There's a reason we're like this ...
Why is it so hard to love ourselves? If you're like me, over the years you've tried to figure out how to love myself. And now, it's en vogue — but how do we do it?
More importantly why don't we just do it naturally? Actually, we do.
Have you ever seen a baby who is absolutely enthralled with her own fingers? Or children who giggle and play without care of what others think? They love themselves. You might say, "come on — they’re little! They don't know any better." Exactly! We are trained not to love ourselves.
During the process of growing up, watching media, competing for jobs, and making normal mistakes, self love gets beaten out of us.
And with the new mindfulness paradigm, if we don't love ourselves, were making even another mistake. It seems like we can't win.
Experience tells me the reason: We are enculturated and socialized to be dissatisfied and devalue ourselves. Here are the three main ways I see it happening:
1. Parenting and schooling.
I admire and honor parents and educators. They work really hard and get very little compensation for all that work. Frankly, I don't have an answer to this problem because we really do need to raise our children to function in society — yet the basis of the job is to help shape children away from what they would become naturally, into what will work in the "real" world. We are taught that we aren't enough.
We teach our children to conform to our values. They are praised when they obey and corrected when they do not. Most of us do this with love — hoping our kids will be well-adjusted and happy. But truthfully, we do tell them through behavior modification that they're not enough. Even using words like, “It’s not you, it your behavior that is the problem,” means they didn’t do something right. We train our children to conform and put other people's value of them before their own.
FIX: Begin to live your life for you. If you're over 25 and still following the dream a parent or teacher had for you, it is time to get some coaching or therapy. As for your family, friends and peers — spend time with people that support you and who you feel good around. You will know you are doing this right when you loose a few relationships you don’t want anyway.
2. Media and social media.
I know, we already get so much info on how the media makes us hate ourselves — so why bring it up again? A brave few are outspoken and are making some progress on the issue of self love and body image. But as individuals we're still not getting it. Self love is the main root issue for all my clients. All. Of. Them.
Even if we had great parents, teachers and friends, we still grow up in a society that glamorizes newer, faster, younger, richer. When we grow up, it just gets more covert and insidious. It can show up as competitive behavior with your frenemy at work, or feeling jealous about what others post on Facebook.
A large body of evidence shows media teaches you to be dissatisfied until you have whatever they are selling. You are bombarded with advertisements every day selling that you’re not enough or not in the right crowd until you owned their product or service.
We are entranced into thinking we’re supposed to be what we see, even though we know most of us aren't. I routinely teach my clients how to ethically use media and social media for with respect to our self-care. Here’s a simple guide for social media and self care by York University.
3. Boundary problems and negative self talk.
We keep ourselves stuck in the first two problems through our negative self talk and boundary issues. Negative self talk and poor boundaries lead you to avoid confrontation (read: stand up for yourself) and far reaching goals (read: procrastination).
An example may be you say yes to something you don’t want to do then call yourself stupid or week for saying yes. Or you stay in a job or relationship that is unhappy because you think you don't deserve better.
FIX: Think about any negative messages you have from childhood — "I’m not [fill in the blank] enough," or "I always/never [fill in the blank]." Even though it seems like an obvious idea, negative self talk is sneaky. You’ve done it most of your life, so it can be just part of the background noise in your mind. Here is a great guide from Psychology Today about how to identify negative self talk.
Setting boundaries can be challenging, but you are WORTH IT and totally capable.
One of the best ways to begin looking at your boundaries is to check out what you get mad/irritated about. I recommend journaling the big ones. Once you know that problem, then you can start setting different boundaries. Here’s a another great article about how to set boundaries from Psychcentral.
I tell my clients that any form of anger is always somehow about boundaries. Here’s the trick though — sometimes the person violating your boundaries is you.
Like the example above, saying yes when you mean no, or continuing to date a jerk. Eating the extra piece of whatever at the office party when you know that your health goals are more important to you. If you notice this happening, the best thing to do is take a breath and tell yourself that you realized you violated your own boundaries and you’ll do better next time.
The issue of self love isn’t going to go away anytime soon. But maybe you can free yourself faster than you think. Take a breath, listen to your self talk, discover your boundaries, and decide to love yourself by nixing the criticism about it while you make changes.