But that is not what I came to blog about. I wanted to share an interesting story (with the permission of one of my lovely clients, who shall remain nameless…). We were talking about positive self-talk vs negative “chatter” and the conversation turned towards self-love. I noticed that her body language changed and she shifted a little in her chair, obviously uncomfortable. I asked what was making her uncomfortable and she said “I don’t really know HOW to love myself.”
Such a simple and honest statement. I have pondered on it for a few days and it occurred to me that this is such a commonality among women. I am guessing that it is true for most of us and is probably one of the main reasons why we live in a society where it is common to swallow/avoid our pain rather than work on our issues; whether it is in the form of alcohol, pills (prescription or otherwise), excessive work, or unhealthy food. Anything to fill the void.
We don’t know how to love ourselves.
I mean, we know we are capable of love. We also know how to love others. And presumably, people love us. So, why is self-love such a challenge?
I think that as babies we naturally love ourselves. We really have no reason not to, do we? Generally speaking, we are born without baggage or flaws. We are perfect little creatures with pure little spirits that go about our day pleasing ourselves…but as we grow older we are scolded and told that putting ourselves first is selfish; loving ourselves is vain; and it is improper to do either.
What we aren’t taught is the difference between healthy self-love and care—and selfishness and conceit. The distinction is never really made; and since we mainly learn by example, our mothers probably never really role modeled healthy “self-care” either, did they? They did "teach" us that self-sacrifice is the epitome of love; because that is what they were taught.
So we learn that self-criticism and ignoring our own needs to the point of discomfort is perfectly acceptable and even expected. We make the mistake of thinking that “negative self talk” and being “humble” are one in the same; that loving ourselves somehow makes us conceited or selfish. Does that seem messed up to anyone else, or is it just me?
Yes, vanity is an undesirable trait…and for sure, IF we put ourselves first before meeting the needs of others ALL THE TIME…that might not be so kind, but here comes the big but…What is wrong with loving ourselves? Why is it bad taking a little time every day to care about our bodies and rejuvenate our spirit? What harm can come from that? Who will suffer from our peace of mind? Will our self-assurance and confidence damage the ones we love?
And here are better questions—what will we gain from it? What doors will open? What will it teach our children—our daughters and sons? What improvements will we see, both physically and mentally?
Here is what I know. It is easier to make positive healthy choices when you love yourself. It just comes more naturally. When we are feeling joyous, we have more energy and motivation to move our bodies.
So here is the million dollar question…how do you learn to love yourself?
Through positive affirmations and treating yourself in the same way you do your loved ones. Caring for you the way you do for them. It will seem so unnatural at first; even uncomfortable…but keep doing it anyway. You ARE capable of learning to love yourself but you have to practice. If I handed you a didgeridoo and asked you to play it for me, you would laugh from embarrassment and point out that you have never played the didgeridoo before… and then when you tried, it would sound sort of like a walrus giving birth to an elephant (yes, take a moment to picture that)…but the more you practice, the better you’d get at it…and before you know it you are a world class didgeridoo aficionado. This is no different…ok it is a little different, but you get the point.
When I tell people that it is that simple, I almost always get the raised eyebrows and the long-suffering sighs. Yes, I get it. It does seem like new-aged, hocus pocus, mumbo jumbo, bogus crap. But think about this…you are doing it already. You are doing affirmations EVERYDAY when you say/think things like:
“I am fat”
“I will never lose weight”
"I am lazy"
“I am so stupid”
“No one respects me”
“I have no willpower.”
These are negative affirmations and they play over and over in our mind until they become our “truths”. So now, when you catch yourself doing those nasty little affirmations…and now that I have pointed it out to you, it will be glaringly obvious…turn them around and say:
“My body is beautiful and has been there for me for ____ years!”
“I love to challenge myself because I meet my expectations every time.”
“I am good and kind and generous to the people I love, including myself.”
“I make healthy choices because I love myself”
“I am filled with wisdom and life experience”
“I respect myself and I deserve love from everyone, including myself”
“I have the strength to do whatever needs to be done”
These are absolutely, undeniably TRUE statements. And you deserve to hear them. So learn to love yourself and in turn you will be a much better mother/sister/partner/friend/employee/insert other important roles here.
Your cup will be full.
Void? What void?