Over the next couple of days I will be posting my three new years resolutions in the hope that declaring them publicly will give me an incentive to keep them!
The first is deceptively simple (and a little hippy dippy): work on loving myself. However, I expect that this may be more of a lifelong struggle than a one year blitz.
I know I am not alone in having trouble with this. At the end of my first counselling session with a new client I always set them a task. To do something during the week, just for themselves, that makes them feel good. It shocks most people that they cannot think of something. Most of us spend our lives focused externally, never considering how we can best take care of ourselves.
One of my favourite meditations metta is focused on offering up loving kindness to groups of people. First you visualise loving kindness surrounding your loved ones, then acquaintances, strangers, enemies, all beings and finally yourself. Always I struggled with the last part of the meditation offering myself the same love and respect I easily offer up to other people; even my ‘enemies.’
Throughout my adolescence and through my twenties, I hated myself. And I was really good at it. No matter how hard I tried I was never good enough. I would compare my insides to other people outsides and always find myself wanting. I had to hide away that sad, bitter, angry, jealous, judgemental side of me because if other people saw they would never accept me. But I knew that shadow self was there: an empty void I would do anything to hide.
I strongly believe that loving and accepting ourselves improves our relationships with everybody we encounter. If you hate yourself and are constantly striving to hide aspects of yourself how can you possibly connect authentically with others. If you do not respect yourself, how can you reinforce boundaries and ask for what you need. If you cannot love yourself how can you ever love another. As the Buddha said ‘You could search the whole world over and never find anyone as deserving of your love as yourself.’
Counselling is an ongoing process of learning to accept myself. Falling in love with HWSNBN was a great healing process . I love him and respect his opinions. And if he could love me unconditionally then surely I could try too. I suspect loving myself will be something I always struggle with but this year I really want to work on getting rid of self hatred and start loving and respecting myself. Here’s how I am going to do it.
Act as if you love and respect yourselves and your thoughts will begin to follow your actions. Take care of yourself: eat well, move your body, give yourself the time and space you need. Make sure you do something you enjoy everyday.
Silence your inner critic
Often we catastrophise, ‘I am such an idiot, I always get it wrong.’ Stop. Take a deep breath and reframe the thought. ‘I did an idiotic thing. Sometimes, I get it wrong. But that’s OK.’ Daily affirmations can help replace the inner cycle of negative thoughts. For example: I am always learning and growing. I am good enough.
Be honest with yourself
If you are sad or angry or frightened, acknowledge it. Feelings are not good or bad, they just are. And they are all valid.
When I client is being particularly self critical I ask them to flip the perspective. ‘If your best friend was telling you this story what would you think and feel.’ It is much easier to extend kindness to others rather than ourselves. Reframing allows us the distance to examine our actions.
In one of my favourite chick flicks Bridget Jones Diary, there is the following exchange:
Mark Darcy: ‘I like you, very much.’
Bridget: ‘Ah, apart from the smoking and the drinking, the vulgar mother and… ah, the verbal diarrhea.’
Mark Darcy: ‘No, I like you very much. Just as you are.’
When she tells her friends they are amazed ‘Not thinner? Not cleverer? Not with slightly bigger breasts or slightly smaller nose?’. ‘No just as I am.’
Like Bridget, I am worthy. I am good enough. Just as I am. And you are too.