When people think about being kind to themselves and practicing self-love, it’s often considered in a noncommittal, “Yes, I really should be doing that more,” sort of way. Then they go about their merry way, continuing the same old behaviors and being anything but kind to themselves.
Fortunately, a number of people do decide they are finally ready to start loving themselves. But what made them ready, and why have they waited so long to start?
What about you — are you ready to start treating yourself with kindness and learn how to love yourself fully, the way you deserve?
Where do you find yourself on the “self-love/being kind to yourself” scale currently? Are you at the bottom, clueless as to what loving yourself even means, or slowly crawling up the scale, wondering why it took you so long to treat yourself with love and kindness?
I asked myself that same question many years ago when I finally considered the option to stop being so hard on myself and instead learn how to become my own best friend.
The best answer I have is that I had totally colluded with the pain of the belief that there was definitely something wrong with me and that I was not lovable. That was it. If someone had even suggested self-love, I think it would have gone totally over my head.
I mean, how could I even consider self-love inside that painful paradigm? I couldn’t.
And I imagine you can’t either, if you still live under that spell of unworthiness and unlovability. It’s painful, isn’t it?
Have you suffered enough that you finally feel ready to try self-love?
Does learning how to love yourself sound like a foreign language to you? Maybe you have an inkling of what it means to others, but for you…?
Oh, how you’ve been swallowed up by this great misunderstanding of who you truly are and what you are worthy of! How you’ve been conditioned to shut yourself off from your inner wisdom, believing others know more than you do!
I often run up against a wall when I talk to people about the importance of learning how to love yourself — unless this person has suffered so much that it’s willing to try a new way. I wish suffering were not the only reason why you would stop this insanity of treating yourself as a second-class citizen.
However, if you happen to be standing against that wall blocking you from self-love now, no matter how you got there, and are weary from denying yourself the goodness of life, let me share a few things I’ve learned since I broke through that wall myself.
Here’s how to love yourself for who you really are and treat yourself with the kindness you deserve.
1. Make a Vow.
The step to learning how to love yourself is to make yourself a promise.
In my self-love journey, I took a clear stand and vowed to never treat myself the way I had been, ever again. I embraced a power that I had lost touch with during all the painful years of self-doubt, self-hate and self-denial.
The pain of this ongoing torture had worn me down to finally realize that I didn’t want to do that to myself anymore
Finally, I’d had enough and wanted something else. It was a strong decision and, without it, you may still have found me in the trenches.
2. Say “No” When You Fall Into Old Patterns.
So now that I made this vow, how was I going to do it? All I had to go by at this point was that I didn’t want to do this to myself anymore, but I didn’t know what to do instead.
My determination gave me the option to say “no” whenever I would glide into the muddy trenches, simply by default. That was the “how” for now: Refuse to continue, the very moment when I found myself slipping back in.
Or, if I was so lucky to catch the first glimmer of the familiar invitation knocking at my door, simply refuse to open.
3. Stick With It.
I really started getting a feel for using the power of saying “no,” to the familiar suggestions to put myself down. It felt good. Yet, to be honest, I probably fell into the trenches more times than I would like to admit. It was a deeply ingrained pattern that didn’t just take the first “no,” for an answer.
However, my determination was strong and my “no” was getting stronger. This started my journey out of the trenches, without any idea of what my next step would be. I didn’t care. I gave myself permission to exercise my “no” — maybe more often than needed. I had to. I just had to use this new powerful weapon against the demons who were used to me saying “yes” all the time.
4. Accept the Journey.
All this didn’t happen overnight. Without knowing where all this was going, I learned what steps to take and when. I started seeing steps, obstacles, dead ends, tricksters, successes, and failures. I saw doors open and close, and also saw doors open and open even wider.
I paid attention and finally (after many years) could authentically show others how to love themselves. My own pain and suffering slowly turned into my life’s calling, something I would never have imagined when I took my first stand many years ago.
5. Let Go of Resistance.
There are certain behaviors that keep a closed door shut, no matter how hard you push against it. The biggest one is resistance — resisting the parts of yourself that you hate, dislike, and are ashamed of. Resisting yourself keeps you imprisoned forever, and if you want to move past the wall, you’ll need a new strategy.
Have you ever pulled one of those Chinese finger traps, where one finger goes into each end, and the harder you pull, the tighter it gets? The more you try to get away from it, the more you feel stuck? Well, that’s no different from the painful emotions you’re trying to get rid of. The more you resist them, the more stuck you feel.
6. Acknowledge Your Emotions.
When painful emotions come up, I practice “allowing.” Allowing is the opposite of resisting and, coincidentally, seems to be what works to get out of your self-imposed trap. It feels counter-intuitive, but it works. You’ll have to shift your familiar tendency to get away from discomfort and, instead, be open to leaning into it and experiencing it.
Just try it as an experiment first. Test out this theory. Find out what happens when you are willing to move toward a painful feeling that you normally try to get rid of. Allow space for it. Breathe into it and find out what happens. This is your experiment and is for you to find out if the grip loosens or not.
When you let go of resistance and make space for whatever you have resisted, you release a lot of energy. This energy was stuck in the trap when you moved away from it. Now, when you move toward it with curiosity, you’ll notice that the feeling you wanted to get rid of, gets exposed. It’s vulnerable and needs your care.
Would you be able and willing to meet it with the same kindness as you would a scared little child or animal? Try it and see how this feeling responds. It may be confused first because it’s not used to your kindness yet. Imagine you offer it a loving hand or caring touch to let it know you are here to help.
When that part feels safe enough, it will slowly let you know about how it’s feeling and what it’s upset about. This is the released energy from the trap of resistance. It’s been waiting for you to listen and take it seriously, and here’s your chance.
Use this opportunity to take another gentle breath down into the area where this feeling has been stuck.
Just take some kind, gentle breaths, as though you want to say hello to it. Do it with a caring attitude to make sure this newly liberated feeling stays open. Just notice what changes when you gently approach it that way with a curious, caring attitude.
The connection has been made. You are now in a new relationship with your previously resisted feeling. Can you feel the difference?
If you need more time, keep breathing kindly into the area in your body and do your best to be caring and curious. The aim here is to find out more about this pain that was stuck in the trap. That part has a story to tell and needs you to listen.
Maybe nobody has ever listened to that part of you, least of all you. Here’s your chance to deeply listen and learn about yourself in a whole new way.
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: The Subtle-Yet-Obvious Reason You Don’t Love Yourself — Yet.