Learning To Love Yourself
By Leslie Karen Lobell, M.A.
According to the
song written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed, Greatest Love of All
"The greatest love of all / Is easy to achieve / Learning to love yourself
/ It is the greatest love of all." I agree that, for many people, self-love
may be the greatest and most important love they ever experience in
this lifetime. However, for so many people, "learning to love yourself"
does not seem so "easy to achieve." For most of us, genuine self-love
seems so elusive, so much harder to grasp than we expected. In my last
piece, I spoke about the importance of self-love. Now, I would like
to give some practical suggestions - some first steps -- on how to learn
to love yourself.
Send this page to a friend
I have made the
analogy that, if you keep giving to others without giving to yourself,
it is like pouring water from a vessel. If you pour and pour without
ever refilling it, eventually, it will run dry. So, if we are like that
vessel, how do we refill, recharge, re-energize, and replenish ourselves,
so that we will have energy and love to give to others and to the world?
The answer is: by loving and giving to ourselves, first. How do we begin
to do this?
There are many ways
for us to love and to care for ourselves... The possibilities are infinite.
One way to learn to love yourself is to act as if you already do (i.e.,
"Fake it till you make it"). An important way to love yourself is to
nourish and care for your body: eat healthy foods and exercise regularly.
You may want to "treat" yourself to things like a massage, a facial,
a pedicure, or a gym membership. Taking breaks and having fun are important,
as well. Whether alone, with a friend, or with a partner, you may want
to have a night out on the town: go out for a nice dinner, go dancing,
and/or attend the theater, a concert, the ballet, or a movie. If you
tend to be a workaholic -- or if you are more a saver than a spender
-- then perhaps it is time to take a well-deserved, long-overdue vacation.
Of course, treating yourself does not need to involve great expense:
you can take a bubble bath, eat dinner at home by candlelight, take
a walk on the beach, swim in the ocean (those waters are very healing),
or watch a sunset. Perhaps you enjoy taking time to paint or to write.
These are just a few ideas... You can put your own imagination to work...
Another way to enhance
self-love and self-esteem is to be aware of your self-talk (those things
that you say to yourself inside your head). Speak to yourself in ways
that are more kind, and less mean or abusive. Many of us have very harsh
inner critics: When we make a mistake, this critical voice inside our
head beats up on us, saying things like, "That was so stupid! ... I
can't do anything right! ... What a loser!" We need to replace these
negative messages with other, more positive ones. For example, "I made
a mistake. That's okay: That is how I learn. I'll know better the next
time." With awareness, over time, you can "catch yourself" when your
self-talk is negative, and change the message to something more positive
Don't just "catch
yourself being wrong." "Catch yourself being right." In other words,
don't just catch the voice of your inner critic, and stop it from beating
up on you. When you do something well, or when you find yourself saying
the right things to yourself or to others, be sure to reward yourself:
acknowledge yourself verbally, give yourself a pat on the back, or treat
yourself to something special.
Yet another way
you can learn to love yourself is by being in the practice of using
positive affirmations. Take some time to come up with the qualities
that you most want to embody. Choose about two or three to focus on
for any one period of time. Then try this for at least a month: Repeat
those qualities daily, telling yourself that you are those things, already.
Whether or not you currently believe it, say it anyway... Again, "Fake
it till you make it." For example, take time to tell yourself, each
day, "I am happy and successful" or "I am beautiful and bright" or "I
love my body: I feel healthy and in balance" or "I am loving, caring,
and worthy of love" or "I am powerful and self-confident" ... whatever
qualities you wish to be. You may want to write out these affirmations
and post them someplace where you will see them regularly: on the bathroom
mirror, on the refrigerator door, by the clock in your bedroom, atop
your computer monitor, or somewhere in front of your desk at work. Even
if, at first, you feel silly or uncomfortable repeating or reading these
phrases, you may find that you grow into and become these qualities.
You may even realize that you embodied them all along; you just had
not realized it.
So, go ahead. Love
yourself. Be good to yourself. Treat yourself well. Replenish yourself.
You will discover that, the more you love yourself, the more you will
be able to give love to others - and the more others will want to be
around you and give back to you. This is a win-win situation. Loving
yourself will ultimately benefit the lives of others you encounter,
as well as your own life.
Copyright ©2000-2001. All rights reserved. Leslie Lobell