One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was look in the mirror and say, “I love you!” When I was in AA during my college years, my second sponsor made me stand in front of a mirror to do this. I was actually surprised when I couldn’t and began to cry. Until that point, I had always thought that I at least liked myself even if I didn’t love who I was. It wasn’t until I had to look myself in the eye and say, “I love you” out loud that the truth came crashing down on me. I didn’t like the girl in the mirror, who she was becoming, and I certainly didn’t love her. In fact, I despised her. Learning to love yourself can be a difficult road, but it is so very much worth the effort. If you are struggling to love yourself, here is some advice to get you started on your journey.
- Be willing to feel the pain of old wounds and work through it.
Some of us do everything in our power to avoid feeling pain – especially pain that we have carried for years. Doing this in many cases has led to causing ourselves even more harm without realizing it. It’s a vicious cycle. Break the cycle by confronting what has caused you hurt and dealing with it. Allow yourself to feel that pain and ask yourself why it hurts. Was it your fault or are you just blaming yourself? Is it worth holding on to?
- Realize that you are not what has happened to you.
Part of working through the pain of your past is to realize that what has happened to you does not have to define who you are. Your past is your past – not your future. You can learn lessons and move on. Make what has happened to you a positive by taking away a lesson from it and leave the negative behind.
- Be mindful of your feelings and take responsibility for them.
Get emotionally honest with yourself. Do you harbor resentment? Are you angry at someone or a situation? Don’t be afraid to feel these emotions and look at where they are coming from. Repressed feelings have a way of festering, causing more damage to our psyche. Don’t be afraid to feel – good, bad or indifferent.
- Forgive yourself and others.
This may be the most important step! No one is perfect. We all do things we may regret. Forgive yourself for these things. If you have a great deal of guilt, make amends if you can. Also, forgive those who have caused you pain or wronged you in any way. Remember that they aren’t perfect either and may have their own reasons (or pain) that caused them to behave that way. It’s best to forgive and move on – holding on to guilt and hate does nothing positive for you.
- Know your worth.
You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be loved. You deserve to be treated well. Don’t settle for anything less. When we don’t love ourselves, it is very hard to believe that we are worthy of anything good. Tell yourself that you ARE worthy! Even if you don’t believe it right now, keep telling yourself that you are and eventually you will begin to believe it. If you’re having real trouble finding your worth, make a list of everything you like about yourself – all the good things – and start there.
- Learn to accept compliments.
This one may seem a little basic, but it touches on our self-worth. How many times have you shunned a compliment? Did you think you didn’t deserve it? You did. If others can see the good in you, look for the good in yourself. Start with saying a small, ‘Thank you.’ Then hold on to that good thought to help you find your goodness.
- Realize that it is ok to be vulnerable.
One of the scariest things you can do is reveal your vulnerability, but you must realize being vulnerable means that you are being honest with yourself. Showing vulnerability allows you to be real. Again – no one is perfect, and it is ok to not be ok. Loving yourself means that you accept all of who you are – even if it is uncomfortable. Vulnerability does not mean that you are weak or less than. It means that you are open.
- Let go of negative influences and people. Learn to say ‘No.’
Surround yourself with people who care for and love you. Drop those that cause you pain or to doubt yourself. Don’t participate in activities that you know will bring you down. You don’t have to fit in especially if it means compromising your beliefs or who you are. This can lead to guilt and self-hate. Say ‘No’ to anything that doesn’t foster positive for your life.
- Learn to be alone.
Another one that seems pretty simple but can be really scary. Most people who don’t love themselves find silence and being alone terrifying. It gives too much time to think and we tend to like to avoid having to face ourselves. Cut all the noise and distractions and look inward. Whatever you find, you can deal with. I promise.
- Love yourself as you would love others.
Think of how you love other people – how you treat them. Do you treat yourself the same way? You are just as worthy of your own love as the people you give it to.
Self-love is an on-going journey. It’s something that I must consciously be mindful of. Depression will strip away any good I see in myself if I give it a chance to. Thankfully though, I know how to love myself now. Know what I need to do to keep loving myself. Sometimes I still look at myself in the mirror – right in the eye – and tell the person staring back that I love her. I don’t cry anymore. Hopefully these tips can help you love yourself too. There is only one you in all the world.