Learning to love yourself again is a journey. Like any great relationship, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, interest, and a willingness to work together to create something that will stand the test of time. After all, you’ll be with yourself for your entire lifetime. To make tomorrow better, learn to love yourself now.
5 Step Journey to Love Yourself
Why is it so hard to love and care for yourself? I think it’s because we don’t recognize the mindset and perceptions that prevent us from loving ourselves.
Step 1: Recognize the Battle
In any conflict, there are at least two sides. Once you pick a side, you look for reasons to justify your decision and then use your decision to justify your thoughts, actions and feelings against the “other” side.
For example, take a diet. We’ve all done this. First, you decide your body is fat. You’re upset with yourself, your body, and your appetite for being fat, so you go on a diet. (And let’s be honest, usually, the diet is something unpleasant and self-punishing.)
Once you start the diet, within a few days, (or a few hours), you find yourself having just finished a bowl of ice cream or whatever other favorite forbidden food that you were craving. Where the diet itself was the initial skirmish, now the battle begins.
To punish yourself for falling off the diet, you may call yourself names, eat celery for the rest of the day or finish off the carton of ice cream. It’s a vicious circle and one that I’ve done more often than I can count.
The problem is that it just doesn’t work. You know when you’re being mean to yourself (by calling yourself names and punishing yourself) and the rest of you responds accordingly. Who really wins? Not you. You’re using your energy to fight yourself instead of creating yourself.
Why do we do this? It’s a habit. We do it unconsciously without even realizing it. So, how do you stop it?
Step 2: Call a Truce
Declare a truce with yourself. When you find yourself getting angry or frustrated or calling yourself names, catch yourself doing it and just stop.
Step back from the emotion, recognize when you start to draw the battle lines and just let them go. Just call a truce.
You’ve identified an issue that you want to change. You don’t have to take sides against yourself to change it.
When you call a truce with yourself, and don’t take sides, you actually give yourself more options to resolve the issue. This is because a truce allows you to focus on the issue itself rather than focusing on blame and punishments.
It’s a big change in perspective, so don’t expect it to be easy at first. You just want to develop the habit of being mindful of it. Play with it. Treat it like a game. Give yourself points for catching an unresourceful pattern. Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up.
When you notice that you’re taking sides against yourself, just notice it, call a truce and congratulate yourself for catching it. You’ve just taken your power back and expanded your options for uncovering truly helpful ways to change the issue at hand.
Step 3: Accept Yourself
Accept yourself and whatever issue you’re facing right now. You don’t need to like it or embrace it or emotionally connect to it in any way. Just accept that it is there.
You have to recognize and acknowledge that there is an issue before you can do anything about it. Try to look at the issue without assuming an adversarial stance.
For example, suppose you’re 50 pounds overweight. Your clothes are tight and it’s affecting your health. These are issues that you can address in a way that is kind and loving to yourself.
Calling yourself names, putting negative labels on yourself and punishing yourself because of the issue merely sets you up for self-sabotage and keeps you stuck.
Accepting the issue as it is right now from a detached viewpoint starts to free you from it. If you can recognize and accept it, you’re no longer avoiding it, ignoring it or wishing it will disappear on it’s own.
You’re facing it head on so that you can see it clearly, understand it and put yourself into a better position to resolve it in the best possible way.
Step 4: Rebuild Trust
Part of learning to love yourself is to rebuild trust in yourself. When you’re in battle with yourself, you’re not on your own side. Your loyalties are split. Neither side of you trusts the other.
Back to the diet example, you don’t trust your body self to stay away from the forbidden food. Your body self doesn’t trust you to give it the self-care or self-soothing that it needs when it needs it.
But it’s all just you. It’s you not trusting yourself. It’s you not treating yourself with love and kindness. A large part of learning to love yourself is listening to yourself, caring for yourself, and treating yourself with respect.
Look at it as an opportunity to get to know yourself better. When you recognize an issue, call a truce and accept it for what it is, sit with it for a few moments and ask yourself what’s going on.
If you’re craving a food, what are you really wanting? Just relax and ask yourself the question without judgement and see what comes up. You could be under stress and want a quick jolt of energy. You might want some fun or excitement and eating seems to be the only exciting thing in your life right now. And maybe, just maybe, you’re hungry.
It’s a simple step but one that can give you unexpected realizations when you least expect it. You may uncover secret longings and adventurous ideas. Sometimes the answers may bring up other uncomfortable issues in your life that you’ve been avoiding.
But if you do this long enough, and continue to listen to yourself and your deeper longings, you’ll regain that trust in yourself which builds a foundation of respect and self-love.
5. Embrace Yourself
Embrace yourself, your thoughts, your feelings and your own unique perspective on your life. For every issue that you face, deep in your heart, you have a solution. On some level, you know what you need to resolve the issue in a way that nourishes you, strengthens you and brings you closer to yourself.
How do you get there? Ask yourself and listen to your answers.
If you journal, this is a good journal exercise. If you don’t have a journal, simply grab a pen and paper or open a document on your computer.
If the idea of writing makes you cringe, try talking it out and recording it. You can videotape yourself or use an audio recorder on your phone. The idea is to record your thoughts so that you don’t forget any ideas or epiphanies you uncover.
Identify the issue. Write out what issue you want to resolve. Then ask yourself for ways that you can resolve it. Write down anything and everything that comes to mind.
Don’t censor anything. This is just a way to allow yourself a chance to speak and be heard. Do this without any judgments about your answers. You’re just brainstorming.
Act like you’re interviewing yourself and write it all out until you’ve come up with solution that you connect with. If you don’t, then just set it aside and try again later, the next day, week or month. In the meantime, just keep asking yourself for ways that you can resolve the issue.
Learning to Love Yourself Again
With these five steps, you build a foundation for a loving relationship with yourself. You stop fighting yourself, you accept yourself where you are and for who you are right now, then rebuild trust in yourself and finally open a dialogue with yourself.
Loving yourself is a relationship. Once you start to respect yourself, trust yourself and start to listen to yourself, you will start to realize something that you may have never realized before, that you truly are someone who is loving and infinitely worthy of being loved. And all you have to do is allow yourself to love yourself again.
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