Here's what the self help experts don't tell you. As you begin this journey on how to love yourself, you just might end up hating yourself more.
You'll discover, as you read this article, that self love is not a journey from Point A to Point Z where you start with self loathing and grow steadily to self love.
Far from it!
In my 20's and early 30's, I bounced from self loathing to depression and suicidal thoughts right into downright hatred and not wanting to have to do with anyone...
I knew I had moved past the worst of my demons when one Sunday afternoon a few months back, I was having a conversation with Mom in her kitchen.
I was frying up a snack for myself as she sat a few spaces from me, the Sunday newspaper in front of her.
At the back of my mind I always wondered whether she might have been mildly irritated by my interrupting her “newspaper studies”. She didn’t seem to be, because we always end up
chatting away for hours.
Our talks always seem to circle back into the same topic…our pasts. Either hers, or mine, and the lesson we have gleaned from them.
She asked me a question that I cannot quite recall in this moment.
I responded: “Mom, I’ve come to a point in my life where I know for sure, that I don’t hate myself anymore.”
She looked back at me with a tinge of sadness… perhaps empathy, was written all over her face.
But I felt a sense of relief.
Because for the first time, I actually expressed where I believe I am with myself, without struggle or anger or resentment.
Maybe I shouldn’t be writing a piece about how to love yourself, because I'm not quite there yet, but I will anyway, because someone might need to read this.
What Exactly Does It Mean To Love Myself?
I found a very simple answer to this question.
I have discovered that loving myself means becoming better than I was yesterday.
I turned 39 the other day. (GASP!)
At this point in my life, the idea of loving myself means that it is my duty to come face to face with my demons, acknowledge them, and sit with them in these very uncomfortable spaces in my mind and do the work.
What exactly is the work?
The work is first of all acknowledging your inadequacy, the absolute worst of the worst within yourself.
That little monster inside of you who tears you to pieces just because it’s a Tuesday morning, then
turns to judge and berate everyone within a 5 inch radius of you and makes you feel like an absolute POS (that’s Piece Of Sh*t for you folks who may not know) all over again?
He, she or it is the monster you unknowingly created to protect yourself from this cold, harsh and cruel world.
And he, she or it is in desperate need of your compassion and empathy.
So how exactly do you do that? Start by acknowledging your dark side by keeping tabs on it.
How can I learn to love myself?
One day at a time.
Understand that this is not going to be a linear journey. This is a process of healing, and it takes a lot of courage to go on this voyage of self discovery.
Think of this project of how to love yourself again like making the decision to renovate your house.
It's going to be ugly in the beginning... even in the middle!
You'll have to tear down a lot of the walls, rot and mess that has accumulated over the years and sort through it. It's going to be an overwhelming process.
You will have days when there are major setbacks, when you have taken 10 steps forward but find completely unexpected challenges that set you 50 steps back.
This is what I mean when I say there will be days where all you can do is hate yourself less. Even through all this, you still have to look at the bigger picture. You've already started the process... don't abandon it!
How do I practice self love?
1. Identify what really, really matters to you
When I started this website, my brand strategist had an exercise that I never thought was necessary in building a project: identifying what my deepest values are.
This exercise opened my eyes not only to the way I view myself, but also how I should conduct myself in the world outside of me.
My core values are honesty, integrity, courage, growth and wisdom.
Do you know what your core values are?
If not, one of the most prolific bloggers I know, James Clear, has a clear and easy list of values you can read and discover what the ones that you connect with the most. Find it below:
Why is it so important to understand what your core values are?
Because you get to use them as a gauge, sounding board, moral code, (call it what you want) on how to live your life.
You may not realise that the reason why your conflicts are so strong right now is that you are constantly betraying yourself by going against your values.
Once you understand them and make the decision to live your life by them, conflicts within yourself start to subside significantly.
2. Bring your demons to the light
I learnt that the more aware I was about my lack of self love, the more I acknowledged it and talked about it with the people I feel emotionally safe with.
I also came to the conclusion that most difficult part of healing is talking about it.
It is much easier to remain in the dark, isn't it? But to quote the words of a famous entertainer:
"You can't heal what you never reveal."
Here is one thing that, if it is all you take, it will be all you need:
Shame and guilt are the biggest cause of self hate, and these two demons thrive in darkness!
If you do not bring your deepest demons to the light, you will not be conscious of them and you cannot heal what you are not conscious of or are actively hiding!
This is the reason why I am a huge advocate of therapy, because the right kind of therapy and therapist can change your life completely, for as long as you are willing to participate and do the inner work.
3. Change what you emotionally and mentally consume everyday
You have to strengthen your road to self love!
You do this by making it your intention to listen, watch and read information that has to do with self discovery and self healing. I do everything from listening to podcasts, watching Youtube videos and reading articles that draw me towards becoming better than I was yesterday.
This is an incredibly profound way of inviting new insight into the constant mindless shuffling you might be going through right now.
Sometimes your road to self love can be from making the decision to change the way you eat!
It may seem simple but this powerful change can greatly impact the way you think and deal with how you react to life.
Whatever you daily habits and behaviors you choose to change, always understand that it is an active and daily exercise in completely shifting your reality.
And how do you change your reality? One mindset shift at a time.
4. Become your own self defense lawyer.
In case you didn't know, your thoughts are mean SOB's!
The way you think and talk to yourself has spectacularly eroded your self worth! This running on auto-pilot thing has to change, my friend.
What do I mean when I say become your own self defense lawyer?
When it comes to your thoughts, you have to constantly challenge them. Leaving them to rent space in your mind, constantly reminding you of your worthlessness can no longer fly!
Sometimes I have to actually talk myself out of my thought patterns.
There have been many times when I have shouted out "NO! I will not allow you to talk to me like that." Or in milder instances I can say to myself - out loud again- "okay, sure I messed up but I am doing the best I can and next time I will do better".
This weird exercise has not only brought me immediate relief, it has allowed me to do a complete 180 on the most debilitating habits I would indulge in.
Always stand up for yourself, even against your own thoughts, because you may think them, but they aren't facts!
What is the best book that teaches you how to love yourself?
This book by the Beloved and Late Louise L. Hay introduced me to the term "I am willing to change."
I held on for dear life to this phrase.
I would repeat it over and over when I knew I was sinking into the same dark and angry place that became my home.
Two of the most powerful lessons I got from this book are:
Learning self compassion, because I had no idea what it was and how to practise it.
That the same people I was angry with the most, my parents, had a childhood too, and some of their own experiences growing up wounded them. All they could ever do was give me what they knew...
THIS NEW PERSPECTIVE COMPLETELY BLEW MY MIND!
It also started a very important journey of forgiveness, for who they could not be for me, and for how badly I treated them.
This book really did heal very painful parts of my life, and I owe Miss Hay my gratitude not for this lifetime alone, but for several to come!
Click here to purchase it directly from Amazon!