“How do you make your partner’s life difficult? What is hard about living with you?”
This is a question that Jennifer Finlayson-Fife asked in her marriage course, which I took. She asked us all to really sit with this and come up with some answers.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t love my time sitting with this question. I felt uncomfortable.
My faults are not my favorite company to sit with.
However, these are necessary questions to ask if we want to improve our marriages (which we do . . . just in case you forgot and ran away when I mentioned facing our faults . . .).
Our theme for the month is self-confronting with love.
We’re going to be talking about the love part of self-confronting today, because honestly we won’t go anywhere NEAR self-confrontation if we aren’t able to do it with love.
And most people don’t go near self-confrontation.
Because love is not a feeling they get out of that exercise.
Let’s change that. Let’s talk about how to love ourselves.
First, let’s talk about some self-love myths.
Self love, or a healthy relationship with yourself is NOT dependent on:
– how awesome you are
– you having very few faults
– you having very few serious faults
– you having the mental will-power of Kimmy Schmitt (everything is always awesome no matter what! and if its not I’ll just think it is!)
Self love is not reserved for the flawless among us (and just between me and you- there are no flawless among us). Thankfully, regardless of how many imperfections we have or how serious we believe our imperfections to be, its totally possible to have a healthy relationship with yourself. To love yourself even.
Self love is not innate. Self love doesn’t just happen. Self-love is a SKILL.
Like any skill, it will develop and grow over time with PRACTICE. The more we practice, the better we get at it.
But how do we develop this skill?
I have some ideas.
Specifically, I have six ideas.
How to Develop the Skill of Self-Love:
1. Realize and believe in your innate worthiness.
This has to be step number one. Our journey of self-love has to start here. It has to start with the absolute immutable trust that we are worthy of love and belonging. No matter our flaws, no matter our mistakes, no matter WHAT.
This knowledge of our own worthiness cannot be shaken when we screw up. It cannot be shaken if people attack us. It must be more stable than that.
We need to get off the roller-coaster of self-worth we put ourselves on where we’re up when we’re succeeding and we’re down when we’re failing. We need to be on solid, stable ground with our worth.
Since we did nothing to earn our worthiness, we can do nothing to remove it. It is innate. It comes with being human. We are all 100% worthy of love. All the time, no matter what.
It is not enough to hear this once and forget it. Our tricky brains are constantly trying to convince us that we are unworthy, so we must keep reminding ourselves.
This is why I repeat to myself every morning during meditation, “I am a child of God. I am imperfect and that’s ok. I am enough.”
2. Practice positive self-talk.
“Ugh I have so much to do today. Why did I watch 3 episodes of that show last night? I should have been working! Or cleaning! Or exercising! Why didn’t I get up earlier this morning to exercise? This is why I can’t lose those 5 pounds. I just don’t have enough will-power.”
Why do we talk to ourselves in a way we would never talk to a friend? Can you imagine telling a friend, “Your house is a mess, I can’t believe you live like this.” Or “You said WHAT to your kid? No wonder they don’t listen to you.”
I’m going to guess you would never say those things to a friend. (If you did, they probably wouldn’t use the term “friend” to describe you).
I’m going to suggest something outrageous here. I’m going to suggest we be a friend to ourselves. That we talk to ourselves the way we would talk to a close friend.
With love, kindness, empathy, and forgiveness.
I so wish this were easy. Unfortunately, it is actually incredibly difficult to un-do years of thought patterns and habits. But noticing is the first step. Notice yourself when you are self-critical.
Then, pull out that inner Oprah.
When in doubt, I find it good practice to make the voice in my head sound like Oprah (I listen to her podcast so often that the voice in my head often IS Oprah so this isn’t too much of a stretch).
3. Notice the story you are telling yourself and question it.
Most of the time the reason we are self-critical and feel we are not enough is not based in reality. It’s all in our head.
If you find yourself thinking, “I’m not doing enough.” “I’m not attractive enough.” “I’m not kind enough.” Don’t let those thoughts go unquestioned. Question them!
The best tool I’ve found for doing this is Byron Katie’s four questions and turnarounds.
You take a thought such as “I am not doing enough,” and ask yourself four questions:
1. Is it true?
2. Can I be absolutely sure it’s true?
3. What happens, how do I react when I believe this thought?
4. Who would I be without this thought?
Then you turn the statement around (for example “I AM doing enough” and find three reasons why that is true.)
4. Keep the emotional numbing to a minimum.
We all hate feeling embarrassed, bored, ashamed, overwhelmed, anxious, scared, heart-broken, disappointed and angry.
If you are like most humans, when you feel these negative emotions, you want them to go away. One of the quickest ways to accomplish this is to numb those emotions with something that helps us not to feel or think.
A few numbing tools include: food, TV, alcohol, social media, drugs, porn, video games.
Most numbing tools are fine in moderation- we all probably indulge in delicious desserts and TV from time to time. But using these numbing tools every time you feel a negative emotion without confronting the emotion creates a big problem fast.
We’ve got to get better at feeling those negative feelings and just letting them pass through us without numbing them.
If you’re a compulsive numb-er, I’d really recommend reading some of Brene Brown‘s books to learn why negative emotions are fine, they won’t kill us and we need to feel them in order to fully love ourselves (I recommend starting with The Gifts of Imperfection).
5. Practice self-care.
I have a hypothesis that many people out there don’t REALLY know what healthy self-care looks like.
Often when we think of self-care we think of getting a pedicure, buying a new pair of shoes, going on vacation. While these things are all fine things to do from time to time, pampering ourselves shouldn’t be the heart and soul of our self-care practices.
Self-care practices at their best should take care of our feelings. They should feed our souls. They should fill us with love and peace.
Here’s an excellent quote from Dr. Karyl McBride, author of “The Legacy of Distorted Love.” She says,
“There is a difference between self-absorbed, narcissistic behavior and sound internal self-care. Self-care is about taking good care of our own feelings so we don’t project them onto others, act badly, or cause problems in relationships. Being in touch with our own feelings and embracing them is the healthiest thing we can do.”
I love that bolded part: “self-care is about taking good care of our own feelings so we don’t project them onto others.”
Taking care of our own feelings can include practices such as meditation, prayer, reading a good book, taking a walk, exercise, enjoying a hobby, getting together with a friend or whatever fills up your internal love tank.
6. Every day is a new day.
You know that story you tell yourself about yourself? Stories like, “I can’t start my own business, I’m not confident enough!” “I can’t go to that gym, I’m not athletic enough!” “I can’t make that goal, I’m not hard-working enough.”
All those stories get to die. They get to die whenever we want them to.
The past “you” can die every. single. day.
Every day is a new day. A new day to become who you want to become with nothing holding you back.
Figure out who you want to be and don’t let your past self and what they “can” or “can’t do” hold you back.
Chase what you want every single day with a fresh start.
Whew. That was a lot of self-help in one little post. I sincerely hope if you’ve read this far, you are coming away feeling energized and hopeful about yourself and your future and not feeling like a failure.
Failure is all part of the process, but thankfully since marriage (and life) is a laboratory, we often learn more from our failures than from our successes, so take heart.
Go easy on yourself. In fact unabashedly love yourself. Your spouse, your family, your friends and most importantly your emotional health will all thank you for your efforts.