Let me start by saying that I am not good at self love. It is not something that comes naturally and I can slip quite easily into being my own worst critic. Like many things in this world, however, I know the theory, I just don’t always put it into practice. Negative self-talk and negative thinking are probably the biggest downers on loving yourself and yet so many of us slip comfortably into those behaviours. We spend time beating ourselves up and punishing ourselves rather than adopting self acceptance, forgiveness and compassion.
Although I am not good at loving myself, I am good at following rules and so a power exchange where the rules are set for me by someone who does love me, has helped to focus my self acceptance and to build a better relationship with myself. I suppose I have had an incentive and that has helped. I still have the tendency to put myself down, but I have learnt to hold myself in the moment for long enough to challenge the thought, reroute it and replace it.
Previously I was my own worst critic. I put myself down all of the time. If I ever achieved something then I prefaced it with an apology, an excuse or a judgement about how bad it was. I found it uncomfortable to accept compliments and would argue with them or dismiss them. I set myself unrealistic expectations and used I have to, I must and I should far too often. I set myself up for failure and focussed then on what had not been achieved. I compared myself with others a lot and most of these comparisons were unfavourable.
Top 5 Self Love Strategies
Remaining in the moment
This is something that has been helpful for me to practise. Remaining in the moment allows me to focus on the positives and on the good things. It slows me down. It allows me to be more reflective and to take the time to think and appreciate and enjoy. Focusing on my senses and experiencing the world through them has meant that I have become more mindful and stopped the runaway train of thought that always aimed to lead me down the same superhighway to the same destination.
A big part of self acceptance has come from listening carefully to what others are telling me. The mind reading and the making assumptions about what others think or feel about me used to hold me back, but now I try to challenge that by hearing what others are saying. And if they are saying nothing then I try not to over think. One key thing I have tried has been accepting compliments. Instead of batting them back, I allow them to land. And after I have thanked the person, their compliment sits there with me and I try to let it dissipate.
Challenging the negatives with Evidence
It feels good actually. I can’t say that away from everything else it would become my own thought, but accepting what others have said with the grace in which it was intended has allowed it to be filed away there, to be used as evidence which can then counter some of the negative ideas that I have. My body image would be one area where this has worked. I can’t say that I see myself altogether differently but I now accept that others see me in a positive light. This has also helped my relationship. Being able focus on what HL sees has helped to reinforce the connection between us.
Being a better friend
Alongside challenging with evidence has gone challenging the negative ideas. By nature I am a kind and caring person. I am thoughtful and would put myself out to help others. I try not to be judgemental and to see the best in others, so I have tried to show the same compassion to myself. I try to stop and think and catch the emotion that I am feeling. Once caught I can try to challenge and counteract it. If I am able to change my thoughts then my feelings will change too, so being kind to myself has led to me feeling happier and generally being more satisfied.
Being human means that we make mistakes. I see this in others but have had to make a conscious effort to let my own failings go by. We all mess up. My job is based on helping others and a lot of that has to do with sorting things out when they have gone wrong. It is about putting the past behind and moving forward, not holding yourself back with the mistakes of yesterday but seeing each event as a learning opportunity for tomorrow. I know this sounds a bit like bullshit but it has actually helped me trying to see things like that. I don’t have to be perfect. I can’t be perfect. No one can, so why make it a goal.
Where I am at now
While these are my top self love strategies, I started by saying I am not good at it. It has been a challenge and in the interests of focussing on the positives, I will say that I have started, not that I have finished. I can’t say that I absolutely love myself but I can see that there are things to love. I can now see my strengths as much a s my failings and have found a degree of balance. I think that I have become better to be around as my responses to what others say about me are more considered, more thoughtful and more gracious than they were.
I still care too much about what people think of me but I have started to care a bit less. I can still hold on to things but I have got better at letting go. Overthinking is still pretty much a constant but I have come to see it more as a hobby than as a way of life. I have more ability to choose the thoughts that I entertain and to push out the ones that don’t deserve space in my head. I am still guilty of tormenting myself, but I try to limit it and put things into perspective by asking for assistance if necessary.
As I said, HL has made many of these things rules, which has really helped. It is always difficult to change behaviours, especially when they are deep rooted in habit, so having a bit of structure around it has worked well. But I am changing and I can feel it. The old roads that I travelled are being re routed and in the end, these new paths will become stronger and more obvious ones for my thoughts and responses to go down. Changing neural pathways is not an overnight thing, but it is something which you can do by being aware.
And I suppose that is my aim. It is to gradually get better at self love by practising these things that I do for self love. We all know that practice makes perfect but I am no longer seeking perfection so that is no longer my goal. I want to enjoy myself and enjoy being me. I want to celebrate in my achievements and for these achievements to be every day attainable things. I want to love my life and everything about it and this won’t happen if I am being down on myself.