Have you been told that you need to learn how to love yourself?
Love yourself. Accept yourself. Appreciate yourself. Be your own best friend. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Perhaps you’ve understood (in principle) why learning how to love yourself might be a good idea. Or at least, you can see why it might be a good idea for someone else. And yet… and yet… There’s a little sinking feeling in your stomach. How, you wonder, How, yes HOW do I do that?
“So how do I love me, actual me, with my problem skin/ crazy hair/ ridiculous legs/ weird nose/ irrational phobia/ shameful secret ?”
If it was easy you’d have done it. But it feels almost impossible.
The right kind of self-love
Note: This blog post is for you if you want to find a way to be genuinely loving towards yourself in an authentic way that’s not about vanity, perfection, or narcissism.
The road to genuinely and kindly feeling loving towards yourself is complex and rich and layered, and not something that can be achieved in one easy, instant blog post. But bear with me. I’m going to give you a very simple tip that can really help jump-start your journey towards loving yourself.How to start to love yourself: a simple 2-step technique to try today Click To Tweet
How to Love Yourself: Step 1
It starts with three words*: “Something in me”
Alone, or perhaps with a trusted and supportive person, you pause, move your attention inside yourself, and see if you can get a sense of what’s needing to become known. Slowly and with gentle curiosity you say, “Something in me…” and see where the sentence wants to go.
“Something in me…. feels like a balloon about to pop.”
“Something in me… is very very sad.”
“Something in me… longs for comfort.”
“Something in me… is incredibly excited.”
“Something in me… feels calm and still.”
And often, the words won’t come at first, and need to be felt for, waited for, patiently made space for. Like this:
“Something in me… is… ummm… it’s hard to put into words exactly… but it’s kind of like a… maybe like a kind of… black pit in my stomach… no, more like a sort of hunger, but with a little bit of anger in there too…. yes, that’s it… and now, oh, it’s sort of changing, it’s kind of… almost bubbling…”
And whether the words and feelings came readily, or were quite vague and hard to get hold of, doesn’t matter much. Because the next step is all-important.
How to Love Yourself: Step 2
You keep the “Something in me” company.
You get alongside it, like an interested friend. You say hello to it, and let it know that you’re hearing it, or seeing it, or feeling it. You don’t run away from it. And you don’t get overwhelmed by it. You know that it is ‘something’ but it’s not all of you. You know that there are many other ‘somethings’ in you as well. All of them important, at different times.
And when you keep it company, in a friendly, accepting and ‘alongside’ kind of way, a funny thing happens. It starts to change. Maybe a lot, maybe a very tiny bit. Maybe it softens and loosens. Maybe it feels slightly less scared, less threatened. Maybe it crystallises and helps you get clearer on what your next step may be. Maybe it feels a bit more manageable, and a bit less worrying.
How does this help you love yourself?
In three ways.
One: You develop a better ability to feel your feelings
When you use “Something in me”, and pause to listen and sense what’s there, you stop doing what comes automatically to so many of us, which is to push feelings away.
It’s very hard to love yourself when you can’t let yourself feel your emotions.
Two: You develop your interoception
‘Interoception’ is an inner sense of what’s happening inside you, right through your body. You are strengthening the links between your brain and the rest of your body (and in fact, it’s an illusion that these are two separate entities). And sensing your body is an important part of emotion regulation (being able to calm yourself and feel okay when you’ve been triggered).
It’s very hard to love yourself if you aren’t able to soothe yourself when something/someone has upset you.
Three: You are getting in touch with your wiser core self
Inner Relationship Focusing therapists Ann Weiser Cornell and Barbara McGavin call this ‘Self-in-Presence’, and in her excellent book for psychotherapists ‘Focusing in Clinical Practice’ (which I highly recommend) Cornell discusses how there are similar and overlapping versions of this in many schools of effective psychotherapy.
When you are Self-in-Presence, you can love yourself in a deep, non-superficial way that supports and non-judgementally accepts all of who you are.
Try it!Want to learn how to love yourself? Start here. Click To Tweet
1. Tune into yourself using the words “Something in me…”
2. Keep the ‘Something’ company.
What if that’s too hard?
And if you discover that it’s really hard to keep the “Something in me” company, because you dislike, fear or disapprove of it so much: then guess what. You keep that company instead! So if you find that “Something in me is sad” – but you find you can’t bear to keep it company, then turn your attention to that. Which becomes, “Something in me hates the sad part”.
Now keep company with the ‘Something’ that hates the sad part. Tell the hating part you hear it, and you wonder why it feels that way. It will have something to show you, if you can gently listen.
Actually, it’s probably really frightened, oddly enough. Frightened of what? Be curious. Be gentle. Try and listen. There will be so much to learn.
So keep in mind the key words “Something in me”.
Get into the habit of tuning into what’s inside, and keeping it company, while remembering that it’s not all of you. And you’ll probably find that through doing this, you’re further along in your journey to actually learning how to love yourself!
If you find you continue to struggle with how to love yourself, contact a good psychotherapist, Art Therapist or counsellor and ask them if they think they can help you with this issue. I’m based in north Essex, UK, and I work with thoughtful, sensitive women online. I can be contacted at espcameron [at] protonmail[dot]com
Especially if you’ve suffered from trauma, or have a diagnosed mental health condition, your progress might need to be very gradually calibrated and structured, supported by your therapist.
You can get there, bit by bit!
Did you find this article helpful? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.