People will always treat you the way you treat yourself. Your relationships are like mirrors, they will show you how you truly feel about yourself. And I’m not talking about just romantic relationships, I mean our relationships with every single person in our lives – from our families to our employers. The “love” and “care” we accept, is the amount of love and care we are currently giving to ourselves. It’s easy to live in a victim mindset, thinking every person who has treated you poorly is at fault. The truth is we are the ones who let these types of people into our worlds. We attract the type of love we believe we deserve, and the cycle will repeat until you learn to give yourself all the love you truly do deserve. When we are whole and able to provide that on our own, we attract the right people and situations into our lives. That’s why it’s essential to find true self-love, and not this social media produced “self-love”. Not the false love we provide ourselves through likes and follows. I’m talking about loving your soul and your being for who it is. Loving the person you are to yourself, not the one you are to the rest of the world. We have to stop viewing ourselves through the eyes of others and really look at who we are. We have to learn to appreciate all our flaws because they are representations of our experiences. We have to understand that we are ever-changing creatures that have the power to grow and evolve if we so choose. We must forgive ourselves for any harm we may have brought to ourselves or others. If we learn from these experiences and grow from them then they served their purpose.
It’s seems like it’s harder now more than ever before to sustain a strong sense of self-love. It’s hard when we grew up in a time where you can go on the internet or turn on the TV and see millions of people in luxury lifestyles with perfect faces and perfect bodies living lavishly. It’s hard not to compare yourself to others in this day and age where it seems like approval from others is everything. It makes it hard not to seek validation from the outside world as to who we are and what we are worth. We live in a culture where it’s cool to be “numb”, suppress your feelings, and live through a falsely inflated ego. As long as you pretend to love yourself who cares if you really do, right? Wrong! Don’t let this world convince you that true self-love is correlated with your monetary success or social media popularity. Imagine if neither of those existed, would you like who you are? Would you even know who you are? And that’s where true unconditional self-love really starts, you have to know yourself first. This journey is a life-long one so buckle-up and get ready to experience the amazing transformation your life will undertake when you find true love for yourself. I believe there are two major components to self-love: self-awareness and self-care. This article is addressing the first. The second I will address later this week, in part two of the series.
- Understand who you are
I think oftentimes we believe we really know ourselves because we can tell you all of our favorite and least favorite things or because we know what we like to do and what we don’t like to do. While those are important aspects in knowing us, it’s still only looking at the surface of who we are. Now it’s time to really sit down with yourself and understand the soul you are. What are your characteristics and personality traits? How do you think? How do you problem solve? How do you act in certain situations? How do you handle certain emotions? How do you express anger? Fear? Sadness? Joy? Really take the time to analyze yourself. Know how you affect others and how others affect you. This isn’t a one day mission, this is going to take some time. Keep a notebook with you or use the one on your phone and just jot down observations about yourself when they arise. Spend time with just yourself, away from the TV and internet. Practice mindfulness. Get to know yourself. Don’t make any judgements, just observations. You will evaluate each of them at a later time, but first just work on understanding how you operate.
- Understand why you are who you are
As humans, we are products of our genetics and products of our environments. Each one of our quirky characteristics comes from something in our pasts. Either we inherited it from our parents (or ancestors) or we learned it via our experiences throughout life. Now that you have your list of self-observations, go through them and determine why. Why do you act the way you do? What experiences made you into the person you are? For example, maybe one observation is that you are super organized. Why? Maybe you grew up in a home that placed a lot of value on cleanliness and so that is how your values have remained. Or maybe you lived in a home that didn’t place any value on cleanliness so as soon as you were on your own you corrected that value and maybe even overcompensated for it. If you take a deep look at each of your personality traits you will see they stem from something. A lot of times it’s a result of values held by society as a whole. For example, there is a gender characteristic taught to men that says they must remain “strong” and emotionless. This is taught to them when they are children. The world told them things like “boys don’t cry”. As a result, there are many men who don’t understand how to deal with their emotions and truly believe the right way is to suppress them and avoid them. The opposite holds true for women. We have this gender role that says we are way too emotional and thus our emotions are invalidated. We’re just labeled as “crazy”, therefore we grow up and become women unsure of ourselves and untrusting our emotions and intuitions. Both of these societal values are placed on children at very young ages and thus we grow up continuing to believe that they’re true. Unfortunately, those incorrect values stemmed from a lack of understanding of human emotions. Try to find the origin of each of your self-observations and you’ll notice that we hold a lot of predetermined outlooks and views that we did not create on our own.
- Understand who you want to be
Now that you know who you are and why you are that way, it’s time to decide who you want to be. Write down all the characteristics of the person you aspire to be. What are the weaknesses you want to strengthen? What are the character traits that are bringing harm and suffering into your life? What concepts and views are stopping you from finding happiness? Evaluate each of your self-observations and their origins and determine whether they are correct. Determine whether they are useful to your future and your growth. Discard all of the values and ways of thinking that no longer serve you. For example, many of us believe love means dependency. This is because as children this was true. We are helpless and must depend on those we love (our parents or guardians) for food and survival. As we get older if we don’t adjust this thought, we end up in relationships where we again depend on someone for our survival (either physical survival or emotional survival). We may find ourselves becoming needy or feeling like we need to be in a relationship to be whole. But that’s not healthy, nor sustainable. You won’t find inner peace and self-love down that route. Thus we have to shift that understanding into a new and more accurate one. Love is not needing someone, it’s wanting them. It’s knowing you are whole without them, but wanting to share your love with them. Don’t be a half to another half. Become whole and then find another whole. Love yourself first. In order to truly do this we have to rewire our brains and reconstruct the ways we view ourselves and the world around us. This takes time! But if you put in the effort, you will be able to find true self-awareness and true self-love.
It’s not only harder to have unconditional self-love nowadays, it’s more important than ever to acquire it. We are such beautiful creatures with beautiful minds and beautiful souls, but we let the material world get in the way of realizing that. You deserve to be whole. You deserve unconditional love. It’s time to give yourself what you deserve.