“Love is loving things that sometimes you don’t like.” ~Ajahn Brahm
You’ve probably heard the saying “You can’t find love until you learn to love yourself.” What this really means is that when you love yourself, you’re also fully able to accept another’s love for you because you know that you deserve it.
Unfortunately, some people misunderstand this saying to mean that you’re basically not worthy of love unless you love yourself. And that’s a load of toxic rubbish.
This would mean that anyone with trauma, mental illness or other conditions wouldn’t have a chance to find true love. And that’s simply not true.
However, it’s certainly *nice* to love yourself. It makes you feel at home in your own skin, less dependent on others’ approval, and even happy. You will also attract others who treat you with respect and love.
Not loving yourself or respecting your own needs and wishes tends to make you vulnerable to other people who don’t respect you either. You can see it from my experience. It’s a horrible experience.
I know because this is an issue I’ve carried around with me for most of my life.
Apart from the pain and humiliation of being disrespected, the worst part is that people kept telling me: “What others think of you shouldn’t concern you. Just ignore them!”, as though I didn’t know, in theory, that my self-worth doesn’t depend on other people’s perception or treatment of me.
The knowledge didn’t make any difference, though, and was as useful as telling someone to stop bleeding after they’d been stabbed with a knife.
Why Self-Respect and Self-Love are Missing at the Roots
Before I continue, I’d like to point out that I’m well aware love and respect aren’t the same thing. They work together in this situation. Some people struggle with self-love while others have more difficulty respecting themselves.
Self-love/self-respect is a problem that manifests itself in many different behaviors and struggles, including eating disorders and addictions, anxiety, depression, and even suicide attempts. A psychologist can help you understand why this behavior occurs and how to fix it. In most cases, like mine, it goes back to one’s childhood.
I had a seemingly idyllic childhood in a loving family, but there was dysfunction also, and I’m highly sensitive. Due to being the youngest, I ended up quite alone in my youth. I didn’t have anyone to listen or take me seriously. They found me adorable and ridiculous.
Nobody meant to hurt me, but when they laughed at my “art” and my early attempts at writing, it didn’t exactly build my self-confidence. This made me vulnerable to feeling really hurt by my classmates’ mocking and tease during school, something that most people seemed to just ignore.
I realized that, even though I was an adult, my self-respect for myself had not been developed until many years later. I also continued to draw people into my life who didn’t take me seriously. It was then that I realized the importance of my childhood connection.
“Just Love Her”
It is difficult to overcome trauma or overcome mental illnesses. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but it’s usually a long process that takes years. It’s absolutely worth it, but I’ve found there’s no need to wait for it to be done in order to start loving and respecting oneself.
That’s right: There’s a shortcut.
Stephen Covey’s famous book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, tells of a man coming to him and saying that he doesn’t anymore love his wife. Covey told him to simply “love her.” To which the guy responded, you don’t understand, I just said I don’t anymore.
Covey continued to say that love is an action and that he doesn’t need to wait for it to manifest. Instead, he should act with affection towards his wife. The short of the long story is that apparently, this saved the man’s marriage.
This is what made it work for me. Maybe I didn’t feel a lot of self-respect, but I could certainly act as though I did! This is an easy thing to believe, but I have to admit it. I can tell you from my own experience, though, it’s also one of the things that really are as simple as they sound.
Faux It until You Are It
What you do—what I did—is first brainstorm ways your current behavior doesn’t reflect self-love or self-respect. This can be difficult if you don’t have a friend. Anything you do or say that you wouldn’t do or say to your best friend, is probably not respectful or loving behavior.
- Yelling at yourself (“Stupid me,” “I’m such a clutz,” etc.You can say it outloud or privately.
- Not doing what you know is good for you, even if you actually enjoy it (such as going for a walk or eating a yummy, healthy meal, as though you didn’t deserve it)
- You don’t do what you enjoy (e.g., you are passionate about playing piano but find yourself scrolling through Facebook for 2 hours).
- Staying in jobs and relationships that aren’t nourishing you
- You will not accept disrespectful or harmful behavior from others.
Watch out for these behaviors, and when you catch yourself at them, say “Stop!” out loud. Next, do something that feeds you. You can do any of these things, but think about what you’d do for someone you care about, such as your best friend, or your child.
From my own experience as well as my work with my clients, I know that kindness and gentleness beat “tough love” any day. These are some ways you can instill loving and respectful behaviors.
1. Ask yourself questions about what you are looking for at the moment.
Although it sounds odd at first, you may not be able to find the answer. Keep at it, however, and you’ll eventually find the answer after a few days or weeks. Then, resist the urge to tell yourself you can’t or shouldn’t or don’t deserve it, and do whatever your need is (a nap/cup of tea/hug/bath/etc.).
2. Remember that you are worth the effort to…
…be comfortable where you sit, wear comfortable clothes, be clean and healthy, get plenty of sleep, eat the food you love, do things you enjoy, and take care of yourself. This is something you should always remember. Make the effort.
3. Give yourself a treat.
Do not spend your money on extravagant luxury products. Choose a few meaningful pieces that you are proud of, like a handmade dress by an Etsy tailor or a home-cooked organic meal. You can reinforce your self-worth by doing this simple thing.
Although grand gestures can feel wonderful in the moment you must perform many small and seemingly insignificant acts to show love and self-compassion in order to really change your perspective. It’s like magic.
These days, I still feel myself slipping sometimes, but I catch it early and course-correct— so that I feel better about myself and attract more people who give me the respect I deserve. I am amazed at the difference it made in my life quality and levels of happiness.
About Sibylle Leon
Sibylle is a trained and experienced life coach who empowers fellow wild spirits to prioritize their passion(s) and align their lives with their unique purpose (wildspiritscoaching.com). Music, people, change the world, are her passions. Sibylle resides in beautiful West Ireland.
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Tiny Buddha published the post A Simple, Effective Shortcut to Love and Respect Yourself.