“If you don’t love yourself, you’ll always be looking for someone else to fill the void inside you, but no one will ever be able to do it.” ~Lori Deschene
It was two years ago that I stood in my basement, my tears running down my face. I had just found a copy of an old letter I’d written to an old boyfriend years before. The letter contained a lot of my feelings. I was basically asking for his love and blaming him for not liking me.
It was three insight that overwhelmed me, which all brought out big emotions.
First, it was my insatiable need for love for the past half of my adult life. This led to me creating a lot pain and discord in my subsequent relationships including my first marriage.
I was so desperate to feel loved that I constantly focused on how I wasn’t being cared for enough, how my current romantic partner was not loving me right.
Then I’d try to get him to do better by complaining, criticizing, having multiple-hour long talks explaining what I wanted, and crying to him so he’d see how deeply I needed his love and he’d finally change and give me the adoration I so wanted–which inevitably led to conflict, disconnection, and feeling We offer lessLoved and connected
The second insight was that I did all of this because I simply didn’t love Myself well. So the only way I could feel the love I needed (because we all need love) was from outside—which made it my partner’s job to fill that emptiness inside me. This is a difficult job that many don’t want to do long-term. The work becomes too exhausting, cumbersome, restrictive and restricting.
This second insight was the source of my big, heartfelt tears. This second insight brought me such compassion for my old self. It was tears of sorrow, of forgetting the years of pain, and tears of joy that my former self no longer has to suffer.
Because now I have true love for her, despite all of my imperfections.
The third insight was that I was now so happy—years into my second marriage—not because my husband was the most adoring of men, but because I loved myself enough that I was able to Recognize and acceptHe gave his love naturally!
Or, in other words: I was able Please feelIt was to love him deeply because I believed myself so loved. Because I love myself so much. This allowed me to stop denying the love that I loved. This was just something that I loved!
With the help of my loved ones, after I’d processed everything, I was filled with tears of forgiveness and love and I left that basement beaming with pride. I was truly in victory.
It was because I made the decision to take on the hard work of learning how to truly love myself. It had been so rewarding.
The thing is, we humans don’t come naturally wired to love ourselves. We don’t come into this world feeling all warm and cozy about ourselves. ToNaturally feel great about who we are, it takes a kind of nurturing in the early days of our lives by caregivers—and then a consistent modeling of self-love as we grow—that is rare in this world.
Many of us don’t get that. We are not taught to love ourselves and appreciate our differences. This is due in large part to the fact that we were not taught by our caregivers.).
For highly sensitive individuals, such as myself, it is more difficult.
As youngin’s we often get the signal from the world around us that we’re a little weird, a little abnormal—that something’s a bit wrong with us—and this makes it even harder for us to feel good about ourselves.
As adults, it is important to develop a deep love for all people.
It feels so natural for me to love myself.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean I smittenly stare at myself in the mirror, or that I think I’m better than anyone. It’s just that I enjoy being who I am. For security, I trust in myself. My true love is unconditional, regardless of how others view me.
This allows me to feel and love my husband so much more easily. I’m willing to put in the effort and take on the risk to create one of the most passionate, loving, joy-filled, happy, and fulfilling marriages that I can remember.
Because I’m so deeply rooted in my love for myself, I enjoy spending a lot time enjoying the love that I have for my husband.
You can have the same with me in our marriage!
I noticed that sensitive people are often aware of their vulnerability. should love themselves more, but many say they don’t know how.
If you feel the same, I want to help take the mystery out of it for you.
Below are five parts of my process to discover real love for me.
1. Learn where self-love originates.
You can love or hate yourself by what thoughts you hold about yourself, your beliefs about goodness and worthiness (or lack thereof), and the ideas that you have about how a person is lovable.
For most people, the negative feelings you hold about yourself are a result of what you did. to believe about yourself by caregivers, teachers, friends, and acquaintances—even magazines and movies!
As young, impressionable beings, we unconsciously take on other people’s ideas about us, and messages we receive from our society—many of which are simply misperceptions and misunderstandings—and these ideas harden into who we think we are.
For example, many highly sensitive people think they’re “too sensitive” or “too emotional.” We got that message from others! When we see ourselves that way, we experience self-aversion rather than self-love.
It is amazing to know that thoughts, ideas and beliefs can be changed. This is untrue Even though we all have a natural negativity bias (meaning it’s easy for our brains to find fault with ourselves) we do not need to believe what our brains tell us. Nor do we need to continue to regurgitate other people’s critical, judgmental—and frankly wrong—ideas about ourselves, now that we are grown adults.
You can decide what you want to believe about yourself—no matter what others have implied about you, and no matter what you have believed about yourself up until today. Your choice is yours.
2. You should supervise your older thinking.
You can start by disbelieving the horrible things your brain is telling you about yourself. ”You’re too anti-social, too grouchy, etc.,” or the sneakier first-person version, like: “I’m I’m not intelligent enough. I’m too reactive. Something’s wrong with me.”
To start “disbelieving” such things, take some time to question the negative beliefs you’ve adopted about yourself that came from others, as well as the ones that come from the flaw-seeking part of your brain.
For example, my parents told me I was the “artistic one” while my brother was the “intellectual one.” Though they didn’t intend any harm, I took that to mean I wasn’t smart. For thirty-five years, I believed that until I finally took the time and investigated. Turns out, I’m both artistic and intellectually smart.
Your turn: Ask yourself, “What negative thoughts am I holding onto about myself that aren’t worth questioning??” And “What was their mistake about me??” (I promise, they were wrong! You must remember that they also had flaw-seeking brains and missed so much about your extraordinaryness.
When those negative thoughts about yourself come up again (and they will, because they’ve been programmed in there), gently keep de-programming them by telling yourself some version of this: “It’s my! flaw-seeking brain again in judgment-mode.” Or “That’s an old, outdated, painful thought. But it’s just a thought, not a truth.”
3. Create a “soft landing” inside yourself for the moments when hard feelings flare.
Think of this as a friendly zone in your own head and heart reserved for meeting yourself with the warmth you would give a dear friend when she’s upset or hurting. This is a metaphorical place where you can go to find comfort. It’s as if there were a warm blanket in your heart that you could snuggle into whenever you needed it.
So then, even when you’ve made a mistake, like we all do, or said something you regret, failed at a goal, been judged by someone—or even yourself!—or you’ve done something you don’t feel good about, you can turn toward yourself and be met with kindness and warmth from within.
Answer these questions to help you create it for yourself: If they were in need, how would I support them? What attitude would you have toward them? How would you respond? Which would be your best advice?
Then do and say these exact things to yourself when something’s gone “wrong.” This will help you build a loving relationship with yourself even when you aren’t living up to any of your higher standards. This is the first step to unconditional self-love.
4. Focus on the positive aspects of yourself and what you enjoy.
It can be as simple as asking yourself, “In what ways am I likable (or lovable)—to me?” Let your brain go looking for lots of little answers. You don’t have to be too modest.
Find things that you are proud of and you’ll feel better about yourself. Because emotion is linked to thought,
You’ll need to be intentional about all this for many weeks or months. You will see the benefits of this over time. Your brain will be wired to feel great about yourself and your goodness. This article is a great place to start if you’re an HSP, like I am.
5. Set small, achievable goals for yourself that prove it’s possible to become someone you love and admire more and more.
Remember that you don’t have to change yourself in order to love yourself. Your current self is lovable.
It is a sign of self-love that you are pursuing your goals. Being more who you desire to be increases your self-confidence and pride. This naturally leads to more self-love.
For example, if you’d feel great about being a more patient person with your loved ones, purposefully grow your patience, perhaps by putting yourself in some situations that gently test and strengthen your patience muscles. You could play a boardgame with a 4-year-old. I’ve had three of them, so lots of patience-strengthening-practice and now more reason to feel good about myself!
Have I learned to love my self and never feel anxious? That my husband and me never get into conflict? We have an unwavering sense of joy and love.
All of this, however, is because I have a deep love for myself. For support, love and comfort through all of it, I am certain that I have my safe and gentle arms.
And I can give my husband love way more freely because I have so much of it inside myself, and I’m not needing to get it from him all the time (like that hurting younger me did.)
Focusing on me and loving him completely allows me to concentrate on what I want. So he feels free and safe and happy around me (no shaming criticisms landing on him), which ironically has him loving me all the more obviously day in and day out!
It has had a profound impact on my relationships with others in areas of life that are very important to me. I can do courageous things in the world that I used to back away from—like hosting my own podcast and helping people in way bigger ways than I ever would have before.
I’ve also genuinely healed relationships with some of the more challenging people in my life, like my father, and old lovers who for so long I’d thought had done me wrong. These people no longer make me feel sad, hurt, or lonely. Instead, I experience love. This feels good and fulfilling.
Because I choose to be self-loving and will continue doing so every day.
You can do this if you are willing to make the effort to be kind to yourself.
About Hannah Brooks
Hannah Brooks is an experienced relationship coach. She helps women who are sensitive, caring and deeply-feeling to build a loving, supportive, and connected relationship with their spouse. For further tips and guidance grab her free guide, The 7 Most Powerful Phrases To Deepen Connection in Your Marriage, and listen to her podcast, Highly Sensitive, Happily Married. Find her at lifeisworthloving.com.
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Tiny Buddha’s first post, “Love Yourself More for More Love” (5 Tips), appeared on Tiny Buddha.