and really interesting idea – thank you for that! I wonder though what your thoughts are on the specified posture / behaviours that are reflected in someone who has self-love?

    I used to serve in the military and the posture that was ‘drilled’ into us was one of walking tall, proud, confident, strong, self-assured etc… And others still comment on how obvious it is that I have served, based on the way I still carry myself today. Yet, in my experience and that of fellow ex-service men and women, this doesn’t always generate feelings of self-love or worth. Is there a missing link here, or its there something unique about the posture of someone who has lots of self-love?

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on September 14, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Hi Leighton, for most people there is a link between self-confidence and self-love, and when a person practices posture for confidence it has a knock-on effect in their self-love, but it’s not always so black and white, as your question indicates. First, I’d say that when a posture has been drilled in, so to speak, and perhaps not done so out of personal choice, then it might help build confidence but not necessarily self-love, especially if other factors have perhaps negatively affected the self-love during the same time or as part of the same overall experience.

      I’ve found that the best self-love postures and styles of movement are those that are comfortable and natural, one that not only displays a form of confidence, but that also displays a quiet kindness and gentleness. Rather than the ‘standard’ power pose, for instance, I personally found myself combining a strong posture with a gentleness and flexibility in my eyes, face, shoulders, and muscles. In other words, find your own body language that truly expresses who YOU are, which may have similarities to the one drilled in, but perhaps also contain softer aspects that represent your own perhaps softness and, even, vulnerability. Rather than thinking of a confidence pose, then, think of an ‘I am enough, I value myself, and I’m also gentle and kind!” posture. I hope the helps. 🙂

  2. Anne on September 13, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Just read this article my year age is 65 but I do believe I’m 40ish …just started the gym walking more and enjoying everything around me …I have just had a follow up health check and its fine …compared to three years ago …I have even booked in to have my hair coloured …I think this is a great way to be xx

  3. Wendy Williams on September 23, 2016 at 1:02 am

    Hi David
    I’ve been following your work for 7 or more years now and I just wanted to say I love your work.

    Kindest regards

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on October 5, 2016 at 6:58 am

      Thanks for your kind words, Wendy. 🙂

  4. Leighton on October 5, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    Hi David – thanks for your thoughtful response! I apologise for the delay too – Just back from 3 weeks in Bali 🙂

    It does make sense what you say, and, upon reflection, there is definitely a theme in the army of ‘you are not enough’. It’s true to say that, serving as a private, they seek to ‘grind you down’ before ‘building you back up’ again. No doubt the kind of confidence instilled is a superficial one, and one which is very contextual too. For example, I know ex-military personnel who were great leaders in the field, yet struggle to make conversation in a social context.

    I like what you suggest about the more kind, soft and comfortable movements which reflect an ease and acceptance of oneself, and one’s inherent value. The sort of humility which arises out of an openness and vulnerability – and a sense of peace that this is OK! I actually find certain Tibetan practises (such as Tonglen) useful for this 🙂

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