Learning to Love Yourself
with Habiba Jessica Zaman, NCC, LPC


Learning To Trust Yourself Again After Betrayal

Everyone talks about having a hard time trusting another person after a betrayal and so few discuss how difficult it is to trust ourselves as a result.

We focus on what the other person did to us and try to find ways to set up barricades to make sure this never happens to us again by someone else. We remind ourselves of the pain it has caused, the powerlessness, and the wrongness of what was done to us.

All of that is correct. We are hurt, we did feel powerless to stop it, we didn’t think they would do this to us, and it is wrong.

We then come up with creative ways to safeguard our bleeding heart. Defense mechanisms to find that power again that was taken from us through this betrayal.

Some turn to shutting out the heart, convincing oneself that we do not need another to rely on or find solace in, running from another when they get a bit too close, or perhaps putting obstacles and bringing up unnecessary conflicts when we find that we are starting to open up and allowing vulnerability to present in the form of emotional intimacy.

We put all of our energy into safeguarding ourselves from them, that we do not take the time to recognize the true damage it has caused us.


All We Want Is To Love And Be Loved In Return

One of our fundamental needs is to be loved. We want to be seen, heard and accepted for who we are. We wish to belong and know that there is someone there to walk beside us through our journey and that we are not alone.

For some, we are able to give our love freely and confidently, while for others, this yearning has become a pull to prove ourselves through our love.

As we grow, we form connections and associations with how we believe the world functions- our world view. In other words, we apply the “Shoulds” to people and situations in order to make sense of what is happening as well as what is acceptable to expect.  These associations are the underlying beliefs we hold about who we are and our place in the world.

What are some connections you have when it comes to the ways of loving someone? Think of IF, THEN statements when it comes to relationships.


Finding Stability In The Midst Of Chaos

These days the feeling of uncertainty seems to be the only thing that is certain. As a whole, we are all embodying the feelings of loneliness, caution or fear for our and our loved ones health, instability and trapped in our circumstances of this new reality.

Uncertainty frequently brings with it feelings of anxiety and/or depression as it steals our sense of power and control over the course of where we are headed.

How do you feel when you don’t know who you are and where you stand?

How can you connect and care for others when you are not able to give that to yourself?

When we are attached to people in order to feel strong and stable, what happens when we no longer have those people?

The surest way to gain the feeling of stability is to feel grounded and secure. Feeling rooted to the ground comes from the feeling of being accepted for who you are and connected to those around who are also strong.


Hoping Things Will Be Different, Knowing That They Won’t

Ever find yourself going to the same person for something whether it be comfort, help or understanding even though there are numerous examples showing you that they are not able to meet this need?

It could be a friend, parent, partner, ex, or coworker, and we just keep going back to them and hoping things will be different this time.

Do you feel frustrated with yourself when once again, you are let down and you just cannot understand why they fall back on the same patterns even though you’ve expressed your need to them?

And yet, we still keep going back… Why?


Am I Doing Enough… Am I Enough?

When our sense of accomplishment and worth comes from what we are able to achieve and overcome during the day, it only makes sense to feel ourselves drowning in self-doubt and stagnation during this pandemic.

Who are you when all the titles and roles are stripped away? When you are no longer the top office performer, Pinterest parent or the well-traveled explorer?

There are narratives that we hear played on a loop of who we are and who we should be. These tapes began their tune early in our childhoods and continue with each passing experience and new belief.

If those messages of what we learned about ourselves are being reinforced by the same patterns of behavior, it is near impossible to rewrite those beliefs with new ones.

“They” say: Love yourself, Take Charge of your life and your future, Align your life with your passions!

Those are all fantastic aspirations and ones I hope to help all of you reach. But HOW do you get there?


Impostor Syndrome

When we have spent more time than not, judging and being critical of our own abilities, it is difficult to shed the cloak of uncertainty and inferiority. I have had these moments in just about all aspects of my life from motherhood, to my career to even my writing.

At what time in your life did you feel you were strongest? Do you sometimes forget you are still that same person?

Strength is not manifested by large displays of power, but by gentle, compassionate, self-directed corrections in the form of good decisions.

You are more powerful than you may give yourself credit for. Power in the sense of how you can choose the next steps you take.

We get stuck in ruts, and sometimes it feels that we can't change something because we've been acting that way so long that it is just part of who we are. But that’s just not true. It is difficult to go against your “natural grain” of what you’ve become accustomed to being, AND it is still possible to do something different.


It’s Not You, It’s Me

One of the most common arguments revolve around our needs not being met by those we love. Whether those needs are emotional, physical, verbal or in how we help. These needs come from our values that are formed in the early stages of development. As we continue to grow as people, we add to our list of values with each new experience.

Who you are, what you hold dear, what upsets you, and what underlies your decisions, are all connected to your personal values.

Your values reflect what is important to you.

They are a shorthand way of describing your motivations. Together with your beliefs, they are the causal factors that drive your decision-making.

The whole point of discovering your values is to improve the results you get in those areas that are truly most important to you.

Values act as our compass to put us back on course every single day, so that day after day, we're moving in the direction that takes us closer and closer to our definition of the best life we could possibly live.

In relationships, we connect through these values and that connection grows based on the experiences we have with these shared values that make us feel seen and heard.

When the initial excitement and novelty of getting to know one another wanes and the simplicity of daily existing takes place, this is where we start to see either the strengthening of this bond as the fluidity of coexisting based on these values fortify… Or this is where the rifts and cracks in the relationship start to make themselves known.


You Live, You Learn, You Strive

To learn to love ourselves, we have to first learn to accept the full range of what makes us the human that we are. We are all unique in the sense that there is no other person like us out there. Who we are, what we have to offer, the way we would, with the essence of us-no one else possibly could.

In order to make strides towards becoming who we want to be, we must accept the experiences that has made us the person we are today. All the good, bad, fair, unfair, disappointments or moments of triumph.

Everything that we encounter, teaches us a lesson. Not in a divine sort of way, but more so that every experience teaches us something new about ourselves on what we like, dislike, abhor or wish more of, needing growth or finding pride in the growth we’ve made, where boundaries need to be set or where more grace should be offered.

How often do we look at challenges in our life and recognize it as the mirror that it is?


Coping When Life IS Unfair

One of life’s most valuable lessons, one that takes too long to accept, is that life is hard.

If we had our way, there would be no pain, things would go our way, we wouldn’t have to work as hard, and we certainly wouldn’t have to suffer. We get reality instead, a reality that tells us all too often that things are not fair and as Hal Urban said, “the world will not devote itself to making us happy”.

If we do not accept life as it is and face these challenges, it is impossible to be happy or content. Instead, we keep wishing for something that we will never get. If we accept and understand that life is hard, we can live more effectively and find solutions. It is this process of meeting our problems head on and looking for solutions that gives life its meaning.

Once we accept the fact that life is hard, we begin to grow. We can begin to see that every obstacle is an opportunity to write our future, regardless of what the past has said.

Life can and will break you.

Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either; for solitude will also break you with its yearning.

You have to love. You have to feel. It is the process of experiencing who you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up.


Standing Up For Yourself Is A Skill- Not A Given

Strong people are made- not born.

Absence of being able to effectively set boundaries is often seen as weakness, though I will ask, how are you to be expected to set strong boundaries and stand up for yourself when you were not taught the skills to do so?

Many reflect on their childhoods and exclaim that their parents made sure to teach them to “not back down, stand up for what you believe in, finish the fight, or even don’t let anyone bully you”.

My father especially shared all of those with me and still, when it came to asking for what I need, I was unable to do so.

Standing up to strangers or walking away from it was easy enough, but setting a boundary with a loved one? No.

Often times, even when we are loved and nurtured and taught to fight for ourselves, unless that message also applies to be able to fight for our needs against our early childhood caregivers without consequence, we grow to be adults who struggle with setting strong boundaries.

Consequence here refers to any reaction to your boundary that would make you feel as though you are mean, inconsiderate, thoughtless, selfish, hurtful etc.

Do you equate setting boundaries with loved ones with being one of the above?