How To (Re)Learn Self-Love Even If You Doubt it Yourself

Self-love liberates your mind and soul.

You come into this world with inner joy, wonder and peace.

Yet, this innate knowing is erased from you as early as three years old when a toy gets taken away because you didn’t play nicely.

“Be nice” mantra is drilled into you from pre-school to university. Then the gloves come off and it’s all people for themselves.

You ask, ‘when did love become hate?’

Along the way, your self-love gets hit with labels, name calling, embarrassments, microaggressions, systemic and blatant racism, sexism, ageism, gender discrimination, sexual, emotional, and physical abuse, bullying, profiling, exclusion in the guise of:

  • stay in your lane
  • your hair is different
  • you talk so well
  • go back to your country
  • what’s wrong with you?
  • you wear your heart on your sleeve
  • it was a joke; can’t you take a joke?
  • this is how you treat me after everything I’ve done for you?

Intended or not (benefit of the doubt is really the catch all here), the words become a sword, death by a thousand cuts. (did you see how words become sword?).

Until one day, vibrant open hearted you is now a sullen, anxious timebomb for emotional collapse.

This is why words matter.

I digress or do I?

You become collateral damage. Your value is what you can do for them. You’re the wallflower.

I know because I was once a wallflower. It sucks. And, when your best isn’t good enough – literally run.

Give Yourself the Attention You Deserve

Quite ironic to say run when your gas tank is empty.

The ‘start the car’ commercial comes to mind as I write. But it’s more like there’s no sound or interior lights when you try to start because your battery is dead.

You give so much of yourself to others. You can never get back the time from those who have taken advantage of you.

I recall sketching a dress for someone who is no longer a friend. We sat at a local coffee shop. I etched what she wanted it to look like on a napkin. Before I could say anything, she grabbed it, smirked. One summer day, she showed up wearing my design. There was no thank you. She didn’t see my heart break in my smile.

As a result, you sputter with what little is left of you. But you know it isn’t right.

From someone who truly understands what broken feels like, your life depends on reclaiming your lost gift – self-love.

Self-doubt

What is Self-Love?

According to Jeffrey Borenstein, President of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, “Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others.”

This technical verbiage still places a lot of focus on the external.

Self-love, in my opinion, is a state of being in harmony with your internal self.

The external stuff – family, friends, work, past and current trauma are experiences you process and decide what can be released to align with your values.

Self-love is a lifelong process of reflection. This is the uncomfortable part. You will at various times face the unwanted memories, self-inflicted actions, and projections of others which caused you to withdraw from your true self.

Go at your own pace for however long you need to. Tip, sob. Go easy on your eardrums. I’ve lost count blowing my nose so hard. And use a towel. Save the planet from Kleenex.

Internal wounds bleed in the form of anxiety, depression, anger, passive aggression, mistrust, manipulation by others, even co-dependency. I’m not a psychologist, yet these are the most common symptoms I’ve seen friends go through and some I’ve experienced myself.

But even your beautiful smile can only hold your pain for so long.

Much of this is because you’re raised to be seen but not heard. Or in some cases, neither seen nor heard.

Self-doubt

Let's Unlearn All Those Things Your Parents Taught You About Love

You are ingrained to nurture, be selfless, compromise socially, culturally, and societally. A significant disadvantage in a masculine skewed world designed to keep you small.

Parents condition you to do what they approve of and expect you to comply with ‘do as I say, not what I do.’

The operative word is condition. Each experience of love is based on some form of condition. Experiences can range from overprotection, withholding of praise to shame for your milestones achieved or not achieved.

For example, you tiptoe around a rigid, authoritative parent who expects all A’s on a report card. Or you’re left to fend for yourself because of their own emotional hiccups.

These mixed messages don’t equip you to deal with your own life stressors. Let alone set up healthy boundaries for yourself.

Essentially, you are stuck in a state of stress worsened by what is called ‘negativity bias’.

Self love

What is Negativity Bias?

Negativity bias is set when the brain hard-wires habits from bad experiences over good ones. This is rooted in millions of years of evolution represented by life-or-death situations (flight or fight).

This affects your view on relationships, pop culture and lifestyle.

Lifestyle and self-love go hand in hand. A negativity bias can drag down your ability to succeed in life. Research shows repeated negative thoughts can release cortisol. Over time, high levels of stress can compromise your immune system; even impact mental health.

Fortunately, your brain’s innate neuroplasticity makes it possible for you to rewire negative thoughts when you consciously adapt positive emotions. As a result, you complete tasks and keep a positive outlook on your life.

How do you know you’re caught in a negativity bias spiral?

First, recognize your triggers. Here are some examples of what you might notice:

  • Do you catch yourself replaying a negative conversation and become anxious or upset?

  • Do you feel negative overwhelm when someone’s annoying behavior or habit makes you mad?

What underlies your propensity towards negativity bias?

It lies in your inner critic.

If you berate yourself enough times for a mistake, you start to believe “I totally suck at this!” instead of “I can do this!”

What compounds it, is you (circle) trying to fit into a popular group (square).

This is the ugly side of self-love. Since you don’t know how to love yourself, at some point, whether in childhood or as an adult, you:

  • Go out of your way to make others like and accept you.
  • You follow the status quo to fit in.
  • Mirror your unhappy friend – complain, complain.
  • You put others’ needs before your own (often at the expense of your health or safety).

Eventually, you become resentful of being used.

When you train others to expect you to be there for them all the time, often they will thwart your need for personal change.

When Other's Project Their Insecurities

You can see feckless reciprocity in the achievement-oriented world you live in.

When you decide you will no longer (1) pretend to be someone you’re not; or (2) try to gain someone else’s approval or love, you are putting yourself first.

You are standing up for yourself.

Every day, you must remind yourself to be in a state of self-acceptance.

A global report launched by The Body Shop has identified a self-love* crisis for women around the world, with one in two women feeling more self-doubt than self-love, and 60% wishing they had more respect for themselves.

The study, designed by The Body Shop and leading market research firm Ipsos, ran between November and December 2020 with over 22,000 people in 21 different countries. The Self Love Index comprises a number of academic measures of self-worth, wellbeing, and happiness, and reveals how age, gender, country, and living standards impact how people feel about themselves.

Women and young girls continue to be inundated with messages that to be accepted, you need to be a size two, shaped like Barbie (why aren’t there plus size Barbie’s?) despite the numerous plus size models seen today.

The harmful nature of fake beauty standards jeopardizes a woman’s true value and self-worth.

Can Your Partner's Scorn Really Be Masking Low Self-Esteem?

Your true value and self-worth are shaped by your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Each are distinct as you are unique.

Likewise, self-confidence and self-esteem are not the same.

You feel self-confident in your ability, power, and own judgement. For example, you trust your skills in math, dance, hockey etc.

Self-esteem reflects your self-respect. Do you see yourself as beautiful, charming, witty, sexy etc.?

No matter what happens on the outside, do you have a healthy sense of yourself on the inside?

When you are beguiled by someone, check your ‘spy tingly’ senses. Ask yourself, how would someone who loves you deeply act or speak with you?

Chances are they will encourage you.

There will not be criticism, judgement, or chastisement.

Because the last thing you want to have happen is be played a fool.

With low self-esteem, your desire for external validation can attract people who easily put others down disguised as jokes. They hijack conversations to feel superior. This is a narcissist.

When someone says you’re not good enough, does it really mean they love you?

Here’s a few common traits (though more) to see if you feel someone doesn’t have your best interest.

  • Inflated sense of self
  • Seeks constant admiration
  • Expects superior treatment
  • Exaggerates their talent
  • Refuses to accept criticism

Keep in mind, a narcissist will not take responsibility for their mistakes. Nor will they have empathy for you or others. For example, men will manipulate others while women will compete with other women and vice versa.

It's Crucial to Forgive Yourself

You don’t have to put up with other people’s deceit, cruelty, and vitriol. A big part of self-love is to remember you get to choose. Reject other people’s opinions. Choose you, always.

DO …

DON’T …

  • Acknowledge you need timeout to heal
  • Ignore your need to feel safe
  • Scream hoarse – it’s the sanest act of love
  • Hide from your fears
  • Journal your feelings, thoughts, and dreams
  • Suppress your need to feel heard
  • Breathe to calm your mind
  • Let overthinking spiral you into panic attacks
  • Exercise to honor your body
  • Give in to excuses. Whether it’s a 10-minute walk or YouTube chair exercises, the key is to move
  • Talk to a trusted friend, family member or therapist – even your pet
  • Suffer blame or shame. Other people’s crap is not your burden

Self-forgiveness is tough because you’re trapped by guilt. Guilt for saying no. It’s like a corkscrew in your chest the puppeteer tightens to get you to do what they want.

Women especially need a safety vest that says ‘Self first. Life raft second.” Why do you sacrifice yourself for the sake of others?

Forgive yourself. Why?  The real you went into hiding.

The lies, abuse and envy of others sabotaged your love for yourself.

Also, it gives you permission to admit you need to change; to step into a better you with your beautiful imperfections.

Self Love

Make Rest Intentional Part of Life

You can celebrate a better you and your imperfections through mindful activities. There’s something to be said for today’s youth who embrace work smarter, not longer. Entitlement or not, they get self-love (preserve one’s well-being).

Why do you love ‘busyness’, yet find it difficult to be still and contemplate?

If you pause for a millisecond, you’ll discover we are hamsters rather than sheep. Sheep at least get to enjoy chewing on grass. Hamsters are on constant alert – go, go, go.

If you don’t take a pause, what will you do with yourself once quantum leap is mastered?

A survey by Future Forum found “Employee burnout rose to 40 per cent in the third quarter of 2022.” And “…female workers showing 32 per cent more burnout than their male counterparts…”

When do you make time for self-care to combat burnout?

Since you spend the most time with you, self-love requires you to trust and be brave in your ability to be alone; drop the belief you have to be around people.

Here are some ideas to cope with burnout and guide you to be present.

  • Create a mantra “I am loveable”
  • Declutter stuff
  • Embrace mindfulness
  • Express gratitude
  • Get a massage or makeover
  • Light a candle while you bathe or read
  • Remove toxic people
  • Set boundaries
  • Set phone on airplane mode
  • Show family love in small ways
  • Stop comparing yourself to others
  • Take breaks from social media
  • Try a new hobby
  • Volunteer

My New Tattoo

What if self-love burnout can be captured in a juicy gummy bear?

No more sugar cereal, pseudo-fruit bars, toast to spike your energy. (This may cause some companies to cringe.)

Think about it. Get your daily dose of vitamin C’s – care, calm, clarity, courage, curiosity, creativity, confidence, compassion in two delicious, chewy, mouthwatering tastes of goodness. A simple dose to carry you through each moment with awareness.

Face anything with Zen because you know the external crap is simply that – crap.

Another choice is to repeat these tips daily from Lisa Nichols, motivational speaker’s video “Why Mirror Work Will Change Your Life”

The path to relearn self-love is in small steps every day until you believe you are magnificent once again.

Self-love Tribe, Be Mind-blowing You

Let’s be real. There comes an aha that says, ‘no more’. Amidst the tears, hurt, body aches and sleepless nights, you will find a resolve to focus inward not outward.

You will fight against the years of conditional wiring that ‘play nice, be nice’ equates to ‘wallflower’.

With patient fortitude, you will move beyond the toxicity of others.

You will breathe, hold compassion for yourself, be still in your truth; you are worthy of love.

Each day, give thanks, be grateful and say “I am here.”

Self-love is learning you are already unconditional love; affirm ‘I am good’.

Her Story: Self-love lets you move with grace and integrity.

FAQ

How do I start loving myself psychology?

  1. Be Self-Compassionate. Self-compassion involves being compassionate (showing sympathy and concern) towards yourself.
  2. Practice Loving Kindness Toward Yourself and Others.
  3. Forgive Yourself.
  4. Show Yourself That You Love Yourself.

Why do I struggle to love myself?

Growing up with not enough acceptance and too much shame, we may cling to our shortcomings, past failures, and poor decisions. We minimize the good things about ourselves and our positive qualities. Scientists tell us that our brain has a negativity bias.

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