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"Love yourself" what does it mean?

(38 Posts)
PonchosLament Mon 18-Jul-16 23:17:00

I've been here a while and often post about how desperately crap and lonely I feel when I'm feeling, well, desperately crap and lonely!

I didn't have a great upbringing and have had the associated and obligatory shit relationship experiences as a result.

I'm currently single, have been for a year, and with a view to remaining that way until I can trust myself to, er, trust myself, my judgement and anyone I enter into a relationship with, should that ever happen again.

The one thing I keep being told on here and IRL is that I need to love myself first. I get this. But, if I'm perfectly honest with you, I don't know what it means!

I have tried to do things to improve my self esteem and stuff (which I'm guessing is linked to it!), but it's not really having any lasting impact.

It's not even really about meeting someone else or having a relationship, at this stage, it's just about being able to live with myself on a daily basis.


AntiqueSinger Mon 18-Jul-16 23:38:52

Treat yourself the way you treat others? ie., would you hit someone? No? Then love yourself enough not to put up with someone else hitting you.

Would you call someone else names or emotionally abuse them? Then don't allow someone to do it to you.

Do you make derogatory judgements about others and question their motives, assuming the worst all the time? If not, then don't do it to yourself, and judge yourself or mistakes harshly and excessively self criticise.

Loving yourself involves treating yourself the way you feel people ought to be treated, realising you owe as much to yourself as you do to them and are as worthy as they are, A bit like love your neighbour in reverse.


PonchosLament Mon 18-Jul-16 23:45:12

Thank you, AntiqueSinger . See this is where I start to struggle with it. Because I do have pretty strong boundaries when it comes to what I will tolerate from other people.

I have ended a friendship when I found out that the person involved was being supportive to my face, but was criticising me behind my back to other people. I have ended my last two relationships (I separated from my husband nearly 4 years ago), not because they were bad men, but because I could see they weren't right for me.

I certainly wouldn't tolerate any emotional/physical abuse from anyone nowadays.

I don't have anyone negative in my life at all now.

I am a bit critical of myself but I think it's deserved and the criticisms are valid, so it's difficult to stop that one sad

nooofthenoodle Mon 18-Jul-16 23:57:59

I've recently come out of a relationship..not a bad relationship at the time but ended very badly and nearly destroyed me.
I'm not the best person to be giving advice but I'm doing a lot of work on myself to be happy and make sure I never end up with a bad man again.
So to me loving your self means looking after your health, eating right or eating at all some days, staying positive, surrounding myself with people who have me best interest at heart and dropping people who don't. Doing things that make me happy or calm me, so for me that is making time for exercise, crochet, reading having things to look forward to to. Knowing my boundaries and learning to enforce them.
I'm like you in that I can be critical of myself, I believe there's always room for improvement and so long as the need to improve comes from within rather than to please others or a sense of guilt that's a good thing.

PonchosLament Tue 19-Jul-16 00:13:25

I used to batch cook from scratch and everything I ate was healthy and homemade. I've probably fallen into bad habits 2 or 3 times a week and don't always eat properly then. It's on my mind a lot of the time that I'm not always eating properly. Not even always proper food.

The reason I started the thread was that I wanted to make myself an action plan of things to do, SMART targets, as it were, that would help me. So I think the eating thing can definitely go on it!

I do yoga a couple of times a week, but I've been meaning to start swimming and possibly running again. I feel so much better having started the yoga about a year ago so I can see that there is a definite benefit to that.

I do have friends, but I only see/speak to them once a week. I don't have much to do with them in the mean time. But that's normal, right? I don't have anyone in my life who I don't like or who isn't a calming influence. I don't know if I'm well liked enough for people to have my best interests at heart...

I do have hobbies, but I don't have the time or money to do them all at the moment. I a 'performing arts' hobby which gives lots of opportunity for fun, weekly rehearsals and performances and people from this are my main friendship group. We go on holiday and for days out together. I like reading and craft things. But I suppose I don't always make time to do them. I'm sometimes a bit 'lazy' and end up just not bothering sad

I find the self critical thing difficult. I do want to make improvements for myself, but I also want to do them to make me more acceptable to other people and because I feel guilty.

So, for example, I have about a stone and a bit in weight to lose. I want to lose it for myself because I know I will feel better for it and no one else is telling me to; but I also want to lose it because it makes me feel unattractive and I think no one will be interested in me whilst I'm carrying this extra bit of tummy or thighs around with me; and I do feel guilty for having put it on in the first place and for not being slimmer.

I think I worry that even if I think I'm 'ok' or 'good enough' other people still won't.

AntiqueSinger Tue 19-Jul-16 00:45:52

But then this is where it comes in. Would you tell someone they should lose weight because everyone else will think badly of them or they won't be attractive to anyone because of the fat around their belly?

Would you even think it?

Never! You never would!!

In reality I bet you've met loads of women who are 'overweight' who are married and perfectly happy, or dating etc.

Sooooo why are you doing it to yourself??!!

Why not apply the same rule to yourself that you do to others?

I need to lose weight too.

I try. I fail to exercise some days (like today was just too hot) I tell myself off if I know I'm procrastinating. Then I tell myself the truth. I am a woman nearing 40 with two children. It's enough that I'm aware and trying to do something. My health is better now than it was months ago when I was doing nothing.

janaus Tue 19-Jul-16 02:03:05

I have also been told by Counsellor / Hynotherapist I am seeing ... that I must learn to "love myself"

I also don't really know what it means.

She told me to look in the mirror (I normally have it covered up), and say every day, "I love you" 3 times

blankmind Tue 19-Jul-16 03:51:59

It's probably very dated now, but Louise Hay has some very gentle and subtle affirmations, videos etc. that could start you off on the right track, looking at how you treat yourself and making you realise you need not be so critical of yourself. She also explains why it's important not to wait until you've achieved a goal like weightloss, better job etc. but to start right here, right now.
Janaus, there's a mirror-work video on that link, it may be an easier introduction for you.

janaus Tue 19-Jul-16 05:17:37

Thank you for the link, blank

Cary2012 Tue 19-Jul-16 06:45:39

Don't be hard on yourself. You can step back from yourself and acknowledge flaws and mistakes sure, but realise it makes us human. None of us are perfect, and that's great, we are all different. Nurture your friendships and they will grow. Be your own best friend! forgive yourself and spoil yourself sometimes. Good luck you sound lovely.

PonchosLament Tue 19-Jul-16 07:47:31

Antique You're right, of course I wouldn't think that about anyone else. And I do tell myself this. My closest friend is normally very fit. Over the last couple of months she has put on weight and gone up about 2 dress sizes because life has got in the way a bit. She acknowledges it, and says she needs to get back on top of it, but she doesn't let it define her. It's not a big deal to her. Her partner feels exactly the same way about her either way. And why wouldn't he? She's amazing and I can see exactly why he has fallen in love with her

But then I tell myself that she's very pretty and she's got so much else going for her that it doesn't really matter. I can't see why anyone would fall in love with me, in the first place, I suppose. So I feel I can't let anything slip. I feel I should be aiming for 'perfection', whilst reluctantly accepting I'll never achieve it, to even hope to be tolerable. I don't know how to change that.

janaus yes, I've been told about the mirror work too. It's physically uncomfortable to even think about doing it!

blankmind Thanks. I was looking on her website before I posted last night! She was recommended to me by a counsellor a couple of years ago. I have her power card affirmations and You Can Heal Your Life book.

I've chosen three of the affirmation cards that are the most important to me at the moment and put them up in my living room. I read them, but I can't help but feel that they are just words.

If find it difficult because on one had, I am so much stronger mentally and physically in some respects than I have ever been, but alongside that, I'm no different.

I used to put up with all sorts of crap in relationships because I'd been brought up to believe I was lucky to have anyone and if someone showed any interest in me, I had to hold on to them no matter what.

I don't feel like that any more. I had no trouble ending the relationships I did, and I don't feel like I 'need' a boyfriend, etc. I don't define my worth on whether a man likes me. It looks like I have quite high self esteem in that respect, but actually the opposite is true. I have no expectations of any man to like me and I feel quite hostile towards/untrusting of any one who says they do. I'm just no longer hoping that one day it will happen.

So on one hand, I do all the things I should:

I have stronger boundaries and a stronger core than ever before and I feel better for them both. I only have people in my life that enhance it, there is no one who brings me any grief or anxiety and, because I'm so unused to feeling those things now, I have a zero tolerance for it and as soon as someone waves a red flag, they're gone.

I could probably do with finishing organising the house. Maybe that would help.

And I can see that these things are benefiting me and making me happier and 'stronger' as a person, but none of it changes how I feel about myself. All it's done is make me more at ease with the thoughts that I'm not good enough and the knowledge that I won't let anyone else close enough to make it worse.

Does that make sense?

PacificDogwod Tue 19-Jul-16 07:55:41

Loving yourself is not about achieving some kind of perfect state of mind/body/house/relationships etc etc; it is about truly accepting and, yes, loving everything about you warts an'all - it's the positive acceptance of NOT being perfect, of having flaws/weaknesses and still being ok.

I love my children deeply but have, at times, not liked them very much IYKWIM - it's the same thing for ourselves.
You are you.
Unique, good traits and bad traits, like us all.

Reading your posts I get the impression you might feel better if you cut yourself a bit of slack, 'work' a bit less on yourself and appreciate/value yourself a bit more? Sorry if I am totally off the mark.

Could you write down all the things you like about yourself rather than what you feel needs improving?

PonchosLament Tue 19-Jul-16 08:31:56

No, you're probably not totally off the mark, Pacific

When I told the counsellor I was seeing a couple of years ago all of the things I did to 'improve' myself, she said that I needed to realise people who mattered would value me for who I am and not what I do.

I couldn't really process that properly. I don't know 'who I am', I suppose.

I'm not really sure what I do like about myself, to be honest. There are things I don't actively dislike, but that's not the same, those are things I'm ambivalent about. Like the fact I have freckles, for example. But I don't 'like' them, I just don't 'dislike' them.

Everything about me was criticised growing up, so even things that I might otherwise have liked still have a criticism attached. So, for example, I have small feet (3) and slim ankles. But I was always told that they only make the rest of me look bigger. I am happy to laugh at myself and not take myself to seriously and to joke at my own expense, but I worry that that means people don't respect me.

How do you appreciate and value yourself more then?

PonchosLament Tue 19-Jul-16 08:34:42

Sorry, the small feet thing is something that other people do comment on positively. Not compliment, but comparisons made by other people seem to fall favourably in my favour. They're just feet as far as I'm concerned!

And the 'not taking yourself too seriously/being able to laugh at your mistakes' is always talked about as a positive. But I worry that it means people don't take me seriously. I'm not a 'fool', but I don't get precious about things or go off in a strop if a screw up.

PonchosLament Tue 19-Jul-16 08:47:32

I think I think that if I achieve a certain standard then I will like and accept and maybe, eventually, love myself.

But I'm guessing that's not how it works then, is it?

So how do I go about accepting/loving myself as I am when I'm so unhappy/dissatisfied with who/what I am? And feel that these flaws need improving/correcting?

Katedotness1963 Tue 19-Jul-16 13:06:33

I have no ideas what it means. It seems a popular phrase on FB and every time I read it I want to ask what it means...

adora1 Tue 19-Jul-16 13:34:30

For me it means loving yourself with all your faults cos we all have them, nobody is perfect no matter how much they like to project differently.

Being kind, being understanding are not just for others, they are for yourself too - it takes a long time to become comfortable in your self and loving yourself doesn't come automatically, it's a gradual process.

Loving yourself comes from an inner confidence that shines and others are attracted to it, independence but willing to share are also good qualities to become a rounded individual - being happy breeds happiness.

Easier said than done I know!

MsStricty Tue 19-Jul-16 13:50:44

"Working on yourself" is overrated, imo. That, I believe, starts to happen when we are simply able to be with ourselves, no matter what we're feeling, what we're doing, and how we're behaving - and to keep coming back to a state of acceptance: accepting who we are without turning our backs on ourselves in recrimination, accepting we'll fuck up, accepting that we are flawed, downright ugly sometimes, and also beautiful for all of it.

PonchosLament Tue 19-Jul-16 14:00:26

How do you do it though? How do you get that inner confidence? How do you become at ease and make peace with your imperfections?

Many moons ago, before I discovered fb and before I saw it in a hundred memes across the internet, I had never heard of the expression 'perfectly imperfect'. And I told a boyfriend once that he was this. Because he was. He was a collection of flaws and imperfections, but they all came together to make him what he was. I can see that in other people. But I can't see what any of the 'perfectly imperfect' qualities I possess are.

I have no idea who I am, I suppose.

My friend has suggested that I find words to describe myself (she has also talked about the mirror work!) but I can't think of any! I came up with 'kind' because I think I am. But beyond that... I have nothing!

PonchosLament Tue 19-Jul-16 14:07:42

I was never told anything good or positive about myself growing up. It was always criticism.

I find it difficult to identify anything positive about myself; anything I like.

YouOKHun Tue 19-Jul-16 15:19:09

I work as a psychotherapist with people who suffer from depression. In among other discussions and concepts, one we always concentrate on is not loving oneself but accepting oneself, totally and universally, as someone else says 'warts and all'. I think it's really helpful to avoid self rating, which is, when you think about it, an impossibility to do accurately. It's also impossible to accurately rate other people's worth, yet these are damaging ways of thinking we so easily fall into. You might find 'how to accept yourself' by Windy Dryden an interesting place to start. He blows the concept of 'boosting self esteem' right out of the water as an exercise in partial self acceptance that keeps you down.

PacificDogwod Tue 19-Jul-16 17:10:51

Why don't you drop thinking about the 'love' bit? I think using 'love yourself' has been so overused that it has almost lost all meaning; in fact I think the word 'love' has been overused in all sorts of contexts tbh.

Bear with me on this one (I am not in the least religious): "Love thy neighbour as yourself" is actually a very profound statement advising people that in order to be kind to others/to put their needs at the front/to consider how actions affect others, each individual has to first of all be kind to themselves/consider their own needs/consider how their actions are affecting themselves IYKWIM.
'Acceptance' is absolutely right, but happy, 'loving' acceptance, not a begrudging 'ah, well, that's all that's to me, it'll just have to do' kind of thing.

Every post your right sounds like you have no yardstick about what aspect of you might be worthy of acceptance or love, and that is the whole point: you do not have to be worthy, you just accept/love.

Much much easier said than done, but the fact that you are thinking about it is a first step.
It's not about self-improvement and it's not about just not bothering anymore. And it is the opposite of arrogance or being full of yourself (many arrogant and brash people have very low self-esteem).
It sounds to me like you have to unlearn the constant criticism that you grew up with. That can be very hard on your own because being self-critical can be almost hard-wired in to you if you have been put down and not valued from a young age.
Have you every considered therapy?

It's interesting that you can accept your small feet as a nice feature because others have commented on them positively, but you are not really all that bothered. And you cannot think about that much else that you like about yourself. You are kind, but you struggle to feel kind about yourself.

Here's some positives for your list that I can think of from your posts: you are articulate. You can spell. You are concerned about good communication enough to put your thoughts in to sentences that others can follow. You come back and explain things in more detail. You are thoughtful. You have good insight in to your issues. I'm sure I could think of more if I did not have to go and make dinner.

The 'imperfect perfection' is also 'perfect imperfection' which somehow is how I prefer to think of it confused. We all are more than a sum of our parts and that is marvellous.

So, consider anything at all about you, just as a warming up exercise grin: do you have nice handwriting? are you good with cats? do you have a great eye for interior design? are you the peacemaker at the office? can you stand on one leg for 1 minute? do you have adorable ear lobes? - all totally random, I know, but that's what you could start with: a brain dump. What gives you joy? What do you do that makes you feel good about yourself?
I enjoy a tidy cutlery drawer, I am a mean cutlery drawer tidier upper - nobody else cares, but I do grin
That kind of stuff.
(I also have to accept that I tidy the cutlery drawer because I am a world class procrastinator, but that's for another thread….)

Consider asking your GP for a referral for psychotherapy to unlearn some of the patterns in which you think about yourself.
And ditch the 'love yourself' phrase.

PacificDogwod Tue 19-Jul-16 17:11:16

Oh, crumbs, what an essay!

absolutelynotfabulous Tue 19-Jul-16 17:18:14

Are you me, ponchos?. Nothing to contribute except to say that I feel exactly the same way as your description of yourself. I mooch through life feeling barely adequate, in all aspects of myselfsad. I always have, and I suppose I always will.

Im 56, and still "self-improving" in a bid to make myself "love myself" just a little bit (whatever that means). I've recently found out that dp has been cheating and wants to end the (very long) relationship he has with me. Am I hurt? Surprised? No. It's exactly what I'd expect. Why would he want to stick with a fat old loser like myself?

Just managed to make that post about myself, so adding "terminally and incurably self-absorbed" to my list of failings.

CherryPicking Tue 19-Jul-16 18:01:54

Ponchos, I'm in a similar boat. Not sure how to love myself, think my taste in friends and partners sucks due a crap upbringing . feel destined to be alone forever. You're not alone, although not sure how helpful me saying that is.

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