Self-Love Too Daunting? Start With Self-Liking! 11 Pointers.

“Love yourself more” is something we are told again and again. “No one can love you if you don’t already love yourself” is another. But, what does self-love actually feel like? And how do we become or do something if we don’t understand what it entails?

To a lot of people, self-love is not a good thing. The internet and the tv have become the domain of the artificially beautiful, a stage upon which to act out their highly indulgent, very public lives. If that is self-love, we conclude, we’d rather continue to be critical of ourselves. Of course, most of us understand that, in reality, all of this posturing is nothing more than a pantomime made up of performers who are neurotic and desperate for attention and validation. Despite knowing this, however, in comparison, a tiny part of us might still feel a wee bit insignificant… and maybe even a touch envious. Regardless, it has nothing whatsoever to do with self-love. And some people even believe that loving the self is selfish and therefore wrong. That sacrificing ourselves to the needs and wants of others is good and right – even if it causes us to feel less-than, or inwardly resentful.

So, if self-love isn’t about parading every aspect of our life before an open-mouthed audience, and if it isn’t about a life of constant self-sacrifice – what is it about? How does it actually work?

Well, for most of us, genuine self-love develops over time. It isn’t all warm and fuzzy, and it doesn’t cause us to gaze adoringly upon ourselves in the mirror. To learn to love ourselves, first of all we must experience being disappointed in ourselves. We have to be able to take our humanness into account, without persistently letting ourselves off the hook. There are those amongst us who focus solely on their shortcomings, and others who persistently edit the truth in favour of themselves; neither group are helping themselves. We need to be willing to face our weaknesses and failures – whilst also celebrating our strengths and victories… otherwise, it’s an imbalanced picture. And let’s face it, the idea of self-love can feel a bit cheesy and embarrassing, and not something we’d easily admit to. However, liking ourselves is a different matter altogether. That’s so much easier to accept and to work with. But even that can take time to develop, especially if we’ve been treated badly by others for any length of time. So, let’s remove the pressure that comes with the idea that we should love ourselves, and instead concentrate on simply liking ourselves. 

Here’s a question: do I like myself? Yes, I do – but it has taken time for me to comfortably reach that point. I have been bitterly ashamed of myself so many times, appalled by my own lack of wisdom and poor choices and actions. My biggest regrets stem from the pain that I have caused others – not deliberately and intentionally, but selfishly and stupidly. And I have unconsciously put myself into situations that led me to be mentally and emotionally abused, adding to my self-disgust. However, over time, I began to realise that I was at least trying to be a better version of myself and that I also did a lot of good stuff with the best of intentions. I recognised that I was evolving into a decent human being and actually hadn’t deserved some of what had been dished out to me by some deeply troubled and unreasonable individuals. So, although I can’t rewrite my past, and there are memories that will always haunt me, I’m proud that I accepted responsibility for the way in which I intended to go forward, and the fact that I have never given in. It’s still a work in progress, but I genuinely do like and want the best for myself – as I would for anyone else I care about. 

So, if you are struggling to view yourself in a favourable and positive light, there are helpful steps that you can take in order to start feeling better and more hopeful right now. Here are 11 suggestions that can help point you in the right direction:

1) Commit to the goal of learning to like yourself. And make sure that it is a genuine commitment, not half-hearted. Be willing to invest time and energy in yourself. 

2) Pay attention to your habitual inner dialogue and recognise how often you are speaking harshly to yourself. Also, how often your thoughts are critical and defeatist. Start by gaining a sense of perspective and weeding out the most unreasonable self-criticisms, rather than trying to shut yourself up entirely. Also, trying to only think nice, isn’t-everything-wonderful thoughts will not last long and will only lead to further self-disgust when you fail to maintain the forced habit. As I’ve always said, false positivity is worse than negativity!

3) Talk to yourself as you would to a loved friend. You’d be honest but kind. Discuss where you could have handled certain situations differently, whilst praising your efforts and achievements, no matter how small you might deem them to be. Get into the habit of balancing your thinking, so that the focus isn’t all one-sided.

4) Take into account just how affected you’ve been by past rejection. Never underestimate its power to emotionally crush. At the same time, remind yourself that your power lies in the here and now, not the past. You can respond differently from this point on.  

5) Recognise the difference between responding and reacting – they are definitely not the same. Reacting is swift and often defensive and self-protective; it comes from a place of fear and powerlessness. Responding is considered and comes from a place of strength and analysis. Even when we’re aware of the difference between the two, we will still find ourselves reacting every now and then – but what we don’t want to be is a serial reactor! It’s exhausting, it is off-putting, and it gets us nowhere.

6) Don’t automatically accept other people’s assessment of you. Or their behaviour toward you. By all means, consider whether there is anything for you to take on board or learn about yourself – but don’t immediately judge yourself by the way in which others treat you. The problem may well be theirs, not yours. And I speak from experience; I have been mentally and emotionally battered by aggressive men who are utterly lacking in self-discipline and self-control. Temper tantrums and name calling, finger pointing and blaming… insidious forms of abuse. Of course, this kind of behaviour is not exclusive to the male gender, and I am only explaining my own experiences. Despite being seen as an independent, strong-minded person with determination and ambition, I allowed myself, far too many times, to be verbally and spitefully stripped to the bare bones. But there comes a day when it cannot be tolerated for a second longer… even if that day takes years to arrive. I used to believe that this kind of treatment was all I could expect (and was happy when the storm passed and the ‘he’ in question had gotten over his rage… albeit temporarily), because it was all I had experienced. But if I continued to tolerate it, then it would be all I was ever going to know. And, of course, when the snapping point is reached and the perpetrator can’t control or manipulate you anymore, they react with fierce resistance. When you start to like yourself, you will refuse to play ball with anyone who wants to continue treating you as if you deserve no better. Sometimes such a relationship has to end. Other times, though, it can be genuinely repaired, with persistence and a shift in the balance of power. Unbelievable as it might sound, a person can actually love the one they are abusing, despite evidence to the contrary. After all, how could anyone be so cruel to someone they are supposed to love? Inner pain, learned behaviour, habit, the fact that they’ve virtually been given permission to do so? Probably all of these and more. I have known when I have actually been loved and when I haven’t been, but I don’t know which is worse… being treated badly by a partner who doesn’t love you (maybe because they don’t know how to love), or by one who does actually value and need you. However, mental and emotional abuse and neglect can also be dished out by our parents/carers, too (something else I have experienced, and which probably led to accepting it from partners, further down the line). If our own parents don’t deem us worthy of love, kindness, support, and protection, we must be a piece of s**t, right? No, wrong! Damaged people, who are usually filled with self-loathing because they know, deep down inside, that what they are doing is wrong, have the capacity to seriously damage others. And so it goes on, as long as it is allowed to. When you say “enough is enough” and mean it, you know that you are on the road to caring about yourself enough to fight for yourself – which in turn makes it easier to like yourself. 

7) Take care of you. Don’t neglect and abuse yourself. And what about those aspects that you feel you want to change or improve? Approach them one at a time and keep going until you obtain a result. And then move on to the next, in the same way. But only do this for your benefit, no one else’s. Oh, and have some fun along the way! Don’t make yourself miserable with self-imposed regimes that you struggle to stick with. Going forward a few steps, back one or two, and then forward again, is perfectly acceptable. 

8) Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t. Do you believe that all of those who bombard social media with filtered and photoshopped images of themselves actually like how they are, in real life? Of course they don’t! Most of us have aspects of our body that we’d love to change but we do our best with our favourite bits and get on with life. Encouraging this behaviour by rewarding it with praise and admiration is not a good or kind thing to do. Whilst we all like to look our best, we have so much more to offer than a caricature of ourselves. The bottom line is, if they are only impressed when we present a false version of ourselves, it isn’t us they like – it is the facade!

9) Do good things for the right reason. Just because you want to. Offer encouragement to others. People who like themselves find it much easier to also like others, regardless of any differences that exist. 

10) Don’t be insincere or feel duty-bound to pay lip service to others. Either be honest or don’t become unnecessarily drawn into conversation that will cause you to feel compromised. Other people’s opinions and beliefs only matter if we allow them to (sometimes easier said than done, I admit!). However, if we feel that we are constantly having to listen to what everyone else has to say, whilst never being heard, it can cause us to feel worthless and of no interest. If push comes to shove, smile, nod, and say nothing at all! 

11) Remind yourself every day that it is the small things that count, and the small things that add up. Smile at yourself in the mirror and say “Hello you, how are you doing today?” Share jokes with yourself. Be proud when you say “NO”, calmly and firmly, to that which is unacceptable. And if someone else doesn’t see you, understand you, or appreciate you, that’s fine. Plenty of others will – starting with yourself! 

Why not check out my journal, available via Amazon?  

Posted by

Intuitive consultant, offering predictions with insight and food for thought. Relationship advisor, blogger, and self-published author. With a black belt in kickboxing!

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