Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Love Yourself First - Your Most Important Relationship

Self-love is the love of oneself, being realistic and honest about one's strengths and weaknesses. To love yourself means caring about, taking responsibility for, respecting, and knowing your true 'self'. In order to be able to truly love another person, a person needs first to love oneself in this way.

Self-love is not the same as being egocentric or narcissistic. These traits are actually the opposite of self-love. People who don't love themselves project this false self-image out to others in order to receive the admiration they desire, but they aren't happy within.

"Self-betrayal is a grievous matter. It rots the mind like cancer. The remedy lies in clarity and integrity of thinking. Try to understand that you live in a world of illusions, examine them and uncover their roots. The very attempt to do so will make you earnest, for there is bliss in right endeavor.” ~Nisargadatta

This is true … to 'not' love yourself is self-betrayal. I had such self-hate that I spent much of my life battling depression, food issues, and lashing out at people … not letting too many people get too close. I simply did not have the tools or the know how to help me deal with my emotions.

I grew up in a family of six, my three younger brothers, and my parents Being the oldest and the only female, I was treated differently. However, my parents would and have disputed that. My parents favored my two youngest brothers. Nothing I said or did was good enough or right enough. I just never fit in. I became outspoken and rebellious , and out-of-control, until I couldn't take it any longer. So at seventeen, I packed up a few things and left.

By this time, my destiny seemed to be cast in stone, continuing through a life of unworthiness. I would look for love in all the wrong places, attracting relationships that were reminiscent of my family. I ended up in an eight year relationship with a man that was emotionally and physically abusive. I asked myself, why and what was it all for? In my early thirties now, I finally had hit my breaking point, and made the decision to end that relationship, more for my daughter than for myself. Nonetheless, this decision would be the catalyst that would change my life and myself.

It certainly wasn't an overnight transition. The years of building layer upon layer of self-hatred and self-sabotage, like rings on a tree trunk, now had to be peeled away. It's an ongoing process day after day, month after month, and year after year.

Looking back, I have no regrets. All has been forgiven. Everything that has happened in my life has made me the person I am today. I am a stronger person for it all. I refuse to shrink or make myself small for someone else's comfort or for people who refuse to grow.

So how does one go about transitioning from self-hate to self-love? Take one, two, or three things and work with it. A sense of accomplishment can also boost one's self-esteem. Trying to make a 180 degree turn all at once may become overwhelming.

1. Acknowledgement

Acknowledging how you feel about yourself and how you treat yourself is a good starting point. How you feel about yourself is shown to you in the world around you. The conflict outside you is the conflict inside you--they are not separate.

2. Forgiveness

Forgiving those who have hurt you is a key component to healing. Parents, caregivers, spouses, friends, etc. are dealing with their own childhood grievances and issues of self-hatred, projecting it out onto those around them. Forgive yourself! You did not have the tools or knowledge to deal with your own and everyone else's emotions.

3. Journaling

This is a great way to express yourself , helping you gain a new perspective, changing negative thought patterns, and stopping your inner critic from holding you back.

4. Meditation

There are many benefits to meditating. Resting your mind in silence and peace, meditation can help you become more aware, consciousness, bringing you into the body and strengthening the immune system. The body loves your attention … every cell awakens.

“In meditation, healing can happen. When the mind is calm, alert and totally contented, then it is like a laser beam – it is very powerful and healing can happen.” - Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

5. Creativity / Fun

Spend time having 'fun' … life should be enjoyed. Most of us have a passion for something. I had always admired people who could paint and wished that I could. I would tell myself that I can't draw, so I couldn't paint. Then a couple of years ago, I decided to at least try … the world won't fall apart. I looked up some videos on youtube, and I was off buying art supplies.

I'm no Michelangelo or Monet, but I thoroughly enjoy painting, and that's what counts. It's something close to a meditation for me. I can lose myself in it. You can view my video album of my 'artwork' here, if you wish.

6. Clean House

I find that having my house in disarray affects my mood. I put on some upbeat music and get to it. Once I'm finished cleaning I feel much better. Getting rid of stuff that you don't use is great for lifting your spirits too. I do this about once a year and have even found things I didn't even remember I had let alone didn't use any longer. Someone else could make better use of something that is just collecting dust otherwise.

7. Have a Cause

Find a cause that you are passionate about. It doesn't have to be anything grandiose, every small thing that we can do to help another can be a 'big' contribution. Small acts when multiplied by millions of people can transform the world. I am an animal lover, and I think I would adopt every one that needed a home if I could. I have recently started signing every petition that comes into my awareness. My one signature, in the end, may make all the difference for that particular cause. It's not a big thing, but I feel better doing something for another being.

8. Eating Right

I have recently become a vegetarian. I have to admit, however, that it wasn't for the health benefits, even though that is a big plus. I would often see these videos or information come through my timeline on facebook about the atrocities of which factory farm animals face, but could never bring myself to watch them due to my discomfort of 'knowing' what I might see. I was also aware of the guilt that was arising within me from avoiding the situation. So finally, I 'prepared' myself to watch a few of the videos, and it was after that when I made my decision to become a vegetarian.

9. Self-Discipline

Practicing self-discipline or self-control (staying motivated and on track) is a sign of inner strength and can be great for boosting your self-esteem. This inner strength will help you to overcome procrastination and provide will-power to overcome any addicting habits. (Still working on this one.)

10. Getting Enough Sleep

I think most of us are aware that if we don't get proper rest, we can become our 'evil twin'. We go through the day 'unconsciously'—being unaware and just going through the motions. We might do things without thinking it through, we become easily triggered in anger or other emotional outbursts. Getting proper rest makes for a healthy mind and body.

11. Being Alone Doesn't Mean Lonely

When I first got divorced, I felt 'embarrassed' about not being in a relationship, about going out and about by myself. Well, I gave those thoughts up long ago. What someone else thinks of me has no impact any longer. Most of those thoughts were created in my own mind anyway. And if someone does have issues with someone being alone, it is a reflection of their own insecurities. Spending time alone is significant in nurturing your relationship with yourself. As a matter of fact, it is crucial to spend time alone with yourself. How better to get to know the real you. I'm living my life happily and I quite enjoy my own company now. I don't have to answer to anyone, I can come and go as I please … I am my own person.

12. No People Pleasing

If you have plans or just don't feel like doing something … don't. We tend to want people to like us, or just don't want to rock the boat so we continuously put our own needs and wants aside. Most people won't appreciate your sacrifices. Some people will tend to think you should always be there for them without any consideration of you. You will, in all likelihood, tend to be the person who feels like they are being used or manipulated and you won't be happy. And when you do refuse to set your life aside, there is no need for explaining yourself.

We teach people how to treat us. If we don't have self-respect, neither will anyone else respect us. During the process of this transition, you will likely have family and 'friends' fall away out of your life. This has been the case for me, but as I mentioned earlier on, I refuse to shrink or make myself small for someone else's comfort or for people who refuse to grow. If someone wants to be in my life and treat me with the respect I deserve, they will be there … if not, they won't. I can only change myself, I have no control over anyone else, nor would I want to.

See also post on People Pleasing: Bad for Your Health.

Good luck on your journey of 'self' discovery and transition.

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