"Treat yourself as if you were someone inexpressibly dear to you"
- Tweeted by Agapi Stassinopoulos
Do you live with the chatter of a critical voice in your mind? You know the voice I'm talking about. It drones on in the background scolding your every move. It finds fault with how you look, how you feel and who you are. Like a weed, it wraps around your heart and hinders your growth. I have tried to stop that voice by focusing on it, analyzing its origins, and reasoning it away. The harder I pushed the stronger a hold it had on me until one day I realized the truth about it. The "voice of rebuke" was only trying to keep me safe. At some level, I believed I wasn't good enough and had to be monitored. I thought fitting into the standards of the world was the only way I would be lovable.
I was born innocent. We all are. We come to this planet unsullied, delighting in ourselves. Unfortunately it doesn't take long for many of us to lose our way. We turn in self-love for self-loathing. There are many reasons why our perception becomes so skewed. In part, my roadblocks to self-love formed in response to my disapproving mother. An unhappy woman, she pointed out my "wrongness" to me on a daily basis. I carried those beliefs with me into my adulthood. I struggled for years to overcome them until one day I decided to get over it and get on with it. I resolved to set my old way of thinking down and love myself. I found that I could not get of rid my self-contempt by force of will. But it did lose it's grip and disappear on its own by my living as if I did love myself. If you don't have what it takes to do that, ask the Universe for help and try the suggestions below.
1) Pay attention to how you speak to yourself.
Do you belittle yourself? When I grasped that I had allowed my mother's voice to live on in my head I quieted it by shifting my focus to thoughts of encouragement and self-appreciation.
2) Take care of yourself physically.
When I felt under the weather I used to just push through it. If I was too ill to do that, I would beat myself up for being "lazy." Today I make sure I get enough rest and nourish my body. I'm amazed by how much better l feel when I treat myself like I matter.
3) Do I schedule fun into my life?
It seems silly to have to find time for this but people who are hard on themselves rarely prioritize fun. Joy and laughter heal and are important facets of self-love.
4) Am I critical of others?
I've learned that if I'm hard on others I use the same standard of judgement on myself. The reverse is also true. The more accepting I am of another's humanity, the more I accepting of my own.
5) Do I forgive others?
This can be hard, especially when deliberately cruel behavior is involved. Learning to let go of resentments became a necessity when I realized I hold myself to the same standard as I do others. The easiest way for me to forgive a misdeed is to look at the situation from a higher vantage point. When I see the big picture it's easier to recognize that most folks are doing all they're capable of. Even when their actions are directed at me it's still not personal. Having that mindset doesn't necessarily mean I spend time with unkind people. Staying out of harm's way is an aspect of self-love.
6) Do I trust my inner guidance?
Trusting your perception is a big way to affirm yourself. Honor your "inner knowing" by being mindful of it. Using the phrase "I should" is a red flag that means you're not listening to your heart but trying to fit into someone else's mold.
7) Mirror work.
Louise Hay is famous for sharing her "mirror work" technique with the world. Through it people have leaned to love themselves by making a practice of holding a mirror, lookIng into their eyes and affirming, "I love you. I really love you." Try it. It works.
8) Learn to accept the love of others.
This suggestion is simple but not easy because we've been conditioned to believe if we love ourselves we're conceited. When someone pays you a complement, or gives you a gift, be a gracious receiver. Simply say, "Thank you."
9) Go where you are valued.
Allowing yourself to be disrespected, even in subtle ways, fuels feelings of not being good enough.
10) Write down five things a day that you appreciate about yourself.
They can be a accomplishments, setting a boundary or even how cute your hair looks. Anything positive about yourself is worth including.
11) Don't suppress your emotions.
When you push down your emotions you are in part rejecting yourself. Allow your feelings to surface and flow through you. The more you accept them, the quicker they will pass.
12) Ask yourself, "What would I want someone I love to do in this situation? And then do that.
I in no way mean to imply that I've mastered the above list. Sometimes I do fall back into my old ways, but I don't stay there for long. As soon as I catch myself slipping, I shift my focus to the tools above.
I've found the more I love myself, the more I allow good things to come to me. Today, instead of trying to make my goals materialize, I just I work on loving myself. Somehow this makes fertile ground for my dreams to bloom in ways I couldn't have imagined. "Love is the miracle cure and when you are willing to love yourself every area of your life works out better," explains Louise. This certainly has held true in my life. Isn't it worth a try in yours?
Text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved. www.sueshanahan.com