Loving yourself

Loving yourself

For a long time, I thought that a person who enjoys being with themselves was narcissistic. My mum had been taught that self-love was self-centred and egotistical. She believed that single people were selfish. She did not know how to love herself, much less teach her children.

To compensate for my lack of self-love I sought happiness externally through people and experiences outside of myself. But this did not bring enjoyment. I walked a treadmill, pleasing others to make me happy. I was in a field of landmines, carefully watching where I stepped so no one was displeased and blow my happiness away.

Food was my go-to experience for happiness. Creating food and eating both distracted me from my pain and comforted me. However, it created other issues like obesity and poor health. Church was another method. Religion taught me to focus on an external God. Once again, I was on the treadmill, but now I was seeking to please him. My logic was that if I was good, if I did the right thing, God would be pleased and make me happy. God could never be within me; no good thing could live there.

I perfected ways of escaping myself. I was afraid of being alone, and of my own self. My emotions were unpredictable, and they frightened me. The pain within me could erupt without warning so I was not trustworthy.

Emotional pain and unrelenting self-criticism stopped me from enjoying my own company. The key was to stop, be, and face the pain and my self-depreciating attitude. This was hard to do. Up until that point, the only way I could face myself was in the presence of someone who loved me. Since I could not find permission within me to love myself, at least being with others who did love me gave me that permission. And in my self-love, I discovered real love and that was healing. Even if I could not love myself, there was love for me.

Understanding why I made the choices in my life was an important step in my healing. Contrary to what I had been told by significant others, my motivations were not evil, or selfish. Given my limited understanding and maturity at the time the choices I made were the best I could do. Instead of criticising myself I learned to validate what was good about me, listen to my needs and nurture me. Previously I had focussed on the needs of others in order to gain their acceptance. Now I could do these things for me without a mediator.

Enjoying my own company is now an essential element of happiness and contentment for me. I enjoy being alone and feel good about it. This time is precious and gives me fuel to love others in their pain. My relationship with myself is not perfect, but it is always improving. I have not eliminated my dreaded treadmill, but I do know the importance of alone time. Finding time for myself is a central part of self-care.

Learning to love ourselves is hard. It’s something I struggle with each day. What I have learned is that I do not need to cram my life full of things to do and it is not egotistical to enjoy being by myself. What I need is love. Love was my awakening experience. It gave me freedom to be alive.

Walking is my way of enjoying my own company. I find the rhythm of walking soothing and the connection with nature peaceful. It distracts me from stressful thinking patterns.

Naturally we want to be all that we are, but the only way to do this is to stop running away from ourselves. Stop denying what you fear about yourself. Cease looking at yourself with the eyes of judgement. Look at yourself with the eyes of understanding. Being fully alive involves accepting all that we are. Perhaps you are resisting because you, too are imprisoned by your pain. Slow down and ask yourself what motivates your busyness. Why do you need to be distracted? Share this with a trusted friend.

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