In the West we are very prone to both self-deprecation AND high self-esteem. You see others as either above you or beneath you. Both views convey lower levels of actual self-love and inhibit connection. That puts you in a vicious cycle, because we need to be able to connect with others in order to feel safe.
You likely know the Golden Rule, a maxim for many cultures and religions around the world. Empathy often comes easily with others, even strangers, though the same level of kindness to ourselves can seem awkward at best. If your love isn't safe with yourself, who is it going to be safe with?
Think of that person who warms your heart and easily brings a smile to your face as you think of their place in this world. What are their good qualities? Who have they been to you? As you hold them in this way, you don't need to deny their shortcomings or bad qualities, but the focus is on opening to the good you see in them. You are bringing their strengths to the light.
By connecting with and accepting all of your own qualities in their fully illuminated magnitude, not just focusing on your perceived mistakes and shortcomings, you are taking the first steps. How have you contributed to the greater good? What are you most proud of? How are you beautiful from the inside-out? You have a unique constellation of signature strengths that are yours to shed light on, feed, water and grow.
Your signature character strengths are who you are at your core – the way you most readily think, behave, and bring your inner light to the world. If you would like to be able to “officially” name and claim them, there is a link on my website to the VIA Institute on Character and a free 20 minute or so survey that places 24 identified strengths in rank order, along with lots of information about them. I've found this to be a very powerful tool for enhancing self-confidence and living with authenticity. If you lean into your top 5 strengths, likely found within the top 10 in the survey results, you feel naturally energized.
My favorite exercise to build feelings of safety and connection is called Loving Kindness Meditation. Feel the tenderness a small child or kitten might elicit in their innocence. Now direct those warm feelings toward yourself. I use a very classic phrasing:
May I feel safe and protected.
May I feel happy and peaceful
May I feel healthy and strong.
May I live with ease.
Traditionally, you continue by naming a person close to you, then someone you know casually or someone you have difficulty with. Finally many include “all beings”. “May _____ feel...”
May you live with ease.