Why is it so difficult to love yourself and so easy to love others?
Always, we are the ones coming down like a ton of bricks on ourselves. You know, the dreaded inner critic working 24/7.
Why did I do this? That was so stupid! When will I ever learn? I make the same mistakes over and over again. I’m not good enough. I’ll never succeed. I can’t do that. They will laugh at me if I dress like that. I don’t fit in so there’s obviously something wrong with me. I’m unloveable. I’m too skinny. I’m too fat. My hair is too frizzy. I’m not tall enough. I look horrible. I am ugly. I hate myself on photos. My voice sounds weird. I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I am not smart enough. I am a weirdo. I have to do what they say, not what I want, or they’ll never like me. What was I thinking? My parents have always told me time and time again that I am aiming too high...
And so on and so forth.
We diminish ourselves on a daily basis, over and over, either consciously or unconsciously. It is like we have been conditioned to beat ourselves up and see ourselves as these small and insignificant creatures.
We keep comparing ourselves to others and modern media only adds to the injury - exposing us constantly to “perfection” by showing off beautiful, young, tall and thin models, emphasising the fact that you look nothing like them (and, by the way, very often they look nothing like their photos either thanks to the magic of removing flaws and enhancing features with Photoshop and other image altering softwares). And, of course, the media is your best friend - it’s showing you the way how to get this perfect. Buy this face cream, go on this diet, do that workout routine, buy these shoes, dress, handbag, accessories, etc.
So, in your desperation of being much less than perfect, less than these models and celebrities, your self-esteem goes down deeper than the roots of a 1000-year old tree. And despite buying the creams, dresses, shoes, going on that diet (and starving yourself), doing the latest fashionable workout routine that promised you to get rid of your belly fat in 10 days, your body is still the shape of a muffin, your acne spots and rosacea are still there, and that dress is so tight you can't breathe. How on earth are you supposed to love yourself? You feel like a failure, for sure.
But the put-down attitude does not only come from what society deems beautiful, successful and acceptable, it can also come, like butter on the toast, from people around you, starting from a young age. The "what makes you think you can do that?" from your parents, the "you're not cool because you're not wearing the latest Levi's jeans" from your schoolmates, the "you burnt the roast again, you're a rubbish cook" from your other half, the "you can't make me do that, you're a horrible mum" from your kids when you ask them (nicely) to help out - all these can make you feel inadequate, not good enough or just not enough. and these comments come from your loved ones, people who are supposed to love you and accept you for who you are but, in their eyes, who you are does not measure up to THEIR expectations. And that's it, we get used to the criticism, believe it and down goes the spiraling into worthlessness. Don't get me wrong, we've all made comments at one point or another in our lives to loved ones similar to these. They are not meant to be demeaning, very often they are meant as advice or even an attempt to protect you or challenge you to better yourself, but when you're the receiver, they DO hurt and, in a way define us and the way we see ourselves. So really, with that in mind, it's quite a challenge to love ourselves the way we really are.
And there comes in "loving others". Now that is so easy to do - in comparison.
Do you remember when you were a teenager and you used to fall in love every 10 minutes?
When we have a look at how we love others, the first things that come to mind are admiration, beauty (attraction), even protection, but a lot of the time, we end up loving someone different from us, even if it starts with common interests. After all, no two people are the same. It is as if we are aspiring to become this person, who then turns into a role model for us. Oftentimes you hear that when you are in love, you lose yourself.
Loving someone else is admiring their qualities, truly loving someone is also accepting them just the way they are, faults and all, and being supportive of who they truly are and aspire to. Loving someone is fully respecting them.
Why can’t we just do the same for ourselves?
There is a fine line between loving yourself and being a full-blown narcissist, self-centred and oblivious of others. Genuine narcissists will love themselves without question or a second thought. But not loving yourself, and therefore rejecting yourself in a way, for fear of being narcissistic, to me, is the proof that you have humility (probably too much but that can be worked on), that you do value others as you don’t think yourself above them; if that’s the case for you, well, there is absolutely no chance of you becoming a narcissist! You’re way too much of a decent human being for that!
Loving yourself is an essential ingredient to feeling at peace, to your happiness and relationshipswith others.
Loving yourself is recognising with pure honesty your strengths in order to fulfill your full potential, your weaknesses/limitations so you can work on them, your influence and impact on other people’s lives.
Loving yourself is not just for yourself and your wellbeing, it is also for others. One of my favourite quotes, which illustrates this idea perfectly, is from the amazing Maya Angelou:
BE A RAINBOW IN SOMEONE ELSE’S SKY
Loving yourself is your birthright, it is the respectyou fully deserve.
When you love yourself, you don’t put yourself at risk unnecessarily (substance abuse, violent relationships...), you have the strength to say NO and walk away from situations that are a direct assault to your values and who you truly are, you eat and drink healthy because you have that much respect for yourself, your body and wellbeing.
All these examples are manifestations of loving yourself. So, as you can see, it is not about boasting that you’re the best, the most beautiful, the smartest or the only one worthy on this planet. It is about recognising that you have your part to play and that you have value.
You are not NOTHING - you matter and deserve the love you so willingly give others.
Much love to you x