I believe that in life, before anyone else can truly love us unconditionally, we must first love who we are and be comfortable in our own skin. Often times, women in particular, have a habit of looking for someone to love them to fill that void in their life of the love that they don't have for themselves. Perhaps they're seeking validation because of the lack of love, respect or time they received from their father growing up, parents that displayed disappointment when certain levels of achievement were not met or perhaps after having been physically, mentally or emotionally abused by a former mate at some point in time.
There are a multiplicity of reasons why we may not feel self-love which go far deeper than what I've referenced above, it's different for each individual. Without the ability to love ourselves though, we often lack confidence which in turn affects an array of areas in our life, we are also more liable to withhold the kind of love we truly want to give others as well. While I'm not a Psychologist by any means, I have learned certain lessons along the way in this journey called life so I'd like to share them.
There are times I'm really hard on myself as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, business owner, and just in general as a human being. One thing I've come to realize over the years though, is that no matter how much I beat myself up about something I've said or done (or didn't say or do), it never changes the past and only makes me feel worse in the present moment. It's in those instances that we can either really spiral out of control with our thoughts and regrets or get a grip and figure out how to move forward as an imperfect person. For me, I find great peace in prayer, meditation and the quiet that comes from listening for and waiting on the Lord to speak to me. I ask God to forgive my past ways and helping me to improve in the future and become the person that both I and He want me to be. When we don't feel love for ourselves in the moment, it can be hard to just snap out of it and all of a sudden feel wonderful, warm fuzzy thoughts but here are a few tips I wanted to share and I hope you'll find them useful.
As the quote above suggests, many of us may be lucky enough to have a significant other who does truly love us BUT there is no greater project in this lifetime than for us to work on ourselves. This is just one reason why gossip is so pointless, often we caught up in comparing and looking at other's faults as a means of distraction from our own. If we think of who we are as a house, building from the foundation upwards, it takes time and hard work to prepare the concrete, lay bricks and get the structure just right. What good is a home that looks gorgeous on the exterior and many are in awe of if the very foundation is crumbling and the home is so poorly built that in a short period of time it's ready to implode? We must accept the fact that becoming who we truly dream of being takes time. We need not only love the finished product (which honestly never really arrives, because we are always a work in progress), but we must be gentle with ourselves especially during times of transition and rebuilding. Anything of quality workmanship is carefully crafted over time and we as human beings are no different.
1. Accept your Imperfections- One of the greatest paths to inner peace is to let go of trying to attain perfection. Recognize that everyone has faults and has made mistakes as well as had moments they regret or aren't proud of. When we realize this truth, we can set ourselves free from the prison of perfection. We can inspire others the most by showing them how we deal with our own imperfections and challenges we're faced with rather than living a life that looks like a glossy magazine or something out of a movie 24/7, it's just not attainable and sets us up for a lifetime of frustration and false hopes. If you struggle with comparing your life to others, I strongly recommend taking a break from social media, it's a breeding ground for feelings of envy and comparing your life to your friend's and even complete strangers.
2. Focus on Your Strengths-The quickest way to switch gears and take yourself from a negative, down-and-out vibe to something that brings a smile to your face, is to focus on what you're really good at, think of your previous accomplishments-big and small. Over time others may have told you that you're naturally gifted in a particular area such as instructing others, that you're an articulate writer, a patient parent, a loving wife and then there are the things that you yourself realize about who you are that others may not see or know about. Perhaps you're proud for having finished a half-marathon (whether it was 6 days ago or 6 years ago, don't worry about feeling like you're living in the past, it's essential to reflect on what you excel in). It's also important to give ourselves a little lift in the physical appearance department as it pertains to our assets. Whether it's pretty eyes, glossy hair, sculpted arms, shapely calves, porcelain skin or a beautiful smile, we need to focus on our best assets and play them up whenever possible. We don't need to look like a swimsuit model to feel good in our own skin. Even they have cellulite, bad hair days, skin breakouts, puffy bloated tummy days, after all they're still human even if they're airbrushed and photo-shopped on magazine covers nearly 100% of the time. If you're struggling to even recognize what your strengths or assets are, ask a trusted friend. Let them know you're struggling to pinpoint what they are and ask them to tell you what they feel are things you are particularly great at.
3. Remember Who Your Creator Is- We were created in God's image & He is love so not loving who we are would in fact be rejecting Him. You may not have thought about it that way, but He made us perfect, it is us that allows media, others and negative thoughts to creep in and make us feel less than. One great remedy for learning to love who we are more is to study what God says about us and who He says we were created to be in His word and reflect on that. When we do, we realize just how much love He has for us-it's liberating, it's reassuring and it's a big hug when we need it the most. Beginning each day in bed reading the bible for 10-15 mins is a great way to live, it allows us to become centered before we go out into the chaotic world we live in that often makes us feel as though we aren't enough in a multiplicity of roles.
4. Exercise in Front of a Mirror- Sweating and moving our body is key to feeling better not just because it has the ability to shed pounds but because we feel stronger, more capable, more flexible and have greater endurance compared to when we don't exercise, it should be a part of our daily routine if for just 30 minutes. For someone who may have poor body self image, it may seem counter-intuitive to work out and focus on their reflection but no matter what stage in the game you're at when it comes to staying in shape, there is a sense of accomplishment and pride in your new found strength. Doing bicep curls in front of a mirror allows you to see the targeted muscle group you're working and over the weeks and months, progress is easily seen and felt as the need for heavier weight and repetitions of each set increases. Getting to the gym (or to the track, into the pool, etc.) is usually the hardest part. Over time, exercising won't be enough, when time is spent burning calories and changing the shape of one's body, there is a natural inclination to eat cleaner and make it a priority, all of these things point to loving one's self and treating our bodies as a temple.
5. Learn to Forgive Yourself- Sometimes it's not that we don't love ourselves, it's that we can't see beyond our past mistakes. The past will weight you down like a backpack full of rocks if you let it. While nobody likes poking at an open wound, I highly encourage you to take each area of your past that brings you pain and dig deeper. Look for the meaning, look for how an experience caused you to grow, focus on what you learned or are still in the process of learning. Sometimes it's not always so obvious, talking with a trusted counselor or friend may help you uncover what's been holding you back from living the life you've dreamed of and loving yourself completely. I went through a really rough time a decade ago. I know I would have benefited from seeing a Psychologist or Counselor to help me sort things through (and I worked for a great company who gave us an allowance for it) but I played the tough gal who didn't need outside help and continued on, pressing through a variety of emotions only shared with my closest friends and my mother. Looking back now, I can honestly see clearly 10 years later how it would have been really beneficial to my overall well being. Things have a way of rearing their ugly head during times we wouldn't expect, if they aren't resolved after we've experienced them. Being married and having children will definitely reveal certain emotions and areas to you that you may have been able to keep hidden or have even forgotten about for a while.
It's also imperative to spend time with others who value us, love us and speak lovingly to us. When we love who we are, we won't tolerate being disrespected nor treated in a poor fashion which means we will only invite others into our life who bring positive energy and love into it. At the end of the day, others can enhance our life and bring us joy but the most important relationship we will ever have is the one with ourselves.
Have you ever struggled with feeling like you weren't enough or lacked self-love? What techniques did you use to get back on track?
Thanks for Reading!