From Self-Loathing to Self-Loving: A How-To Guide
If I had to choose the intuitive feedback I give most often to my clients, it would be learning to love themselves. To love themselves truly, deeply, and unconditionally. I believe lack of self-love is at the root of most issues. When we learn to love ourselves, our perspective shifts and so many things that we see as problems in our lives simply go away.
Now, that's easy for me to tell someone, but it can be challenging advice to receive. It can feel daunting and overwhelming. It can leave clients asking questions such as, what exactly does it mean to love myself? How do I learn to love myself? What does it look like to love myself? When clients come for a one-on-one session, we discuss these questions as they specifically relate to them. However, the below ideas apply universally. So, if you're ready...if you feel called to embark on this particular step in your healing journey...if you want to see yourself in a whole new light...if you're ready to let go of negative thought patterns and fall in love with YOU...I offer the following advice for your consideration.
Get to know yourself. So many of us don't really know ourselves or have forgotten our true selves. Our own needs and wants take a back seat to what other people need and want from us. We're concerned with what our boss needs, our families, friends, partners, children. And while a healthy dose of that is okay, it's a slippery slope to lose sight of our own needs and fall into the trap of people-pleasing. This disconnection can lead to being out of touch with who we truly are, with our essence, our soul. So just as you would get to know a potential loved one on a date, get to know you. "Hello me, nice to meet cha." Ask yourself probing questions. Get curious. Imagine a world with no guilt or responsibilities, then ask yourself...What do I like to do? How do I like to spend my time? What brings me joy? If I could do any job in the world, what would it be? If I had all the money in the world, how would I spend it? Is there something I used to do for fun that I could start doing again? Try journaling your answers or meditating on them. Or simply let you mind wander and daydream about what makes you light up and feel alive. Make it a priority to get to know yourself...because how can you love someone that you barely know?
Put your needs first. Once you've connected (or re-connected) with your true self, the next step is to take action. This can be a scary step and one that we easily push aside by convincing ourselves "it's not worth it". But it is worth it. YOU are worth it. Try by starting small. To illustrate this point, I'll share an example from my own life--The Sauce Story. I grew up eating chunky spaghetti sauce. My mom loaded her sauce with diced mushrooms, peppers, and onions and I loved it! It was one of my favorite meals she made. When I married my husband, I learned that he preferred smooth spaghetti sauce--no chunks. Thinking my needs weren't as important as his, for the next 15 years I pureed all the spaghetti sauce I made without a second thought. Then one night a few years ago (during my own self-love journey) I found myself making spaghetti for dinner. With the immersion blender in my hand, poised to puree, a memory stopped me in midair. I remembered the sauce from my youth, bursting with delicious chunks of veggies. And I thought "what the hell? why have I never made sauce the way I like it? why am I automatically putting my preference second?" This led me to recall other times in my life where I completely overlooked my needs in order to appease others. Saying yes when I really wanted to say no, just to keep the peace. Not asking for help in case it inconvenienced someone. Agreeing to something just to go with the flow. I had seemingly endless examples, and I'd had enough. I made a change that night. And while it started with the sauce, it led to self-advocating throughout all aspects of my life. I learned to honor my needs and put me first. And my family learned how to pick chunks out of their spaghetti sauce.
Speak kindly to yourself. Check in with your inner voice. What messages are you saying to yourself all day? Are they kind, supportive, forgiving, and loving? Or are they critical, belittling, mean, and hateful? You cannot love and accept yourself if you're constantly putting yourself down. You're working against yourself. Negative self-talk can be a hard habit to break. But with patience and practice you can re-train your brain to speak with kindness and grace. To begin, I highly recommend this 3-minute video on Mirror Work. It may feel weird to say I love you to your reflection in the mirror, but speaking from personal experience, it works. The first time I tried to say it, I couldn't. I literally could not open my mouth and say the words. After a few days of attempting it, I finally said I love you to myself and I sobbed. It cracked me wide open and exposed the depths of my self-loathing. But once I saw it and exposed it, I could begin to heal it. Little by little, the voice in my head changed from bringing me down to building me up. And that positive switch on the inside, led to positive switches on the outside.
Forgive yourself. It's tough to love someone that you resent or hold a grudge against. Especially if that someone is you. If you're beating yourself up for past mistakes, it's time to ask yourself why. Is punishing yourself helping the situation? Are feelings of regret or guilt changing anything? Or are they just making you more miserable? This step takes a healthy dose of time and self-reflection. You may not even realize that you're harboring anger or resentment towards yourself. Some ideas that may help you through the process of forgiveness are journaling your feelings, meditating on the situation, calling on your angels and guides for help, and asking yourself what you would tell your best friend if they were sharing this mistake they made with you, and then take your own advice. Forgiveness is important in learning to love yourself as it allows you to let go of anger, guilt, shame, sadness, or any other feeling you may be experiencing, and move on. Once you identify what you’re feeling, give a voice to it and accept that mistakes are inevitable. You’ll begin to see how freeing forgiveness can be.
Ask for help. The final step is to remember that you're not alone in this. There is help available when you're ready to seek it out. Support on your self-love journey can come in many forms, such as self-help books and podcasts, finding the right therapist, regular Reiki treatments, working with an astrologer, getting a psychic reading, exploring your Enneagram type, and/or finding a spiritual group where open discussion on these topics are welcome. My advice is to follow your intuition on which support is best for you. Listen to your gut--what is it telling you that you need? Then take that first step and you're on your way.