What are basic human necessities? Some include food, water, air, and shelter. These things we quite literally cannot live without. What if we told you self-love was a basic human necessity? Shocking, right? What is shocking about it is that individuals have difficulty with holding self-love to the same standard or importance as food and air. Why is self-love so difficult to attain? It’s said that loving yourself comes with facing what you may hate the most about yourself. A person very close to me once said “every morning when you look in the mirror, ask yourself ‘who am I going to make happy today?’” The answer is you!
Kindness Towards Ourselves
It is difficult to make “you” happy because we believe it all comes down to negativity bias. Many of us have received the message that life comes with struggles and we don’t all deserve happiness. We could receive this message due to neglect or abuse, someone telling us, or just a negative belief we have about ourselves. Plato wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”. So why not be kind to yourself? Who hasn’t dealt with betrayal, difficulties, or losses? Our belief is that Plato was not referring to others only. When he said everyone he was including yourself, too. Plato was on to something. He was highlighting that individuals growing up without enough acceptance or kindness would hold onto failures, mistakes, or shortcomings. Again, we ask the question why?
Finding Strength and Resiliency
Research says that our ancestors had an innate response and survival to avoid danger. Because of this, there was little value or survival in stopping to smell the roses. This all goes to say that we truly deserve happiness, through the lens of self-love. This is not an easy feat though because happiness is not entitled. We must create it. We can create it by finding fulfillment through finding the connection with our inner peace and happiness. Once we find that connection, we can then cultivate compassion towards ourselves. Someone may argue “but I take a bubble bath once a week and go for massages sometimes.” Although these things may help, the inner work of finding strength and resiliency is what is needed to have self-love.
How to Achieve Self-Love
Another key piece to this puzzle is feeling. In order to have self-love, one must feel the full range of emotions entitled to human beings. That’s a scary thought because that means the individual must face the music, feel the feelings and sit with their emotions. Is that okay? YES! That is taking the necessary steps towards self-compassion, self-acceptance, and self-love. Last question, how do I achieve this? Look to the following scenarios and skills to support the journey of self-love.
Next time you feel sad, hurt, or embarrassed, try taking a few slow breathes and notice the feeling. Allow your body to have an emotion and just simply notice the feeling.
Seek out professional help.
Stop comparing yourself to others. The only person you can be is yourself.
Don’t worry about others’ opinions. Remember that opinions are neither true nor false. They are someone’s thoughts and perceptions.
Forgive yourself when you make a mistake. You’re only human.
Don’t be afraid to let go of people that are not good for you.
Value comes from within. The way you look does not determine your value.
Process what you fear.
Take every opportunity life presents to you.
Put yourself first.
Do the things you enjoy.
See the beauty in the simple things.
Be kind to yourself.
Be patient with yourself.
We hope your takeaway from all of this is being motivated, empowered, and ready to start your self-love journey or continue on your path. Remember that you have survived this far and you will continue to thrive.
Forgiveness is not giving up nor is it admitting defeat. Forgiveness is about taking power back. Making a conscious decision to let go of resentments, pain, and anger. Some people are not ready to forgive and rightly so. What about victims of sexual assault and violence as well as people who have suffered physical, emotional abuse, and unearned shame? Is it not appropriate to feel rage or become victimized due to events that have happened directly or indirectly to us?
The Perils of Resentment
We can let suffering consume us. Suffering and resentments can control our whole worldview including our biases and attitude. When we look objectively at how our resentments have power over us, we can see how we engage in belittling ourselves. This can, in turn, increase our own self-loathing and even convince us we deserve it. Additionally, we act upon anger and allow it to dominate our actions and perceptions of the world.
Making a Personal Decision
Forgiveness can begin the process of emotionally disconnecting ourselves from the events and pain that we have used to define us. Forgiveness is not about forgetting. Nor is it about believing that what happened to create our resentments is acceptable. It is about making a personal decision that one does not want to be emotionally controlled by the events, memories, and perception of self that resentments manifest.
How Do We Forgive?
Some of us are ready to forgive. There are many ways to forgive and the least of all is giving the incomplete advice of “Just let this go.” Well, how? How do people “let go”? How do people forgive? For some it is a mere acknowledging that the incident(s) occurred, facing the emotions that arise, and stating forgiveness. Others need rituals or prayer to assist in maintaining the intention of forgiveness. Forgiveness can act like the tide of the ocean or the changing moon. Furthermore, our resentments can creep back in, even after we have made the conscious decision to forgive. In this case, one needs to repeat the action of forgiveness. Take a little more power back until the resentment has eventually been drained and the individual is free from that resentment.
It is our job to help foster forgiveness. More importantly, to help our clients answer the question of how to forgive. It is also not our job to push someone to forgive when they are not ready as those individuals may still need to be further defined or come to a better understanding or acknowledge lessons to be learned from the experience before they become willing and ready to forgive. Even if that lesson is to realize how much damage and influence these resentments have had in our lives, and then we can pose the question “Are you ready to let this go?”
Get comfortable and let’s try this guided meditation together: Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it, then blow out through your mouth. Do that four more times. Next, I want you to think of a time when you were younger and you felt like you needed someone. Think of where you were living at this time. I want you to picture this house you were living in. Stand outside of this house. Now, take a look around. For example, see the color of the house, notice the yard, the cars in the driveway. Additionally, listen to the sounds of the neighborhood. Finally, walk into your childhood house. Look around. Notice the pictures on the walls, touch the furniture, find your favorite knickknacks, smell all the smells. Walk around the house, trace the walls with your fingertips.
I want you to find your old bedroom. The door is closed. Behind that door is a younger you. A younger you who is having a hard time and needs someone. I want you to open the door to your bedroom and see your younger self. What does younger you need? Someone to hold you? To hug you? To tell you that everything is going to be alright? Do you need someone to make you feel protected? Safe? On the other hand, do you need to be seen? To be heard? To be told that you matter? Do you need someone to just acknowledge you and play with your toys with you? Or do you need someone to help you? Do you need to feel loved?
Spend some time with younger you, doing whatever it is you needed at that time in your life. Sit here for a few moments, holding space for your younger self to feel the things they so desperately crave to feel. After you have sat with younger you for some time, I would like for you to say “goodbye for now” to little you. Take one last look around your bedroom before you leave, closing the door behind you. Take a few last moments looking around your home, smelling the smells, and touching the walls. As you leave your childhood home and find yourself closing the front door, look around your neighborhood one last time. Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it, and let it out through your mouth. Come back to the present time.
Carl Jung and Inner Child Healing
Last week, during a group, we did this exact meditation with the clients. With Halloween being this past weekend, it was a perfect time to shine a light on those inner children. Candy, decorations, costumes, games, pumpkin carving. All things that tickle the kid in us! Carl Jung first proposed the idea of inner child healing after he examined his own childlike inner-feelings and emotions. When wounded, these inner children negatively influence who we are as adults, holding enormous power over our relationships and decisions. However, your inner child can also lend you strength. In fact, regaining youthful feelings of wonder, optimism, and simple joy in life can help with confidence and your well-being!
The Little You Inside
Your inner child is exactly what it sounds like. Specifically, little you inside of adult you. In other words, the you that comes out when you see a rainbow, go to a theme park, play a board game, etc. Everyone has an inner child. However, if your inner child is wounded, they may not feel safe enough to come out and play. Your inner child may feel damaged or forgotten about. “Inner children are the lens through which injured adults make their decisions.” The first step in healing your inner child is to acknowledge it is there (like any child) and that he or she is wounded. In fact, the harm done to your inner child directly correlates with the ways you feel unsafe in the world. For example, here are some signs that you have a wounded inner child.
A deep feeling that there is something wrong with you
Being a people-pleaser
Rebelling and feeling alive when in conflict with someone else
Being a hoarder
Not being able to let go of possessions and people
Experience anxiety with something new
Feeling guilty for setting boundaries
Driven to be a super-achiever
Being ridged and a perfectionist
Having problems starting and finishing tasks
Exhibit constant self-criticism
Feel ashamed at expressing emotions
Ashamed of your body
Having a deep distrust of anyone else
Avoiding conflict, no matter what the cost
A fear of abandonment
If you ignore it, your inner child can manifest in anxiety, depression, PTSD, emotional dysregulation, impulsivity, addiction, difficulty functioning, and isolation from others.
Allowing Ourselves to Heal
Our inner child wants to be happy, but we have to make it safe for them to do so. Try exploring new and old things in life that may excite and bring joy to little you. Additionally, allow yourself to explore these new or old passions with a childlike wonder and intentionally find ways to bring more laughter into your life. When we allow our inner child to come out and play, we allow ourselves to heal and be truly, genuinely happy from the inside out. So, whether you focus on the wounds or look for the glimmering sparkle of optimism and hope, let little you come out and play.
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