Maybe we can start by saying “Know yourself” before “Love yourself“. If you struggle with loving yourself, maybe start by getting to know who you are.
Question: Do you love yourself?
Answer: “Well, I don’t hate myself” or “I don’t dislike myself”
I often hear these answers when I ask people about their relationships with themselves and whether they like or love themselves. Just after I ask this question, they look at me as if I suddenly spoke in Ukrainian to them. And it is actually a simple question; often you can easily tell me “I love my hubby” or “I love kombucha” or “I love my new shoes”, but the moment you need to describe your relationship with yourself, you might struggle. Maybe because we still believe that it is a bit wacky or narcissistic to love yourself.
You might not know how to answer this question because you have never thought about it or because you don’t really understand or know yourself well. And of course, you really need to know someone or something before you feel love, it needs to taste nice to you, to feel nice, to be of comfort and joy and look nice to you. Well, let’s start from the beginning then. Do you think you know yourself?
- What makes you feel alive?
- What gives you a sense of freedom?
- What makes you feel inspired?
- What do you like to do for yourself that is nice and caring? (I am not asking about spending lots of money, but maybe even the way you talk to yourself and encourage yourself)
- Are you your own cheerleader?
- Are you gentle with yourself when you are hurting? What is the best and most comforting thing when you are in pain?
- How do you like to be supported and encouraged?
- What gives you fuel?
- What depletes your energy?
- How do you want to be in the world?
- What are your talents?
- What is your strength?
If you meet someone new, I bet you try to be gentle with the new person when you are trying to discover who they are. You give them a bit of space and simply listen and ask questions. Is it possible that you have prejudged yourself and have maybe stopped giving yourself a chance? And now you bully yourself and desperately try to escape from your own relentless criticism? Maybe you need to pause because if you were to treat anyone else in this world with cruelty and unkindness, those people would run away from you.
But you can’t run away and you can’t hide, and you can’t take a break. It might feel like a hopeless situation, and these moments can be moments of despair and sadness, feeling trapped and depressed. When we can’t run away, we become depressed and feel hopeless. You need to back off and give yourself a chance and let go of some of your judgement and criticism. You don’t want others to criticise and hurt you, so don’t do it to yourself. If you make a mistake, instead of punishing yourself, say, “Well it happens sometimes. What did you learn? What do you need? What can you do better next time?”
While you are trying to get to know yourself better and become a better support to yourself, pay attention to the words you choose when you talk to yourself, notice criticism and harshness and replace it with support and curiosity. At the end of the day, this is your most important relationship–your relationship with yourself. Make it a good one.