Is it true that you need to love yourself before you can love someone else?
First of all, it feels like a should, as if you can’t expect to really find the love you want until and unless you “love yourself”.
I mean, what does “loving yourself” mean anyway?
How do you get to the place where you “love yourself”?
I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure I may never reach the “loving myself” destination where I’m loving myself all of the time. I’ve done a lot of personal growth work to try to get there, as I’m sure you have.
It seems like an impossible and unachievable ultimate goal.
But what if the destination of “loving yourself” all the time doesn’t exist and there is really only the journey that we’re supposed to experience?
What if the best we can do is truly feel love for ourselves for moments of our lives?
And the rest of the time we’re somewhere in the “liking” ourselves or ‘appreciating” ourselves zone, or “accepting” that as humans we’re flawed by design so we can learn through trial and error.
What if we came here to learn to love ourselves just as we practice loving others without judgments or conditions, knowing that we can’t be perfect in relationships and neither are others?
Have you noticed that judge in your head? That sinister voice that tells you
you’re not enough
you’re not good enough
(tall enough, attractive enough, slim enough, young enough, smart enough,....)
you’re not lovable
you’re never going to be successful
you’re a failure
you’re an imposter
you’re a loser…..
You get the picture. Those are just some of the things this judge says to us every day all day long. I call my inner judge, the “mean girl”.
An inner judge has been in your head your whole life and it’s skilled at scaring you. It shows up in your family relationships, your romantic relationships, with your children, friends, co-workers, in your career, at work and in everything you do in your waking hours.
The judge's original function was to keep you vigilant for any dangerous situations, predators or being separated from your tribe, for example, so you could take action to stay safe.
Today, it’s effect on you mostly scares you, stresses you out, destroys your confidence and self-worth and sabotages you in anything you do.
As long as we have that inner judge (unfortunately, we can’t evict it and believe me I’ve tried; that only makes it stronger), there will always be a conflict between our desire to be better at loving ourselves and the judge who is judging us, other people and all the circumstances in our lives.
In a recent talk I gave, I led a group of professional women through a process that I’ve come to love.
What this exercise does is it accesses the right side of your brain, where creativity, wisdom and emotions reside. This side is the Jedi side of your brain, while the judge is the Darth Vader side (or the left brain which is the logical and cerebral part).
When you strengthen your ability to have compassion for yourself, you develop new ways of perceiving yourself. From there you can develop more patience, acceptance and understanding for yourself and this leads to greater self-confidence, self-appreciation and even, dare I say, that elusive self-love.
This exercise helps you intercept the inner judge while it’s beating you up, right before it starts or even when it’s stealthily sabotaging you in the background with disempowering thoughts. It helps you shift to remembering that you can have empathy and compassion for yourself, just as you would towards an innocent child.
Here’s how to do this exercise to build empathy and compassion for yourself. In the process, you will notice feeling more patient, compassionate and accepting of others as well.
Find a photo of yourself when you were a child between 2 to 6 years old.
From the perspective of a stranger looking at this child for the first time, look at the child’s face, looking into the eyes and identify the qualities of this little being. Are they playful, curious, intelligent, loving, joyful, gregarious or sensitive? List as many qualities as you can see.
Next, write the words I AM at the top of a sheet of paper. Add the qualities you just identified and then continue adding all the qualities you’ve learned about yourself.
Then add your skills, talents and capabilities. The list you’ve created under the “I AM” contains your true essence as a human being. At your core, this is who you are.
Keep this photo where you can look at this child every couple of hours, especially when you notice the judge showing up in your mind. Think about how you would show compassion and empathy to this precious innocent child and ask yourself “how can I be compassionate and loving towards myself today, just as I would be to this child? In what situations can I show empathy towards myself and give myself the loving encouragement I would give this beautiful child?
Let me know how you are showing yourself more compassion as you use this exercise!
With a universe of love and support for all your heart’s desires,