As we slalom through childhood, zigging and zagging over life's bumps, we inevitably run into stuff that damages our self-esteem. Few of us reach adulthood without some internalized critical voices. Our self-confidence is further eroded by the media's constant drip (nay fire hose) of insidious messaging, sowing self-doubt and dissatisfaction in its wake. All this is to say that self-love isn't an inevitable consequence of being human.
Some of our self-criticism can be likened to a surface wound which heals naturally as we age. Then there are those deeper veins of self-loathing that are revealed in layers over the years, causing us to cry out: "Not this again!" Finally there may be some self-hatred that is so integral to our being that, if we are ever to experience ourselves as whole, we have no choice but to ultimately learn to accept and love this part of ourselves.
Self-love is essential to our well-being, and necessary to manifest many of the things we desire—connection, purpose, balance, freedom, and maybe even parking karma. If you dig beneath many of life's struggles, you will likely hit a self-worth issue too. This is why learning to love ourselves (all of our selves) is a worthy ambition at every stage of life.
Given the healing power of love, deeply loving yourself is the most potent medicine of all. We recommend inoculating yourself with the practices below on a regular basis and applying them anytime you catch yourself awash in negative self-talk.
Most of us would never submit anyone we cared about to the abuse we sometimes heap on ourselves. The next time you are mentally berating yourself, turn the conversation over to your compassionate friend and imagine what they would say to you. If talking to yourself as a friend doesn't resonate with you, envision you are talking to a child or to your younger self.
One of the biggest impediments to resolving our issues is our resistance to those parts of our selves involved in the dilemma. Paradoxically, our resistance further entangles us, like trying to pull our index fingers out of a Chinese finger trap. It is only when we are able to let go of our resistance that things can finally shift. A beautiful way to address this is by adding the phrase "and I love that about myself" to any negative thought or emotion. For example:
"I am feeling stupid and anxious because I don't know what to do, and I love that about myself."
At first saying this may feel disingenuous, but say it anyway and notice what happens. Sometimes the bad feeling will simply melt away. Other times you may have another thought pop up which points to what lies beneath the feeling. Now love that about yourself. For example:
Expect miracles from this practice.
This practice is so easy and profound that we suggest doing it regularly. (We recently described it in another essay on body-based methods for de-stressing.)
Place your right hand on your heart. Touch like this is calming and signals the body to release oxytocin. You will automatically take a deep breath or two.
With your hand on your heart, say something positive which contradicts the feeling you are having. It may be simple like "Everything's OK," or "I can do this." If you draw a blank, simply try "Yes." As you are able, say the phrase: "May I be kind to myself in this moment and accept myself exactly as I am."
Try this in combination with practices #1 and #2, and soon you will feel the love.
What seems to trigger your negative self-talk the most? Questions of competency? Self-sabotaging behaviors? Certain personal qualities? Self-doubt?
Take a negative thought that habitually plagues you, state it silently or out loud and add "and I love that about myself." See what comes up and continue loving that about yourself. Practicing this when you are not triggered will help you work with it when the real stuff comes up.
Wishing you a month full of self-love,
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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