“I hate myself,” said the woman sitting in my office. This was a little hard for me to wrap my brain around, since she is one of the yummiest, most delicious people I know.
“What is so bad about you?” I asked her.
“Well, to start with, I am ugly, too fat, and incompetent. Cuz I am really actually stupid. And I am moody!” She said, as if that was the last nail in her Coffin Of Shame. She was literally drooping in the chair, totally despondent. I am not sure what image she had of herself in her head, but it sure wasn’t what I was seeing.
She is a gorgeous red head, with wavy hair and peaches and cream skin. Very Celtic Goddess. Incompetent? She runs her own business and a household with a couple of charming kids. She is smart as a whip with a funny, quirky sense of humor. And like the cherry on top of the sundae, she is warm, sexy and gives to charity regularly. Moody? I would have described her as passionate with deep empathy and wide range of feelings.
“Gee, hunny,” I said, “That is sure not how I see you.”
“Look at my hips! Fat!” Self-hatred was coiling off her like a poison. She was curvaceous in a Goddessy way, definitely not what you see in magazines, but fat? I don’t think so. It was obvious to me that we were not looking though the same lens. I wondered if she was still seeing herself as an awkward teenager, or from some other time-warped perspective, but she was not on the same realty page I was, that’s for sure.
It made my heart ache to see this stunning Goddess chick laid low but so much self hatred and low self esteem, buckled under an image of herself that no one else on the planet would agree with. I did the only thing I could. I brought out my mirror and had her look into it… Always a favorite exercise with my clients!
Why is it so hard to love ourselves, just as we are? Why can’t we even see ourselves except through the fun-house mirror of self loathing?
I certainly fall into the same trap. I think other people’s problems, wounds and shadow stuff are endearing, fascinating and part of the fabric that makes them unique. Your “stuff” is part of what makes you interesting. But my “stuff,” on the other hand, is just plain gross and icky!
It’s so easy for me to experience other people as being whole, and I am full of compassion for others but sometimes I feel broken and fragmented and struggle with judging myself. Learning to see ourselves as whole, unique and full of the Divine Spark takes a little practice, a little working at.
So, how do we actually love ourselves? I get this question a lot and it makes me sad that mostly we really don’t know how to be in a loving relationship with ourselves. Most people treat their pets, their friends, even their cars better then they treat themselves.
Part of the trick that I have learned is to begin to see ourselves as WHOLE. We are not perfect. We are wounded, and we have our rough edges, our still unconscious places, but we also have our LIGHT. We are a mixed bag, 50/50. This is so much easier to see in other people.
Think of someone you know and love really well. You can see their faults, right? You know they are not perfect, but you don’t stop loving them just because they have a slice of themselves that is still a work in progress. You can maybe even see how their being is a perfectly symmetrical and elegant system for learning and evolving. Their less then perfect parts are here to be healed and loved.
And that is true for you too!
If I were going to give a recipe for self love, it would look something like this…
A pinch of honest self-reflection. Take a good, long look at your wounds. It’s important to see the patterns that we are working through and looking back into the past for their point of origin frees them up.
A dash of insight. See your strengths and weaknesses as two sides of the same coin. Being emotional and empathic can be your greatest gift to the world, and being oversensitive can be your burden, two sides of the same thing.
Add a generous portion of compassion for yourself. We are all a work in progress, doing the best we can. We can easily dish up loads of compassion for others, but sometimes we struggle with finding any compassion for ourselves.
Ditch the Inner Critic. It spoils the recipe and makes everything bitter. Learn to talk nicely to yourself and catch yourself when you don’t. If you find yourself talking mean, turn it around and say the opposite. “You fat slob!” becomes, “You graceful beauty, you…”
Lighten up! Humor helps and taking yourself too seriously can ruin all your fun.
Now mix in just a hint of grace. See yourself as ALREADY whole and also simultaneously striving for wholeness.
Here is wonderfully heartwarming way to love yourself. Write yourself a love letter. Try it and see how much your heart will melt.
I just wanted to take this opportunity to let you know how much I really love you. I am sorry I am not always nice to you. I know I push you too hard sometimes and don’t appreciate you. You sure are a trooper though and I really love all the great things about you. You are really strong, sweet and smart too. I deeply admire all the very creative ways you move through the world. You are courageous, funny and really good at what you do.
Plus, you look marvelous these days, I just can’t take my eyes off you whenever I see you.
I know things have been hard for you lately and I just want to tell you I admire the grace and skill that you use to handle everything. And it’s ok to make mistakes, that is the only way we really learn, so feel free to fall on your butt as often as you need to. I’ll just be here to pick you up again.
Much love, your very best friend ever.