Welcome to Joie De Vivre, our weekly column with our go-to fitness, health, home & wellness expert, Amy Rosoff-Davis, who will be here doling out advice every Wednesday on how to become the best version of you. Up this week: why it’s so g-dang hard to be nice to ourselves, and how you can start.

A few years ago, I went through a monumental break-up. Most of the people around me said the same thing: you’re young, just go easy on yourself. Relax, you’ve got time to find someone. That all sounds great until you realize you’ve spent most of your life berating yourself over irrational fears and shortcomings. When you’ve done that, waking up each day and being grateful for and happy with the person you see in the mirror is next to impossible, and until you have enough self-compassion to realize how not ok it is to treat yourself so badly, how can you possibly expect to be ready to receive love from someone else?

It’s easy to make excuses for why our internal monologs are so terrible. When we have amazing people supporting us, being nice to ourselves on top of that feels overindulgent. So we repeatedly beat ourselves up for not hitting arbitrary milestones, for not making relationships work, for not being enough because we have great families and friends who pick us back up when we fail.

When my relationship ended, I resolved to work on myself, cycling through everything from journal entries, to Shamans, Therapists, Feng Shui gurus, and books, only to find that all those things were the wrong kind of ‘work.’ If I wanted to be my best me, to take this beautiful and precious gift of life and fill it with love, laughter and everything in between, I had to reevaluate my way of thinking. Every choice needed to come from a place of kindness, listening to what my body and mind were telling me that they needed, and being okay with whatever those answers were.

Self-love isn’t an easy journey. I was pretty broken after my breakup, and there were a lot of mornings I woke up and just wanted to go back to bed. Those are the most important moments to keep going, making small, kind choices to better yourself. I learned to cook, and I started eating for health, but also for the feeling of joy. I stopped exercising to force my body to look a certain way and instead focused on how great it felt to move and be strong. I opened my mind to the idea of living for, not wishing for, the big, bold existence I had always dreamed of, building a life that was completely solid from the inside out. There’s no finish line with self-love and compassion. It’s an ongoing mission you commit to, but you’ll know you’re on the right track when you start attracting people who support this version of you.

Not long after I put this into practice, I met a guy who is everything I’ve ever wanted in a partner and more. Three months later, we were engaged, a year later, we were married, and now we’re expecting a baby girl this June. If there was ever a better example of the power of self-love and putting yourself first, I have yet to experience it.

The self-love tenants I live by are as follows, and maybe (hopefully!) you’ll be compelled to put some of them into practice: It’s ok to be kind and gentle with yourself. It’s more than ok to forgive yourself when you make mistakes; take it as an opportunity to grow and learn. You should constantly be complimenting yourself on being the gorgeous creature that you are, and know that “putting on your air mask first,” listening to what you want and need, could be what you need to move to the next phase of your life. Be proud of who you are, and share that person with the world.

Read them out loud like a mantra whenever you have a bad day, or write ’em on a piece of paper and stick it to your mirror. Even better, share them with friends! All it takes is a little reminder to regroup and change the dialogue you’re having with yourself.

With that in mind, do my a favor and take a moment right now, rub your hand on your heart and say to yourself, “I LOVE YOU.” Accept the you that runs deep inside, and love that person to bits. I promise each day will feel a little brighter if you do.

Xo Amy