I remember the moment in 2005 that it struck me not only did I not love myself, I didn’t even like myself. Worse, I didn’t know where to even begin to change that.
This is where many of us get stuck in learning how to love ourselves. There are some many things we dislike and think need to change that until we do we aren’t worthy of love.
Good communication is a marker of a healthy relationship
Think about someone you love a lot. Do you stop loving them when this person does something you don’t like or agree with? Of course not. You might withdraw your love somewhat, but you do not stop loving them.
Even if there are things about yourself that you don’t like, you can begin the healing process and journey towards self-love. The same skills we would use to improve communication with someone we love, we can use on ourselves.
Listening is about presence as much as receiving; it is about connection more than observing. Curiosity powers generous listening. It requires vulnerability, a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity. You are trying to understand the humanity behind the words of the other and patiently summoning your own best self, most generous words and questions.
PATIENCE AND HUMILITY
Deeply connected communications is a long game. It requires a commitment to meeting the other where they are, not where we want them to be. Humility is not about debasing oneself but about approaching everything and everyone with a readiness to be surprised and delighted.
Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. taught a four-step process in expressing oneself:
- Observation: “When you (observed behavior)…
- Feelings: “I feel…”
- Needs: “because I need/value…”
- Request: (this should be actionable) “Would you be willing to…?”
- Ask what they heard. Sometimes what people hear is not what we meant and this is the best way to clear that miscommunication.
For example, when communicating with someone who lives with you it might look like this: “When you leave your shoes in the middle of the floor, I feel frustrated, disrespected, and worried because I need to know I can walk safely through the house without a trip hazard. Would you be willing to place them under the bench after removing them?”
In doing this process with yourself, imagine sitting face to face with yourself- the person who doesn’t love themselves and the person you want to be who does love themselves.
It might look something like this: “When you shut down and snap at people, I feel sad and isolated because I know that’s not what you really want, it just feels safer than being vulnerable. What I really need is for you to do is stay present. Would you be willing to take some breaths, excuse yourself for a few minutes if you need to, but stay present and do the hard work of practicing humility, generous listening, and patience?”
The long game
The journey towards self-love is one that is gradual and somewhat uneventful. At first, making the commitment to do the hard work of showing up for oneself is awkward and challenging, but eventually becomes habitual.
You may see glimpses of change along the journey, though not major observations. That is until one day a situation arises and you make such a vastly different choice than you’re accustomed to making and you realize it has come from a place of self-love. You’ll discover that you may not have completed the journey to self-love, but you no longer find yourself unworthy of love, you no longer loathe yourself, and you may even discover you’re starting to like yourself.