Self-Love is a term I have always cringed at -and I know I'm not the only one. However, seeing yourself from a place of worthiness and loving kindness can be the key to health and wellbeing, especially for those who have struggled with it in the past.
From a young age many of us are encouraged to look outside of ourselves for a sense of self-worth. Rarely are we told in life that we are perfect, worthy, and whole as we are. Rather, we are encouraged to believe we are lacking, not worthy, or somehow not enough, and that the remedy is achieving a certain something that you don't already have, which will then permit you to feel worthwhile and lovable. That achievement could be anything, a certificate, award, promotion, buying a house, a complement from someone whose good opinion you seek. Being in a society where we are constantly encouraged to look outside ourselves for a sense of self-worth or love, we often don't even realise that we are doing it, because no other socially acceptable example has been given to us. Of course this experience isn't universal to every society. Taking the example of what may be considered the opposite of self-love, self-hatred, when Sharon Salzberg famously asked the Dalai Lama "What do you think about self-hatred?" and he replied "What’s that?" and she explained that it involved feelings of self-judgement, guilt, worthlessness and inadequacy, his responses was “How could you think of yourself that way?” and that he thought this type of feeling of self must be very rare because, in Tibetan society, it is rare.
In my experience, self-love is a hugely important foundation to true health and wellbeing. I often see the choice to change food and lifestyle behaviours being externally motivated or fixated. For instance: I don't look good enough to others, I want to look like this person, I want such and such to see me as this, I want to prove this person wrong………. all of which enforce this notion of I am not good enough or worthy as I am. The motivation and self-talk is self-deprecating and the person is often punishing themselves for not being this externally desirable thing, which only serves to re-enforce these feelings of unworthiness. This can motivate people for a while, however, when you are working from this base of unworthiness, when things get a bit difficult or challenges arise, you also decide you are not worthy of the effort you are putting into yourself, and give up. Until you start making choices for yourself from a place of self-worth and self-love, health and wellbeing related choices often won't stick, not to mention all the other psychological unpleasantness and consequences of living life thinking of yourself in such a way. When the truth is, we are all already whole and worthy of love.
So if any of this sounds familiar, ask yourself: what is getting in the way of me seeing that I am already whole and worthy of love? It isn't going to be something external to you, it will be something/s internal. When you can find and learn to shift this place internally to self-love, then making changes to better your health and wellbeing are easier, long-lasting, and done because you love yourself, not because you're trying to punish yourself. It becomes about nourishment, not punishment.
STRATEGIES TO TRY:
- Ask, what is getting in the way of me seeing that I am already whole and worthy of love? Write it out, talk it out, feel it out.
- Take the external out of it. It has nothing to do with other people or circumstance. It comes from how you feel about yourself, no matter how you are perceiving the external world.
- Tell yourself EVERY DAY that you love yourself -cringe, I know! But this may be the key to you starting to believe it.
- And remember: NOURISHMENT not PUNISHMENT