If you grew up in an abusive environment, or were with an abusive partner, then your brain has been wired so that you likely do not feel very good about yourself. In fact, your self-esteem and self-confidence will be in tatters and you will believe you are responsible for other people’s mistakes and misdemeanors. You will have learned how to be your own worst enemy and your inner critic will be having a field day telling you how awful you are.
The good news is that it is possible to reprogram your brain and with consistency and commitment to the process, you can actually grow new neural pathways that follow much healthier and more self-loving patterns of thinking.
Here’s how to do it:
Learning to love yourself is an art that can and must be cultivated in order for you to live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life, particularly if you have grown up in an abusive environment or been in an abusive relationship.
You may not have known it in your past but you have every reason to start living a life filled with positive thoughts and emotions, and hence beliefs and experiences. You are ultimately in control of what you believe in.
Since they are beliefs (and not absolute truths), why not choose to believe in something that makes you feel good about yourself? It takes practice, dedication, and commitment, but it can be done!
We live in a fear-based world. We are taught to “do as you would be done by” or to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Yet in the next instant, we are told that thinking of ourselves, of putting ourselves first, is “selfish.” On top of these contradictory and confusing messages, we often receive the message as little children that we are “not good enough” or that we are “unlovable.”
We can be our own worst critics and may not even be aware of how hard on ourselves we are being. Our internal automatic negative thoughts become unconscious; yet they have a power that is not to be underestimated. They can lead to low mood, depression and anxiety.
There is hope, however. With commitment and practice, it is possible to discover these negative automatic thoughts (NATs) and to transform them into thoughts stemming from kindness, compassion, and self-love. Our thoughts are so powerful that they can change our chemical make-up.
Here is a simple meditation exercise that you can do that will transform within minutes the way you feel about yourself. Try it and see for yourself. Notice how you feel before you do the exercise and notice how you feel afterwards.
With consistent practice, you can truly change your most important relationship: your relationship with yourself. Then you can watch how your relationships with others transform for the better as you experience the power of loving yourself.
Notice how your inner state has transformed. Tell yourself a positive statement such as “I am worthy of love”, or “I am loveable exactly as I am.”
The above meditation is a version of the ancient Taoist Inner Smile meditation as taught by Master Mantak Chia. It is one of the most foundational practices for developing self-love and as Master Chia himself says, “Love heals.”
Registered clinical counsellor Elizabeth Morelle says that this, combined with the practice of changing negative thoughts as they arise can be very health giving. “It is an investment of time that is well worth the effort,” she says.
Changing negative thoughts is one aspect of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT has been found in studies to be at least as effective as medication in reducing symptoms such as pain and negative mood in patients with fibromyalgia.
Loving yourself is an art that can work wonders for your self-esteem, your confidence, and your overall well-being.
Let me know how loving yourself changes things for you!