We are all familiar with these good advises from friends and family: “Just love yourself!” “Put yourself in the first place!” “Take good care of you!” But how easy it sounds so difficult it is. Because it is also expected from us to act selfless: take care of others, put loved ones first, and give as much as you can. The concept of self-love sounds so simple, but how do we do that when as a child we learnt the opposite. We learnt to be critical, never satisfied and put others first. Can we change that way of thinking of ourselves and is it possible to let go of the values we learnt from our parents and teachers?
What is actually the concept of self love? Self-love means valuing and caring for our own needs, wants, and desires. It isn’t about being selfish. It’s about making sure we have time to recharge so that we have the energy and resources to be there for others. As airlines like to remind us, it’s important to put on our own oxygen mask before helping others do the same. Because if we run out of air, it gets difficult to help anyone, including ourselves.
Loving ourselves however requires that we feel our self-worth. Self-worth is our internal sense of being good enough and worthy of love and belonging to others. If no one ever taught us that we are valuable and deserve love, or we experienced traumas rejection and pain as a child it is a challenge to practice self-love.
How do I know if I learnt that as a child?
Test yourself by reading and checking whether you experienced the following:
- During your infancy your parents held you, touched you with affection, reacted to your needs and cries and comforted you when you were sad or in pain.
- As a toddler you got positive feedback on your achievements like walking, dressing alone, toileting. Family routines gave you security, they made you feel capable and safe.
- In your childhood parents, teachers, playmates showed you care and kindness. They were there to help you with socializing, helping conflicts or bullying. You could build your self-confidence and self-value.
- As an adolescent you had the safe space to grow your wings: independent and free. You got support in learning self-regulation and decision making.
Did you miss any of these support and care, experienced being neglected or even being overprotected, you will likely have to “re-parent” yourself at an adult age. Working on this will help you develop a deeper goodness and worthiness so that you can grow your self-love. This process can certainly be difficult, so don’t be afraid to seek therapy.
In therapy you will work on your self judgements and help you genuinely accept yourself as you are. Self-love walks hand in hand with self-acceptance, it is impossible to love yourself without accepting who you are. You will learn to know your true nature, connect with it and live from that place.
Want to talk more about this?
Would you like to make an appointment for a free initial talk in my practice or online, you can book an appointment here.