What Happens When You Start to Love Yourself First?

“Love yourself. Enough to take the actions required for your happiness. Enough to cut yourself loose from the drama-filled past. Enough to set a high standard for relationships. Enough to feed your mind and body in a healthy manner. Enough to forgive yourself. Enough to move on.” – Steve Maraboli

My 15-year-old daughter sat next to me in the passenger seat as I drove, curiously opening the pile of notes before her wondering what each one would reveal. We had just been given a box of memorabilia from when I was a young child.

“Dear Mom, I love you and you are the most loveable person in the world and wonderful. I love you very, very much. xoxoxoxoxoxo Love, Lynnie

“Day by Day, I Love You. Night by Night, I say, “No matter what will ever happen, I’ll always Love you anyway. Love, Lynn”

“To Mommy, Just want to say I LOVE YOU. Love, Lynn.”

One after another expressing my love to the person who I knew needed to hear it. My mother.  A woman who suffered from Manic Depression and struggled to manage her debilitating highs and lows as she attempted to live a “normal” life.

It appeared I needed her to know…to feel…Loved. I did my very best to shower her with proof that she was important and thought of with warm and loving thoughts.  What I couldn’t do was convince her to feel the same. I couldn’t get her to see what I saw or felt, but that didn’t stop me from trying.

My efforts were strong, but her will won out. She committed suicide right before I turned 15 years old…the same age as my own daughter reading my love notes from childhood.

“That is just another example,” I told my daughter,”of how people can’t receive what they don’t feel. We can love someone with every part of our being, but if they don’t feel it for themselves, they won’t be able to feel it from outside of them either. It has to start with yourself.”

I’m a professional counselor. I’ve heard myself say those words many times before, but not when describing my mother. Even as I said the words they began to sink in more.

There was nothing I could do….

Suicide brings on a complicated kind of grief. All the typical cycles are present…the denial, the anger, the sadness, the regret…on repeat. The “what iffing” that joins in is one that seems to have it’s own relentless voice.

“What if I had…what if she had…what if he had…what if they had…?”

Over and over again. What would have been different? Even when we’ve accepted the WHY, we still struggle to not keep asking “But what if?”

I’ve dedicated my life’s work to helping people enjoy life more. I’ve dedicated my own effort to doing the same for myself. I know crippling anxiety. I know the heaviness of depression. I know what’s it’s like to question, what the hell am I doing here?

I also know what it’s like to want to feel loved and appreciated, but put myself in positions over and over again that gave me the opposite feeling. I know what it feels like to keep trying to prove myself and not feel accepted in return. I know what it’s like to assume life is never going to actually improve, despite my desperate desire for it.

But I also know that life has a way of giving us what we need and feeding us our worth when we open ourselves up more and let it in. And the only way to do that, is to start with how you feel about yourself.

What Happens When You Start to Love Yourself First?

If you don’t think you are good enough, then you won’t accept the compliment. If you don’t like the way you feel, you will look for the validation of your value outside of yourself over and over again, but you won’t be able to fully absorb it. It will fill you briefly, but then you will be hungry for more soon after. It won’t be enough.

And that’s because you can’t hold on to what you don’t fully believe.  If you won’t take it in then why would you ask for more of what you want? If you don’t feel confident enough, then why would let yourself be in a relationship that feeds your desire to be loved? Really loved with actions that prove it.

In order to own it, truly own the love and acceptance that is given to you, you must love yourself first. The way you view your life, your value, what you give to the world and the people in it. You’ll benefit from looking inside of your own heart and identifying the pains and the voices that keep you down. And you will really benefit from challenging them!

You want proof that you have something to offer? That you are enough? Then spend some time getting to know the you you want others to see. The scared parts, the lonely parts, the protective parts, the angry parts, as well as the loving parts, the proud parts, the compassionate parts, the optimistic parts who see hope clearly and the light of a cloudy day. Get to know those parts, all of them. And befriend them. Accept them, feel compassion for them and learn to let them be really loved and honored for who they are.

Those parts want to be seen, heard, understood and accepted, as well acknowledged for the gift they are that makes up amazing you.

Take out a piece of paper and list out the parts of yourself. Give them names and their dominant characteristics. Introduce them to each other. Ask them the questions you’d ask someone you were just meeting.

When do they show up in your life? Where did they come from?

Who do they remind you of? Who are you drawn to the most? Who irritates you the most?

How are they protecting you? How are they harming you? Ask them why.

Get to know them each as the parts of you who make up your amazingness as a whole. We are not looking to abolish them, but accept them. All of them. They each have a purpose. Learn what that purpose is and how you can learn to work with them, not against each other.

If you can’t understand why you don’t feel loved or why it comes so fleeting into your life, start with you.

All of you.

You deserve the time, focus and energy it takes learning to accept and appreciate yourself and all the sustainable joy that comes with it.

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Lynn Reilly

Lynn Reilly is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Master Energy Therapist and Author of the self-help book, 30 Days to Me and the children's book, The Secret to Beating the Dragon. You can subscribe to her blog and listen to her podcasts on livingwithserendipity.com as well as follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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