One of the things that really troubles me is when normally smart and attractive women accept subpar treatment from the men in their lives. Or when they permit family members to take advantage of their generosity. And when they continuously work late nights and weekends instead of taking time to enjoy their lives and the fruit of their labor. Can you relate to this? Do you know anyone like this? Is this you?
Part of this madness is that many successful women still have a misplaced sense of loyalty and finding worth in the wrong places. However, it may be that many of them just don’t love themselves. Think about it? Would you encourage someone you love to regularly skip lunch to do their boss’ job and not ever request a raise? Yet, even if you don’t do this yourself, you may have a friend that lives her life like this regularly. And to top it off, so many women are rewarded for this type of behavior. They are called superwomen. This behavior should not be applauded. It is often a sign that she is not valuing or loving herself.
This lack of self-love can stem from many sources. Such as a parent giving or withholding love based on behavior, never witnessing healthy loving relationships, experiencing rejection or abuse early in life or many other things reasons. The effects of these heart breaks can reach well into adulthood and prevent women from truly experiencing self love.
So what do you do when your friend is not loving herself? Or worse yet when its you? There is no quick fix to hurts that run this deep, however there are steps that you or the women in your life can take to start experiencing more love in her life.
- Acknowledge and mourn the source of pain and hurt in your past.
This can be difficult since many times these hurts happened to you when you were a little girl therefore your memory may be dim. An exercise that may help is to give yourself an hour of uninterrupted time. You may take a walk in a park or sit in your living room with a journal. Begin to think back to your earliest moments in life that love was withheld. This is not about blame but it is about you being honest with yourself. Try to recall as many moments as you can manage at that time. Repeat this exercise as often as it takes. As you acknowledge these moments take the time to get in touch with the emotions you experienced and recognize that it was awful, it was not your fault, and it shouldn’t have happened. Allow God to comfort you in that space.
- Forgive the individuals that may not have loved you well.
This may sound like a crazy suggestion. But trust me, unforgiveness keeps you as an emotional prisoner in someone else’s jail. In order to fully release yourself from the damaging effects of heart break you must forgive and release that person to God. Allow God to fight your battle.
- Make a list of the people by whom you feel most loved.
The same way there are people who have hurt you there are also people who truly love you. Make a list of anyone in your life, dead or alive, who has shown you love. They don’t have to be perfect people. This is an important step because the human mind is selective. For some reason we remember negative experiences more clearly than positive ones. Give yourself the gift of remembering being loved.
- Identify how you experience love.
This can be tricky for some women because we have been so busy taking care of everybody else that we often don’t even know what makes us come alive. Take the time to figure out when you have felt most loved and what did that person do to make you feel that way. In Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages he makes the point that each of us give and receive love through the following ways: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. I would highly recommend reading the book if you haven’t. For right now, just think about the top two ways that you receive love. Now love yourself that way!
- Pretend you are a little girl
Women are natural nurturers. It is one of the ways that we are created in God’s image. Use that to your advantage. Pretend you are a younger version of yourself. Even go as far as calling yourself by your childhood nickname. When you find yourself working through lunch, take a moment and pretend your are a little girl and ask yourself the question– “would I encourage my six-year old daughter, niece, or God child to skip a meal because she had homework?” The answer is no. Take care of yourself as if you were a child.
- Date Yourself
We often wait around for men to ask us out on a date before we decide to go somewhere special. Start doing it yourself. Make a list of all the places you enjoy going and things you enjoy doing. Schedule a date with yourself in your planner and just do it. Even send yourself flowers afterwards.
- Forgive Yourself
Learning to forgive yourself is an important step in self love. For some reason women are really great at forgiving others but will hold a grudge against themselves for a lifetime. Just drop it. Yes, you may have made a very poor choice when you were sixteen but don’t you think its time to let it go? I don’t want to make light of what can be very difficult burdens but I want to encourage you to say the words “I forgive you” to yourself at least five times a day. Even if you don’t feel it when you say it, eventually it will seep it.
- Compliment Yourself in the Mirror
The next time you walk by the mirror, instead of saying I need to lose weight or what is going on with my hair, compliment yourself. Just say something. Look yourself in the eyeballs and tell yourself “girlfriend you are hot!” or “nice butt” or simply “you are beautiful.” The power of life and death is in the tongue so choose to speak life to yourself. Choose to love yourself.
- Start Saying No
I know its difficult, but the next time a family member asks you to do something that they can do themselves and is way beyond the call of duty JUST SAY NO! Seriously, start saying no to the things that are draining you of your zest for life.
- Get Help
We were meant to live life in community. Having a good friend, a counselor, or a life coach who will keep you on track in loving yourself is an effective strategy to moving towards self love. The clients I coach benefit from me truly standing with them in their quest to experience more love in their lives and so I am relentless in keeping them true to their goals. Grab a friend or hire a coach and give them permission to help you love yourself more.
- Take your Time
Lastly, learning to love yourself after years of not doing it will take time. Cut yourself some slack and just take one step at a time.
Now tell us in the comment section one or two additional ways you show yourself love and what are the challenges you face in doing so. Remember your comments are very important. We want to hear from you.