From the time we are very young we learn the message that love often depends on approval. So we try to do things right, to be successful, clever and pleasing to others in order to be loved. Deep within many people feel hollow and worthless if they do not come up to these standards, imposed by culture and/or parents. Maybe you dislike, despise or even hate yourself when you fail to meet expectations. If so, you only feel ‘lovable’ for what you do, not who you are. For deep self-empowerment and contentment, loving yourself for yourself, really is essential.
THE JOURNEY OF SELF-LOVE
Even if you have been brought up to value and respect yourself, it is hard to experience self-love in our world. Messages about selfishness and self-centredness are all around, and you may feel guilty even thinking about it. If you love yourself, you may think, that no-one else will love this egotistical beast that you’ve become! Admire yourself and you’ll be a big-head. Consider your own well-being first and others may see you as greedy, and refuse to help you. The idea of self-love can sound isolating and repellant, but that is so very wrong.
Loving yourself is more than a feeling – it’s a spiritual journey where you discover the divine within you. Once you’re in touch with this, you can’t help but radiate loving feelings outwards. When you do kind deeds these are not out of guilt or obligation, but out of joy. True self-love makes everything shine – it’s worth the effort.
GOD AND GODDESS WITHIN
It can help to think of where you came from. You are star-dust, you are a dream of the Divine, you are in the image of god or goddess. If you think of the stories of the gods and goddesses in old myths, were they ‘perfect’? No! Ancient people were wiser than you may believe, and their divinities were forces of nature. You are a unique individual, here for your own special purpose, however small and unimportant that may seem to you. Trust this and honour yourself.
BREATHE IN LOVE
Think of someone or something that you love. This may be a person, an animal, a place, an activity – even a work of art or music. Let yourself be surrounded and filled by this love, truly experiencing the delight of it. Then breathe in saying ‘Love is me’ three times, letting the love flow through you, relaxing every part of your body making you warm and enriched.
FOCUS ON YOUR GOODNESS
Of course, true self-love is not founded on what you do, but what you are. But when looking at your behavior, you have a start on everyone else, for you know all about your kind intentions, your caring and concern for others. Forget about the ‘bad’ emotions – we all feel angry, jealous and resentful at times, so you’re only human. Let your awareness of your kindness fill you. Write down ten instances of kindness you’ve felt, or expressed. Read these each morning and evening and feel grateful you were gifted with these kind thoughts. Dwell on these, your compassion will increase and your self-love will grow.
CARE FOR YOUR INNER CHILD
Being aware of your inner child is a smooth and enriching route to self-love. We all have an ‘inner child’. It is a playful, vulnerable, innocent and creative part, needing love and understanding to blossom.
Imagine what your inner child is like. How does she/he look? What does she/he want, love, fear? How should you approach your inner child, gain her/his trust, comfort your child, heal and encourage her/him? How would she or he act and feel if they felt truly loved and accepted.
Imagine holding your inner child in your arms, loving, encouraging, soothing and strengthening. If your own up-bringing was strict and you can only remember being loved when you were ‘good’, meet your inner child as a very tiny baby, loving it unconditionally. If you can, spend a few minutes each day cuddling this little one, in your mind’s eye. Record your feelings in a journal, as the days, weeks and even months progress, as you let your inner child grow, in your love.
Whenever you feel sad, fearful or negative, ask your inner child what it needs and try to provide it. Why would you not love something so precious and unique?
Most of us have a tendency to beat ourselves up for anything we’ve done or said that wasn’t quite right. This can go on for years, and even the memory of minor actions can bring us out in a sweat of shame, years later.
Think of things others have done – friends, family, partners – and how many times you’ve overlooked and forgiven things they’ve done that were hurtful, damaging or just plain stupid. Probably you’ve totally forgotten many words and actions that would have tormented you, had they come from you.
Now make a commitment to forgive yourself. Every time you begin to feel bad, remind yourself you’re only human and it doesn’t matter. You deserve to be free of this, to be a more effectual human being. Absolve yourself and move on.
BE WITH PEOPLE WHO MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD
If loving yourself is a struggle, don’t make this harder than it needs to be. We are all receptive, to a greater or lesser extent, to the atmosphere that surrounds us, and if you are with people who regularly make you feel small, criticize and attack you, then how can you love yourself?
Self-love comes from within, of course, but give it a chance. Choose to be with people that love you, like you or at least have a good opinion of you. Kind, caring people create an ambience of acceptance – gravitate towards that. Look at your relationships with those close to you candidly. How are they making you feel? Of course, anyone can be in a bad mood and upset you occasionally, but anyone who consistently belittles or abuses you has to go from the centre stage of your life, whatever their current role.
This can be a chicken and egg situation – lack of self-worth keeps you in bad relationships, bad relationships disempower you and harm your self-love. When you develop real self-love you will see that you are too good for this sort of situation. However, if you recognize bad treatment, do your best to get away from it and nurture your self-esteem.
HOW WE CAN HELP
We have examined self-love as a journey, finding the divine within, breathing in love, focusing on goodness, nurturing your inner child forgiving yourself and choosing the right companions. One more path to self-love is to give yourself gifts, and a perfect ‘gift’ would be to contact one of our supportive and empathic Readers, setting yourself off on the greatest journey of all – the journey to yourself.
PUBLISHED: 04 November 2016