Your emotional immune system is restored when it’s rebuilt on a foundation of self-love. Self-love is made up of self-worth, self-respect, self-esteem, and self-confidence. For survivors of abuse especially in childhood, like myself, our emotional immune system was damaged at essential stages during our development. Self-love can be cultivated through practicing self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-forgiveness, and self-trust.
#1 Benefit of Self-Love: SELF-WORTH
When we believe we are inherently defective, we then have to hide our real self, our essence, and try to become what we think we need to be, to be acceptable. The wounded self takes over and loses touch with our core Self – who we really are. We are stuck defining ourselves through our looks and performance, and we are stuck suffering the anxiety that comes from being so vulnerable to others’ disapproval. – Dr. Margaret Paul
For many years, I allowed my value to be defined by my ability to please others. It made me physically ill to disappoint those I looked to to give me a sense of value, my friends, parents, teachers, bosses and my intimate partners. I made everyone I came into contact with responsible for my feelings and tried to control how they felt about me by being who they wanted me to be.
The fear that they would see me the way I saw myself, as worthless, was so great, it took all my strength and focus to keep up the pretense that I was perfect. I lived this way for so long, I forgot who I was and how to be me. I was unable to see myself through the eyes of pure love. Relationships based on external approval will never survive. The real you, your essence will always seek to be seen, heard and felt and the discord this creates between the pull to be free and the push to suppress facing your truth will always cause you pain.
#2 Benefit of Self-Love: SELF-RESPECT
Your values and beliefs determine how you see yourself and your place in the world and go hand in hand with what you deem acceptable behavior and treatment. As children, we were unable to protect ourselves from those who were stronger than us and meant to do us harm. As adults, we alone are responsible for our path in life because we have freedom of choice.
Our experiences in childhood shaped our values and beliefs so if your experience as an adult is less than desirable, do a self-inventory to determine what your values and beliefs are. What, where and with whom you spend your time and money on will tell you your values. Your results in health, wealth and love will clue you in to your beliefs about your self-worth.
An aspect of cultivating self-love is liking, accepting and honoring who you are and where you are in life even as you take steps to change your adult experience into one that is more loving and supportive to your well-being. As you like, accept and honor yourself, you become intolerant to anyone or anything that is not in accordance with that. As you journey on your path to self-improvement, self-respect will help keep you grounded and protected from those who wish you harm.
#3 Benefit of Self-Love: SELF-ESTEEM
Self-esteem is the result of taking loving action, not the cause of it. It doesn’t matter how badly you were treated as a child, or how badly your parents treated themselves. Your actions need never be governed by your past. When taking loving action in your own behalf replaces your inattentive and judgmental behavior toward yourself, you will discover that the result is high self-esteem. – Dr. Margaret Paul
Are you more critical and judgmental of yourself or more loving towards yourself? Do you treat yourself and allow others to treat you in ways that build up your spirit or in ways that tear you down? Think of the thoughts you have about yourself when you stand naked and look in the mirror or when you make a mistake at work or have an argument with your partner. How many of your daily thoughts carry negative energy? Do you think things like “You’re so fat” or “You’re so stupid” or “Why can’t you ever do anything right” or “That was a dumb thing to say”?
It’s been said that if you tell a child they’re stupid enough, they start to believe it and I believe that’s true. As a child, I received a lot of mixed messages that I carried with me into adulthood. I was told I could accomplish anything I set my mind to and that I was smart but I was also told that I couldn’t run, had a big forehead, big eyes and wouldn’t be loved if I was fat. The positive messages made me successful in school and work but only when I wasn’t weighed down in sadness because of the emotional pain I carried from the negative messages and the abuse I suffered in childhood.
In order to remove the unsupportive beliefs we have about ourselves, we first need to become aware of them and then take repeated steps, “loving action” to replace them with supportive beliefs because if you tell yourself something enough, you start to believe it. Actions speak louder than words so in order to change your negatively charged thoughts, do things that nourish your mind, body and spirit, that make you feel good about yourself, happy and at peace like acknowledging your feelings, eating right, exercising, meditating, going for a stroll in nature, listening to music, joining a support group, going to church, practicing gratitude, not allowing others to mistreat you.
#4 Benefit of Self-Love: SELF-CONFIDENCE
Self-esteem is believing that you are worthy and deserving. The combination of believing you are worthy and deserving along with the belief that you are capable creates self-confidence.
Self-esteem is something I still struggle with which is why sometimes I come off as cocky and a know-it-all. I know I’m capable, there’s never been any doubt of that and I received positive messages about my intellectual brilliance from a very young age. I excel in anything I put my mind and effort into yet there was always a part of me that was clouded by self-doubt and a feeling of unworthiness. I always worried about what other people would think. Would I be congratulated or made to feel like I could have done better? Would they see how hard I worked or would they be dismissive of my efforts?
My dependence on other people’s approval and trying to prove my worth created a lot of stress on my psyche. I became a workaholic so my bosses would recognize what a dedicated worker I was. I became addicted to love and sex to please partners so they would love and appreciate me. I learned how to become someone else in public, putting on a smile, being the good girl and the accomplished woman. All that effort created a wall between the persona I’d created and the person I really was inside.
I had an inherent fear that even if I accomplished everything my heart desired that it would all fall apart because I didn’t deserve to have it.
Understanding how and why I had compartmentalized so much of myself that I couldn’t find my way back to me through hypnotherapy and NLP has helped tremendously in restoring my self-worth and letting go of my addictions but it’s an ongoing process. My message to you is that you can heal, you will feel better but you have to choose to make yourself a priority.
Below are four practices you can start today to build a foundation of self-love including self-worth, self-respect, self-esteem and self-confidence.
Cultivate self-compassion (http://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/)
Cultivate self-acceptance (http://www.innerbonding.com/show-article/2878/self-acceptance-and-well-being.html and https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/200809/the-path-unconditional-self-acceptance)
Cultivate (self) forgiveness (http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/on-practice/the-art-of-self-forgiveness and http://www.authentic-self.com/self-forgiveness.html)
Lastly, I also recommend reading Pema Chodron’s “Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1590306260?ie)