I used to wonder if it would ever be possible for me to love myself. In my early twenties I saw this as a place I would never be able to get to. Now, I chuckle as I am reminded of that time. This idea, this struggle of not being able to love myself, I remember it vividly though it’s inconceivable to me now. I’ve done a ton of work on my relationship with myself. A decades worth. It’s ongoing, in fact. And in this post I’ll share some nuggets I’ve learned for anyone who is struggling with how to love yourself.
How to love yourself
Loving yourself is not some place to get to, you can flip that switch today. At this very moment. That might tick you off and some of you reading this might want to kick me for saying this (but I’ll tell you how below): Loving yourself is a decision.
It’s a decision you alone can make. It’s a decision you don’t just make once but constantly. Today. Tomorrow. Forever.
This is really hard idea to understand, especially when you’re struggling with how to love yourself. So how do you flip the switch?
The first step to a better relationship with you…
Well, first you have to accept the struggle you’re in. Stop asking yourself “why can’t I love myself?” and stop getting caught up in the WHY of it all. Just accept that at this moment, right now, you don’t love yourself.
It’s easy for you to get caught up in trying to figure out why you don’t love yourself and how to get there. But this thinking will only lead you in circles and keep you stuck. So first stop asking why. It’s time to start asking yourself new questions. And commit this to memory: The quality of the questions you ask yourself is equal to the quality of the life you live.
If you ask yourself questions like “why can’t I love myself?” you’ll search for answers. The reason you come up with will only validate the struggle. It will stop you from changing the way you think and feel and how you treat yourself in future. So notice the why questions that you’re asking yourself that are negative and don’t work. Now, fill that space with a new question, like….
How can I learn to love myself?
How can I be kind to myself today?
What can I do – one simple action today – to change the way I feel about myself?
What qualities do I love and appreciate about myself?
These are better questions and they’ll help you to shift how you feel. And remember, you have to be willing to let the love in. Start small. Think of one quality you love about yourself and let that be your focus.
When you internally ask why questions, most of the time you’ll stay caught up in the past. That’ll never serve you to move forward. The why doesn’t matter. The what’s next does.
The only one who suffers from not loving yourself is you. And this negativity will permeate into all areas of your life and all the choices you make. You’ll choose partners that aren’t good for you or don’t treat you well. Your career will reflect the worth you give yourself and that will expand into the areas of finance and your lifestyle. It’s all connected.
Accept the way you feel and give yourself a moment to feel it
When you’re in a space of struggling and wondering how to love yourself. The best thing to do is stop everything and go be by yourself somewhere. Get quiet. Feel how you feel. Give yourself five or ten minutes to feel the negative emotions you have for yourself. If you’re mad about something you did in the past, allow yourself to feel the anger you have for yourself. If you hate you’re body, allow yourself a few moment to feel really sad, frustrated about your body.
Emotions are like the knots of tension you can get in your physical body. When you put pressure on a muscle from physically working it, the build up of lactic acid will cause an uncomfortable knot to occur. To release the knot you have to put pressure on it. You have to push into the knot for the tension to release. It’s the same with emotions. Feel them. Don’t suppress or avoid them, you have to feel them and then they dissolve. Your negative thoughts will literally weaken and dissolve.
So, right now, if you’re reading this and you’re feeling negatively towards yourself, take a moment to close your eyes. Take yourself back to a moment that triggers your feelings and allow yourself to feel them. It’s surprisingly a very calming and therapeutic experience to go through.
Fill the space with something positive, something new
After you feel and release the emotional tension, think of one thing you’re grateful for. Something simple. It could be your heart, a tree outside, the home you live in, or a person you love. Feel how grateful you are.
Then, when you’re feeling positive, think of one wonderful trait about yourself or a great thing you’ve accomplished in your life. Follow this with scheduling one nice thing you could do for yourself today. One small action that would help you to feel good about yourself.
Make this a ritual
Loving yourself involves training. If you’ve spent years having negative thoughts about yourself, it’s going to take a while for your relationship with you to change. So anytime you feel mad, sad, frustrated, angry at yourself or about yourself, stop and allow yourself to feel your negative emotions. Follow this with a thought of gratitude and recognize something great about yourself. Then, take one action that day to love yourself. Consider this your new regular – perhaps daily – ritual.
Any mindset shift requires emotional leverage
Even though you want to change, you’ll continue to be and think negatively about yourself until you get the impacts it’s causing on your life and behavior. If you really want to make a shift, if you really want to start loving yourself more, you need to really get what you’ve been missing out on by allowing yourself to think this way about yourself.
The best way to do this, is to take some time to write out a list of the all the impacts of you thinking this way. What are the impacts on you and your life? If you don’t love yourself, what are the impacts on other people? What are the impacts in your relationships? What are the global impacts? Seriously, what are the impacts on the world.
Whether you believe that there are impacts on the world at large, there are. Every person on this planet has a gift to give. Are you contributing your gifts? Are you making a difference? Are you leaving this world better than the one you came into?
Hating yourself is like a doubled-edged sword. Whatever you think internally expresses itself externally. If you don’t love yourself it’ll be all over your life and the results you can produce.
You really want to get this. Getting the impacts will help you realize that you have to put in the effort to change. When you get the impacts the choice to love yourself becomes easy and critical.
What to do when you really can’t think anything positive about yourself
Find someone to hold you bigger than you hold yourself. Find someone to love you. Find someone to treat you well. A sibling. A friend. A parent. A relative. A colleague. A coach. A therapist. Find someone who will hold you to your greatness. Find someone to love and acknowledge you and who will tell you your great.
Then, it’s your job to listen.
And it’ll probably take you a long time to let the love in. But just keep trying.
I know this from experience. In my early twenties, I am grateful to have had a mentor that took me under his wing. He said to me: “you’re a beautiful gift to the world”. Every time he said it, it felt ridiculous to me. It felt wrong. I didn’t believe it. But the more he told this too me, the more I start to let this idea come into my own head.
Overtime, things shifted and I started to care more for myself. Eat better. Sleep enough. Have a bit more fun. Eat nutritious foods (like soursop). I started to treat myself kindly. I started to see how my negative chatter didn’t work. We all need other people to see us bigger than we see ourselves. Sometimes we need it more.
So find someone to hold you big until you can hold yourself.
One thing you can do today to start loving yourself more today…
Set a timer on your mobile device or computer. When it goes off acknowledge one great thing about yourself. Pat yourself on the back daily for something good you’ve done or a trait you love about yourself. Remind yourself to do this, until it becomes natural.
And don’t forget…loving yourself is a double edged sword. Put the love in and it’ll flow out. Your life will expand from simply loving yourself a little more each day.