How Can I Learn to Love Myself?
One of the saddest aspects of our ever-changing world is the percentage of people who genuinely dislike who they are. The way that they behave and talk about themselves demonstrates clearly to the world around them that they are not happy being them.
Self –loathing can take many forms; being over-weight, lack of exercise, not caring about your appearance, drinking and taking drugs excessively, or criticising others to boost your self-esteem. Or the need to be rescuing or controlling someone else, so that you do not have to look at your own issues. Or the need to be perfect, or getting all your self-worth from your work, your salary, the power that you have, the service that you render to others and so on. All of these behaviours indicate that the person feels less than happy about who they are.
There are many ways that we can find to make ourselves feel better in the short term- drugs, alcohol, power, shopping, money, cigarettes, caffeine, rescuing, exercise, controlling, eating, cleaning, watching TV, and image management are just a few of the ways that we can temporarily improve our mood.
However, by their very nature, they are short lived, and before long, we need to go and find another fix to boost our moods. What is needed is a longer term fix, so that we do not need to be continually searching for something outside of ourselves to make us happy.
One of the most important aspects of self love is self care. As we learn to care for ourselves, then we gradually learn to love ourselves. Unlike a short-lived cigarette, or glass of wine, this process can take time. Changing life-long patterns of self-destruction can be challenging and results are unlikely overnight.
This is a journey of putting one foot in front of the other until you reach your destination- freedom from self-hatred and acquiring a self- respect that enables you to treat yourself in a way that you would want to be treated by another. This in turn shows others how to treat you because they can see that you respect yourself.
The journey starts out very gently. Initially we look at exercise, nourishment, feeding your mind, rest and fun. Each of these is as important as the others. Once we have integrated these into our daily lives, there are other subjects to look at like boundaries, but for now lets consider:
Exercise is vital to keep the body healthy. Exercise raises your happiness levels as it releases endorphins, but it also allows the systems in the body to operate optimally. For example, by encouraging the lymph system to move round the body by moving the legs whilst walking, your body becomes more efficient at removing old waste products produced by the cells as they go about their jobs. Energetically, the lymph system also removes old emotions that have been processed.
Therefore, if you sit in front of your TV and computer all day, then instead of processing these emotions and waste products, they linger in the lymph system and then are reabsorbed into the body. This can contribute to illness and depression, and a great way to feel better is to get the lymph system doing what it is supposed to – getting rid of what is no longer needed. And this is just one of the many, many systems in the body that needs maintaining in order for the body to do its job properly. Exercise helps you to look better, feel more alive, have more energy, and this all contributes to your self- respect.
Nourishment. It is clear that if you put sludge into your car instead of petrol, it will not run. Or that if you don’t give plants the correct environment, food and light, they perish and die. It follows then that if we feed ourselves with food that has very little nutritional value, that is stuffed full of pesticides, food additives, sugar, colourings, salt, and chemicals that we can’t usually pronounce, that we cannot operate optimally. Our bodies need fresh, vital, foods to run efficiently. The increasing rates of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, and a number of other diseases show that we do not treat our bodies with the respect that they deserve or in a way that would encourage them to stay healthy. Good nourishment helps the body to detox, lose weight and feel better, and again this contributes to healthy self- respect.
Feeding your mind. The average person never sees a murder in the entire time that they are alive, and yet it seems that murder is common place on our television and cinema screens. It is really important that we filter what we feed our mind- the news is full of tragedy and fear, gossip magazines are full of judgements, criticisms, and ideals that are impossible to live up to, soap operas are full of lies, cheating, mistrust and drama, films are violent or full of love that only exists in films, video games are all about killing and fighting and destruction, billboards offer nothing but a promise of a fantasy of sex or power or both....is it any wonder that we cannot find peace in the world of today? That our relationships are really challenging as we chase ideals? That our minds race constantly with all the stimulation and promise of excitement and drama? That we wage war on our neighbours, our friends and ourselves?
Spiritual growth encourages meditation and mindfulness as a way of calming the mind so that we can hear our inner guidance, and commune with ourselves, to find out who we really are and what our purpose is. It is amazing how much you can discover about yourself and the cosmos in a moment of silent reflection.
Rest is an essential part of our daily life. When we are sleeping, we mend anything that needs repairing, we heal from diseases, we process what has happened during the day and we prepare our bodies and minds for the next day. Any disturbance in our sleep patterns means that these processes cannot happen. Sleep needs to be in a quiet, dark place and preceded by a period of relaxation free of drugs, stimulants, alcohol or excitement so that deep sleep can be achieved. Sleeping tablets do not allow you to get the rest and repair that you actually need, so only take them as a last resort. Try not to get addicted to the idea that you need something to make you sleep.
It is amazing how much difference a good night’s sleep makes to a day. If your sleep is interrupted in anyway, try to look at ways that you can change this (unless you have children of course, and then you may have to wait a while!)
Fun. This is so important to our wellbeing. We have a tendency to make things so difficult for ourselves. Play like a child, play with a child, find some fun people and play with them, or simply decide that you are going to have fun. When you smile, endorphins are released and your level of happiness goes up. Try smiling when you are feeling miserable- it really does change the way you feel.
What I have noticed when I am around people who have done a lot of work on themselves, is that they laugh a lot more than others. They take life less seriously. They enjoy simple things. They make mistakes and laugh. They seem to understand that life does not have to be difficult. They understand that they do not have to be perfect. Most of all they respect themselves and so knowing who they are, they do not have to try so hard. They simply enjoy life.
Change is the all important word. We need to change our beliefs about who we are so that we can see who we need to become. The person we aspire to be is someone who is totally comfortable with themselves, especially the parts that we do not like or recognise. By embracing each part of ourselves and being honest about the parts we do not like, and loving all of us, we find freedom. We also need to learn that we are ok exactly as we are, and that we are safe.
This is where we will find ourselves. This is where we will stop looking outside of ourselves for happiness. This is where we will find our sense of self, our integrity and our peace.
A miracle is a change in perception. The enormous change from thinking it is an unsafe world, and that we are not good enough, to thinking it is a safe place to be and that I am ok, is a profound miracle. These changes take time and patience and often some hard work. In my experience these miracles can and do happen regularly.
Written by Caroline Nettle.
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