How do you learn to like yourself?
What if you are actually loveable?
When I was young my mother used to say “you are your own worst enemy!” It took me another twenty years to realise she was right! Most of us are more cruel and judgemental to ourselves than any other person ever has been to us. Why? We seem to believe if we criticise ourselves harshly, we will somehow improve and become better, nicer, more attractive. We seem to believe that if we are kind to ourselves we will become slack, lazy or degenerate! Instead, we become the person who is our worst bully!
We want to be loved, but we don’t love ourselves. We want others to show us love, and then behave in ways that push them away!
How do we learn to be our own best friend instead of our own worst enemy?
Inner child work
I believe that each of us has, inside us, a little girl or boy who just wants to be loved, cared for and nurtured. Each of us has a need to belong, to be unconditionally accepted and to feel loved.
To some extent, however, most of us have learned that there is a part of us that is not unconditionally accepted. That is the part that felt ‘bad’ as a child. The part that felt ‘guilty’, ‘naughty’, ‘stupid’ or in any way not quite good enough.
The other day a friend of mine said “my ‘inner little boy’ is awkward and shy. I don’t let anybody get too close, or they will discover who I am and then they won’t like me!”
When I asked him how he would feel toward any little boy who was awkward and shy, of course he said he would show him love and understanding. Yet he still hated it in himself. What man wants to think of himself as awkward and shy? It’s okay in a small boy, but for a man it is just unacceptable! (or at least, he thinks it is!)
Imagine if, when you were a small child, an older version of yourself, comes along and tells you that you are going to be survive. That you are, in fact, loveable and acceptable. That all your feelings are valid and deserve attention. That you are understood. That you are going through a hard time, but they will be with you. This is an adult that you can trust. One who really does understand you. At a subconscious level, the child inside is able to feel nurtured and acceptable.
This process is never done to find blame, and, if anything, forgiveness towards others and self is absolutely essential. (This does not mean that what others have done is okay! It means that you no longer feel the terror or threat of their abandonment, abuse or neglect). The effect of inner child work is powerful and immediate. The process of inner healing has begun and a new way of looking at the world begins to emerge. It is only by learning to love and accept ourselves that we can truly love and accept others.
Shadow work is wonderfully transforming! The things we dislike in ourselves are only parts of ourselves trying to be loved, or trying to survive. I call them the ‘frogs in our box’. It takes a bit of work to dig out the frogs, confront them, and voila! they do, indeed, turn into princes!
Interestingly, the things we judge in others is always about ourselves, so that’s a great way to figure out your own ‘shadow’! (See Shadow Workshop).
Discovering who you really are, and what your ‘gift’ is to the world also helps tremendously to stop comparing yourself with others and love who you are. See workshop on Personality Profiling.