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Self-Love Is a Never-Ending Journey

    Photo of author at the beach with “I am lovable” and hearts underneath it to emphasize the importance of self-love
    Image credit: Wendi Gordon. Created in Canva.

    I was shocked when I couldn’t bring myself to say “I am lovable,” even in the privacy of my therapist’s office! That surprised me because I often write about my mental health issues online and help others deal with theirs. It was obvious that self-love is an ongoing journey and I need to keep practicing what I preach!

    I think many of you can relate to my struggle. My mind knows I’m lovable and can prove it by pointing to the people who love me, especially my husband of 31 years. However, my gut stubbornly refuses to believe it. I hope my honesty about my self-love journey will help you on yours.

    First I explored why self-love is hard for me

    I uncovered some core beliefs I wasn’t fully aware of by journaling. At the top of the page, I wrote, “I love myself. I am lovable.” Then I wrote my reaction to those words:

    They don’t feel true. An inner voice immediately says, “No you don’t, and you’re not.” Why not? Because loving yourself is prideful and arrogant, for starters. … Because I’m not producing much that is of value to society or makes a difference.

    At an intellectual level, I know neither of those statements is true. Down deep, though, it’s a different story.

    I have a long history of equating my worth with what I do instead of who I am. I think I have to earn love by helping others, being productive, and generating at least enough income to support myself.

    When I’m successful at doing those things and others praise my work, I feel good about myself and think I am worthy of love.

    When I’m not, I conclude that I am a failure. I focus on all the ways I don’t measure up. During those times, self-love is difficult, to say the least. It’s even hard for me to understand how anyone else could love me.

    I recognize the harm those negative beliefs cause. I am highly motivated to change them and learn to be as gentle and compassionate with myself as I usually am with others. I continue to explore why I sometimes find that so challenging.

    Then I explored why I was ashamed of my need for love

    My next journal entry began with these questions: “Why do I feel so much shame around the idea that I am lovable?” “Why does my need for love seem like a shameful secret weakness that it is not okay to have?”

    This was my response:

    I guess I see any kind of neediness as unacceptable. I want to be independent, strong, and successful. The irony is that I need to love myself unconditionally to achieve those goals! Also, no one is truly independent; we all need each other and I crave and enjoy authentic connections with others.

    Yet it still seems wrong to see myself as lovable and worthy of love. It seems arrogant and prideful. I still think I should have to do things to earn love, and that love is the same as approval. It’s not.

    With a better understanding of the reasons self-love is hard for me, I was ready to continue the journey.

    The next step was to ask for help

    I believe God’s Spirit dwells within me (and everyone else) and speaks to me when I’m quiet and willing to listen, so that’s who I turned to for help. If you don’t believe in God, you can ask your higher self, the universe, or any other source of wisdom you trust to help you love yourself. This is the help I asked for:

    Change my heart and transform my mind, God, so I can see myself the way You see me and believe I am lovable just as I am. Help me know that and remind myself of it instead of needing others to constantly reassure me that it’s true.

    I also asked God to help me believe in the basic goodness of myself and most people, accept help gratefully and without shame when it is offered, and help others when I can.

    I write prayers every morning. Occasionally, I also write God’s response to this question: “What do You want me to know or do today?” Here’s an example:

    Accept My unconditional love. Believe it. Revel in it. Let it become the dominant force in your life and guide everything you say and do. Let me help you change your negative beliefs about yourself and the world and see the beauty in yourself and all of My creations. …

    There is a lot of truth in the statement, “If you believe it, you can achieve it,” despite the fact that there are variables you cannot control. Work on those you can, especially the belief that you are lovable now, just as you are, and your emotions and sensitivity are gifts, not liabilities or weaknesses to be overcome.

    Let Me transform your mind and your life. You were never meant to do it on your own, and you are not alone! I am with you always. …

    Know that you are loved regardless of what you do or fail to do. You will always be My precious, beloved child and My wish for you is that you fully recognize the truth of that. I want you to see yourself and every part of you as sacred and valuable and worthy of love.

    Is it possible that I’m just writing what I want to hear and deluding myself that God is speaking to me? Of course. Does it really matter who or where the words come from if they help me love myself?

    More steps on my self-love journey

    The journey has taught me that the only way to counter the belief that I am not lovable is to continually remind myself that I am. Here are some ways I do that and you can too:

    1. I use images like the one at the beginning of this post as wallpaper on my iPhone. That gives me a visual reminder that I am lovable many times a day. Choose a photo of yourself, add a quote about self-love, and put it on your phone and/or print flyers to post around your house.
    2. Every night when I go to bed, I write affirmations. Write “I love myself” (or any other positive message you want to reinforce) repeatedly and say it aloud each time you write it.
    3. I talk and write about how hard it is for me to love myself sometimes and the steps I’m taking to change that. Be honest with yourself and others you trust about your self-love journey.
    4. I read articles about self-love and related topics. Explore the other blog posts here and read the ones that interest you.
    5. I meet with a therapist weekly to continue exploring why self-love is hard for me at times and celebrate the progress I’ve made. Talk to your therapist about your struggle to love yourself and/or use our contact form to request a free phone consultation with a personal mental health guide.

    The most valuable insights from my self-love journey that can help you

    Here are the most important things I have learned as I continue to work on loving myself:

    • Self-love is a never-ending journey, not a final destination.
    • The journey can be painful and difficult but is still worth taking.
    • Exploring why self-love is hard for you provides valuable insights.
    • Help from others makes the journey easier.
    • Lessons learned about loving yourself need to be reinforced often.
    • It’s important to celebrate progress and expect setbacks along the way.

    If you liked this article, you may also appreciate “Changing Lives,” my weekly newsletter. It’s for anyone who wants to change lives, starting with their own.

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