For the longest time, I felt that this phrase “loving yourself” was just an empty cliché that people use when they want to encourage you or to say something nice. Struggling to find the real meaning behind it, I thought loving yourself meant thinking you’re smart, being confident, buying yourself something you wanted. Until one day, after years of supposedly loving myself, I felt unsure of it all. Deep in therapy, I realized that how I talk to myself privately, without showing, without anybody knowing – this is where I would need to learn how to really love myself.
Today, I am sharing with you five essential steps that brought me closer to understanding what loving myself meant. The steps are profound, crucial and ever-present in our day-to-day. In the following months, we will try to untangle each of these steps, learn what difficulties wait for us on this path and, slowly, but surely, receive all that we need to begin loving our Self the way we have been longing to.
The first step is becoming aware of our inner voice and realizing that it was learned.
Our inner voice is how we have learned to talk to ourselves and it is not the real us. Read that again. Your inner voice is not you. As children, our sense of self is not yet developed. We form frames of our self from the words that we hear our parents describe us with. At that age, we are not able to differentiate our self from our parents. Thus, however, the parent acts towards me – this is essentially who and how I am. That is how our mind works. So in order to love ourselves, we need to first understand the difference between who I am and who my inner voice is.
The second step is getting to know our Self.
Carl Jung defines the Self as the core part of us, filled with potential and so sacred that we had to build all these structures around it to keep it safe. It is usually connected to our Inner Child. Our Inner Child is the part of us that is pure and uninhibited, that is not bound by rules or frames, although usually it has been deeply affected by our parents’ comments and behaviour. Now we see the connection to step one.
Step three is developing and maintaining boundaries.
Boundaries are there to protect us from feeling used, they are our personal emotional rules on what is okay and what is not when it comes to other people’s behaviour towards us. A lack of boundaries is closely connected to codependency, which shows as a feeling of being responsible for other people’s emotions and vice versa. This essentially means that we love ourselves only when we are worthy to others, we over-work and over-give in our relationships, usually secretly hoping this would pay off and our close-ones would give us the love we crave for. We completely disregard the inconvenient truth – we are the only ones that can give ourselves this love that we crave for and also that we are the only ones responsible for our own emotions.
Step four is asking for what we need.
This does not mean that we ask others for what we need, but ourselves. We need to learn what we need in different situations and learn how to ask for it from ourselves. Too many times in this fast life we ignore our own needs, especially when these needs don’t work along with our objectives of productiveness and our need to help others. How we act towards ourselves, what we say to ourselves when all we need is to stop, rest, do nothing for a whole day – this is what we want to re-learn. Asking for what we need is an essential part of self-love. Why? Because it gives us an immediate opportunity to show ourselves that love.
The last, fifth step is forgiving ourselves.
After we have perfected the first four steps in how to love ourselves, this one often comes as a surprise. The thing is that when we continuously do the work to become better towards ourselves, we are inevitably confronted with how differently and unfairly we had treated ourselves in the past. This is where forgiving comes into play. In order to truly deeply love ourselves, we need to forgive ourselves for holding unhealthy patterns of negative inner talk, for scolding and criticizing ourselves, for being untrue to ourselves. In an empathetic and gentle manner, we need to accept that at each moment of our life, we did the most with what we had. We did the best that we could. In that way, we forgive ourselves, knowing that we now know better and therefore we can do better, too.
My goal in the next few months is to give you the background of the process of these five steps, as well as useful tips for practising self-love that we hear so much about. Let’s learn new ways of connecting with our Self and preserving our truest being. Until then – be kind to yourself and trust yourself.
Author: Eva Feldman, as a highly empathetic person and a psychologist, she connects her understanding of the human psyche with spirituality, focusing on consciousness and awareness. Her goal is to share knowledge and passion about human beings in a simple and understandable way, and in that way to contribute to raising awareness in this day and age. Masters degree in Psychology, education in Art Expressive Therapy, as well as personal interests of social justice, mindfulness and Being, make for an interesting addition to her practices of dance, yoga and teaching. She found a purpose in living life fully and encouraging others to do so. Follow Eva on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/toomucheva/