A Path to Self-Love
I’ve been trying to understand self-love for a long time. I read a lot of articles and books and have written the words myself that we each absolutely deserve love and belonging, but they continued to be just words to me. No matter how many times I read them or heard them, I wasn’t really believing them. I continued to read, write, do yoga, and meditate, and I continued down a self-discovery path, but something didn’t seem to be clicking. The feeling of heaviness and self-loathing wasn’t really going away. And so, the exploration continued.
Self-Care vs Self-Love
At the time, I felt like I had no problem with doing things that I thought resembled self-love like taking time for myself with reading, journaling, and meditating. I was taking physical actions to show myself love, but I didn’t realize what was happening internally to void other efforts. I realize now that there is a difference between self-care and self-love and that self-love has to exist internally to really evolve.
It wasn’t until I became aware of the automatic criticizing thoughts that were going on inside my head that I realized why I was continuing to feel so small and unloved. I have many voices in my head. Some are much louder than others, but this voice, this voice of ugliness and hatred, was quiet. Just a whisper, but a very powerful whisper. It waited until I was feeling the most vulnerable to really show its power and push me back down to its desired smallness. It was mean and hurtful and knew exactly what to say to shut me down.
These are a few of the thoughts I discovered:
I will never be enough, do enough, or accomplish enough well enough to deserve love.
It’s only a matter of time until they discover the real truth about me. I’m a loser. I am beneath those I want connection with.
My needs are a burden, and I can’t burden other people if I want to be loved.
When I try in relationships, I cause pain.
Identifying these thoughts, made it clear why I wasn’t feeling much self-love or able to really connect with others. They were pretty powerful messages. It took some outside influences working with coaches, experts, and therapists to develop awareness of this inner critic. When I first starting hearing them, they caught me by surprise. But eventually, I was able to hear them and then re-frame them by asking myself what I needed in that moment to feel safe. I started having conversations with my inner child to understand where these messages stemmed from, and I learned a lot about the conflicting messaging, thoughts and feelings going on inside me.
I began countering these thoughts with self-compassion. I would hear the thought of, “I will never be enough.” And follow that thought with, “Actually you are enough just as you are, you are just feeling afraid and uncomfortable right now. It’s okay to feel afraid and uncomfortable, and I am enough even though I feel this way.” It takes practice to become comfortable with talking to myself in this way, but it has made a world of difference in my ability to love myself.