How to Love Myself
For much of my life, Valentine’s Day triggered a whole slew of sadness, stress, and hurtful thoughts. Maybe you can relate to the dialog that would invade my mind on Valentine’s Day:
“Will I get any valentines? Does he like me? What if I give him a valentine and he doesn’t give me one? Look how many valentines Julie got. He gave her a valentine! Everybody loves her. Nobody likes me. She is so pretty. I am ugly.”
Maybe there is some thread in there that touches a tender spot in you. If so, I invite you to join me in declaring Valentine’s Day a holiday for healing those childhood hurts and loving yourself completely.
How do I love and accept myself completely?
When I talk about loving yourself completely, as you can probably surmise, I am not talking about just loving the face you show to the world, the perfect smile on social media, the delicious meal you ate, the great workout you had, or the awesome vacation you took to that magical beach halfway around the world. Complete and radical self-love invites you to look beyond the face you show to the world and discover all the other parts of you that you keep only to yourself. The way you secretly think about yourself, or others, the feelings and doubts you have, the fears and challenges you face. The parts of you that you judge as not fit to print, as it were…and which you may have rejected so completely that you may have even forgotten they are there.
These are the shadow aspects of yourself. And they can be tricky to see.
Speaking from personal experience, it can take years to be aware that you even have these unloved aspects of yourself. But if you are here on this page, reading this...whether it is Valentine’s Day or not, give yourself a huge pat on the back, or a hug even...because being here means that you are already aware that you have got some unloved aspects of yourself and you are ready to do the work.
Finding your shadow aspects
You may be wondering how you can love parts of yourself you either aren’t even aware exist, or cannot quite name/put your finger on. Well, luckily for us, our shadow aspects show up again and again in the people and situations in our lives; specifically, those people and situations that we really dislike or that make us uncomfortable. These people and situations come into your life so you can know yourself completely, shine light on those dark, neglected parts, love the heck out of them, and heal. So, let’s get started. Grab a pen and paper and make two lists:
1) First, make a list of everyone you dislike or despise. And I mean everyone. No holds barred. Write without thinking too much. Don't be limited by how long ago this person was in your life. If you dislike or despise them, they make the list. And you do not know to “know” this person. Do not limit yourself. You might list anyone from a family member to a school mate, a teacher to a politician, a boss or co-worker to a celebrity.
2) Next, make a list of every situation past, present, or imagined that makes you really uncomfortable. Think of things that happened that you responded to in a way you judge was less than optimal. You can even list the thoughts you have had about how to respond to a situation. Like maybe you left the grocery store and noticed you forgot to have the clerk scan the mondo bag of cat litter on the bottom of the cart and you decided just load it in the car and head home. Again, unedited, no holds barred.
How to Love All of You
4-Step Shadow Work for Radical Self-Acceptance
In order to love the unlovable in you, start by picking one of the people you listed...someone who you really (I mean really) dislike. This is someone you avoid at all costs. This is someone who makes you uncomfortable or jealous or envious. This is someone you feel has wronged you or is just plain wrong in being the way they are. Pick someone who is part of your life or was part of it in the past.
1. Bring this person to mind very clearly as you write 10 dislikeable qualities they have.
2. Next, make a list of three good qualities they have. This may be challenging, but stick with it.
3. Now, look over the 10 qualities you dislike. Close your eyes and feel into each one. Circle three that you see could be reflections of yourself.
4. Write a new list including the three good qualities and the 3 circled qualities. This list reflects the dark-side aspects of yourself, and your un- or underdeveloped potential.
Working with your list of six
The three circled qualities represent aspects of yourself that you have rejected and ignored...the dark side. You can help bring light to these through writing about each in turn in a non-stop, let-it-flow kind of way. As an example, if your circled qualities were selfish, dark, and deceptive, you would write about each one exploring how it shows up in your life and in you. Give yourself 10 minutes for each one and write as much as possible, unedited.
The three good qualities represent things you can nurture and develop in yourself. Just like above, pick one at a time and explore how you can start integrating it more in your life.
Lessons from the shadow side are not always easy to see and integrate. But just like falling in love, despising someone is an invitation to deepen your self-love and self-acceptance. And the more fully you can do that, the less the person or situation will trigger you, freeing you up to devote your energy to things that support and enrich your life.