How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. We are well-versed in how to show love to others through words and actions, whether expressing love to our child, spouse, parent, or dear friend. We know how to invest in others, giving them our best.
Let’s go introspective. How do I love ME? Can you count the ways? Most of us are less skilled and less practiced at loving ourselves than we are at loving others. Are we kind to ourselves in our internal dialogues, congratulatory when we do something well, and forgiving when we make a mistake? Do we know how to give our best to ourselves, the way we do for others?
Why We Need More Self-Love In Our Lives
Our relationship with ourselves is the most important one we will ever have. When we practice self-love, our positive energy becomes expansive, flowing out onto those around us. Self-love empowers us and makes us more compassionate, tolerant, courageous, and authentic. Our ability to love ourselves determines how we bring positivity and generous energy into our relationships with others, how resilient we are in overcoming adversity and traumatic events, and the measure of contentment and happiness we will experience throughout our lives.
When we do not practice self-love, we imprison ourselves in a state of turmoil. We fight an internal battle that is unwinnable. In the absence of self-love and acceptance, we are more susceptible to physical and mental health problems. Our power and vital energy become depleted. We relinquish our ability to reach our fullest potential.
Building Your Self-Love Practice: Eliminating Five Behaviors That Sabotage Self-Love
Building a practice of self-love is essential but not without challenges. In my book I Love Me More, I share the hard lessons learned on my journey from self-loathing to self-love. Self-love requires us to accept our flaws and forgive our mistakes. It also demands that we embrace and applaud our strengths. As you practice loving yourself more, here are five behaviors to recognize – and stop – because they sabotage self-love.
- Stop sacrificing yourself by being the “nice girl” or the “nice guy.” While there is nothing wrong with being kind and caring towards others, we cannot lose ourselves by doing so. In wanting to be considerate of and not offend others, we may abandon our own needs in the process. If someone crosses into our protected space by crossing a boundary, we may choose to let it slide because we are not yet practiced in the art of putting our feelings, our needs, and our well-being first. We don’t want others to think we are “mean” or “cold” so we permit their comfort to take priority over our own comfort. We must honor how we feel. We must make ourselves and our needs and our comfort level our highest priority. Try out this reframing: “I am not being mean, I am being nice to myself!”
- Stop putting yourself last. Many of us were taught to self-sacrifice, placing the needs and feelings of others before our own. We are conditioned to believe that putting ourselves first is selfish. When we put everyone else’s needs before our own, we diminish and deplete ourselves, leaving little energy for what we want. Conversely, when we prioritize our needs, we strengthen ourselves with energy, positivity, and love. Caring for ourselves first is empowering, and it allows us to be our best – to our benefit and the benefit of those around us.
- Stop allowing guilt to drive your behavior. Guilt can be activated by a breach of our moral code. But more often, we feel guilt when we act (or think of acting) against a programmed belief, behavior, or social expectation. Let’s take self-care as an example. We feel guilty about making our self-care the top priority because we believe we should be placing the needs of others first. To avoid these feelings of guilt, we self-sacrifice – against our own best interest. By letting guilt guide us, we allow our conditioned beliefs and the needs and expectations of others to dominate the choices we make in our lives. When we become comfortable prioritizing our needs and acting in our own best interests, we permit our intuition to guide our decision-making instead of guilt.
- Stop seeking external validation. We all want feedback to confirm that our behaviors and efforts are appropriate, acknowledged, and appreciated. The approval we receive from others makes us feel good. But when we require external positive reinforcement to believe that we have worth, the need for others’ validation diminishes the power that comes from loving ourselves. This fear-based way of living breeds insecurity. We tear ourselves apart with relentless worry about what others think, continuously questioning, “Am I good enough?” Instead, when we learn to value and validate ourselves, self-love frees us from the emotional rollercoaster caused by an unrelenting quest for others’ affirmation.
- Stop giving power to self-limiting beliefs. The harmful, disparaging stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we are capable of can prevent us from accomplishing goals and reaching our potential. We may be replaying words we heard from our peers, parents, or other authority figures, or brooding on thoughts from prior experiences. Self-limiting beliefs that we impose upon ourselves may be that we are not good at math or relationships or thinking strategically – so we act accordingly and sabotage our ability to be successful financially, personally, and professionally. The key to overcoming these beliefs is to identify them, disprove their validity with facts to the contrary, and to change the narrative by incorporating a new belief to replace it.
When I talk with others about loving themselves more, I share that practicing self-love will feel very uncomfortable at first, and even painful on occasion. But when you want to transform your life into one that is filled with more joy, more harmony, more happiness, and more success, you will have to push through these feelings of discomfort so that you can move towards what gives you positive energy and peace.