I wish that loving myself was a simple step-by-step guide that I could outline 1, 2, 3, and done. My truth is that it is a lifelong process that takes work daily. I navigate through the messages from literally everywhere telling me to hate myself. I refuse to dislike myself and reject hateful messages that activate my PTSD. I will live a life of love, pleasure, and peace. Hopefully, by sharing my experience, others can relate and maybe find something useful in my words.
I’m sure that you’ve seen sayings and quotes around proclaiming that you should love yourself and self love! It was off-putting to me because I didn’t even like myself(care of years of abusive people tearing me down) let alone have any love for myself. I had to take baby steps and start with some self awareness before I found my way to loving myself.
I took a realistic look at how I talked to myself. Whether we know it or not, we do have a relationship with ourselves. What was I saying to myself when good, bad, or neutral things were happening? How did those things I said to myself make me feel? Was I reciting the same hurtful things that abusers of the past have said? Self awareness helped me to pay attention in the moment to how I was conversing with myself. It wasn’t good. In fact, much of the incorrect rhetoric abusive people have said to me was permeating my self talk to the point that I was in a very bad place.
One step at a time and I still practice this is paying attention to what I am saying to myself. I have created what I like to think of as an inner counselor that helps to guide me back from dark thoughts and negative feelings toward myself. I vent and respond, comfort and calm myself. The conversation is on of compassion and kindness. I used to berate myself and feel shitty for even existing. Things have changed greatly but I still have times when I am harder on myself. As I mentioned above, it is a process and takes daily work.
After some time practicing catching the negative self talk and unkind lines of thought and helping myself through those moments and into better ones, it got easier. Instead of fighting with myself, I listen with compassion. Instead of a pile on of negative thoughts overwhelming me and triggering more intense PTSD symptoms, I am usually able to redirect my mind and comfort myself. The pain is still there but it is easier to cope with when I practice loving myself.
So, what else did I do to start the process of loving myself? Acts of kindness(little things at 1st), caring for my health, allowing anger, sadness, and even happiness that I felt I was not allowed to express or feel before. I lived a certain way while I was being abused and I carried on the same way in survival mode. I had to do certain things to survive and now I am trying to undo them. It’s difficult, it hurts, and it sucks cactus balls. I will keep going.
Acceptance was and is huge for me. I don’t mean accept and no nothing. I work at accepting the way things are right now and continue working toward a calmer, more peaceful inner life. By accepting myself the way that I am I have also decreased many unrealistic expectations. I say unrealistic because my expectations were for a human that did not experience trauma. I judged myself harshly. I have, in fact, accomplished a lot in my life. I have advantages and disadvantages but I think that I am making the best of things.
Patience is also huge. Since I was so harsh, I had little patience for myself. I expected changes right now instead of the reality that it takes time and small increments of change/healing are what is needed. Big drastic changes cause disregulation and can be painful. It’s ok to be kinda shit at something until I get the hang of it. For me, the small changes and the gradual work of daily practice are what really made the biggest difference. Of course, I do want it right now-dammit, but I understand that I am making it happen. It’s like building blocks, one day at a time. I think that goes for many things in life, not just for healing trauma.
It may not be possible to love oneself for a long time. It took me years. Healing has been a much slower process than I like or ever realized. It’s my biggest and most difficult project ever. If you have gotten this far down the page, thank you for reading. That’s all I have to say for now. I hope it was helpful in some way for you. It helps me to write about how I feel and what I’m doing for healing.