I’ve decided to dedicate the rest of August to some of the *hacks* that helped me develop self love. They are not in any particular order and certainly didn’t all start at one time with the purpose of learning to love myself. It’s really only in retrospect that I am recognizing their significance.
I used to argue with people who told me something good about me; sometimes out loud and sometimes just in my head. I see a lot of people doing this, so I’m sure it is familiar to you, too, but take for example a compliment about an outfit. Somebody says “I love that dress/outfit” or “you look amazing in [whatever it is],” and I respond “what this old thing? I literally only paid $1 for it on clearance at Goodwill (this would be a good place for hyperbole font, add it to the list of needs next to sarcasm font) and besides, look how it clings to my belly/makes my ass look/rides up when I bend over/[other insecurities here].”
Even if I left the house thinking I looked OK, I just thoroughly convinced myself that I look terrible in whatever I am wearing and become super self conscious about it, because for some reason I refuse to believe that the complimenter is being sincere/honest with me and I can’t accept an impression of me that doesn’t match the vision I already have of myself. I basically impose my own prejudice about myself on this poor, unsuspecting third party who was just trying to pay me a compliment.
And like I said, this isn’t exclusive to out loud conversations. I didn’t believe people when they would say they love me, or told me I’m smart, or worthy, or whatever else. In my head I would always respond “you only think that because you don’t know me that well, you don’t know how terrible I really am” or “I am not competent at this, I’m competent at pretending I am…” Once again, being so averse to the compliment that I spend the next several thoughts convincing myself that I am the actual worst.
I had this conversation out loud with my therapist once. She had said something about how she saw me as a bright light that attracts people. I could have gone blind from how hard I rolled my eyes about that, especially because I had felt for much of my life that people were always running away from me. So I explained to her how I knew I was absolutely no good and her response was “do you trust me?” If the answer was yes, then I had to believe that she was being honest about how she saw me and if the answer was no, she shouldn’t have been/couldn’t continue to be my therapist (because what’s the purpose of paying a therapist you don’t trust, amirite?!?).
I also experienced this again when I was in treatment. The women in my group knew ALL my worst beliefs about myself and they still loved me in the same way that I loved them, even though I knew all of their worst beliefs about themselves. Logically, if I really loved them, then maybe they really loved me. I still didn’t necessarily believe that what they thought about me was true from my own view, but I gave myself permission to trust them and their assessment of me, and to substitute it for my own. My own eyes were cruel and harsh towards me, in a way I would never be towards a person I loved.
Seeing myself through the eyes of those who love me, helped me learn how to look at myself as someone lovable. And once I saw myself as lovable, I was able to give myself love. Once I stopped arguing (inside or outside of my head) about how valuable, worthy, lovable, good I was, I had space to start believing more and more that what my most trusted friends and loved ones told me about myself was TRUE. And the more I believed it, the more true it felt. Neuropathways for the win. Again.
If you’ve been on a journey of recovery, discovery, or self love, I’d love to hear some of the things that have worked for you.
And hey, if you have a hard time trusting other humans, consider how your pet sees you. 😉 ❤
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