To Love Myself, I First Had to Know Myself
For most of my life, low self-esteem affected me in very tangible ways. It was hard for me to establish a real connection with people, and no matter how successful I became, I constantly questioned whether others respected me.
It took a cancer diagnosis, lots of inner work, and a lifestyle change to help me realize I needed to cultivate a genuine sense of self-love and confidence to feel better.
The Things We Do for Love
My lack of self-love had been at the root of my problems for many years. My total inability to set healthy boundaries was one such problem, and it drove me to overwork to the point of exhaustion. Deep down, I was trying to prove my worth by saying yes to endless tasks and always doing more than was expected.
In the context of my childhood, it makes total sense. I grew up without much affection, my father died young, and my mother was an alcoholic. The words "I love you" were never uttered at home, and I got my parent's attention by constantly trying to excel. My inner child understood I would never be worthy of their – or anyone's love without overachieving.
The same pattern was repeated in the workplace. I needed to be the best, a change agent, or always have the correct answer. There's a cap to how much abuse your body can take; mine decided to strike with cancer.
The Root of the Problem
While my childhood was at the root of my issues, most people find it difficult to completely love and accept themselves, regardless of their background.
Where did this epidemic of low self-esteem originate? It stems from our desire to acquire material things instead of looking within. We're so busy dealing with the outside world and all the excitement it offers that we have lost ourselves in some way.
This dissociation begins in childhood. Many school systems teach us everything about everybody else's opinions. But what happens to our own opinions, inner wisdom, and innate importance? It's not surprising that it's so hard to love ourselves when nobody teaches us who we are, and all we know is who we should be according to someone else's idea of happiness and success.
The Importance of Knowing Who You Are
To establish genuine self-love, begin by understanding the lovable person living inside your body. It's not until you start acknowledging your character, values, and deepest desires that you can start living a life that aligns with your needs.
Some questions you can ask yourself are, "Who am I? What's important to me today? What are my values? Who are the people I want to hang out with? What sort of work do I want to do? What's acceptable for me? What isn't?" Once you've clarified these answers, you will finally understand how to nurture and love your innate character.
Meditation as Loving Medicine
Meditation has helped me establish a self-love practice that allows me to recognize and appreciate my unique qualities. I consider meditation a form of self-love — a gift to yourself and the people around you. Once you're aware of your innate goodness, you can see the merit in other people. And when you feel good about yourself and acknowledge all you have to give to the world, you open up to sharing more of yourself with others, enhancing the quality of your life and everyone around you.
A Recipe for Long-Term Success
Other activities that help boost your self-love include nourishing your body with healthier foods and getting enough sleep. While the latter can be challenging, it's essential to enhancing how we feel about the world and ourselves.
I encourage you to write down three things you love about yourself every night. I do this every day and make a point to write something different each time. This way, I'm constantly pushing myself to focus on the goodness in me so I can always remember how lovable I am.
Prioritizing sleep is an act of self-love. Next time you feel you can't get rest, try this guided session Body Scan for Deep Sleep by meditation teacher Alison Hutchens.
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