Do you love yourself? It’s a question that I thought I knew the answer to until I learned what love is. The topic of self-love is something that I have been researching and thinking about for a long time. Especially been a male self-love is something that is very foreign and seldom talked about in the male world. So being curious I searched on YouTube about self-love and found that people usually said things like taking care of yourself, being your best friend, standing up for yourself, etc.
While they were all 100% correct I just felt that there was something deeper missing. In my book, I touch on this topic but for the sake of this blog post, I will give an in-depth description of what self-love is and how to display it.
This thing called Love
I recently read a book called “ Running on Empty; Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect by Christine Musello and Joncie Webb. The book is very insightful yet deep at the same time. The authors of the book talk about the concept of emotional neglect. The word Neglect means to give little attention, respect, or even disregard (Musello & Jonice, 2013). The book talks about the negative consequences on people when they become emotionally neglected especially from an early age.
Emotional neglect is not about what happened in your childhood or past but it is about what did not happen. Emotional Neglect is an invisible yet powerful force that hides. It is the white space in the family picture. Many people go the therapy, counselling, and other interventions to take away their depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and destructive behaviors yet make no progress.
They cannot understand why and neither can the psychologist or the professional assisting. Sometimes the reason is because there was something that did not happen . How so? The child that was never allowed to express certain emotions so they grew up thinking emotions are bad so they bottle them up, or the child who had emotionally and physically unavailable parents because of their work so they were never shown attention and affection they needed. Maybe something bad happened at school but the parent was unable to attend to the child.
The child grows up thinking they are unimportant and that they do not matter. These are just are few examples of how a child can be emotionally neglected with devasting results on their well-being when they grow up. However, when we look closely what did not happen was that the child did not feel loved. There is a difference between knowing you are loved and feeling that you are loved. The child may know that they are loved but they did not feel loved when they needed it the most.
When love is not present or at least when we do not feel like it is present it leaves us empty, hurt, depressed, confused, hostile, and many other negative emotions. As much as we want love and we want to love other people we need to learn to love ourselves first. You cannot give what you do not have. You cannot also receive love if you do not think that you deserve it. Many people in this world do not love themselves.
They treat themselves with hate and frustration and project it to other people and the world. The person that is toxic is also toxic to themselves. The person that is hateful, angry and bitter is also hateful and angry to themselves. That is something that I have noticed. I will admit that I do not know everything about love as I am still learning but I have learned a lot. I believe that the following three points will help you love yourself better.
Stop doing what hurts you. Start doing what benefits you
We all have those habits that we do which we know are bad for us yet we still do them. For some, they may have an addiction they are struggling with or struggling to admit yet they do not make the necessary steps or actions to improve. For example the alcoholic that knows his drinking hurts him and his family yet he does not do everything that he can to stop his addiction. Whether he knows it or not he is hurt himself.
On the other side of the coin, we all know what we need to do. The good habits that we know we need to implement, the changes we need to embark but yet we sometimes fail to do those good things and we do the destructive, toxic, and unhealthy behaviors. This does not mean we must be perfect because that will not happen. There is no such thing as a perfect parent but there are good parents that try their best and that is more than enough. What I am simply saying is to try to be good to yourself. Stop doing what hurts you and start doing what benefits you. Your future self will thank you.
We all have heard of the word unconditional. Oxford Dictionary says unconditional means not subject to any conditions. Unconditional self-acceptance means accepting yourself without any conditions. It means accepting yourself for who you are, flaws and all. Many of us have this inner voice that criticizes and judges what we feel, how we feel, what we want, and our desires harshly. The thing is by not accepting ourselves for who we are we reject a part of ourselves. To accept something does not mean to like it. We all have flaws or weaknesses do we do not like but that does not mean we cannot accept them.
To practice unconditional self-acceptance, you need to understand that who you are, what you feel and do is you. This does not make you neither good nor bad it is just you. If there is something that you don’t like about yourself you can always change it. For example, you may not like the fact that you do not have self-control and lack discipline. You can learn to become more industrious and disciplined. It does not mean that you have to like or stay that way but it does mean that if order for you to make the necessary changes to need to accept it first.
Become the parent your younger self needed
Earlier in the article the concept of emotional neglect was discussed. I am sure that you can see that children need love but they also need to feel loved. Children need to be heard, understood, and supported. Unfortunately, no parent is perfect, and sometimes (unintentionally) they may fall short of assisting their child when they need them the most. However, what we need to do is ask adults is learn to give ourselves the love and support that we always needed.
So instead of putting yourself down, criticizing, or even frustrated learn to understand yourself. Learn why you do certain things, and what makes you do them and you will find it easier to love yourself because you now begin to understand who you are, what is it you want, why you want what you want, etc. Then you can give yourself the support you need. Do you see how this all plays out? It starts by being the parent your younger self needed.
The article above discusses the concept of self-love and how to love yourself. Love can be a complex and difficult word to discuss but what I know is when love is not around it brings a significant amount of problems and consequences. By learning to do the things that benefit instead of hurt us, accepting ourselves unconditionally, and become the parent our younger self needed we can learn to love ourselves and make the world a better place.