“Find the love you seek, by first finding the love within yourself. Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home.”
— Sri Ravi Shankar
We often extend our love to other people. Our family, significant other, and friends are at the receiving end of our capacity to understand and express compassion, especially when they feel like they are at their lowest.
This kind of love, which we willingly give, however, does not shine through when we are in need. Instead, we bury ourselves in negative self-talk.
Posting on the subreddit r/selfimprovement, a reddit user who goes by the name Turbulent_Tardis said that, as of posting, her hatred toward herself has gotten much worse in the past three years. One time, Turbulent recounted, her fiancé asked her to name 10 things she liked about herself. This led her to break down in tears because of her sheer inability to believe that anything about her can be good.
The example is an extreme case. But it illustrates an experience shared by people in all parts of the world.
The plague of self-hate has often been attributed to an evolutionary function aptly called negativity bias. It claims that we tend toward the negative because our ancestors, who were always at risk of coming into contact with a wild, predatory beast, had to always be on guard in order to survive. Stopping and smelling the flowers can lead to an encounter with a large-fanged carnivore lurking in the undergrowth.
But even though our species is relatively safer than it was thousands of years ago, our negativity bias hardened into habit. However, we can still combat it. And if you’re having trouble with appreciating who you are, here are some ways to give yourself the love you deserve.
“Talk to yourself like you would with a person you love.”
The first tip is a quote by Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston known for her work on shame and vulnerability. In a Facebook post on Brown’s official page, she said, “Talking to ourselves from self-love and self-respect is a practice.” And to be honest, we wholeheartedly agree.
Getting ourselves out of the self-hate rut is not something you do once and expect to see positive changes right after. You have to train your mind to think of yourself in a good, loving light.
One thing you can do is a thing called Mirror Work by Louise Hay. Usually, when we look at ourselves in the mirror, we—knowingly or unknowingly—criticize a lot of things about ourselves: how we look, how we work, or even how we snoozed our alarm five times this morning before deciding to get into the shower. But in Mirror Work, Hay suggested that you whip out a mirror first thing in the morning and say something like, “[Your name], I love you very much.” By doing so, you are “[connecting] with the inner child within, who has been neglected for so very long,” she said in a talk. And you want the childlike spirit residing within your mind to feel loved. Eventually, through the loving talk that you are essentially giving yourself, you build up the self-esteem and self-love that you’ve been yearning for.
Practice loving-kindness meditation.
Meditation is popular in the self-care industry in the West, devoutly practiced in studios and in the comfort of one’s bedroom with the help of meditation apps. With loving-kindness meditation, one focuses on “benevolent and loving energy toward yourself and others,” an article on Verywell Mind noted.
The way it is practiced varies depending on the website you read or the meditation app you use, but engaging in loving-kindness meditation generally cultivates a sense of compassion toward other people and, of course, yourself.
In neuroimaging studies, it was shown that loving-kindness meditation and compassion meditation can enhance the “activation of brain areas that are involved in emotional processing and empathy.” When applied to oneself, this practice can lead to a more holistic appreciation of the beautiful, unique you.
It also helps to visualize yourself in a peaceful environment, especially when your self-image triggers anxiety. You can look up visualization-based meditation on YouTube, such as this one called “The Secret Garden Guided Meditation Visualization, A spoken word relaxation”. You can watch it below:
See a therapist.
Self-love issues are universal, but some people are more capable of dealing with it than others. Whether it’s because of upbringing, the standard of success imposed on us, or our interpersonal relationships, the degree to which a person’s self-perception affects them differs from other people.
Take the example of Turbulent from earlier. In her post, she said, “Sometimes (not often, but enough times to be alarmed) it gets really bad and I just start to spiral in my own head [...].” So, reflect on whether or not the aversion you feel toward yourself causes problems regularly. And if these issues get in the way of your daily life, you may need professional help to get through the problem’s many layers, which is something that you might not be able to do alone.
What steps are you planning to take to love yourself better? We want to know! Message on our Facebook page at facebook.com/HyeLoves or share your experience with your fellow beauty enthusiasts at LIVE & GLOW.