Love is acceptance; acceptance is the opposite of judgment. Self-love is accepting oneself; not judging oneself.
On a mental level, we don’t judge ourselves for our shortcomings (we are not supposed to be perfect!); we accept our strengths and weaknesses. That doesn’t mean we don’t strive to be better. It simply means we know we deserve love as we are right now.
On an emotional level, we accept our feelings even when they are negative, thus choosing option three below.
Excerpt from 8 Recipes for Life:
When a negative emotion arises, there are three options for us to take. Let’s take a look at emotional pain as an example.
- Option one: reject, ignore the pain, suppress the pain, continue suffering from the pain either sporadically or unconsciously. “I am not feeling pain. I am fine.”
- Option two: acknowledge the pain, feed the pain, victimise oneself. “I am in so much pain. I need to eat/drink to drown the pain.”
- Option three: acknowledge the pain, accept it (i.e. recognise it is okay to feel the pain), and then let it go. “It is pain I am feeling, and the pain is piercing. It is okay to feel the pain. I will give myself time and I will let it go.”
What can we do to build self-love?
On a practical level, we may do some of the following to build self-love:
- Don’t criticise ourselves; give ourselves constructive feedback and encourage ourselves to do better the next time.
- Forgive ourselves even if we have made an irrevocable mistake because holding a grudge against ourselves won’t do anyone good. Learn the lesson to make sure we do the right thing in future.
- Don’t expect ourselves to be perfect (so we can be honest with ourselves and accept our true selves).
- Get to know our values and what we are good at; don’t seek approval or validation from others. Don’t take things personally; logically analyse criticisms – they are either constructive or not. If they’re constructive, take value from it; if they’re not, just forget the comments.
- Listen to our own needs and respect them. Don’t exhaust ourselves by offering more than we can; defend our boundaries.
- Choose our friends; avoid people who are toxic for us.
- Observe what activities bring us up what drag us down and choose to do things that help us recharge our batteries.
- Have me-time and be comfortable in our own company.
When we beat ourselves up, we are treating ourselves without love. When we hear ourselves saying we don’t deserve (something good), we are being disrespectful to ourselves. Start monitoring what we say to ourselves. Every time we spot ourselves talking to ourselves negatively, find something to praise ourselves on; train our mind to switch from negative to positive. It could be something we have done today or recently (big or small), it could be what is good in our character or ability. If we are not aware that we’ve accomplished anything, start setting small goals and achieving them, e.g. drink 8 Oz water to hydrate our body right now.
Why is it difficult to love ourselves?
We live in a critical world. Being criticised all the time (from others and from ourselves) conditions us not to be loving towards ourselves. ‘Humility’ is one of the most misunderstood concepts. Very often we think we need to criticise others so they will stay humble, or we feel the need to belittle ourselves to be humble. But true humility requires confidence; it is where we know our strengths and not make a fuss about them; we know we are good at something but that doesn’t make us better people than others. Understanding the true meaning of humility can help promote self-love.