Learning To Love Yourself
As the song says… Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. Without self-love, we are limited in all areas of our life. Sadly, many people don’t know how to love themselves and actually loathe themselves. Self-love is the foundation for successful lives and healthy relationships. This is the only way you actually have love to give to others.
When we don’t love and accept ourselves, we form relationships in which we are trying to get our needs met from others. We do this by trying to change the other person into what we need. We create power struggles and drama as we look for someone to give us the love we are not giving to ourselves.
Before you can genuinely love anyone else, you must love yourself. Before you can love yourself, you have to find yourself. By this I mean your authentic self, not the false self you think is you. I recently had a client tell me how much she hates herself. She tearfully expressed how she is fake and not a real person. She explained how she created a persona and now doesn’t know who she is. While this is an overwhelming realization, it is also a blessing. She feels as though she is shattering into a million pieces and fears there will be nothing left of her. What she doesn’t yet realize is she is letting go of the imposter she presents to the world and is ready to get to know her authentic self. This is the part of us that went into hiding when we had to adapt to the environment we were raised in. The false or codependent self is formed as a way to protect the true self and keep us safe. But as we become adults, repeating the old codependent patterns prevents us from being genuine and connecting with others in a healthy way. If you have unfinished business from your childhood, then inner child work is necessary in order to work through those issues in order to live an authentic life…. fully alive, passionate and free.
One of the worst things you can do is to reject and abandon yourself. Judging yourself harshly and feeling shame is likely something you learned in childhood. We learn how to love ourselves — or not love ourselves – based on what we saw and how we were treating growing up. Even if you’ve chosen to numb yourself to the pain of the past, the self criticism is there in the background until you confront it and heal that wounded inner child. As you learn to connect with yourself in a healthy way, you will become more aware of your feelings, what you need and what loving action you can take to nurture yourself.
These are a few things you can do right now to break the cycle of unkindness you have toward yourself.
1. Self talk. If your head is filled with negative, critical and condemning thoughts, this exercise may help you identify where the thoughts originated. It may feel like you’re hearing your own voice, but you’re not. You are hearing what others have told you about who you are. You were not born hating yourself. Babies actually love themselves completely!
Think of a negative thought you have about yourself. Whose voice do you hear? Whose words are you repeating? Write down the negative thought and then correct it with a positive affirmation. For example: “I don’t deserve love” becomes “I am lovable exactly as I am”. “I am so stupid” becomes “I am intelligent and capable”.
Criticism keeps you down and stuck. We grow with love, encouragement and acceptance of ourselves as we are right now. This helps us blossom into who we are meant to be. Learn to say positive, nurturing, loving things to yourself and about yourself. Think of something you like about yourself. Make this something you repeat to yourself often.
2. Forgiveness. Forgive rather than attack yourself when you do something you wish you hadn’t done. None of us is perfect. The energy you use to turn against yourself will prevent you from feeling good about yourself. Make a point of saying, “I forgive myself”, even if you don’t specifically know what you are forgiving yourself for. The words are freeing and healing.
3. Inner Child Work. This can be powerful and transformational. For now, just start with getting to know your inner child. Find a picture of yourself at age 5 or younger. Look into your eyes. See the innocence. When you are angry at yourself, this is the part of you that you are scolding and criticizing. Actually connecting to your inner child will help you be mindful of who you are hurting with your harsh, internal dialogue.
4. Self care. Taking care of yourself is not being selfish. We can’t expect others to do something for us that we are not willing to do ourselves. And that includes loving ourselves. Are you waiting for someone to go on a date with you? Take yourself on a date! You must be able to be with yourself, by yourself and enjoy your own company. Think of the people in your life that you love. How do you treat them? Probably better than you treat yourself! You have to be your own best friend. Since others treat you the way you treat yourself, make a conscious effort to be kind to yourself.
Make a list of at least 5 things that you can do to nurture yourself – acts of loving kindness – that are not dependent on anyone else. Some examples are: take a walk or hike in nature, get a massage, exercise, eat healthy, cook your favorite meal. Make it something that feeds your soul and brings you joy.
What’s preventing you from loving yourself right now? If it’s because of anything that has happened in your past, this is great news! Past events are just memories that you are replaying over and over in your mind. Because the mind doesn’t know time, it’s always now. Your mind thinks that whatever you are thinking is happening right now, so it feels real to you. This is why guided imagery and affirmations are so effective. You imagine what you want to create as if it’s already happening, and you say affirmations in the present tense.
These suggestions will help you get started learning to love yourself. However, to transform your life and live with passion, joy and aliveness, you must work on this on a deeper level. Part 2 will focus on Meditation as a way to connect to your true self.