The most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself. Let’s face it, the person you see in the mirror is the only person who’ll be with you 24/7, that never leaves you, has been there from the beginning and will be there ‘til the end. So, it’s pretty important to make friends with and look after this person, don’t you think?
Step no. 1 on our journey of healing from emotional wounds is self-awareness. It really is the key to transformation. Journaling (as spoken about last week) and counselling can be great tools to increase our self-awareness and start to make different choices. Without this awareness we are powerless to change.
Learning to love and accept yourself is an ongoing task. And I say ‘task’ because it does actually take effort. This is step No.2.
We learn how to treat ourselves by how we were treated growing up, by what was modeled to us in our formative years. We can start to love and accept ourselves more by being aware of what we say to ourselves either out loud or the thoughts in our heads and choosing to treat ourselves differently. Remember the saying, “love thy neighbour as thyself”? Sometimes I’ve thought that if I treated my neighbour how I treat myself they’d move! How kindly do you talk to and treat yourself?
How we tolerate being treated by others is also a good indicator of how much we love and value ourselves. As with the other steps learning to love and accept ourselves is an ongoing process and source of learning, growth and movement towards a happier, healthier life.
An ex counselling client of mine (I’ll call Jane) was seeing me for issues of low self-esteem and struggling with repeated disappointments in her life. Her life choices clearly showed me that she didn’t love herself. Jane had a string of relationships where she was treated poorly and always put others before herself (more on those topics another time). She frequently came to counselling late, blaming her clapped out old car as the cause. I asked her if she’d contemplated upgrading her car, as it was clearly causing a lot of hassle for her. She told me how she was trying to be grateful for what she had and thought it extravagant to “splash out” and buy a new one.
Like pulling a thread we followed this thinking of depriving yourself and ‘making do’ back to its root cause. Jane came from a large family and they never seemed to be able to afford the things she really wanted. Subsequently she was repeatedly disappointed with her gifts at Christmas and birthdays and she was told to be grateful for what she had as there were “plenty of children who got nothing”. Jane, in her little childhood brain, had concluded that she wasn’t allowed to have what she really wanted (or in many instances what she actually needed) deeming them extravagant, unnecessary or even selfish. She was stuck in this old childhood mind-set.
Suddenly, like a light-bulb being switched on, she realised she actually didn’t have to deprive herself – that she wasn’t earning brownie points for putting up with a clapped-out old banger! It was OK to have better. Once the truth had been exposed the power of it diminished. She started to give herself permission to have what she wanted and needed. This started a whole new chapter for Jane and she began to see many areas in her life where she had been unnecessarily depriving herself. Doing without is not self-loving behaviour and therefore impacts our self-esteem.
We no longer have to treat ourselves the way we were treated growing up or in past relationships if we were not treated with love and respect, if we were neglected, abused or went without for whatever reason. Learning to love and accept yourself takes courage and practice, as does doing things differently. Otherwise, we are reinforcing the old messages that are keeping us stuck in unhelpful patterns.
Acts of self-love don’t have to be big (like Jane buying a new car, which she did). Repeated small acts of self-love will demonstrate our worthiness of good things to ourselves and start to rewire our brains through different experiences. Small acts of self-love can be as simple as choosing to cook a healthy meal for ourselves with fresh ingredients as opposed to a frozen pizza from the supermarket or spending 10 minutes doing an activity you enjoy or once enjoyed but no longer do. Give yourself permission to do small acts of self-love – because you are worth it! Small actions can lead to big change. Self-love isn’t selfish its self-care and is part of building good self-esteem.
There are no quick fixes in life especially when it comes to changing life-long patterns of thinking and behaving but learning to love and accept yourself is the most worthwhile investment of your time and resources because the relationship you have with yourself is the most important of all as out of it all other relationships flow.
(c) Karen Lighthouse 2022
Thanks for reading and take care until next time.
Comments and questions are welcome.
Words by Karen Lighthouse.
I also offer –
- One-on-one counselling/coaching via Zoom
- Group facilitation
- Mental health education
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Email me at: email@example.com