Hi love. I’m so glad you’re here because we are going to tackle this question today. I love the title of today’s pod because who doesn’t love a little snark, right? I think it’s really important to laugh along the way. And today’s topic about loving yourself, it’s complicated.
I have felt many times through my divorce recovery journey, my healing journey, that feeling of frustration and annoyance and resentment when someone has instructed me to love myself when I thought I didn’t know how or I couldn’t unhook a thing. Or it didn’t feel fair that that’s what I had to do at the time because, quite frankly, I just wanted to be rescued, right?
I just want you to love me. I don’t want to have to love me because loving me feels hard. You loving me feels good.
That’s really the inspiration for today’s pod, and we’re going to do it in a question-answer style because you have a lot of really amazing questions about how to love yourself when you don’t know how. And I want to make sure I answer those for you.
When You Feel Like Loving Yourself Seems Impossible
So let’s first start by acknowledging that it’s hard on multiple levels. It’s hard because you’re feeling like crap about yourself right now because you’ve just walked through hell and feeling rejection and all those things after divorce. But also, you probably weren’t raised in a culture that taught you how to love yourself.
You may have been taught how to care for yourself in certain ways – food, clothing, shelter, sleep, education, work, or survival things. But not caring in the way that you feel when you look into the eyes of your pup or your kid or your best friend, that kind of love.
Giving Yourself Permission to Love Yourself First
So if you weren’t taught how, and you probably, like most of us, feel guilty or selfish when you’re doing it. Then that’s the thing that women have to unwind. That’s the thread women have to pull first. Even finding permission to do this thing we’re talking about. Because when you do the thing and then the guilt expands, and the idea that you’re selfish expands, it’s like it’s not even working. If you listen to the episode on weight training with Colleen Pomranky, she talks about when you’re in pain or exhausted, or super stressed, and you do the workout, your body can’t even get the benefits of the workout. This is kind of like that. If you’re doing self-loving things and you’re feeling chronically horribly guilty the entire time, you’re not getting the benefits of the self-loving acts and energies. So women have to move that guilt out of the way. Women have to find permission to do the self-love thing.
What to Do to Love Yourself
#1 How to Learn to Love Yourself
The first question that that many of you ask in your new life after divorce is how do you learn to love yourself? And that is such a beautiful question with such a complicated answer.
Learning to love yourself, I believe, has to do with layers of accepting who you are and how you are.
And the thing is that many of us women don’t want to or don’t know how to even know ourselves on a complex level. There’s so much about ourselves that women would rather not know. Things we would rather not come to terms with or we’re afraid to find out about. We’re afraid to find out, “Am I truly selfish?” Do you know how many women say to me, “But what if I’m the narcissist, Dawn?” So many of my clients say that to me. And, are some of the women that I work with narcissistic? Sure. So, there are these things about us that we’re afraid to face. And until we face them, we certainly can’t accept them.
How many times have you said, “I don’t like the way I feel in my clothes? I do not like what I see in the mirror, but I also don’t want to get off the couch to do anything about it.”
Facing the Truth About Yourself
So how to learn to love yourself is to first show up. And then get to know yourself.
Ask the hard questions that you’re afraid to know about yourself. Because once you know them, then it’s time to make peace with them. Women have to be willing to love and accept their imperfect selves and know that we can work on things over time. But perfection isn’t a switch that flips. There is this culture out there that says, let me make it look good, let me make it look perfect, and cover up all of the things that aren’t really working so that I can be accepted, right?
The, “I’m so used to making it look good so that I can get you to love me.” Versus saying, “Well, crap, this is what it is for today, and I’m gonna love me whether or not you love me.”
#2 How to Start to Love Yourself
So how do you start to love yourself? That’s the thing. We start by saying,
“OK, I’m gonna let go of this facade that it’s all in an effort to get you to love me. In exchange for me being willing to be the one who loves me, even if you don’t. And then, it all unlocks from there.”
#3 How Do You Know if You Don’t Love Yourself?
Another question you ask is, how do you know if you don’t love yourself? And I would say that, generally speaking, a lot of women don’t know. Many of us were raised in either religions or families where the culture is family first, religion first. And that has an important historical context. Family is how we survived. Our religious communities are how we survived. It’s literally how the community worked together to make sure there was enough of all the things. Help, food, you name it. But not anymore, in more of a globalized world where we can bond with people outside of our families, outside of our religious organizations, or other community spaces. There’s not that same reliance on family first.
There’s this ability to branch out and cultivate these support systems and this relationship with self as well.
There’s room for both, right? Women can prioritize their families and their community spaces, but we can also intimately love and know ourselves. Notice if you tend to concentrate on getting other people to love you, or you’re pleasing other people to avoid getting abandoned or left behind, or if you notice that you put yourself last.
Self Love Starts with Self Care
A lot of times, we can see how much we love ourselves by how we care for our body. Whether we starve it or whether we overfeed it. Or whether we move it or don’t move it.
Love is often in the form of action taking, it’s in the form of nurturing.
And when we’re not action taking or being nurturing toward ourselves, then there’s an absence of love. So if you notice the self-talk in your mind like, “Why the F did I do….” That negative internal chatter that’s not loving, there you go.
So some of that is just habitual stuff that we have to unlearn, and women have to practice catching it and switching it out for something that is more nurturing and is more compassionate.
Perfect Self Love is a Myth
Let me also eradicate this idea of perfect love. We are flawed human creatures, so there is no such thing as perfect love. It’s not a black-and-white thing. This, do you love yourself, do you not love yourself? It’s not all or nothing. It’s more like, can we learn to love ourselves well? Fairly consistently. Because it’s not going to be perfect all the time, and that’s OK.
#4 What are Self Love Acts?
Another question you sometimes ask is what are acts of self-love? and I think I’ve touched on quite a few of them.
It is setting the intention of being compassionate and accepting and caring toward oneself in the way we think, in the way we act, and in the way we treat ourselves throughout the day.
How many of you delay eating when you need to because you’re taking care of work or whatever? You delay peeing when you need to because you’re prioritizing someone or something. You delay sleeping when you need to because you’re either numbing out or prioritizing someone else, right?
It’s doing the thing that feels good rather than the thing that is good.
And sometimes, the thing that feels good is pleasing someone else, and sometimes the thing that feels good is eating or scrolling or drinking or whatever. It’s noticing the difference between what is nurturing and what just feels good.
#5 How Can You Build Up Self-Esteem?
Another question you often ask is how do I build up my self-esteem? And how do I have a better sense of self-worth, of self-confidence? And the reality is that comes over time. And it’s often a very slow unfolding of learning something about myself, pouring some love on it and seeing the benefit of it.
It’s a process of building yourself up over time. Eventually, you feel stronger. You feel clearer. You feel more at ease.
Less in pain about what you’re failing at; what you’re not good enough at. Those words about, “I got it wrong. I’m not good enough.” There’s so much less of that once women practice all of this slow building of esteem. By taking care one day at a time. One trip to the bathroom at a time. One healthy meal at a time. One therapy session at a time. One journaling session at a time. And oftentimes, when women do those things consistently for a period of time, even if it’s a short period of time, they can feel the difference. That quick win of, for instance, in the 21-day free journaling program you can find on my website, oftentimes when people consistently do the first week, they’re like, “Oh man, that feels better. I feel better about myself.”
#6 Why Do I Have No Respect for Myself?
Why do I not have respect for myself? Again, that goes back to that historical culture about when women were taught, literally trained, to prioritize other people. And women were trained to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others. You just weren’t taught self-respect. You were taught a beautiful thing about respecting other people, and it’s the idea of bridging that to also respect yourself.
The same respect that you would offer your friends, your loved ones, your partner, and your children; these same levels of respect you are worthy of.
Change of Habit to a New Mindset
And some things are not these deep dark problems that need to be solved. Sometimes they’re just habits, right? There’s a habit of respecting others instead of yourself. And if you make it a habit of applying that same concept to self, then over time, that becomes familiar. And when you have that little voice that pops up and says, “Oh, you’re gonna be in trouble for doing this, or somebody’s gonna be mad at you for doing this…”. That’s true, but that doesn’t make it wrong. That doesn’t make you wrong. Someone may get mad at you for prioritizing yourself and saying no to them. That’s OK.
It’s OK to say no to people and have them get upset. And it’s going to feel uncomfortable at first. But don’t let that discomfort lead to guilt.
I wrote this sentence down earlier, and I know I have it scribbled on my desk too. And it was this idea that unearned guilt equals a lack of self-acceptance. So when you feel guilt, it’s not because you did anything wrong. It’s because you were acting out of self-respect. It’s because there’s a part of you that you’re struggling to accept. Because when you accept yourself, someone else may object. So you learn to shove it down. And to dismiss it. But when you accept these parts of you that have been calling out and crying for support and crying for self-respect and crying for self-esteem and crying for self-love, when you acknowledge those parts of you, and you accept them, the guilt will fade. And you will notice that what is left is other people’s feelings, and that’s OK. They get to practice having those feelings, and they get to decide what they’re going to do with them. And you don’t have to manage those for them.
#7 How Can I Be Respected By Everyone?
You’re not going to be respected by everyone. And that’s OK because it’s just not feasible. You don’t like every type of food, and you don’t like every flavor of ice cream, and you don’t like every kind of flower that’s out there. There are certain ones that you’re drawn to and certain ones that you’re not. And that’s how people are too.
And so your job is to get more comfortable and more focused on respecting yourself and earning the respect of some core people around you and letting the rest go.
#8 How Do You Love Yourself in a Relationship
And then, when you start dating and falling in love and find a partnership, or even in your close friendships or your family relationships, the question is, how do I love myself in a relationship?
The tendency is to turn off our self-love in proximity to someone who has expectations of us.
And it’s a renegotiation to say, “Hey, I know that’s how I used to do it in the past, but what I’m learning is to do it this way, and it’s uncomfortable for you, and it’s uncomfortable for me. This feels awkward, and you don’t like it, and I don’t like it. But if women practice it long enough, it will become familiar and eventually easy.”
Loving ourselves inside of our relationship is a process that takes practice.
Saying, “This doesn’t feel good.” And that’s OK. And a lot of times, when women just acknowledge how it feels, it lets the pressure out, it lets the air out, and it feels better immediately.
#9 How To Love Yourself Unconditionally?
The last question that I’m going to touch on is how do you love yourself unconditionally? And it’s such a great question with such a simple answer.
You’re not. And that’s because we’re not perfect people. We’re human. We’re not meant to be unconditional. And in my world, the unconditional part comes from a more universal love. For me, that is a divine God, as you understand him or her. That’s where unconditional love comes from. From a more universal place, and I don’t have to put that pressure on myself to love myself or others unconditionally.
I can strive for it, right, and that can be part of my life’s mission, to love myself and others well. And to be improving and to be channeling divine love. I think that’s a lot of what I do in my work. It’s very clear to me that as I’m coaching and as I’m recording podcasts, and I’m doing my job as a therapist that I’m channeling divine love a lot of times. And that’s what I offer to the people that I work with. But I am never going to attain that level of perfection. And that’s OK.
So I can just let myself off the hook for that now. That’s what I hope you take away from this episode about the need to learn to love yourself and how annoyed you and I have both felt about knowing that that’s a priority but not knowing how. And feeling frustrated.
Let’s just acknowledge that it’s hard, and it looks overwhelming when you take it all on at once. And quite frankly, it’s probably a lifelong journey.
It’s not like, oh, I got divorced. Let me figure out how to love myself so that I can attract the next partner and feel better, and be done with this. It’s not an “I’m gonna be done with this thing.” It’s an “I’m going to commit to this being a part of my process for the rest of my journey.” And accepting that, in and of itself, is an act of self-love. And so when you feel frustrated, and you find that roadblock, that’s like, I don’t know how to get past this guilt hurdle. I don’t know how to get past this voice in my head that says I’m being selfish. I don’t know how to get past this next thing.
That’s where you reach out to me, and I say here, here’s a journal prompt for that. There’s a practice you can take on for that. Here’s a thing to listen to, or check out, or read. Just hit me up. Then tell me about where you’re blocked around self-love, and I will help point you in the right direction.
Sending you so much love, to make it easier to love yourself. Peace