How do you learn to love yourself in a world which constantly compares you to other people.
A world that from the get go compares your development to that of someone else. This may be a sibling, a cousin, or a friends child, and all before you reach the school gates. What if your parents don’t love themselves, what if deep down the messages you receive are those of guilt, shame, unworthiness and self loathing. Having spent the last 40 years in the world of mental health and ill health I know the consequences, the fall out and the sheer heart break experienced by people who are for whatever reason, unable to love themselves. So how do we facilitate, foster and encourage self love…
It’s important to explain things to children, babies understand when you say no in a firm voice with a serious expression on your face. If you shout or smack them, they may feel as though they are bad, even unlovable, that there is something wrong with them. Over time this feeling can become integrated so that it feels part of who they are, part of their inner script which drives behaviour
and may look something like this: work hard, do better, try harder, fit in, be good.
As children we are socialised from an early age to conform to the rules of our tribe. I accept that discipline without rules is probably impossible, yet with love at the heart, rules and clear
boundaries can be introduced without wounding.
Every day I see wounded children stumbling through life afraid to assert themselves for fear of rejection, abandonment and humiliation. It may have been normal for you to be shamed, ridiculed and humiliated, for making mistakes or when you were unable to do something.
When I was at school there was an overriding culture of humiliation. Test results were routinely read out in front of the whole class, followed by interrogation. Teachers took delight in the power and control they wielded over us. Bullying was common place and so much part of the culture,
we didn’t question it. Most of us tried to fit in, to adapt in the hope that we would be accepted. Some became almost invisible in the process in order to survive and lost sense of true self. A bullying culture inevitably fosters bullies and no doubt some of those student bullies went on to bully their own children.
Children need time and love. They are highly intelligent and need to know the reasons why things are imposed on them, especially rules. It’s not easy, being a parent is the most challenging and responsible job in the world, it regularly brings up old unprocessed insecurities and wounds from childhood. As we become parents, many of us haven’t yet learned to look after ourselves,
let alone love ourselves.
In 2022 in spite of increased awareness and promotion of mental health, many of us still don’t know how to integrate mind, body and spirit. There is no conscious awareness or recognition of the inextricable nature of mind and body. We fail to realise that emotional wounds inflicted in childhood, do not go away of their own accord. Healing is possible, yet how do you heal from something you don’t know is there, when you fail to recognise wounds, even when triggered.
Connection between the the original wound and a current event cannot be made when it is out of conscious awareness.
Of course the majority of parents do not set out with the intent of wounding their children. You can only parent based on your own experience and what you happen happen to pick up along the way. If you are fortunate to have a loving family of origin, where you were and are allowed to express emotion freely or have been in therapy with a skilled practitioner, you will have insight and may have developed a wide range of skills and strategies for dealing with people, things and situations which push buttons. You may also have accepted things about your past and been able to let go of anger, resentment, bitterness, shame and guilt.
Learning to love yourself is a right of passage. It doesn’t matter how old you are when you reach this realisation. You may be in your 20’s thinking of having a child of your own, you may be in your 40’s wanting to make progress in your career yet feeling thwarted. You may be retiring from work wanting to open the next chapter of life liberated and free. You may be facing death, wanting to make peace with the past, with yourself and with lifelong demons.
It’s never too late. Change happens in an instant even if some of the wounds take a little or a lot longer to heal. Emotional wounds are more challenging to heal than physical ones as we often fail to acknowledge them. As a society, we don’t talk about healing the unseen. My hope is that one day this culture will shift. Until then, we can encourage self awareness and self examination, a recognition and acknowledgement of the wounds of the inner child and tend them with love. It’s about unlearning and relearning. Letting go of old scripts and beginning to tell a different story, when you do this, healing begins.
With Self Love at the heart, forgiveness is always possible, it is the ultimate agent for healing and
a pathway to inner peace. When we love ourselves, there is no need to compete aggressively, our tendency is instead towards co operation and collaboration, helping others rather than feeling threatened by them or their success. The ripples of this action move into the wider community where there is capacity to develop compassion for others as we feel it for ourselves. It may even
be possible to forgive parents who struggled and ultimately did the best they could with what they had, which this is all we can ever ask.
A few minutes a day in the Self Love gym will ultimately make the world
a happier, healthier and much more peaceful place. From my heart to yours, go well