It feels like we've finally come to a place where the concepts of self-love and self-care are becoming more and more a thing. That is to say, it feels like more and more people, both clinical and non-clinical are realizing the benefits to making self-love a priority. However, many of my clients are still asking: Why should I try to love myself more and how do I even do that? Read: It sounds good in theory, but it also sounds like a nebulous, difficult to achieve goal.
3 Common Barriers to self love
In order to answer these questions, we must recognize the hindrances which most often keep people from loving themselves. The first main culprit is the idea that there is normal and that the opposite of normal is weird, quirky or even crazy. You know what the actual crazy thing is? There's no such thing as normal. You've probably heard that said before, and it's true. The sooner we realize this, the more free we're going to feel to love ourselves, quirks and all, and be our true essential selves, recognizing the good in our quirks, our craziness and our weirdness.
One of the best gifts that we can give to other people is being our true, authentic selves. We are here at this time and this place for a reason. Why? Because we have something to offer this world that no one else can. We're unique and that's a beautiful thing.
It is ever so beautiful to be strange. To do things differently than others. To see things in a rare light. To me, that is such gold to carry. - Christopher Poindexter
The second thing that can obstruct the path of self love is people pleasing. In essence, people pleasers believe that they have to keep everybody in their life happy, keep all the balls in the air, and that they alone are the person responsible for other everyone else's happiness. This thinking can quickly become a set of co-dependent shackles, weighing them down, forfeiting their own happiness all the while.
Third, along with people pleasing, is perfectionism. It's one of the main things that I see my clients struggling with. When they struggle to love themselves, it is because they have set this immeasurably high standard for themselves, or perhaps someone in their life has set it for them early on. They can't handle the pressure to be perfect. And yet, they try. And they exhaust themselves trying.
Most human beings would agree with the statement that "nobody's perfect" and yet it is still something on a subconscious level that we strive for and try to be. The perfect mom. The perfect wife. The perfect writer. The perfect child. The perfect employee. The perfect boss. Perfectionism is a problem that can be so consuming and such a detriment to loving ourselves well.
Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist's true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I'm sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we needed to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here. - Anne Lamott
A New Way of Thinking
We really have to find a new way of talking to ourselves and thinking about ourselves if we're going to cultivate an authentic love for ourselves.
One important thing to practice is trusting your gut. Go with what you feel. Don't over-think things. Women especially tend to analyze and re-analyze all the things that we do.
In reality, we know on a base level inside of ourselves what is right and what is wrong for us. We know what would feel good and what would not. We know what would bring us peace and what would create anxiety and stress.
Questions to Ask Yourself
There are a lot of questions that we can start asking ourselves if we're going to cultivate a love of self. A large part of that is learning, "who are we, really?" Many of us have spent so much time trying to cover up and hide who we really are that we have no idea who that person is anymore.
Go back and take care of yourself. Your body needs you, your feelings need you, your perceptions need you. Your suffering needs you to acknowledge it. Go home and be there for all these things. - Thich Nhat Hanh
One easy way to answer this question is to remember what you were like as a child. I use this all the time with clients in my office. I ask them what they loved, how they spent their free time, what did they feel driven to do? Those things you loved to do then are a part of who you are. Think of how you can incorporate more of what worked for you as a child into your daily life now.
Along those lines, ask yourself "what do I love?" Think about your perfect day. How would you spend your time on an ideal day? Would you wake up early or would you sleep in? Would you eat your favorite foods? What are those favorite foods? Who would you be around? Who would you avoid? What in particular do I love about those things, and how can I have more of them in my life?
Finally, let's discuss some things that you can do to cultivate a deeper love of self. One of them is to focus on what you can do.
Practice self gratitude. In what ways are you thankful for yourself? What is good about you? Your body, your mind, and your spirit have immeasurable goodness in them. If you struggle to determine that good, ask for help. Talk to a friend or trusted family member. Ask them what they love about you and what you bring to their lives. Write down what they say. Read it often. Consider that list a jumping off point to start your own.
You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously. - Unknown
Above all, remember to treat yourself like someone that you love. Think of the person that you love most. Think of your best friend or your spouse. Think of a person who you care about tremendously. How do you treat them? How do you talk to them? How much time do you spend with them?
Spending time with yourself is necessary to increase love for yourself. This used to be something that I would run away and hide from because by nature, I'm an extrovert. I get my energy from being around other people. But in reality, we all need time just for ourselves. We need time to grow in love for ourselves.
It may be tempting to wish you were more like someone else or just a little less like you, but remember there is only ONE you, and this world needs you. Your personality, your gifts, your heart, your mind, your experiences, your circumstances, and even your struggles piece together to form one amazing, wonderful individual...YOU. And you are a gift to everyone around you.
Be confused, it's where you begin to learn new things. Be broken, it's where you begin to heal. Be frustrated, it's where you begin to make more authentic decisions. Be sad, because if we are brave enough we can hear our heart's wisdom through it. Be whatever you are right now. No more hiding. You are worthy always. - S.C. Lourie
In the words of Byron Katie, "Do you want to meet the love of your life? Look in the mirror." I hope you found something here that helps you to love that beautiful person you see in the mirror. You are worthy of the same love you so freely give to others.
Jessica Dimas is the author of Sacred Self-Care for Moms Guide + Worksheet Bundle. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram for more self-care inspiration.