Many people think the term ‘self-love’ means being selfish; being ‘up yourself’; being egotistical and narcissistic; not caring about others; and always focusing your attention on yourself. This is not what self-love is about. Self-love is at the core of healthy self-esteem. Babies are born with self-worth. As time goes on it gets worn away by other people’s comments, attitudes and expectations. Self-love is the art of believing in yourself; of forgiving yourself for all past mistakes, self-deprecation and wrong doings; of recognising and affirming your own worth; of respecting and taking good care of yourself; of re-energising and replenishing yourself; of recognising that you have control over of the quality of your life. It’s the ability to see your own shortcomings and to love yourself enough to know that you can learn and grow from them; to not give up on yourself because you have made some mistakes or bad choices, or still have some problems in your life; to believe you are worthy of love even if you’re not perfect. If you don’t love or can’t love self, then loving others becomes a difficult endeavour.
Learning to have self-love has massive benefits: It will lead to you feeling happier within yourself and more energised; to you feeling good about yourself and the world in general; to you feeling cared for and respected; to you feeling as though you don’t need to wear a mask or to act in a certain manner in order to please others or gain their approval; to you feeling free to express your own opinions and beliefs without fear of reprisal; to you feeling free to change your mind, to say “no”, or go elsewhere without fear of retaliation or censure.
Sadly many people find it hard to love and accept themselves, because of guilt or blame, fear or projection, expectations, self-judgement or lack of self-forgiveness, or growing up with constant criticism. Because they don’t feel loved and accepted many people find it easier to be self-critical; to give their power away to others; to put up with neglect and abuse; than to treat themselves well. Some people are afraid to be themselves; afraid that if they are themselves others will judge them harshly. So they do everything in they can to please and placate others and to gain their approval instead of pleasing themselves. Until such persons can see that they are special; that they are worthy of being loved and treated properly, sadly this type of behaviour will continue.
Not loving yourself has mega costs – it can lead to you having a poor self-image and low self-esteem; to you feeling forced to conduct yourself in ways that aren’t consistent with your own values; to you become ‘needy’ or co-dependent; to you working hard to met expectations set for you by others and by society, instead of you working hard to become independent and self-aware; to you withdrawing or distancing yourself from others to avoid future criticism, judgement, guilt trips, anger or rejection; to you becoming self-loathing or self-punitive; to you feeling afraid or hesitant to speak up and stand up for yourself; to you agreeing to do things you don’t want to do and go to places you don’t want to go to; to you treating your time as less important than others; to you being fearful of other people’s wrath; to you second-guessing yourself; to you giving yourself and others backhanded compliments; to you having poor relationship skills and experiencing a series of failed and unfulfilling relationships; to you starting most of your sentences with :“This might sound dumb (silly) but…”; to you becoming your own worst enemy – someone who can never say ‘I am lovable. I am worthy. I am good enough’.
The art of self-love takes a lifetime to master. It can be eroded by others and by yourself. Life events such as betrayal, separation or divorce; accident or emergency surgery; systematic neglect, abuse or punishment; domestic violence or sexual assault; lack of family and friend support; being raised in an environment where there was an absence of affection, praise and warmth; worrying about whether you have treated others badly; failing to meet parental, teacher or peer-group standards; being the odd one out at home or school. Retrenchment, job loss or involuntary retirement; financial hardship or an unexpected death in the family; being incarcerated; being mugged or bullied in the workplace; alcohol and drug abuse; racial attack; educational under-attainment and failing to get employment.
Making an appointment to see a health care practitioner that you’d stopped seeing for good reasons just to save money. Getting out of your comfort zone and learning new skills; anxiety and emotional turmoil; depression and bouts of sadness; health problems and trauma; uncertainty and indecision; lack of social skills; behaving not in your own best interest; perfectionist tendencies; being ignored, ridiculed or teased; unplanned pregnancy; hearing yourself put yourself down and watching yourself agreeing to do things that you don’t want to do; can demoralize or unnerve you. They can throw you off balance and highlight areas where self-love might be limited and lacking.
The first step to building self-love is to be able to identify all various fears; feelings; inaccurate and biased views of self based on childhood experiences; negative self-talks statements; outdated beliefs and values; expectations placed on you by yourself and others; self-defeating behaviours and negative thought patterns; acts of self-harm, self-abuse, self-neglect or meanness to the self; ingrained habits that are stopping you from loving yourself, and then to replace them with some healthy, self-esteem building alternatives.
About the Author
Ann C. Johnson Assoc MAPS: General Psychologist has worked in the helping professions for the past 35 years. In the past 7 years she has published 3 books on personal and spiritual development. Inspired by post she reads on Facebook and events happening in her own life she continues to write articles on a regular basis.