Decades ago, I followed Louis Hay’s suggestion of repeating “I love you. I really do love you” affirmations every day in front of a mirror and her meditation CD, How to Love Yourself though I don’t know if they had any effect on my loving-myself status. To be honest, I continued for only a week because I didn’t feel any difference.
Loving oneself is extremely difficult. People may look like they are successfully loving themselves but it may merely be interpreted to become materialistic, selfish, and narcissistic.
Loving oneself requires a step-by-step process. You don’t even need to think about loving yourself because the process itself is more important than the goal – loving yourself. During the process, eventually, you may reach the goal or naturally do it. Like confidence, it will follow after the process.
What are the steps to love ourselves? Firstly, we need to “forgive ourselves”. Next, we “accept ourselves”. Finally, “we love ourselves.”
The first step is that we need to discover what we need to forgive. This includes all sorts of matters and how far we are aware of them. Now, I don’t intend to forgive others because, like in wars, it’s quite impossible to forgive the enemy who destroys the land and people. What I want to highlight is to forgive ourselves because it’s extremely crucial for our well-being and growth.
What I need to forgive is my emotion of “I’m not good enough.” I’ve often been advised that “All you need is to accept yourself.” It didn’t work for me. Accepting before forgiving is just sweeping it under the carpet. People often say that they forgave whatever happened to them but they just forgot a bit and sealed it as a past event. To forget and to forgive are very different. When we forget whatever happened, our acute emotion remains and just becomes quiet and hidden. In the worst case, it will just accumulate. When we forgive whatever happened, our emotion dissolves and gets healed, which becomes a clean slate.
“I’m not good enough” of mine appears powerfully whenever negative events happen in my life. I brutally attack myself with cruel words like “Why did I do it? Didn’t you notice? Am I making the same mistake again and again?” They are automatic accusations and patterns, which I didn’t notice until recently.
“Stop! Why are you beating yourself up?” Self-criticism is such a subtle subconscious emotion and thought but it strongly affects my heart to ache and my stomach to shrink. When I noticed it, I was scared to think of the years accumulated bit by bit. Logically it is silly to think this way but somehow I’ve formed my nagging reaction and formed my self-belief of “I’m not good enough.”
I recommend starting with finding what to forgive. What kind of emotions, thoughts, behaviors, and patterns do you find and want to forgive? Write them down whenever acute emotions arise within you. What is happening? How do your physical senses react? This may take ages but, without clearing this step, we won’t be able to accept ourselves. When we can forgive ourselves, we also forgive others naturally like the water starts to flow.