How Genuine Self-Love Builds Personal Resilience
In these times of great change it’s vital to nurture our genuine self-love and self-worth. This is our best way to remain centered and resilient at any time, and especially in challenging circumstances.
When we practice genuine self-love and self-compassion (it’s impossible to practice one without the other) we can truly learn to know our self-worth beyond any doubt. Consequently, balanced self-respect automatically becomes ours as well.
Let’s be clear, when speaking of self-love and self-worth, I am not referring to a person’s false claims of grandiosity or ‘better-than-thou’ self-esteem, or any projected judgments, including demeaning others or the characteristics of narcissism.
By practicing self-love, self-worth and self-compassion, eloquently explained here by Kristin Neff, we deepen the connection to the sure inner truth that resides in our hearts. We are connected to our own intuition with more clarity. In these times when there are so many untruths and half-truths vying for our attention, our intuition and deepest values are our most reliable compass.
Moving from co-dependence to interdependence
If we do not own our personal value and self-respect, we’ll hope against hope that others will provide self-assurance for us. Unfortunately these expectations and hopes become the basis for co-dependent relationships. This is where we are in danger of giving our power away to others. In extreme cases, low self-worth can result in unbalanced, abusive relationships and may even attract a narcissist into our lives.
When we’re truly self-assured, we’re independent and ready to successfully engage in interdependent relationships. An interdependent person recognizes the value of it being an OK thing to be vulnerable: without shame, fear or judgment. In relationships, a couple who genuinely know their own worth are powerfully enabled to communicate in meaningful ways, to share their vulnerabilities and enjoy emotional intimacy without fear. Their valued sense of self allows a clear space for each one to express as their true selves without any need to compromise on who they are. They do not need to be covert, to manipulate, to fear being judged, or to deny their true personal values.
When self-love and self-value reverberate out from our very core to others, we attract more of the same back to us. The inner peace and non-judgmental confidence of a person who relates interdependently conveys they are holding a ‘safe place’ for others to open up and speak their truth in honest, authentic dialogue. This provides the best opportunity for co-creative dialogues to flourish in all situations including families, the workplace and communities.
“Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.” Stephen R. Covey. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.
The trap of being a people-pleaser
Like the majority of children, I was brought up to be a people-pleaser. In other words, if I please my primary care givers (in my case my parents) I’ll be rewarded with more love and attention. With their best interests for me at heart, my parents trained me to be a ‘good girl’ in their eyes. This gave me the common-held belief that when I displeased people, I would not be given the same degree of love and attention. I believed I was dependent on my parent’s praise to validate my self-worth. We can easily take this belief with us into adulthood. If we do, we’ll continue to depend on others for indications of our self-worth. We’ll continue to be co-dependent.
Some parents expect much more from us than they achieved for themselves. They hope and push for their ideal of ‘perfection’ to be manifested in their children. This may continue to affect the way we conduct our lives as adults.
And let us not forget, there are many children who have experienced greatly challenging and unhappy childhoods, with threats and abuse resulting in much stronger beliefs of low self-worth etched in their memories for decades into adulthood. Those children grow into adults while still holding on to painful wounds from the past. This is one of humanity’s tragedies and it calls for limitless love and understanding.
Beliefs from our childhood
Thus we grow out of childhood, holding the belief that in order to be loved, we have to prove ourselves in some way. For example: we should be a hard worker, achieve qualifications, earn lots of money and be pleasing to the eye.
Any personal ambition is OK, if we have freely chosen that for ourselves, not simply from our need to persuade others to approve of us and value us. All others have free choice too and we cannot ‘make’ them like or dislike us by adapting our own behavior, even if it seems in the short term that that could work.
Trying to fit in
We often find ourselves adapting to fit in with groups and cultures where we wish to be accepted. Again, as we adapt to please people within those groups or communities, we are not honoring ourselves if we give up a part of our true self, deny our deepest values, or are not able to express as our authentic self.
We all have an inner critic
We all have a judgmental inner critic in our minds, formed as a result of beliefs and programming we soaked up as children, and agreed to throughout our culture and societies. Our inner critic is always eager to tell us how and why we are ‘not enough’ as we are. If we listen too closely to our inner critic, we may keep our true selves locked away and not freely express who we really are, for fear of judgment and ridicule from others.
The fear of not being good enough
When we live our lives with feelings and behaviors that demonstrate beliefs of low self-worth, we risk attracting bullies into our lives, from school age on. Bullies easily detect the chinks in our armor because they, too, are suffering from low self-worth while appearing grandiose and powerful in their behavior.
If these bullies felt ‘good enough’ as they are, they would not need to overpower others. They would not need to control or consciously hurt others. They would not need to demean or put others down. Bullies in any form — acquaintances, colleagues, parents, partners, bosses and political figures, terrorists too — are living in constant fear of being seen as ‘not good enough’, which would unveil their own fearful, deep-seated beliefs. If challenged, they would totally deny this of course; because it is mainly running in the subconscious part of their minds.
Victims of bullies may tolerate being bullied in a close relationship over long periods of time. They may not be able to see a safe way out. Sometimes people feel their situation is the best they can have, or — in their subconscious thoughts — they believe that’s the best they deserve.
On either side of the bully/victim fence, with our inner critic steering our life, we harbor great frustrations, because we are holding ourselves back for fear of judgment and rejection. While believing we are ‘not good enough’ we cannot be fully expressed as our true selves, or allow our own unique skills and creativity to shine out in the world.
We are naturally worthy
You may have heard of this concept of being ‘naturally worthy’ or inherently worthy simply because we exist here. Many gurus and life-coaches know this to be true: if we are here on this Planet as a human being, then we are naturally and equally worthy. Period.
We truly are ‘enough’ as we are, with limitless potential to become more. We each have an equal right to manifest a good life and well-being. And we have the right to express as our creative and unique selves for our own fulfillment. As we fully express ourselves in a wholehearted way, our resonance vibrates out; we contribute to the greater good of all. It is only our thoughts that tell us differently. Is this concept hard for you to accept? Sadly, many have moved a long way from this concept of being naturally worthy.
“Our personal sense of being ‘not enough’ is the most pervasive suffering in society today.” Tara Brach
If you want to explore this subject in more detail take a look at Tara Brach, renowned mindfulness teacher, as she recounts learning to deal with her own ‘not-enough-ness’ in this interview. Tara’s premise is that our personal sense of being ‘not enough’ is the most pervasive suffering in society today. Tara describes her technique for personal, gentle acceptance she calls RAIN. This is further explained in detail in Tara’s book: Radical Compassion.
As we practice self-love, we are compassionate and forgiving to ourselves, while appreciating our progress through life. We can forgive our stumbles and miss-takes. We all make mistakes and we are doing the best we can, even if we don’t always live up to our own ideals. With self-love, we can be like a benevolent parent would be with a young child. When a child learns to walk, we don’t chastise them each time they stumble and fall. We have a vision of them walking ably through life as though it’s second nature. So we encourage them to get up on their feet and try again, and we applaud them when they do. We need to do this for ourselves throughout life. No one knows our inner self quite like we do, and although we may harbor regrets and be tempted to judge ourselves harshly, this isn’t the best way to help ourselves.
Being compassionate and loving toward others was my primary intention for many years. Then I hit a deeply hurtful time, grieving as I accepted that a personal relationship was not going to change to fulfill my desires. I had to lift myself out of that hurt by caring more for myself. That was when I found true non-judgmental love and compassion for myself. And that is when for me, it truly became possible to have non-judgmental compassion for others. A sense of freedom came with my new self-awareness.
We can change ourselves with great effect in our own lives. It’s foolhardy to try and change or ‘fix’ others behavior so that we will feel better.
That’s manipulation and it doesn’t work. Though it may sometimes be hard, it’s wise to honor others’ free choices in their lives, and let them have their own life journey.
How can we sow seeds and grow into more of these qualities of self-love, self-worth and self-respect?
I recommend these three simple steps:
Become your own witness and nurture your self-awareness:
Notice how others’ views of you are affecting you.
Notice if you ever feel down-trodden.
Notice of you are denying your authentic self-expression to try and fit in or please others.
Observe and own any airs of grandiosity you notice in yourself.
If we are ready and willing to witness and then change ourselves, we have overcome our greatest hurdle!
Practice uplifting yourself. For example, change your inner critic by journaling. Journaling is a great way to change the ‘plasticity’ in our minds from negative self-judgments to uplifting thoughts. Create the habit of journaling each day, to express appreciation for the self. For example each day list five things you appreciate and celebrate in your self — no matter how small — in relation to your life.
Forgive yourself your mistakes. We all make them and they teach us how to grow. Journal about any life lessons you have learned as a result of your mistakes. Decide what you will do differently next time. Write that down and then move on.
Walk out in the world and conduct your life from your new centeredness of self-love, self-compassion and self-respect. You will notice a difference! You will see the world differently and the world will respond to you differently. In addition, once you are more loving and compassionate with yourself, you ‘automatically’ become more loving and compassionate with others. Alongside of that, you will be less willing to tolerate poor treatment from others. You will feel more empowered to say a clear “No” and hold new boundaries.
If you so choose, these three steps can be your ongoing life practice. Each day builds on the previous one to magnify your results. However, I encourage you to expect and notice some results quite quickly!
Enjoy your New Normal
Rise above any chaos or uncertainty around you! We can all get through challenging times with love for self and each other which is, in my opinion essential as we move toward our ‘New Normal’.
As we nurture our self-worth, we increase our self-confidence. We feel centered and less influenced by others’ views, whether that is others perspectives of us, or others opinions of happenings out in the world. We’ll have examined and identified our deepest values and they feel right for us. We become self-aware and those values are our compass. They steer our life. We courageously endeavor to express from our values in our personal and professional life and to walk our talk.
Thankfully, we will no longer be looking to others for validation on whether we are behaving in a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way. Once we are confident and centered and compassionate about our mistakes, it’s easier to be open and listen to constructive feedback from others. We can then consider how we might respond to that feedback - or not - in a freely-chosen manner that benefits our own growth.
Whether life’s challenges seem big or small, our life experiences are changed for the better when we are living from our own self-worth, self-love and self-respect.
Adapted from an article originally published at https://thesilvertent.com on May 14, 2020.