Why do we find loving ourselves so difficult? I think that is a good question, and it’s a question for me that has recently come up more and more.
After I hit my rock bottom at the age of 40, I started reading books, meditating, and trying to do something with my life, primarily to reduce my suffering.
‘Learn to love yourself’ was the one piece of advice that would keep re-occurring. If I wanted to reduce my suffering and to have any kind of freedom, I had to learn to love myself.
Great! That’s quite simple, right? I just simply need to turn some of this wonderful love, compassion, and understanding towards myself.
I am on it.
It wasn’t long before I realized that I had no idea how to love in a way that they were talking about. At one point, I was even questioning whether I ever loved anybody, that included my family and closest friends.
In a masquerading way of loving others, I really just wanted them to love me. It felt like the obvious thing to do when it’s clearly narcissistic was to go around loving yourself. So I thought.
To love myself did not feel right. It felt alien to what I was used to. It felt narcissistic, non-genuine, and ridiculous.
I did not want to be that person that enters the room, that loves themselves. You know that person that thinks they’re so special, that everybody’s head should turn, and the attention should be on them.
This is where I confess; the reason why they triggered me so much was because I would secretly enjoy that. Who wouldn’t? If we are really honest, we want to be seen. So, there is a part inside of me that feels awesome enough that should be loved.
I was comfortable when that love came from others, even if I still want to run away sometimes.
Later, I started to realise what love was, and primarily what love wasn’t. Love wasn’t what others could do for me. Love wasn’t feeling good when others were treating me well. Love was opening to differences, understanding others and having compassion; even when it was difficult. Yes, love means having compassion even when there’s a part of you that feels the person does not deserve it.
As my understanding of love deepened, I started to realise that loving yourself is not narcissistic.
It means going easy on myself when I make mistakes. It means going to bed and having a nice positive pep talk with myself rather than beat myself up for not doing what I should have done that day.
It’s not talking myself down, with the endless dialogue that we wouldn’t share or aim towards any friends (we have the conversation in our heads with ourselves all the time).
Be kind to yourself! That’s all! Nothing amazing or fancy about it.
It sounds really good and makes perfect sense.
As the mind continually works in the past or in the future, I found it increasingly difficult to love myself. Being kind to myself became increasingly difficult because I started opening up all the things I have done in my life.
Note that even without any unnecessary digging, the past still comes up one way or another when you’re on the genuine personal growth journey.
Think of things you’ve done that need forgiving.
Consider what you’ve done in the past, and you start to become familiar with the skeletons in your closet.
Freedom comes from dealing with your past so it no longer triggers you.
I remember when I used to cause suffering to people by saying something funny when I shouldn’t; I also remember a terrible 10-year-old me who stole tons of sweets from the local shop.
Holy damn! I’ve got a big ass closet.
‘How am I going to love myself, when I literally have a lifetime of events that I need to forgive myself for?’ This was the question I asked myself. I think this is the problem with loving ourselves; we see everything we’ve done, every little minor mistake that needs forgiving.
Loving yourself is opening old wounds for them to heal. It doesn’t necessarily mean revisiting or involving others; just understanding the lesson can be enough.
Loving yourself is having compassion and improve when you do something bad.
We are in our own heads, so we can see what’s there, see what we can feel, and witness the thoughts. But with others, we are only able to see minute-fraction of the mistakes they made.
This is why it is sometimes easier to love somebody else, even our perceived enemies than it is to love ourselves.
I’m learning to love myself, have compassion for myself, and understand that I am not perfect.
Loving yourself is really like loving somebody that you can see every aspect of their lives.
Additionally, we sometimes have this thought-pattern that we could have done better. This is not true. This is because most of the time, it is only after when we step back that we are able to see there was a better way.
The reality is that we all are human. And though we are unique, nobody is perfect.
I do believe that loving ourselves, if we are honest, is one of the hardest things we will ever learn to do but I strongly agree with the advice that we need to learn to love ourselves.
Instead of using the phrase, ‘loving myself,’ I prefer ‘I’m going to forgive myself more often. I’m going to be kinder to myself more often.’
For now, I feel more comfortable with that.
Let me know your thoughts on loving yourself in the comments below.
Much love, Steven
And here is the inner guided meditations podcast with the episode on loving your inner child which is a great place to start.