Recently, I was talking to a client about “self-love” who confessed that she found this a difficult concept to grasp. She has spent so long loathing herself – particularly after her marriage had ended – that the idea of loving herself 100%, almost feels impossible. Cue coaching session.
Self-love is one of those fashionable terms that’s banded about everywhere, along with a whole set of ideals that we should be able to love ourselves first in order to be loved and ultimately feel more fulfilled. I agree with this in principle, except to say that for some, it’s not as easy as saying a few affirmations. Especially, when after a relationship break-up you have an element of self-loathing.
Self-love is an important part of our mental and physical health and therefore, overall wellbeing. It influences all kinds of things from relationships, through to work and how we deal with life in general. It’s not something we can buy (despite the impression many media campaigns give and it’s more than just a feeling.
So what is it?
For me, it’s an internal state of full appreciation and acceptance of yourself – flaws and all. Achieving self-love supports our personal growth and helps us to fulfil our values or life purpose. Plus when we can truly love ourselves, this goes a long way to being more resilient during tough times, such as loss.
The question remains, how does one achieve this when you find yourself in a state of self-loathing?
The first thing to do is break this self-love thing down. I get it. It feels so far into the future, you’re not even sure how to comprehend getting there. But, how do you eat an elephant? Answer: one bite at a time (not that I advocate eating elephants but you get the analogy). It’s about teaching ourselves about, well, ourselves. Everything from self-respect to self-compassion is all part of learning to love yourself.
Let’s break this down:
LESSON 1. Self-respect. This is a good place to start. You will take steps towards loving yourself when you can identify with what you need in order to stay centred and move forward. It’s not about the things you want. There’s a difference. This is about respecting yourself enough to show up every day and focus on what you need in order to move away from self-destructive behaviour patterns and the things that keep you stuck in the past. Congratulations, this is your first lesson in self-love.
LESSON 2. Self-esteem. It’s time to raise your opinion of yourself and build (new if necessary) positive relationships with those who will help you to facilitate this. The attitude you have towards yourself is important and people who have more self-love tend to be clear about what they think, feel and want. Gently challenge any judgements you’ve formed about yourself and be mindful about how you act on your own opinions and the opinions of others round you. Lesson two complete.
LESSON 3. Self-care. You will love yourself more for sure when you learn to take good care of your basic needs. Self-care isn’t selfish so you can ditch this side thought. When you love yourself, you know how to nourish your mind, body and soul on a daily basis. And when you’re clear about the types of activities that serve you, you’ll love yourself enough to start saying “no” to the stuff that diminishes your energy or doesn’t express who you are. Yay for lesson three.
LESSON 4. Self-compassion. This is quite a biggy. We can all be hard on ourselves, it’s part of the being human deal. But learning to love yourself means you can better avoid going down the route of punishing yourself every time you make a mistake. Acceptance is key here. Love the fact that you are human and view any fails as simply an opportunity to grow. Show the same level of kindness to yourself as you would to a friend when they fuck up. Lesson four takes plenty of practice.
LESSON 5. Self-acceptance. A big part of self-love is the ability to just be yourself in all scenarios. You may need to do a little ‘head-work’ here. Those who love themselves are able to accept their flaws and can celebrate their not-so-sweet spots, as well as their strengths. They are able to look beyond the ego. Challenge your thinking to start enjoying the imperfections (physically and emotionally). In the words of Marilyn Monroe, “wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” Get to know yourself and love who you are – the things you value, how you look and the person you are. Lesson five, done.
LESSON 6. Self-worth. Since you’ve been working on your self-esteem in lesson two, you will see an increase in your self-worth. You are worth tons more than you believe. For example, think about the people you bring into your life. Are you making friends or frenemies? Self-worth is an inner knowing that you only need to be around people who share in your sparkle. Make decisions that reflect your new found self-esteem. The magic in lesson six is to remind yourself daily that you’re so worth it.
LESSON 7. Self-confidence. This comes a natural bi-product of loving and accepting yourself. When you start living with clear intentions of loving yourself and feeling good about yourself, you can start envisage yourself accomplishing all kinds of things. You’ll be more willing to step out of your comfort zone and have a ‘fuck it’ attitude. This is the source of self-confidence. It’s not that we are always feeling confident in every situation, but rather the sense of feeling confident enough to face challenges head on because you love yourself and understand that you deserve to live life to the full. Enjoy lesson seven.
Ta-dah! You’ve arrived at self-love.
Ok, so I know these lessons make it sound easy. It’s not a clean step-by-step process, it’s all inter-linked. But it doesn’t need to be any more complicated than this either. One day we may find ourselves needing to show ourselves a little more self-respect and at the same time, recognise we’re running a little low on self-compassion.
Complications mainly arise along this journey because we get in our own way. These lessons put together, develop our capacity to love ourselves unconditionally and for you, it might be a working progress. But if you’re in a place of self-loathing right now, starting from a place of self-respect and working your way onwards is a good direction to take, isn’t it?
You don’t need to do any of this alone either – get some support. Find out more about how coaching can help you.