Most children pop out into the world and just know they are great. They love themselves, they love people around them. When we get to adulthood many of us have been taught to un-love ourselves. So what happens between childhood and adulthood? Some have learned to place others above themselves, experienced trauma, taught that self-love is somehow immodest…and then we spend so much of our adult lives vacillating between wanting to love ourselves and not knowing how to start to go about loving ourselves or even having permission to do so. Self love can be the underpinning of abundance, career, friendship and creativity.
How do you start? Starting to make your way to self love may involve looking for a time in your life when you remember that you loved yourself? Loved your personality? Loved your body? Was it early in childhood? Was it babyhood? What did it feel like? That memory may serve as a template.
How differently would you live if you treated yourself with love all day? Would you walk differently? Eat differently? Dress differently? Have more fun? Would you have a different career path? Different friends? Hobbies?
For those who have unlearned to put themselves first – or who have had it taken away, returning to that love can involve a learning curve. It can take some getting-used-to-it. Some think that self love is elusive and can only be achieved once all the un-love and forbidden emotions have been removed from one’s thought system. As if there is some policing darkness that won’t allow us to pass into the forbidden continent of “love for self”. This can be valid - other emotions are likely to show up along the path to self love. However, I’m suggesting that the process can be gentler than that. Self love can be gentle. And it can be learned gently. Self love can also be fierce, that no matter what, you can hold love for yourself.
Consider that the interfering thoughts (insecurity, anger, sadness, etc.) can occur at the same time as self love. So, you can be angry AND have self-love at the same time. You can throw a party for a friend AND have self love. You can be impatient in line AND have self love.
What do you admire about yourself? Are you a great friend? Do you expand your mind by reading? Do you have a great eye? Can you find beauty in simple things? That may be the easiest place to start. You may also ask a friend what they love about you and try to see yourself from that perspective. Gratitude is a great door into self-love.
And if all else fails, give a compliment. If you can see a quality (joy, intelligence, problem-solving, etc.) in another, then it is likely that you possess that same quality. Perhaps without even knowing it. Take it a step further and give yourself that compliment.
Lastly, a great way to find self-love is to give to yourself. Is there a color you have been craving? Give yourself that color. Draw it, color it, paint it, put it on your toenails, put some food dye in a glass of water and admire that color in a window sill in the sun. That color may represent self-love to you in that moment or day or week. Give yourself time, appreciation, quiet and still. Take yourself on a date. What have you been craving to do? Go to an art store, or sit in a park? Give it to yourself.
You may even thank yourself. Or even, dare I say?...Love yourself.
Erin Diedling, MEd, LPC