To love yourself is the first step to developing spiritually. You may have been told to love others but not to love yourself. This is a very harmful piece of advice and we will get into trouble if we attempt to follow it.
We have been told that if we love ourselves we will develop a big ego, become a narcissist and so forth. However the exact opposite is true. Watch the do-gooders, the people who serve society, the politicians, the missionaries, and the social workers. You will observe that they have the biggest egos of all. They will tell themselves that they do not love themselves but love humanity. Their egos will be nourished and they will develop big egos.
In fact unless these servants of humanity love themselves, their love for humanity will only be an ego trip and they will do harm instead of good. Osho Rajneesh says that it is only if we love ourselfves that we can truly love others. Just as you respect yourself you will find yourself respecting others. Just as you meet your own needs you will find yourself understanding the needs of others. Osho compares loving yourself with a pebble being thrown into a lake. The ripples caused by the pebble will at first arise close to the pebble. It is only later that the ripples spread out and reach the shores of the lake. If you prevent the ripples from arising close to the pebble naturally they will also not reach to the shore. In a similar manner unless you love yourself you will not be able to love others.
Another benefit, if you love yourself, is that you will be able to meditate. You will be able to be alone with yourself only if you love yourself. A person who hates himself will seek all manner of distractions because he will not be able to stand his own company. He will seek out friends to socialize with, go to a movie, or switch on the tube - anything to take him away from himself. Doing meditation means being alone with yourself and you will only benefit from this practice if you love yourself. Indeed it is possible to learn to love yourself by doing meditation if you follow the right method.
The method for cultivating love for yourself by meditation is this - watch whatever arises during the course of your meditation, and acknowledge it. You may want to focus on the in breath and the out breath as you are doing the meditation. Thoughts and feelings will inevitably arise. Welcome those thoughts and feelings and acknowledge them. Just this much is required - no more.
This is a powerful Buddhist method of meditation and it will lead to all manner of benefits in your life, in your relationship with yourself and with others. You can practice this method of acknowledging your thoughts and feelings at stray moments during the day when you have nothing to do. During a traffic jam, while waiting for a bus or train - whenever you find time - practice acknowledging your thoughts and feelings. Anchor yourself in the present moment by simultaneously observing the breath. Follow this practice for a few weeks and observe the changes in your life.
Awareness of yourself, observing yourself, is a source of bliss and also transformation. The story is told of Nagarjuna, the famous Indian mystic. Once a thief came to him and said that he desired to learn and practice the way. The thief said that he is prepared to do anything but not to give up stealing. He asked if Nagarjuna would accept him as a student and would teach him. Nagarjuna said, "Certainly I will," and taught him the techniques of self-observation and mindfulness. He simply asked the thief to practice mindfulness as he went about his job of robbing people. The thief went home and tried to follow these teachings. A week later he returned to Nagarjuna and asked to be accepted as a disciple. The thief said that he had found it impossible to rob others and at the same time be mindful. He had to choose - either be conscious and not steal or be unconscious and steal. This was the choice faced by the thief. Nagarjuna accepted the thief as a disciple and later the thief went on to become enlightened.
Be conscious and watch as you go about your daily activities as well as during meditation. You will find that truly, virtue is its own reward.