We spend many years learning and practicing the art of self-hate. Hating our bodies, our thoughts and our feelings, we walk through life under a cloud of “never good enough.” When instead we should be practicing the art of self-love.
Ever looked in the mirror at yourself and said, “Wow! I sure love you. You are spectacular!” and then blow yourself a big kiss. Go try it now and see how it feels. A bit awkward, perhaps? Did you laugh in jest or feel stupid. Now look in the same mirror and make a derogatory remark. How did that feel? We tend to list our faults easier than our positives. Why is it we can tell ourselves we are stupid, or fat, or ugly or unworthy, but not that we are beautiful, smart, kind and loving? Why is it we poison ourselves with hateful thoughts instead of kind, loving and gentle words.
We are all a product of our environment. When we are bombarded with ideas that we are not worthy or good enough from family, loved ones, society and own critical selves, we start to hate all or parts of ourselves.
When I was a child I had so many freckles on my face. I can actually remember taking lemon juice and rubbing it all over my freckles to bleach them away. My parents never told me I was pretty. I was told I was too scrawny and had stringy hair. My loud cackling laugh was made fun of by everyone. I have always been tall and a bit socially awkward. I am sure these remarks and the lack of any positive reinforcement were one of many reasons for me to relentlessly try to rid myself of what I saw as a defect, my freckles. I slouched around and made myself as small as possible. I hated my looks, my height, my freckles and just about everything about me.
As an adult I continued the art of self-hate as I entered relationships that were emotionally abusive with men who did not support me. I was made to feel like what I wanted and needed was not important and that I was somehow selfish for even asking. The effects of those relationships stayed with me for years. I began to let the words of others penetrate my being and I told myself I really was stupid, fearful and not worthy.
Then there came a moment of either me or them. The year I turned 50, I got angry enough to decide my life was too short to waste and to be miserable.
Now I practice the art of self-love. The path to healing pulled me out of that dark abyss where I hated everything about me.
The first piece of advice I give you is to find your core set of values and don’t waver from those. I hated myself the most when I moved toward what I knew was not coming from my true self. I compromised myself. I don’t do that anymore.
Stop surrounding yourself with people whose words and actions are toxic. I actually did this by moving to Colorado. I took a sabbatical from toxic relationships and instead surrounded myself with the beauty of the mountains. It doesn’t have to be that drastic, just don’t allow others to steal your beauty.
Take care of your body. My body has been good to me, it gave me three children, it allows me to run, to live and to enjoy the comfort of a lover. So, how did I thank my body? By filling it with stuff that was detrimental to my health. Now I love my body by eating right and exercising. I lost weight and stopped drinking to excess.
Find the ways of work or living that you enjoy and do those. I quit a fairly high paying job, with great benefits and started working for myself. The job was killing me and it was not the reason I went into my field. I was compromising a value for more money and a better title. Yes, it’s scary. Even though I stress more over money I am so much happier aligning my true self with my career.
Make good decisions. I am a slow processor. My need to mull things over before making decisions was something I didn’t truly understand. Instead of being able to say, “I need some time to think about that,” I would make a hasty decision. Many times I had to try and take back the decisions, making me appear indecisive. I would be so angry at myself for the dumb things I did! My decisions now are becoming more thoughtful and deliberate.
Last but not least – speak to yourself gently and with kind intentions. Use your words toward yourself with the utmost care and consideration. Speak to yourself as if you were speaking to a close friend in a time of need.
My journey to self-love took a year. It’s not always easy. Be patient and kind to yourself during this time. When you mess up, forgive yourself. When you fall, get back up. Most importantly, practice loving yourself as you move through this process. Soon the art of self-love will be automatic.
Shelly is a personal development strategist and founder of The Rescue Yourself Project helping women over 40 step into their unique selves so they can create a life they love! A few years ago, she found herself living a life that wasn’t of her making. Deciding that wasn’t what she wanted she ran away from home and spent eight months “re-branding” herself. Today Shelly helps women find their unique selves by becoming experts about their values, strengths, passions, goals and purpose so they can design a life they love.