In another lifetime, I attended a meeting of something called Insight (don’t think it exists any more), which is when I first began to pay attention to the concept of loving oneself (shouldn’t that read ‘one’s self’?). The first question the facilitator asked was, “Hands up anyone who had enough love from their parents?” In a hall full of well over 500 people, only two hands went up.
For all my initial skepticism (this was so American) I came out of the all-day session feeling elated and three feet off the ground. Not that it had anything to do with loving myself. I don’t think.
Since then a lot of things have happened in my life, many of them bad, though not all. I sought help for a drinking problem. (It’s called alcoholism and it’s a disease and it’s the best thing I ever did for myself. Ever.)
A lot of work with a lot of help. A lot of pain and a lot of tough-love help. One of the things it was suggested I do was to look at myself in the mirror and tell myself I loved me. In the beginning I felt ridiculous, yet gradually it began to take effect. I shaved in front of the mirror for the first time in 35 years. Shaving in the shower used to ‘save time’ and, less self-evidently, avoided my having to see what I had become, to look myself in my own eyes.
People were always telling me to love myself. And I know a lot of people who get told that all the time. So how to go about it?
Following are a few ways gleaned from several experts. I have read all of them and absorbed as much as I can (main sources are listed below). I have also added my own experience to the mix. Just so we don’t all get bored, this item is divided into two parts. Stay with me.
Let’s start with what Psychology Today suggests in a list of only three steps, or things to do. In my research I have found lists of up to 32 of them (!); if only everything in life were as easy as 1-2-3…34. Here’the shortest list I found.
- Care as much about yourself as you do for others.
- Maintain your boundaries.
- Do what you need to do to be you.
Each of these has an explanation of how it, and presumably you, evolve. A what-to-do list, in essence. Several key words here: Care, Others, Boundaries, Be You. We’ll look at them later.
The key to it all is to get into action.
To do it, not just read about it.
If all you’re going to do is read this, I suggest you stop right now. I’m sure you have better things to do, so don’t waste any more time. Maybe come back another day.
I actually did sit down in front of a mirror, which meant getting into action, for which I was not well known. A lot of retained pain poured out as I carried out the exercise. I cried a lot on several occasions doing this. That is also getting into action and is also a re-action.
If on the other hand you feel the need to GET INTO ACTION, change your position to one more comfortable. Lie back, take a deep breath and carry on reading. You’re already getting into action.
Deepak Chopra, for whom I have a great respect and whom I found very ‘technical’ and ‘religious’ when I first began reading him (I appreciated him more when I was finally able to separate religion from spirituality, but that’s another article), has a list of seven steps, or 7 Ways to Love Yourself Unconditionally. Notice that last word; we’ll look at it later. Here’s his list:
Step 1: Making contact with your inner self
Step 2: Honestly facing your inner obstacles and resistance
Step 3: Dealing with old wounds
Step 4: Forgiving your past
Step 6: Forming relationships where you feel loved and appreciated
Step 7: Practicing the kind of love you aspire to receive
Aside from ‘unconditionally‘ there are several other key words in there: Inner self, Honestly, Dealing With, Forgiving, Relationships, Practicing. More on them later, too.
In truth, all the experts have the same message and there is little difference between them, only in the way in which to achieve the love you seek for yourself.
One of the best explanations I have seen comes from MindBodyGreen, in which the author, Margaret Paul, offers The Six Steps of Inner Bonding. Now, If I hadn’t been into this kind of thing for as long as I have, I would find the title more than I wanted handle. Inner bonding? What’s that? Here are her steps:
1. Be willing to feel pain and take responsibility for your feelings.
2. Move into the intent to learn.
3. Learn about your false beliefs.
4. Dialogue with your higher self.
5. Take the loving action learned in step four.
6. Evaluate your action.
Key words and phrases: Willing, Pain, Responsibility, Feelings, Intent to learn, False Beliefs, Higher Self, Loving Action, Evaluate. Wow! Powerful words I prefer to call Key-key, rather than just Key, they’re that important. Which one do you think might the most important one?
In Part 2 we’ll get down to some practical things and we’ll look at all the key-key words and phrases.
There’s no point in advising someone to do something when they haven’t a clue where to begin — as I didn’t when I started.
I am really looking forward to it, to sharing what little I know added to others much more expert than I who also want to share. See you here next week.