Listen to my Youtube meditation on self-love, centering, and calming here.
Self-love involves a lot more than massages and bubble baths. It means protecting, accepting, and honoring yourself. Usually, codependents have trouble meeting their needs. Even if their parents took care of their physical and material needs (though some did not), their emotional needs were likely neglected or shamed. Often, there were dysfunctional boundaries in the home and they weren’t respected or protected.
Self-love means meeting all your needs. In fact, it’s each person’s responsibility to be his or her own parent and meet their needs, irrespective of whether you’re in a relationship. Of course, at times you need support, touch, understanding, and encouragement from others.
Our relationship with ourselves is a template for all our relationships. The more you practice being a loving parent to yourself, the better your relationships will be. All of the things a good mother does, you have the superior capacity to do, for who knows better than you what are your deepest feelings and needs, if only you’d look. Here are some steps you can take:
- Identify your feelings. If this is difficult, pay attention to your inner dialogue. Notice your thoughts. Do they express worry, judgment, despair, resentment, envy, hurt, or wishing. Notice your moods. Are you irritable, anxious, or blue? Try to name the specific feeling. (“Upset” isn’t a specific feeling.) Do this several times a day to increase your feeling recognition. Find a list of feelings in Chapter 9 of Codependency for Dummies.
- Honor your feelings. When you have uncomfortable feelings, put your hand on your chest, and say aloud, “You’re (or I’m) ____.” (e.g., angry, sad, afraid, lonely). This signifies acceptance of your feelings.
- Accept yourself. Don’t judge or compare yourself to others. Notice if you do and if you seek other people’s approval.
- Meet your needs. Think and/or write about the cause or what triggered your feeling. Once you discover the cause, think about what you need that will make you feel better. Meeting your needs is good self-parenting. Find a list of needs in Chapter 9 of Codependency for Dummies.
- Journal. Journal about your feelings daily. It’s been shown to alleviate depression and increases your self-knowledge. Write yourself a love letter
- Express your feelings. Let people know how you feel, when you’re hurt, when you’re appreciative, when you love, when you’re afraid, and when you’re angry. When you’re angry or sad, release your emotions. If you’re angry, you may need to speak up or set a boundary.
- Give yourself comfort. Write a supportive letter to yourself, expressing what an ideal parent would say. Have a warm drink. Studies show this actually elevates your mood. Swaddle your body in a blanket or sheet like a baby. This is soothing and comforting to your body.
- Find pleasure. Read or watch comedy, look at beauty, walk in nature, sing or dance, create something, or stroke your skin. Pleasure releases chemicals in the brain that counterbalance pain, stress, and negative emotions. Discover what pleasures you. (To read more about the neuroscience of pleasure, read my article, “The Healing Power of Eros”.)
- Play. Adults also need to play. This means doing something purposeless that fully engages you and is enjoyable for its own sake. The more active the better, i.e., play with your dog vs. walking him, sing or collect seashells vs. watching television. Play brings you into the pleasure of the moment. Doing something creative is a great way to play, but be cautious not to judge yourself. Remember the goal is enjoyment–not the finished product.
- Coach yourself. Practice complimenting and encouraging yourself – especially when you don’t think you’re doing enough. Notice self-judgment for what it is, and be a positive coach. Remind yourself of what you have done and allow yourself time to rest and rejuvenate.
- Forgive yourself. Good parents don’t punish children for mistakes or constantly remind them, and they don’t punish willful wrongs repeatedly. Instead, learn from mistakes and make amends when necessary.
- Keep commitments. Honor commitments to yourself as you would anyone else. When you don’t, you’re in effect abandoning yourself. How would you feel if your parent repeatedly broke promises to you? Love yourself by demonstrating that you’re important enough to keep commitments to yourself.
- Develop self-compassion. Compassion is expressed with gentleness, tenderness, and generosity of spirit–quite the opposite of self-criticism, perfectionism, and pushing oneself. Listen to my Self-Love Meditation regularly. It will give you words of kindness and acceptance to say to yourself.
- Protect yourself. Set boundaries that communicate how you want people to treat you and what you’re willing to give and do. Get How To Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits and webinar How to Be Assertive.
- Have a spiritual practice. Make time to nourish yourself spiritually. Create a consistent spiritual practice, whether it’s meditation, prayer, spending time in nature, or doing martial arts. Practice yoga or simple breathing exercises. Slowing your breath slows your brain and calms your nervous system. Exhale 10 times making a hissing (“sss”) sound with your tongue behind your teeth. Watch my Youtube video on self-love, anxiety, centering for confidence.
- Don’t judge yourself. Probably you’re not aware of how you judge and second-guess yourself. Do you “should” on yourself about the future and the past? Start to notice this and stop. It’s very self-destructive. Get 10 Steps to Self-Esteem: The Ultimate Guide to Stop self-Criticism.
- Get Support. We all need support. Don’t be shy about reaching out to friends you feel safe with for support. If that’s not an option, join a 12-Step meeting and/or seek therapy.
- Trust yourself. Develop the habit of listening to your inner voice rather than listening to others’ opinions. It’s fine to get professional advice, but even then, see if it feels right for you. The more you start acting on your inner guidance, the stronger it will become.
Read more on self-love and self-acceptance.
© Darlene Lancer 2018