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5 questions to ask yourself when self-love feels impossible.

For many of us, self-loathing comes far more naturally than self-love. If, like me, you’ve been taking a baseball bat to your own psyche for years, decades, a lifetime, even — silencing your inner critic ain’t always easy. Hell, she/he/it can be louder than your neighbor’s 2 a.m. car alarm.

I cringe when recalling the nasty, hateful ways I’ve programmed myself. I’ve spent endless hours immersed in a mental loop of self-flagellation and misery. Ugh.

And frankly, it often feels next to impossible to practice self-compassion. Compassion towards others is the basis of my entire being. Compassion towards myself — that’s a hell of a lot harder. But it’s a battle I (and all others who are way too hard on themselves) need to keep on fighting.

So, when my inner Lucille Bluth takes over — I try and remind her to stop and pose these questions. They help.

5. Is what I’m telling myself the truth?
Are my thoughts true? I examine them as objectively as I can and determine whether they’re actually legit. “I’m lazy.” “I’ll always be alone.” “I’ll never be good enough.” “I’m fat.” These are things I’ve repeated to myself as a matter of course — and I recognize that they’re bullshit. Everything is subjective. In the wise words of Byron Katie, “Don’t believe everything you think.” I constantly remind myself that my thoughts are often a load of crap, and I do myself the deepest disservice by believing them. Self-loathing is a product of wrong thinking.

4. What makes me utterly unique?
There’s only one me. There’s only one you. It’s my job to be myself, and no one else can or will ever step into that role. I’m the only me who’ll ever exist in the entire expanse of the universe. Pretty freaking amazing. So what makes me, ME? What makes me a unique, remarkable, one-of-a-kind Hannah? I think about it. I write it down. I laugh about my ridiculousness and quirks and foibles. I’m here to bring those singular qualities into the world.

3. Whose standards am I trying to meet?
Often, I’ve judged myself based on standards dictated by family members, authority figures and the faceless entity known as “society”. Those aren’t my standards, they’re someone else’s — and I’ve never been one to follow the rules. So why am I trying to live up to these vague, nonsensical ideals? Why would I blindly follow a dogma I don’t support? Who says I’m supposed to be financially “secure” by a certain age? Who says I should be a certain weight or look a certain way? Who says I should settle down? Assessing the foundation of my beliefs and reminding myself what I truly value allows me to be far less harsh with self-judgment.

2. What would I say to a best friend in the same situation?
I’d never speak to a loved one the way I’ve often spoken to myself. And that, my friends, is pretty pathetic. I deserve my own love and care. So if someone I loved was criticizing and judging and condemning themselves – what would I tell them? I’d probably list their many awesome attributes, tell them to be gentle with themselves, offer a warm shoulder and a compassionate ear. So, I try and follow my own wise advice.

1. How can I help someone else?
Constant self-absorption can lead to an endless road of obsession and misery. I should know — I walked that rocky road for many years. But once I started looking for ways to help others, I found a purpose outside of myself. When I’m serving, I shed my self-defeating egoism. My problems and negativity seem trivial when I’m connecting with other people in a positive way.

Oh, and laughter is always a win. Maintaining a sense of humor about myself is a skill I’ve worked hard to hone, and a good giggle quickly tears down the walls of self-criticism and denigration.

In the end, self-love is the most important quality we can cultivate, so it’s worth working to break the cycle of scorn. In the words of Hillel the Elder, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

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