13 thoughts on “How to Start Loving Yourself (Even When You Think There’s Nothing to Love)

  • July 31, 2016 at 7:11 am

    So great. I will learn to like myself more. It won’t change how others perceive me of course. So I will still be ostracized, insignificant and lonely. Sometimes I think I have no friends because I think TOO HIGHLY of myself. I really don’t understand WHY I have failed so much in life. I think my standards of thought and behavior are too high. For both myself and others.

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    • July 31, 2016 at 9:32 am

      Hi Judi,
      Since I don’t know you, I really don’t know if you think too much or too little of yourself. I wonder if you’re a perfectionist. Perfectionism is often a cover for low self-worth….
      And while loving yourself won’t change what people think of you in the sense that you can control their thoughts/behaviors, you will likely find that when you treat yourself with loving kindness, you’re likely to attract others who will do the same.
      Wishing you the best,
      Sharon

      Reply
  • July 31, 2016 at 7:23 am

    WOW.. I love it!! “Happily Imperfect” the term itself carries so much promise!!
    Thank you for writing this!!!!!

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  • July 31, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    Excellent article with good sound practical advice. I found it hard to challenge the internal critic cause it felt like criticising myself even more. It was a vicious spiral. A Psychologist suggested I gave my internal critic a name (preferably of a punitive fairytale character) so that I could objectify or externalise that part of myself and get angry at it without hating myself. Although I had great difficulty finding a female character that had a name (they are all general, such as “wicked witch” or “wicked stepmother” etc), once I had achieved this it became so much easier to hate this part of me without feeling I was hating me. It does take a lot of determined practice to break this bad habit of a life-time but it is necessary and well worth all the hard work, both for myself and for those who care about me. Many thanks for all your hard work on this article.

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    • July 31, 2016 at 8:46 pm

      Lovely idea! Thanks for sharing with everyone.
      So glad you’ve had success. That’s so encouraging to hear!
      🙂

      best,
      Sharon

      Reply
  • August 1, 2016 at 5:08 am

    Hello!
    Thank you for the lovely post. This is exactly where I am. I needed to hear every word. I analysis everything I think, and often find myself telling myself how stupid I am. I was a counselor – and I know how awful this is … I would have never allowed my client’s to have done this, why do I allow myself to do this to me??? I lost my career – I’ll spare you the details, but it had became my identity – and I’m now disabled. I am having a very difficult time accepting this. I often feel like a “nobody doing nothing”. I’m fully aware that we are human beings, and not human doings – but on a heart level, it’s a whole different story. I’ve let myself down (even though there were things that I couldn’t control) and I’m still grieving. I have few friends, and can’t seem to make any. Seems like if I do, I sabotage it.

    I’ve been in therapy for many years and keep making the same mistakes… and not loving myself has to be the root. I fully understand the concept of happily imperfect – but I judge myself so harshly. I’m going to try this telling that voice no….. and see if it works!

    I do like myself, so all is not lost. I think I’m a neat person and people are drawn to me. I know that I’m at the crux of this ordeal now – but at least the most painful stuff is over. Thank you for writing, I wish I had the guts to really submit something. I do have a story to tell..

    Missy.

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    • August 2, 2016 at 8:06 am

      Dear Missy, when I read your post I saw so much of myself. I too have lost my ability to work (a good career in management) due to disability. I also am having great difficulty coming to terms with this and punish myself by discounting the very little I CAN do and by pushing people away because why would anyone want to be around me when I have nothing to give them. I too am trained a s a counsellor but have never practiced professionally due to disability (and a lack of self belief). I find it much easier to discount good things that have happened (e.g. I was voted “The Counsellors Counsellor” on my post-grad training course). I too would never advise my friends & those with MH issues that I volunteer with to behave towards themselves the way I do. HOWEVER, I have learned that I need to cut myself some slack. Pride drives my compulsion to be more than I can, to be disaffected with what I am, and to hate aspects of myself more than are warranted. I came to realise that, in hating something about me, I was gaining from a belief that, at least, I still had high standards. Self criticism allows me to believe that there is still a part of me that is capable of perfect behaviour, even if it is just in my thoughts. I am still trying to stop doing this.

      I have also studied neuroscience (not formally) and have come to realise that we are hard wired by what we are told about ourselves from birth by those whose care we need. We need to believe them because we are so dependent upon their care. As we grow into independent adults we no longer depend on these carers to survive BUT their propaganda about us is till hard-wired in our brains. The brain will produce new connections (neuroplasticity) which, if triggered often enough, will become stronger than the old connections. Until that happens, triggering a new thought/belief about yourself while also triggering the old thought/belief is, quite literally, producing an internal battle for supremacy between the two conflicting thoughts/beliefs. We are at war with ourselves. Every battle is hard and we must persevere. The more we use the good thought, the more often this new connection fires, the stronger (and more automatic) it becomes. Equally, the less we use the old thought/belief, the less it fires and so the weaker it becomes (and less automatic). With strongly held core beliefs that have, over many years, made numerous connections to other parts of the brain, the harder it is to weaken as it will trigger from so many of these connections. (e.g. the sight part of the brain, when triggered by an image of yourself in the mirror, may then trigger an emotional memory of mother telling you that you are fat & ugly. Equally, a smell part of the brain may trigger the same thought simply because you are currently smelling the same fragrance that your mother was wearing at a time when she was telling you that you were fat & ugly).

      There is no quick fix or easy solutions. Our brains are so complex, with billions of connections between one neuron and the millions of others, that to make a new healthier connecton and to then strengthen it relative to the old connections is a hard battle. We must persevere every day, every time. I find it easier to simply ignore the old dysfunctional thoughts/beliefs I was given, and to focus on the new thoughts/beliefs I have come to know are more true for me (once I have checked the evidence objectively).

      It is hard to come to terms with the fact that my old beliefs are just beliefs and not the absolute truth. They were given to me when I was a child by people who had dysfunctional beliefs themselves and who were dominated by their own issues. These false beliefs were validated by our carers and strengthened as we needed to selectively seek evidence to prove that they were true because we needed to trust our carers to survive. As adults, we no longer need to believe these beliefs/thoughts because we no longer depend on these others to survive. We are safe, and we are free to look at the evidence and free to choose for ourselves what seems more truth than lie. We are free to assess and either accept or reject what other people are telling us is true about us as this is merely their opinion (often coloured by their own prejudices and false beliefs). We are free to say enough is enough, I am old enough and wise enough to decide what is really true about me and that that is what I will now believe/think/do.

      Many people who become counsellors have learned to empathise with those who suffer because they have suffered themselves. We can give great advice but the best advice comes when we have done the hard work of learning what it takes to overcome our past “givens” and transform ourselves. Then we really know what is involved and can better walk alongside those who are starting on a similar path. That is why continuous growth (incl supervision) is such a vital necessary part of being a good counsellor. We ALL need this growth and supervison because we are ALL flawed human creatures and we ALL have so much potential to love one another, to help one another flourish.

      I hope this is some help to you (& others) and I hope you choose to keep going. It is absolutely worth it. It is much better to strive than to merely survive. Take gentle care of yourself Missy.
      Kindest Regards
      Crow

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      • August 3, 2016 at 3:25 am

        Dear Crow,
        Thank you so much for the time and effort that you placed into writing me!!! You are absolutely right and so much of what you said hit home. I never bonded with my Mother – and she I fully believe was mentally ill, narcissistic, and admitted that she hated me. So you nailed it. I’ve also read the latest neuroplasticity information (not sure if it’s spelled right) about how the brain gets hard-wired from birth with the nurture of the caregivers. My family was quite unstable, with the exception of my father who loved me very much. He just didn’t realize that he had a Jackal and Hyde for a wife.

        I am much better than what I once was, for I was a void of a human being. You are very accurate this is a long process. I used to hate myself, and lived in constant fear. I am now free from that fear, shame, and foreboding that was with me constantly. I of course, ended up in addiction, with two treatments by the age of 30. I am now free from this. There is hope. I know that this is the last stage of recovery for me – these thought patterns that are essentially what is left over of the “old tapes” in my head. The self criticism and the perfectionism have been with me my entire life – but the voice’s changed and it’s so critical as it once was.

        I believe that we have the ability to change- and I’ve been looking into neuroplacticity from a different angle as of late. If the brain is malleable then I can still change it, and I believe that meditation is the way. I’m not as disciplined as I’d like to be with it, I seem to go in spurts however, mindfulness meditation is wonderful. Staying in the moment in life corrects and counteracts all of that negative self-talk. I think the hardest thing that I’ve had to learn is how to nurture myself for it wasn’t something that I learned by my caregivers. I can nurture others, but it does not come natural for me with myself.

        Another part that has been quite difficult is loosing my career – counseling came natural to me. It was something that I was very good at. For the first time in my life, I had confidence. The loss of this has been devastating. I feel like a fish out of water. Directionless. In search of meaning.

        There is hope, always hope – it’s just a huge part of who I am. I will continue to keep moving forward. I’ve overcame so much, there has to be hope in the ability to learn to love oneself. I have such compassion for my fellow man, I just have to learn to turn this inward…..
        Thank you again for your insight and kind words,
        May God be with you always,
        MIssy

        Reply
    • August 2, 2016 at 5:51 pm

      Hi Missy,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I can only imagine how it feels to be disabled and not be able to work as a counselor any more.
      I hear a lot of wisdom in your writing and I suspect you not only have a story, but a story that many people need to hear. I hope at some point you feel ready to share it (or some of it). A site like The Mighty might be a good place to consider submitting. Just a thought…
      best wishes,
      Sharon

      Reply
  • August 2, 2016 at 3:49 am

    Go for it MissyG…You may be helping others with your tale..I’ve tried to with my little blogs on here. Not always approved, of course , but thats Ok I’m a layman..and I can get things wrong, as I did many aspects of life before I got the picture painted by a CEN/PTSD background….
    To stop my critic I began using a sort of gestalt system to manifest it in analytical conversations about problems while addressing them to the recording facility on my laptop. Playback often revealed the whiny nature of the beast. Healing manifests, when you tip into boredom and absolutely need to find other things to do than listen to that annoying voice…and heres the good thing, you haven’t bored anyone else, and you can delete it…

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    • August 3, 2016 at 3:40 am

      Little Drummer boy —
      Thank you for responding. I do blog but haven’t in a few months. I have a few readers. Wow I haven’t thought of Gestalt in years!!! What an excellent idea, recording your own thought patterns!!! That would be illuminating! I live alone and often (I embarrassingly admit) talk to myself – which is interestingly enough, I’m usually nicer when I say things out loud. I catch myself being brutal and correct my self talk.
      I also had an epiphany one day when my best friend caught me criticizing myself out loud – she said “Is that the way you’d treat your best friend?” Well of course it wasn’t, and for some reason, that hit home. It helped me to lighten up on myself — at least for a little while!!! Good for you for writing and submitting even if it doesn’t get published. I’ve never had the guts to do it.

      My blog site is supposed to show up with this comment, but it’s http://www.gbullard.blogspot.com check it out if you’d like. My writing is kind of intense at times. Matter of fact I think I’ll write this morning. You guys have inspired me.

      Thanks,
      Missyg.

      Reply
  • December 18, 2017 at 9:05 am

    “Start by noticing when this beast, that we like to call the inner critic, is rising up. Tell it to shut up. Go ahead and say it out loud, say it to yourself, tell a friend, write it down. This belittling beastly voice isn’t your pet cat. Stop letting it out and feeding it. It will eventually grow weak, shrink, and die. Don’t lose hope. It takes time to starve a giant beast.”

    I don’t get how this would help, Judy. My understanding is that the inner critic is a part of our psyche that is – however ineffectively – doing it’s best to keep us safe. It tries to keep us small so that we don’t risk getting hurt again. Yes, as an adult this may cause more problems for us than it solves, but as a child it was likely the best way we could work out how to survive in trying, or even dangerous, circumstances.

    Doesn’t that part of us deserve to be honoured for the role it has played in getting us this far? Doesn’t it deserve to be met with kindness and understanding, rather that being told to shut up and exiled from our psyches? To set ourselves up in conflict with the inner critic is to effectively CRITICISE the inner critic, no? Surely there is some conflict of approach here? We may succeed in getting rid of it for a while through this approach…but I’m willing to bet it will only be a matter of time before it’s back, louder and than ever and pissed off because we’ve tried to shut it out.

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