Loving Ourselves, Hating Ourselves
How well do you like yourself? Which of the following statements best represents your relationship with yourself?
I absolutely love myself.
I’m okay, but I really get on my nerves sometimes.
I have more things I dislike about myself than I love about myself.
I hate myself.
If you are like a lot of people, it is really hard for you to agree with the statement:“I absolutely love myself.” Many of us learn early on to be very critical and unloving to ourselves, and we do not often learn skills that help us to be good friends with ourselves. Because of this, we miss out on one of the most important friendships of our lives: our friendship with ourselves.
Since we are the closest person to us, our friendship with ourselves is actually extremely important, and it causes us a great deal of pain when we do not understand how to be friends with ourselves. On the other hand, when we learn to be good friends with and love ourselves, this can be a source of profound healing, peace, and encouragement. It can solve a lot of our problems.
I struggled a lot of my life understanding how to be a good friend to myself. In fact, for most of my life, I would say that I acted like an enemy to myself. Even though I did not realize it at the time, my inability to be a good friend to myself caused me a great deal of sadness, loneliness, and pain, and anxiety:
It also made it really difficult for me to be a good friend to others, too. I think many people struggle with these same issues. The good news is that being friends with yourself is a skill you can develop through certain practices and habits.
One of the most important things you can do to become a good friend to and cultivate love for yourself is to think of yourself like a little child (I know this sounds a little weird, but keep reading).
I love to see people around very little children and babies. Babies usually bring out the best in everyone, and people love to shower babies with love, gentleness, affection, and encouragement. When babies are sick, afraid, or tired, we shower them with care and compassion.
Have you ever heard someone say to a baby, “What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you as good as the other babies? You need to get your act together. You need to be more attractive.” It is possible that someone at some time has said this kind of thing to a baby, but generally speaking we would never even dream of saying this kind of thing to a baby or a little child.
Why? Because we realize that babies are beautiful little vessels of love, potential, joy. What they need to develop this is love, nurturing, care, protection and encouragement. They do not need harsh words and criticism. In fact, we recognize that these types of behaviors can actually prevent babies and young children from gaining confidence and flourishing.
Unfortunately, as people get older we tend to shift from nurturing, encouraging, and comforting modes of relating to them, and we start to relate to them in harsh, critical, demanding modes. We criticize each other for all of our perceived flaws. We criticize each other for not meeting our expectations. We are harsh and mean to one another and treat each other as objects to be manipulated to get what we want. We forget the beautiful light of love, goodness, and joy that we were all born with, and we treat each other in ways that squelch this light, rather than nurturing it.
We do this to ourselves, too. We criticize our perceived flaws. We criticize ourselves for not meeting our own expectations. We treat ourselves as an object whose goal is to win attention, fame, money, and success, rather than realizing that we are still the beautiful baby we once were (we’re just grown up now), and we still have our light of love, goodness, and joy that needs to be nurtured and cultivated.
To cultivate our light, we need to treat ourselves more like we would a baby (generally speaking).
In my next post I will look at how we can do that in the next to suggestion for becoming a better friend to ourselves. Today, imagine yourself like a beautiful little child and treat yourself accordingly.