For many of us, self-acceptance and self-love might be hard concepts to grasp. The act of being overcritical and unaccepting of who we are, what we’ve done, and how we were raised, could lead to a plethora of problems. This includes self-doubt and low self-esteem at the lower end of the spectrum; depression, eating disorder, and self-harm at the higher end.
Having low confidence can hinder our ability to perform optimally or to our highest potential. It can affect our grades, our performance in sports, and our capability to do well in a job interview.
The lack of self-love can also lead to problems with our relationships and intimate partners. We might even project our lack of love for ourselves onto others in a negative way.
On the contrary, some people will evade caring for themselves, by overextending their care and resources for others. This can be dangerous because the person that is incapable of loving themselves, can end up exerting a large proportion of their emotional or physical energy for others, and sometimes, even be taken advantage of.
Improving our Relationships with Ourselves
Improving the way we perceive ourselves, treat ourselves, and talk to ourselves can be constructive to fixing the gaps in our lives. This could pertain to low performance at school, work, or our relationships with people. Accredited psychotherapist, Karen Whelan, is a proponent for achieving greater self-love.
Whelan posits it as a solution for individuals struggling with low motivation, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and forming healthy relationships. Her unique coaching style has been featured in Los Angeles Weekly, Times, Yahoo News, Thrive Global, and more. She provides five tangible actions to achieve better self-love, confidence, etc living a more optimal life.
1. Heal the inner child
The “inner child” is a concept used in analytical psychology, traced back to the works of psychiatrist Carl Jung. This archetype is used to describe experiences and memories of innocence, playfulness, and optimism.
Early experiences, whether positive or negative, have a significant effect on our behavioural patterns in the future. Thus, connecting to this inner child can be a way of altering those behaviours. Re-inviting those amicable feelings of bravery, confidence, and joy into our lives, can act as a catalyst for us feeling better about ourselves.
Because painful or traumatizing life events can damage our “inner child”, healing becomes paramount to our development as self-loving adults. For example, if we were mistreated or untaken in some aspect as children, we are more likely to experience that lack of love and nurturing in our later life.
Healing, according to Whelan, begins with acknowledging those pain points and finding ways to nurture ourselves, our “inner child”, as adults so that we may transform those feelings of angst and lack of attention, to patience and tender love.
This means being there for yourself when you go through adverse life events or daily feelings. Learning how to soothe yourself and be kind to yourself when you experience painful feelings (grief, loneliness, embarrassment, anger..etc). Becoming our parents can help us reclaim ownership of our care, and resolve the unloving tendencies we experienced through our developmental phase.
2. Heal Wounds & Trauma
The majority of us have experienced some form of wound or trauma. This doesn’t mean we’ve all been through abusive situations or have gotten into accidents. Emotional wounds can develop from the smallest things, and leave a resounding mark on the way we behave or perceive ourselves in the future.
This can range from experiences like watching a divorce go through, to “messing up” on stage in front of an audience as a child. From these experiences, you may subconsciously fear commitment or perceive yourself as a bad public speaker. Again, these thought patterns derive from trauma and hinder our abilities in our adult lives.
Body Practices to Heal Trauma
“Everything we learned as a child, we learned viscerally,” says Whelan, therefore, to relearn how to love and care for ourselves, can be done through the body. There’s a trove of activities we can engage in to bring out the joy factor from the child archetype. Most importantly, to unleash the negative stories that we held in our bodies. These include shamanic work, dance, and breathwork to create balance, harmony, and alignment.
3. Getting Out of Your Own Way
For many of us, we go through life with an unquestioning gaze of why we do things. How often is it to meet social expectations, rather than because we truly want to do them? Getting stuck in obligations and routines that don’t internally satisfy us can lead to self-doubt, depression, burnout, or just general looming dissatisfaction with life.
If there’s a nagging feeling to pursue a different career path, there’s most likely an intuitive reason to why. The only person who is getting in the way of making that change is ourselves. Often it’s the fear of change when we perceive we’re already doing the “right” thing.
Whelan recommends that to live the most optimal life, one needs to take charge of discovering their authentic selves and needs, which will lead them to craft the type of future that will cultivate more joy and pride. When we live and create with alignment to our true selves and values, our confidence and the love we have for our lives can increase exponentially.
4. Transform your Mindset
In order to change the stories we have about ourselves, we have to shift the way we think about events. This requires training our minds to change negative and habitual thought patterns. The first step is identifying our own fallacies. When do we tend to feel bad or critical of ourselves? Finding these triggers can help you create tailors to these thoughts.
For example, we feel bad about ourselves before giving a presentation because we have a preconceived notion that we are inadequate at public speaking.
Changing this narrative to “ I can work on my public speaking through consistent practice and coaching, and I will deliver a fantastic presentation”, and repeating this over and over, every time you have a presentation, can slowly start to alter the way you talk to yourself, and the amount of belief you have in your skills.
Breaking free of your own mental barriers can help fundamentally with positively shaping your life, and lead to increased self-confidence and self-love.
5. Tap into your wisdom
Learning to love yourself, means also learning how to trust yourself. The truth is often, we hold all the keys to our own problems.
Allocating the time to work on ourselves is imperative to better understand our patterns, obstacles, and unlock the key to self-love. When we begin to trust our intuition, decisions pertaining to our personal and professional lives may become more clear. This might mean we make that career change, take on more challenges and responsibilities or leave a toxic relationship.
Taking ownership of our own futures, and not letting them be dictated by our fears, our paths, or social expectations is only possible if we learn how to trust and listen to our own wisdom.
“The moment you take your energy off of worrying about what others’ perceptions of you are and put that energy onto your inner peace, your life will transform”, Whelan asserts. Self-love is not selfish, nor is it a clique, but is such an important tool for us to overcome the mental roadblocks that are hindering us from living the most optimal and joyous life.
Healing and coming to peace with ourselves is only possible through the consistent training of our minds and the building of mental awareness. Working with a professional in psychology can help expedite this process. Karen Whelan reminds us that self-love creates richness, and that wealth is created through forming complete relationships with ourselves.