“Loving yourself… does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honoured guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion” ~ Margo Anand
Who is the one person in your life you tend to treat the worst? The person you’re least tolerant of; the one you’re quick to find fault with? Chances are, the answer is your own lovely self. Why is that? Why do we treat ourselves so badly? Why is self-love such a hard thing to do?
When we’re little children, most of us are lucky enough to be surrounded by the loving security of our parents, our family. We grow up with a strong sense of self-worth because our parents, the loving adults in our lives, remind us how amazing we are because children are born awesome.
Then we get older, we leave the safe haven of home and, inevitably, come face-to-face with the unforgiving side of life/society and its hurtful words. We’re told to adopt the mantra – ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ – except those words do hurt. We’re subjected to ridicule, humiliation, disdain, which cause emotional trauma, especially when it comes from our peers.
I don’t remember the first time I was called ‘fatty’ and laughed at, but I remember the hurt and confusion. We start to believe the taunts that are said to us over and over again. Those morph into the limiting beliefs that become stuck in our minds and colour our view of the world.
What’s your inner self-talk like? Mine was usually along the lines of calling myself silly/stupid, fat, lazy, useless… you get the idea. I gradually learned that this sort of self-talk was all tied to low self-esteem. Whatever you’re struggling with – be it career, relationships, parenting – the underlying challenge will most likely be low self-esteem.
So, how do you identify your own limiting beliefs? By paying attention to your inner self-talk. The negative statements that come up again and again – those are your limiting beliefs. Those are the statements that drag you down and leave you with low self-esteem. Once you become aware of your limiting beliefs, you can address them and start to replace them with something new, something positive about yourself.
Like with breaking any habit, this takes time and perseverance; it doesn’t happen overnight. One of my limiting beliefs was constantly comparing myself to others; it’s something I started to do from a young age after repeatedly being told, especially at school, “why can’t you be more like…?” It took me long enough to realise that was rooted in my belief of not being good enough. In fact, most of my limiting beliefs stem from ‘I’m not good enough’.
How did I work to break that belief? Every time it surfaced, I’d literally say, “Cancel that thought!” and replace it with “I am good enough; in fact, I’m more than good enough!” Because there’s no such thing as ‘not good enough’. Everyone is good enough and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a statement of fact.
It took a long time – more than a year – to get to the place where that limiting belief barely gets a look-in, and, trust me, it tries very hard to muscle its way in. I haven’t buried it completely, but it’s shrunk to such a tiny size, it’s become easy to forget it’s there.
Just to be clear, it’s not about permanently squashing all negative feelings, only those limiting beliefs. There are times I still indulge in a good wallow; I still get angry; still get a big case of the ‘fed-ups’. But it’s alright to feel bad sometimes; it’s part of being human. When I get in those moods, I don’t fight it. Instead, I indulge myself for a day, two at the most – I always set myself a limit. Then, after that 24/48 hours, I ‘dust myself off’ and get on with life.
“Don’t rely on someone else for your happiness and self-worth. Only you can be responsible for that. If you can’t love and respect yourself – no one else will be able to make that happen. Accept who you are – completely; the good and the bad – and make changes as you see fit – not because you think someone else wants you to be different” ~ Stacey Charter
Practising self-love isn’t about being selfish. It’s about taking control of your own thoughts and actions, and being 100% responsible for your own happiness and self-worth. When you take control, you drop the ‘victim’ mentality because you’re showing up and owning your actions.
When you embrace loving yourself, you realise that you no longer have to be dependent on another for love, or for making you feel good about yourself because you’re doing that for yourself. You realise you’re not responsible for other people’s thoughts and actions, no one is. No person can make another think or act a certain way.
When you love yourself, you see the sense in taking time each day to take care of you. You may think you don’t have the time or you have too many responsibilities but, when you’re stressed, you’re not functioning well and you’re not much fun to be around because you’re emanating negative energy. It’s like when you’re on a plane – you’re told to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before seeing to those dependent on you. So, when you take time for yourself, you’re seeing to everyone else too.
Here are some ways you can recharge your batteries:
- Being out in nature
- A relaxing bath
- Journaling – when you write your thoughts down you either release all the negativity from your mind and you experience mental clarity and focus OR you suddenly come up with really good solutions to your situation; sometimes you experience both.
Practising self-love leads to you accepting yourself as you are, warts and all, and that leads to peace because you learn to accept your mistakes and failures. That, in turn, helps you become more tolerant of others’ mistakes. You learn to come from a place of love. It becomes easier to forgive yourself and others. It becomes easier to stop being judgmental, and with that comes acceptance and tolerance.
You’ll start to realise that it’s ok to just ‘be’, to root yourself in the present, in the here and now. Whenever you feel angry, stressed, overwhelmed by life, ask yourself: “What problems do I have at this precise moment?” Most likely, the answer is, ‘none’. Yes, the problem itself will still be there – be it trouble at work, bills to pay, relationship problems – but in any one given moment, the problem won’t be ‘in your face’. So, take a deep breath and just ‘be’. By doing that, you secure yourself in the moment. And that helps you appreciate the good things that you do have in your life.
“There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling leaves and remember that it is enough to be taken care of by myself” ~ Brian Andreas
Low self-esteem is also tied to the wounded inner child. If you’re interested in finding out about your inner child, if he/she is wounded and in need of healing, I’ve put together a downloadable PDF, which you can access HERE.