Starting to demonstrate love is the first step
For most people, learning to love themselves is a lifelong process. It doesn't happen overnight or with the wave of a magic wand; rather, it needs to be developed and practiced daily, much as if you were learning a new sport. You need to learn the movements and then practice them again and again until they become as natural to you as breathing. Part of the beauty of living is that each person is given a lifetime to practice self love.
You don't need to fully master self love before you love another, but you do need to be actively on the path. There are countless resources you can turn to for guidance and encouragement; we are fortunate to live in a world and a time that encourages personal growth and self awareness. Since the focus of this program is about relating and not specifically on building self-esteem, I will simply name a few of my favorite techniques for learning to love yourself and then encourage you to continue the journey on your own.
Loving yourself seems unspecific and abstract, so start by doing concrete tasks. For instance, each night write a list of "pats on the back." The list should start with the word "I" and list your accomplishments throughout the day. The items could be as minor as standing up to the dry cleaner when he ruined your favorite sweater, completing a project you delayed, or making a great pot of coffee; even small accomplishments can go a long way toward showing you your value.
The purpose of this list is to shine your mental spotlight on the positive aspects to circumvent the automatic focus on the negative. In our workshops we say, "Ten acknowledgments a day keeps the 'beat ups' away." It takes 21 repetitions of an action to become habitual; therefore, if you do this for 21 days in a row, you should notice a marked improvement in your level of self confidence and self perception. Your mind will no longer automatically seize upon all that you do wrong, but will instead shift over to what you, in fact, do right!
Another tool to create a context of self care is the act of nurturing. This requires that you care for your relationship with yourself just as you would a relationship with a dear friend or loved one. Nurturing is a demonstration to yourself, from yourself, that you matter and that you are worth the expense of time, energy, effort, or money. Make a list of things that recharge and rejuvenate you; this could be anything from sensory pleasures to physical activity to spiritual practices that renew you.
List only things that make you feel special. Things like:
• Watching the sunset
• Taking a bubble bath
• Having a massage
• Spending a day in bed when you're not sick
• Going biking
• Having coffee with a friend
• Eating a delicious (non-fattening) treat
• Burning your favorite scented candle
• Listening to your favorite music
Choose at least one nurturing act per day and do it, even if you initially have to coax yourself. Soon you will learn to absorb nurturing, and the process of choosing and doing things on your list will become one of the highlights of your day.
Start with yourself. You have today. You have yourself. You have what it takes to love yourself. Start showing yourself and others how you should be treated, and soon you will understand the meaning of true, unconditional, and authentic love.
From there, the wonderful experience of loving and being loved by another will be like a miraculous gift. It doesn’t matter what tools you use to build your sense of self worth. What matters is that you put forth the time and energy to learn to love the one person who will absolutely be with you for the rest of your life, yourself.