Have you ever been given the advice that you need to learn to love yourself more? How did it resonate with you when you heard it?
I know I’ve been given this advice and it really annoyed me. But why did it annoy me? At first I thought it was because I knew that person was right, and that meant I wasn’t “there” yet, and there was more hard work, more processing of difficult emotions, followed by more healing and integration, eventually leading to…loving myself! But as the conversation and the idea surfaced and re-surfaced, I realised that it annoyed me not because it was true but because it wasn’t true. Loving yourself isn’t a light at the end of a tunnel or enlightenment, after which it’s all smooth sailing. Loving yourself is an ongoing process, reflected in the decisions we make and the way we relate to ourselves.
So what does it mean to love yourself? I see it as a combination of listening to, respecting, honouring, appreciating, forgiving and enjoying who you are. And in order to do that, you need to listen to, respect, honour, appreciate, forgive and enjoy who you are!
I’ve found the following 3 exercises to be transformative:
- If you find it hard to feel love directed at yourself, close your eyes and picture someone you love or a pet you love. Feel the love you have for them radiating from your heart, filling you with joy. Let that smile on your face grow and smile at yourself internally. Now keep that feeling strong and move your focus from the loved one to yourself, radiating that love onto and into yourself. It may take you a couple of tries, but once you have felt this a few times, its effects will permeate your relationship with yourself. You will be more forgiving and more appreciative of yourself, and you will feel more energised and lit up.
- When you feel in need of comfort because your’re hurt, down or discouraged, instead of using self-talk to make yourself feel better, try this: stroke the top of your hand with the other as if you were comforting another person, or cross your arms across your chest and hold or stroke your upper arms as if you were hugging someone else. There may be no need for words, simply enjoy how it feels to be comforted, understood and loved. It’s amazing how much more comforting touch can be than words, when we are feeling emotional pain.
- Often when we feel pain, a situation or person has triggered an old wound. Maybe we feel rejected or abandoned, or misunderstood or unimportant. Instead of shooting the messenger, take notice of how you’re feeling and be present with the emotion. That means sitting still with it and allowing yourself to feel it without running away from it or finding a distraction. By avoiding the emotion, we never get to process it. If you are able to go to the source of the emotion and you find that it originates in childhood, do exercise 2 above and imagine that you are comforting yourself as a child.
What these exercises teach us is that sometimes words are not enough. If it’s comforting you need, try these self-soothing exercises, and you might be surprised to see that dysfunctional and unhelpful habits like emotional eating, drinking too much, spending, gaming, or whatever, lose their hold on you.
Did you know that in hypnotherapy, traumas, fears and phobias can be addressed without the need for you to talk at length about the situation? A lot of the work can be done very successfully without the need for you to provide the detail and re-live the pain. This can be reassuring if you are reluctant to delve into the details but at the same time you really want to move on and be free from it.
In my next post I will discuss boundaries and how they crucially underpin loving ourselves.