“Learning to love yourself, It is the greatest love of all” – Whitney Houston, Greatest Love of All
Learning to love yourself as the imperfect being you are sometimes ain’t easy to do, but do it we must for the sake of healthy personal relationships and our ability to make smart, healthy choices.
After all, if you can’t love and respect yourself, how can you expect others to do it?
And I’m not talking about vanity or narcissism, I’m talking about the kind of self-love that spurs you to make healthy life choices and treat yourself with loving kindness. Experts say developing a healthy level of self-esteem will help us to be less sensitive and more able to accept constructive criticism, express ideas in a calm way, be less dependent and more likely to have our needs met.
We’ll also inevitably be much healthier, happier humans, thus improving and strengthening our personal relationships. Maybe it’s a hard life lesson that comes in your 30s – at least, it was for me.
The minute I truly learned to be comfortable in my own skin and accept and enjoy my singleton status, I met my husband soon after.
Coincidence? I don’t think so. But it was a hard-fought lesson; instead of looking for someone to fill a void – a self-love deficit, if you will, as I had done in the past – I made the conscious decision to really work on developing my inner happiness and self-love on my solo journey.
A clinical psychologist, who wishes to remain anonymous, says our level of self-love is inevitably shaped by childhood upbringing and experiences, as well as personality traits.
“Life can be difficult for someone who has low self-esteem, for example: someone who doesn’t like him/her self, judges him/herself harshly and expects bad things to happen often. Expectations of negativity can be self-fulfilling, so if you anticipate that there will be lots of criticism and stuff-ups in your life, then these things will often happen. You’ll question your own judgement and will consequently make poor decisions that lead to negative outcomes,” she says.
“Conversely, if you have a healthy level of self-esteem, you’ll be able to face the challenges and difficulties that life throws at you in a positive way. You’ll have more faith in your own choices and decisions. You’ll be able to assertively stand up for your rights without being aggressive and without allowing yourself to be taken advantage of or pushed around. You’ll feel comfortable with who you are and like yourself, so you’ll be less susceptible to depression and anxiety.”
But how do we foster such self-love and inner confidence if it’s lacking? Here are some handy expert pointers:
- Be kind to yourself. If something goes wrong, don’t beat yourself up. Ask yourself what you could have done differently and determine to do better next time.
- Avoid people who pull you down – those who are critical and negative towards you. Seek out people whose company you enjoy and in whose presence you feel good about yourself.
- Give yourself positive messages, don’t self-criticise. If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself, such as: “I’m always messing up, I’ve failed again”, challenge this and change your thinking to something more positive like: “I’ve made a mistake, but what can I learn from this? How can I do better in this situation next time?”
- Learn to see difficulties as problems to be solved rather than catastrophes. Develop your problem-solving skills and you’ll have more confidence in yourself and your ability to cope with difficult situations, thereby developing your self-esteem as a result.
Of course, if this all seems too difficult to achieve on your own, seek help from a professional relationship counsellor or psychologist.
Images, in order, via www.thetruthaboutbeauty.co.uk; www.freespiritgirl.com and pixabay.com.