Note: This is the first of a two-part series. Click here for part two
Dear Neil: I’m 54, and have had to face aloneness, fear and memories of childhood rape and emotional abuse. How do I become self-loving?
Trying to Heal in Wellington, New Zealand
Dear Trying: You don’t have control over how you grew up, which is where we form our original self-image, and where our lack of self-esteem and self-love are created.
But you’re now an adult, and you have the power to partly redo your self-image. Self-love is about being on your own side, believing in you and being friendly to you and what happens to you. It is about feeling worthy of achievement, friendship, love and respect.
In order to love yourself, you need to focus on what you admire and respect about yourself, rather than looking at all the negative traits you think you have. What do you like about yourself? What are your strengths as a person? A friend? A lover? A spouse? A family member? A parent? At work? At home? Socially?
What are the gifts, talents, skills, and good qualities you have? Where in life do you conduct yourself with honor and integrity? When have you risen to the occasion, helped other people out, done the right thing? What traits do you possess and admire and respect when you see them in others? What skills and abilities do you possess that are valuable in helping you to cope with the challenges life forces on you?
Author Nathaniel Brandon suggests that self-love consists of treating your thoughts, feelings and desires with respect. It requires you to live purposefully, figuring out what your life’s goals and purposes are, and going after achieving those goals. Furthermore, it is about you being on your side, caring about you and what happens to you. It is refusing to be in an adversarial relationship to yourself. More than just a feeling, loving yourself is about making a conscious decision to be your own best friend.
These are the first steps to loving yourself, and they are necessary before you’re going to feel worthy of someone else’s love.
I will continue this discussion in next week’s column.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
“Nothing is a greater impediment to being on good terms with others than being ill at ease with yourself.” —Honoré de Balzac