I was talking with a friend recently who was a bit depressed. The gloom and doom had begun to overtake her and Lord knows, I’ve been there and done that! Oddly, I decided not to give any advice that day: No words of wisdom, no “What momma used to say”-isms, nor any kind of philosophical coping mechanisms gleaned from my illustrious Kindle Library. I simply asked one question.
“Food for thought: If you had to give a split-second answer to this question, what would it be? Do you love yourself?”
“No,” she said flatly. “No, I don’t.”
I still resisted the urge to advise.
I said simply, “That’s where it starts. That’s how you get out of the darkness.”
If you don’t already, loving yourself is the type of thing that has to come about gradually. It is a process. No one else can make you do it. You have to get tired of being tired! As I had hoped, a few moments later, my phone buzzed in my pocket. It was my friend, who didn’t want to talk, but could muster this text:
“Hey. How do you love yourself?”
My answer to that is too long for a text message, so I’ve spelled it out below.
1. Forgive Those Who Have Hurt You
Let me be frank. You must forgive the mother who neglected you, the father who abandoned you, the family friend who molested you, the lover who abused you in any way possible, and the friend who betrayed you, and you’ve got to do it now! You have to do it because the longer you hold them responsible for your current situation, the longer you put your life on hold. You are living in a personal prison, and it’s time to be freed.
Forgiveness is probably the toughest of all of these. Personally, forgiveness gives me life because it takes energy to hold a grudge – energy I need desperately to pour into MY growth. It is unrealistic to ask anyone to forget, however it’s healthiest to leave the judgement for the court of law or a higher being. On forgetting: The act of thinking is actually remembering. According to Eckhart Tolle ( A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose ), thinking is not something we do consciously. It is something that happens to us. Essentially, unless you are aware of the now and are present in the moment, the thoughts that you have are either memories, or you are remembering that you need to do something in the next moment, tomorrow, or some time in the future. Therefore, do forgive, though you may never forget.
Further reading: What the Lord’s Prayer Taught Me About Happiness
2. Embrace Who You Are
You were created as a unique individual. Your mind, your body, your soul, and your DNA all manifested from a specific origin. No one shares that specificity but you. At the same time, no one individual has the right to judge another human based upon his own qualities.
I’ll give you an example. Extroverts are outgoing, and quick-talking charmers who gain energy from social events which almost always include settings where there’s a large crowd and lot’s to do. Drained dry and bored to tears in quiet conditions, extroverts must find a way to liven up the mood. Conversely, introverts lose energy from such settings and need to have some time alone to recuperate from all of the stimulation. Introverts are deep thinkers, who may prefer to wait until a conversation is fully developed in their heads before they speak.
What does this have to do with anything? I’m an outgoing introvert. Meaning, I can rise to the occasion when I have to, but I’ll be retreating to my laptop at home alone to re-energize. I had to address some of my extroverted friends about always trying to “fix” me. I am me. You are you. I am not like you. If you do not like me the way I am, then it is just not for you to like me at all. And I have to do the same.
Of course, there are much more pressing differences like weight, overall appearance, skin color, sexuality, and religious beliefs. The principle still applies. Once I was able to figure out that I didn’t have to apologize, or change in order to fit in with others, the relief I felt was amazing!
Further reading: The Introvert Advantage: Making the Most of Your Inner Strengths
3. Don’t Allow Others To Mistreat You
Have you ever noticed that some people have a way of nipping things in the bud right away? They don’t bite their tongues when it comes to putting someone in their place. They know the power of “NO” and don’t mind saying it to someone who is trying to use them. You cannot be afraid of offending someone by asking them not to touch you a certain way, not to infringe upon your personal space, or not to talk to you in a rude or abusive manner. Be more afraid of the self loathing you will feel at the end of the day because you didn’t stand up for yourself. There is a classy and polite way to do this. By simply saying these things to someone;
“Will you please lower your voice when you speak to me?”
“I understand you are angry, so maybe we can talk when you’ve calmed down a bit.”
“I want to help you, but my plate is pretty full. Maybe I can help you find someone else.”
Note: There is no conversation for physical assault. Call the police!
You can stand up for yourself without compromising your integrity in the progress. Give it a try. You’ll Love yourself for it!
Further reading: Emotional Abuse: Identifying the Signs, Breaking the Cycle.
4. Invest in Y.O.U!
Some think it is selfish to indulge in pleasurable activities for themselves, and themselves only. Be it retail therapy (within your budget, of course), manis and pedis, a massage, religious fellowship/studies, or a good book or two, you deserve to pour into yourself so that you can have a strong mind, body and spirit. Make yourself beautiful, inside and out. The worst thing that could happen is, well… NOTHING. If someone in your life hates to see you happy and tries to punish you for being happy, see #2!
The benefit of investing in you, is that by doing so, you begin to feel an internal source of love and happiness. You will no longer depend upon someone else to provide love for you. You’ll be less likely to fall into codependency, therefore able to spot the potential for abusive relationships a mile away. With your growing self-worth, your standards will have risen tremendously. You’ll learn to surround yourself with more people who make deposits in your life, and weed out those who make nothing except withdrawals.
Further reading: His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage (applicable to any type of relationship)
5. Forgive Yourself
We are our own worst critics. To whom or whatever you pray, ask for forgiveness. Pray for the ability to forgive others. Then, forgive yourself for the transgressions you hold yourself responsible for. A former minister from my church spoke one Sunday morning about carrying baggage. She told how we leave home with a suitcase with “stuff” in it. Then we go on to our next destination (ex. college) and stay awhile, and accumulate more stuff. And we do so into the job circuit, relationships and friendships. We lug that now heavy suitcase into marriage, where after a short while, a few kids, and two job changes, the suitcase is bulging and we can hardly move forward. We’re dragging that accumulated baggage through every phase in life, and after a while you can seemingly go no further!
Her solution? You’ve got to learn to unpack your baggage as it builds up! You cannot take a suitcase full of “mess” into your marriage, because you’ll need room to put that “mess!” You have no room to put work mess, and other mess that you are certain to encounter. You cannot go on pretending that no one can see that humongous suitcase you’re pulling. You’re only fooling yourself. Instead, you’ve got to unpack it, item by item, until you’re free and clear of your past. That is the only way you can truly enjoy the NOW, and the freedom and self-worth that lies ahead.
Do you love yourself? I do, and I love you too. Now show some love by subscribing, liking, and sharing!
Can You Forgive Yourself (Article)?
How to Love Yourself (Psychology Today)