Updated: Nov 26, 2019
Self-love is something many of us struggle with. I recently posted an IGTV video on self-love and was inspired to put it into writing as another supportive tool for this concept because it’s THAT important. Even though we may have some positive ideas about ourselves like our skills, talents, or characteristics, it can still be a struggle to really FEEL that deep love for the person in the mirror. When we truly love ourselves, we ACCEPT ourselves for who we are, quirks, faults, and all. What gets in the way of self-love?
Many things can create barriers to experience this, often those challenge first began early on in life. Childhood experiences can be powerful. They’re powerful because it’s when our brains are still developing. Each and every day of our childhood and adolescence, our brains are forming new connections, wiring others to become stronger, and unwiring ones that don’t seem needed or really fit.
For some, they experienced constant positive feedback from those around them and able to develop a positive self-concept. For others, they may have seriously lacked positive reinforcement related to self-identity. Perhaps, they experienced lack of feedback from what is often the most significant system in our lives, their family, or maybe it was their academic or peer group. It may have even been the societal norms displayed on tv, movies, or in magazines. It could even be in adulthood after going through a toxic or abusive relationship. Wherever the message originated, it got stuck. It was internalized, hard-wired on a deep level, and hard to change. So what do we do?
In order to change it, we have to understand how the brain works. The goal, not just with self-love but really any meaningful life shift, is to create new neural networks. The best way to do this is through continuous experiences and conscious awareness of said experiences. If we’ve been bombarded with a negative message about ourselves for years and years, saying “I love myself” only when we feel bad after something has triggered that self-doubt isn’t going to do the job. It might combat it, but that feeling still remains in the pit of our stomach. We need to cultivate repeated instances.
We can do this in a few ways. Think of it like playing an instrument. Aside from sheer innate talent, those most proficient have practiced for a long time. This discipline helps them to fine-tune their craft. Your brain is the same way. One of my favorite ways to cultivate self-love is through affirmations. Affirmations are verbal expressions we make to ourselves. They are most powerful when we say them out loud. Why? Because the act of verbalizing words uses not only cognitive linguistic skills but motor skills as well.
The more elements we incorporate in the learning process, the more likely it will be stored in long-term memory, creating new, stronger and more adaptive networks. Try practicing saying a self-love affirmation at least once a day repeating the statement multiple times, for a minute or more. Aside from affirmations, consciously taking time out of your day to be loving towards yourself can reinforce self-love. What does this look like? Self-care is one way. Again, the key is to identify the physical act as an act of self-love before, during, and after. It also doesn’t hurt to exercise gratitude for yourself after practicing an act of self-love. Remember, like anything, it takes time so be gentle with yourself if it feels uncomfortable or even a bit phony. You can get there. That’s it!
*If you’ve already been actively practicing these for yourself for a while and feel it really hasn’t helped or find memories of certain times continue to come up that are disturbing and/or make you not just dislike but maybe even hate yourself, it’s possible there is some trauma work that needs to be done to remove the block to self-love. Working with a trauma specialist can be life-changing for something of this nature. Click here to read my last article on effective trauma therapy.