I love myself!
I can say that now but for many years I did not love myself. It would have been impossible for me to say those words. I lived most of my life with vague feelings of shame and unworthiness. No matter what I accomplished or how I lived my life, I felt a nagging sense that I was not good enough.
I spent a lot of time feeling bad about myself and even depressed. I felt bad about how I looked and the way I conducted my life. Many times I would look in the mirror critically and find physical flaws to focus and expand on. If I were given a compliment, I was uncomfortable and would secretly reject it. I always tried to be a good person, but I would review my actions or words and would find myself guilty of not saying or doing the right things. I practiced kindness and patience and doing the right thing but I always felt that I fell short. I was my own worst critic, as they say. I was harder on myself than I would ever dream of being to anyone else in my life.
I simply could not and did not love myself.
And then one morning I did something radically different. As I was getting ready for my day, rather than the usual critique while checking myself in the mirror, I just smiled at my reflection. I said to myself, “you look great,” shrugged my shoulders and went about my day. It felt good to leave it at that.
It felt so good, in fact, that I did the same thing the next day and the next. I then made a conscious decision to make this my new practice. Instead of taking a critical inventory of my perceived physical flaws, I told myself every single day that I looked great and moved on. Of course there were times when I would catch myself right in the middle of being self-critical. But now, I was aware of what I was doing. I could forgive myself, smile and move on.
I began to see that when I didn’t go through my day focusing on whether or not I looked tired, or fat, or whatever my perceived flaws were, I brought a more secure person out into the world. I could more easily connect with others with just my presence. My mind was no longer distracted by what I thought was wrong with me.
I used to believe that the flaws I’d focused on were precisely what others noticed. Whether that was true or not, I was the one who was focusing on myself in a negative way. I brought self consciousness and insecurity with me into my world.
But no more. Very soon, as I treated myself with love, I found that I could not say anything negative about myself. It began to actually feel wrong to be self-critical. This small step was the giant leap in learning how to love myself. I was learning to be kind to myself. In time, I began to see that I had been sabotaging my own life with negative self talk. I had insulted, judged and denigrated myself most of my life and I was finally over it. Now, I was learning that I could actually treat myself like someone I loved.
What a revelation! I then took my new practice a step further and even began to compliment myself. I told myself that I was good and, at some point, I began to be able to tell myself that I was wonderful.
I didn’t spend much time at it but I began to see my life change in ways that I never could have imagined. I was now treating myself with love and respect, and I felt better about the person that I brought to my world.
As loving myself became second nature, I found that it became easier to love others. I learned to give myself the same consideration and respect that I had always tried to give others. It was almost magical. My little epiphany began to have a domino effect in my life. I began to feel a deep trust in myself. I began to feel more secure in life and more confident in my actions. If I felt that I had fallen short in some way, I was able to forgive myself quickly and move on. I let go of the judgement of myself and the feeling of not being good enough.
I realized that I was always perfectly me.
After about a year of being kind and loving to myself, I found that I did not want to be around anyone who could not respect me. In the past, I would have been hurt by others’ disrespect but I would tolerate it nonetheless. Deep down inside, I would have felt that I somehow deserved it; after all, they were only confirming my own low opinion of myself.
Now that I began to love and respect myself, I found that disrespect no longer tolerable. It became easier for me to set boundaries with others. It became easier for me to walk away from anyone who could not respect my boundaries. I loved myself now and I could choose not to allow disrespect of any kind.
In short, l learned to love myself by completely eliminating all self-criticism. Making this one change became the first step on the most amazing journey of my life yet: the journey of self love.
And as I am more patient, loving and kind to myself, I am able to be more patient, loving and kind to others. Today, I am capable of allowing more love into my life because I know that I deserve it.
That is honestly something I never dreamed I’d be able to say. Today, I can say that I love myself.
Author: Michele Collier
Editor: Caroline Beaton
Image: Mikail Duran/Unsplash