Saying self-love is the key to everything sounds kind of dramatic, right? It can sound a bit cheesy. And of course you “love yourself.” After all, you feel pretty confident. You’re good at some things. Basically you think of yourself as a decent person. You know you have some flaws, but basically you accept yourself, right?
Maybe not. Even the most confident-looking people can secretly harbor difficulty with self-love. They might just mask it more effectively than some.
Five Clues You Struggle with Self-Love
1. When someone gives you a compliment, do you brush it aside, downplay it, deflect it?
Or do you let it soak in? Are you able to agree with them, thank them for noticing, and receive it? Or, especially from a mate, are you suspicious of their motives, whether he truly thinks that or if she’s just “trying to butter you up” for something? When he says “you look very pretty tonight” do you think “and I look trash the rest of the time?” or “hmmmmm, what does he want?” Or do you fully allow it to sink in? Your response reveals a lot!
2. When you get something nice, how do you feel?
Whether large or small: an unexpected inheritance, a gift from a friend, consideration from a complete stranger- how do you feel? Guilty? Even irritated? Do you feel a little skeptical of their motives? Wonder why this happened to you? Do you quickly put it in the category of a FLUKE? OR on the opposite, do you feel entitled and think things like “yeah, that’s right! Why doesn’t that happen more often? Sheesh, I don’t get this often enough!” Either extreme is telling you about your ability to receive. And your ability to receive is connected to real self-love.
3. If you make a small mistake how do you react?
When spilling something- say a spot of coffee on your white sweater- how do you react? Do you cuss? Berate yourself for being clumsy or stupid? These are moments to really take notice of that internal dialogue. And even if there are not WORDS to your internal voice, what is the reaction in your body or in your feelings? Does it send your heart racing? Do you feel dread or anxiety? Maybe instant anger? Pay attention. It’s a clue.
4. Can you make a list of just FIVE of your strengths?
I mean it. Write them down this minute. Now imagine you have to share them with a friend or a mate. What happens? Do you feel shy or embarrassed about sharing them? Nervous what response you might get from someone else? Do you think of negative reactions you’ve had in the past? OR do you feel obligated to follow up with a balancing explanation of your weaknesses? Maybe you struggle even to come up with five things for your list. It all tells us so much about your relationship- not with the person you might share these things- but about your relationship with yourself.
5. Do you put off being happy?
Do you think “I’ll be happy when….” we’re getting along better, when work isn’t so stressful, when I lose weight, or I have more money or my back doesn’t hurt or the kids are launched or we have a new house or we get this conflict resolved or he (or she) does this or that? Are you postponing Joy because it feels too risky, or not appropriate, you haven’t “earned it,” maybe you can’t muster it…or you’re just not allowing it?
These are ALL indicators that you struggle with Self-Love and that your love for SELF has limits and conditions.
And when you struggle to LOVE YOU, you will struggle to RECEIVE the GOOD in life….
especially all forms of goodness and LOVE from others. Even when you get the good, you’ll think “what did I DO to deserve this?” as if all the GOOD in life has to be EARNED. Or you’ll find a way to make it more “comfortable for yourself” by deflecting it or thinking you need to “pay it forward” instead of just accepting and receiving.
Loving yourself is the KEY to Receiving the GOOD.
You might think it’s the opposite: that loving others means then you can receive from them. Especially if we are not getting what we want in relationship, we think what we lack is BECAUSE of what he’s doing or not doing, what she’s giving or not giving.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
What you are getting or not getting from others is really ALL ABOUT YOU and what you are open to receive.
CRAZY, right? But that’s how the Art of Receiving works. How good are you at receiving the GOOD others send your way, at enjoying your life, and counting your blessings? Let’s take this a step further.
Remember that saying, you can’t love others until you love yourself? About that I ALWAYS say, BS! It’s just not true. Humans were made to love and we do it naturally, sometimes even when we don’t want to do it or even when others mistreat us.
What I say instead is that we DO love others about as well as we love ourselves.
There’s even more reason to get very good at loving yourself.
Think about it. Do you really love others ANY better than you truly love yourself? I just don’t think so. We’d like to think we’re doing a better job of loving our kids, for example, than loving ourselves, but ARE we really?
Let’s take a closer look:
Are you truly seeing them accurately, (allowing them to be themselves with all their human foibles.) Or are you just blindly proud of them or trying to shape them, mold them, and change them?
Are you teaching them by your expectations to hide aspects of themselves from you? To minimize their struggles and only emphasize their successes? Are you teaching them by your expectations, that they must lie or conceal or please in order to gain your love?
Can you see them as they truly are, foibles, warts, Inner Snake and all? Your kids are not angelic, btw and they are not “worth more” than you are. They’re also not awful and terrible if they have struggles and personality quirks. They are human. But if you’re not allowing them to be human or seeing them as human, you’re loving an idea of them, not them as real people. (The same goes for your “love” for anyone else as well.)
Do you really understand them? This requires some empathy, sometimes deep empathy. And you must do the first part in order to actually make this part count. If you see a reflection of what you want in another (or the lack of it) you are not seeing them accurately and therefore, your understanding of them will be skewed. Same thing goes for your understanding of yourself.
Finally, do you REALLY accept them unconditionally? Do you fully and completely, deeply and unconditionally ACCEPT them? And if you haven’t done the first two parts fully, there just is no WEIGHT to this unconditional acceptance. There is nothing unconditional about it, in fact.
The very same thing applies to YOU. If you are not looking at all parts ACCURATELY (meaning clearly, with compassion and value) then, you really cannot do the rest.
So what do you do now?
For starters, take this seriously. There’s nothing fluffy or silly about it. Loving yourself is the ROOT of everything good in life. It is the absolute KEY to your ability to receive, have, and keep the good stuff.
1. On purpose, love yourself. Be intentional about it.
2. Next, be gentle with yourself as you face the truth about these challenges. This is no time to beat up on yourself. And realize that most of us were raised to believe we have to EARN, PROVE, or OBTAIN our worth. We thought we needed to “contribute” or “earn our keep,” that it was our job to be good, to not make a stink, to be seen and not heard, to “behave.”
If that resonates, know you are not alone. And give yourself a break.
3. Finally, set an intention to notice (especially when any of the FIVE indicators above show up) and then gently redirect yourself.
Let’s say you notice you’re deflecting a compliment. Go like this:
hmmmm, that’s interesting. I’m doing it again. (Shrug. Sigh- big breath.) Stay gentle and say “it’s okay.” Then ask yourself to intentionally send yourself some love. Maybe you actually say “thank you. I receive that.” Or maybe no extra words are required.
4. Let the love in.
See how many ways you can just notice, be gentle, and let the love in this week. Start with YOURSELF.
It WILL pay off in the quality of ALL your relationships, I promise.
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