The process of becoming self-aware includes loving ourselves enough to live our dreams and create our own reality. We are “pure love” when we are born, but early conditioning and life experiences cause us to believe we are unlovable—that there is something wrong with us.
The more we work on integrating past experiences and improving our self-esteem, the stronger our self-concept becomes. The more we love ourselves, the more enthusiastic we become about life. We develop the courage to be authentic and true to our ideals.
And yet, developing self love is one of our biggest challenges. Loving ourselves has negative connotations because people often confuse it with selfishness, self-absorption, and egocentric behavior. It is often easier to love another person than ourselves. We don’t realize that when we take care of ourselves and treat ourselves in a loving manner, we have more love to give. We can do this in some of the following ways:
Accept and Own All Parts of Ourselves
Being true to ourselves, and living our lives authentically, includes recognizing our strengths and weaknesses, our good qualities and faults, our suffering and joy, our fears and courageous acts, etc. These dualities coexist in all of us. Recognizing and accepting them helps us integrate them into the totality of who we are.
Believe in the Ability to Change
Self-awareness means taking an inventory of our personality, behaviors, attitudes, and principles we live our lives by. We have the ability to change any aspect which does not conform to our self-image. We empower ourselves by making the commitment to do so, having patience for our process, and looking at ourselves with the eyes of understanding and love.
Make Peace with Traumatic Experiences
The memory of a past traumatic experience may cause us psychological pain or make us feel wounded and scarred. Moving a memory from our direct vision, where we relive it regularly, into our peripheral vision helps us to heal. We know the memory is there, but it no longer has a hold on us. Some wounds cannot be completely healed and may resurface during stressful times. When we release the emotional pain from these experiences, space in our psyche is freed up for vitality and joy.
Identify Needs, Ensure They Are Met
Many of us go through life unaware of our needs or too afraid to express them to others. As children, many of us gave our power away to well-meaning, and sometimes not well-meaning, adults. We were told how to behave, act, and feel. Most of us were not encouraged to discover our interests and preferences. Decisions were made for us, and our needs and desires were not taken into account. Many of us still have those helpless children locked inside our psyches. Becoming an adult includes taking conscious control of our lives through actions such as expressing our needs, finding solutions, meeting our own needs, etc. It is important to claim our power and not feel helpless.
Individuals who establish physical and emotional boundaries respect themselves. A sense of self requires physical boundaries to protect our bodies and emotional boundaries to indicate where our emotions end and others’ begin. Emotional boundaries are necessary to separate our feelings from those of others. Without strong boundaries, we have trouble saying no, and we lose touch with our needs and wants. Setting boundaries empowers us to decide what we are willing to put up with. And in so doing, we teach others how to treat us.
Engage in Supportive Relationships
Our external environment reflects our inner world. If we want to assess our sense of self, we can look to our outer reality. Are we surrounding ourselves with angry, disrespectful, and critical people who are toxic and drain our energy? People cannot take advantage of us without our permission. The better we feel about ourselves, the more we engage in relationships with people who treat us with kindness and respect. We feel worthy and deserving of this type of treatment, and we will not put up with disrespectful behaviors.
Give Up the Need for Approval
Low self-esteem can lead us to look for outside approval and suffer from the “disease to please.” The better we feel about ourselves, the more we can tolerate criticism and people’s disappointment in us. We no longer need to do things to please others because we want them to like us.
Create a Positive Living Environment
Our external environment is also a reflection of our inner process. A messy living environment (home, workplace, or car) may be a reflection of the inner chaos of our psyche. As we get in touch with unresolved issues, bring them to our consciousness, and heal them, our external environment will become more organized.
Clutter affects our health by blocking energy in our bodies and minds. People often comment on how much lighter they feel when they give away clothes they no longer wear, or pass on outdated magazines to others.
Do you love the things in your home? Are they pleasing to your senses? Do they reflect who you are today? When you enter your home, do you experience feelings of well-being, or is your energy drained? Answer these questions honestly. Then take action to create a living space which nourishes and replenishes you.
Honor Ourselves With Acts of Loving Kindness
Do something special on a regular basis. In so doing, we give ourselves a message that says we are deserving of this special effort and are important enough to take the time to do it. It can be as simple as preparing a quiet bath, watching a favorite movie, cooking a special meal, etc. The key is scheduling adequate time with no interruptions. The message is that “I am important enough to do this for myself.”
Participate in pleasurable activities that give joy and meaning to your life. Ask yourself the question “What makes me happy?” Answer, then go out and do it!
Myra Giberovitch has a master’s degree in social work from McGill University and has studied holistic health and energy psychology. She integrates traditional psychology with alternative approaches to healing and growth. This article was originally published on NaturallySavvy.com