So many people I have worked with over the years have grown up in wounded families where there was abuse, neglect and poor modeling for loving and caring for oneself. It appears to be an epidemic in our society. I have been grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many people searching for their own healing and transformation. I am humbled by the strength of so many to survive, heal and thrive. Truly, I have been witness to miraculous recoveries from deep wounding and am honored to have provided the safe space for this to occur.
The gift of self love is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves. It takes us from a victim role to one of celebration where we can fully embrace ourselves and our lives. One of the greatest teachers of self love is Louise Hay who has given so much to all of us in the form of her writings, videos, and workshops. She wrote the classic book, “You Can Heal Your Life”. She discusses the power of loving yourself and has numerous exercises to support you in the process. One of my favorites is the mirror work where you look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you love yourself. This is a powerful process and takes time to get comfortable with it. She also provides numerous examples of how the power of positive affirmations can truly change your life as our thoughts and words create our reality.
Deep wounding can cause one to think many negative thoughts about oneself and the world at large. Common themes include not feeling good enough or not deserving. Other common thoughts include hating oneself and one’s body. They create an energy in us that brings us what we think. The power of working with our thoughts and using affirmations can be transforming in one’s life. Just think right now of how beautiful you are and you will feel the energy in you shift. Now think of how beautiful everyone around you is and again feel the shift inside. Think about how many wonderful opportunities surround you right now that are an answer to your deepest longing and prayers. Think about how good it feels to feel safe right now. It can go on and on and keep feeling better and better. Think about loving your body completely just as you are. This demonstrates the power of your thoughts to create your reality.
Years ago, I worked with a woman with Bipolar Disorder with Psychotic Features. She was on social security and lived a very frugal life. She read Louise Hay’s book and decided she wanted to work on her abundance. We wrote up affirmations and she placed them on her mirrors, cabinets, and in her car. Some time passed and she received a letter from Social Security stating that there had been an error and she was given a very large check. She was overjoyed and attributed it to her affirmations.
Another area of loving yourself is compassion. Compassion is so important when we experience deep feelings from the wounded places within us. The ability to be nurturing of oneself and comfort ourselves helps us to develop self love. Think of the times you have comforted someone else through a difficult time and this is something you can also give to yourself. Compassion takes practice when difficult emotions arise as we often wish to avoid them, numb them or push them away. Little by little one can build up the skills to comfort oneself through emotional pain giving rise to a transformation.
It’s important to develop self care tools and techniques for times when you feel challenged in self love. Self care varies from person to person and time to time so it is great to stay open to new and different ideas. Examples of self care can include a hot soak in a tub, curling up with a good book or movie, going somewhere in nature, writing in a journal, listening to uplifting or comforting music, painting, etc. It may be useful to make a list of all the needs that weren’t met for you when you were young and then set a plan to actively meet those needs now.
Another aspect of loving yourself is having healthy boundaries. Children who grow up in wounded families experience many different types of violations of their boundaries and this results in challenges with boundaries as adults. Often, these adult children are not even aware of healthy boundaries and this is where counseling and education are very helpful. Loving oneself means you know where , when and with who to draw lines with in your life about what is okay and what is not okay. It’s an inner knowing of what is healthy for you and what is harmful or depleting. It is a knowing that you deserve to be treated with kindness, respect and reciprocity. There is a balance of giving and receiving in relationships. There are also healthy boundaries with oneself such as living in balance, not abusing oneself or depreciating oneself. One example is constantly working and never taking time to eat a healthy meal or take a relaxing break. Another example is not giving up your sense of self in a relationship just to keep the relationship or make someone like or love you. Too often people lose themselves in a relationship, losing their sense of identity. They give up their interests or needs and wonder why they are depressed or angry all the time.
One quality I worked on with so many people is learning to trust yourself. It is so important to trust yourself and your inner guidance rather than always looking outside of yourself for what is right or for validation. Trusting your own inner guidance builds self esteem and confidence. No one will ever know you as well as you do. It is important to go inside and see what your perceptions are regarding any situation or person. What does your gut instinct tell you? What does your heart tell you about a given matter? Many people have great advice but always take it within to get a sense if this is true for you and you will feel more love and appreciation for yourself for doing this.
Another aspect of loving yourself is nurturing your dreams and being creative. We are all creative but many people have thoughts and beliefs that they have no creativity and never try to open up to that part of themselves. Inside each person are wonderful dreams and ideas just waiting to be explored and expressed. Some people believe they don’t deserve to have their dreams fulfilled but the dreams live on inside. Love yourself enough to take those dreams outside and look at them again. New ways of living those dreams may pop up or an opportunity may show up to put the dreams to use. In the movie, “Last Holiday”, the character played by Queen Latifah had her own book of possibilities that she placed pictures in of her dreams. She then works on some of them and they come true! What small step can you take towards your dreams?
Another aspect of loving yourself is seeing the beauty of you and the world around you. Beauty fills us with love and feels great. Wear clothes that make you feel beautiful and let go of that which does not make you feel beautiful. Bring beauty into your life through artistic expression. See your own beauty inside and out.
Forgive yourself for everything you ever did or didn’t do and keep doing it until you have cleared it. Ho’ponnono is a Hawaiian practice to clear everything. It is simply saying, ” Ii am so sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you”. Just keep repeating it until you feel peace. Write letters that you don’t have to send either asking for forgiveness or granting forgiveness. You will find this is a powerful emotional cleansing process. It doesn’t mean someone is excused, it just means that you are not willing to carry the burden of those painful feelings inside you and that you are choosing peace and love.
A strong spiritual practice also helps promote feelings of self love. There are numerous religions and spiritual practices around the world and so specific practices pertain to each area. However, prayer is speaking to the divine and meditation is listening. Many people talk but the key is to listen.
Exercise builds a sense of strength and connection to one’s body. Many people wounded in childhood are experiencing some level of disconnection from their body. Exercise strengthens the connection. Exercise also enhances one’s mood. There are numerous studies showing how exercise can alleviate depression. It is also helpful to receive bodywork as a means of self love and building the connection of body, mind and spirit.
Many adults who were wounded as children have disconnected themselves from their inner child, the one who was wounded. It is very important to give this part of oneself love and can be a significant part of the healing process. Playing and doing activities once enjoyed as a child can be very healing. Activities can include playing outside, coloring, swinging on a swingset, painting, singing songs, etc.
In the end, love is truly all that matters. I hope this has been helpful and I send you wishes for waves of self love now and forever.