Have you thought about this question? How do you love yourself?
Is it easy to love yourself or does it take a lot of effort? Maybe the thought of loving yourself feels too far out of reach for you to think about?
It’s something that comes up often with clients and in conversations with friends.
Some questions and comments that come up are:
- I don’t even like myself, how do I start loving myself?
- What does it mean to love myself?
- Huh? Love myself?
- Hmmm. What would it look like/feel to love myself?
- I don’t have the time or money to love myself.
- Isn’t it selfish to love myself?
- I don’t want people to think that I think “ I am better than them” – because I love myself.
It got me thinking. How can we go from being so critical of ourselves to loving ourselves – when self-love seems so far out of reach? Especially when it can feel like a huge jump to make – that many times we give up trying before we start.
However, what if you took smaller, less overwhelming steps to get to a place where you can start loving yourself more?
If you would like to get on a path to loving yourself more, the first step is to become AWARE of your inner critic. Because this inner voice is what holds you back from loving yourself. It is that inner voice that is unkind to you, judges you, tells you that you are not doing enough, or doing too much, or that you are eating too much or not enough, that you failed, that you are no good, etc.
The longer we’ve allowed our inner critic to have a voice, the more likely it has become our “normal” way of talking to ourselves. If you can start by being aware of when your inner critic is taking over – it will help you begin to tame it and have less power over you.
The second step is to accept that you have an inner critic, that it may be showing up frequently, and it has been getting in the way of you loving yourself. Sometimes we try and push away or avoid the negative thoughts that we have a hard time accepting that we have unconsciously allowed our inner critic to take over.
The third step is to practice self-compassion when your inner critic appears. This can look like taking a deep breath the moment you hear your inner critic. If it feels comfortable, you can also place your hand on your heart as you breathe.
The goal is to do something different when you become aware your inner critic is talking – so you can begin to loosen the power it has. Self-compassion can also look like acknowledging your inner critic or talking to it. Let it know you are no longer going to let it have control or you are no longer going to believe its negativity. It can also be wrapping your arms around yourself and giving yourself a compassionate hug. Treat yourself the same way you would treat a friend that was being hard on themselves. We tend to treat ourselves worse than we treat others.
These are the first small 3 steps you can start with on your path to loving yourself. Next time I will share the remaining steps with you. For now, are you open to practicing and playing with these 3?
I recommend journaling as you walk through each of the steps, making notes on the following questions:
- How does it feel to become aware of your inner critic?
- Was it easy or difficult to accept your inner critic?
- Were you able to show yourself compassion? In what ways?
- Are there certain times of the day or specific people in your life that you noticed your inner critic gets louder?
These steps are not linear and there’s no timeline to have them completed. You may find that you need to go back to step one and continue to be aware of when your inner critic appears and then you jump to self-compassion. Or you need to sit with acceptance for a while. Or you find that you need to spend more time showing yourself compassion. There is no right or wrong way to move through the steps. Find what feels best to you.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Buddha