How to Practice Self Love & Be Happier

How to Practice Self Love & Be Happier

The process of self-awareness includes loving ourselves enough to live our dreams and create our own reality. We are "pure love" when we are born. Early conditioning and life experiences cause us to believe we are unlovable; there is something wrong with me. The more we work on integrating past experiences and improving our self-esteem, the stronger our self-concept becomes. The more we love ourselves, the more enthusiastic we become about life. We develop the courage to be authentic and true to our ideals.

And yet, self love is one of our biggest challenges. Loving ourselves has negative connotations because people often confuse it with selfishness, self-absorption and egocentric behavior. It is often easier to love another person than our self. We don't realize that, when we take care of ourselves and treat ourselves in a loving manner, we have more love to give. The biblical expression "my cup runneth over," means I have more than enough for my needs.

We love our self in some of the following ways:

Accept and own all parts of ourselves.

Being true to ourselves, and living our lives authentically, includes recognizing our strengths and weaknesses; our good qualities and faults; our suffering and joy; our fears and courageous acts; etc. These dualities coexist in all of us. Recognizing and accepting them helps us integrate them into the totality of who we are.

Believe we have the ability to change any aspect of ourselves.

Self awareness means taking an inventory of our personalities, behaviors, attitudes and principles we live our lives by. We have the ability to change any aspect which does not conform to our self image. We empower ourselves by making the commitment to do so, having patience for our process, and looking at ourselves with the eyes of understanding and love.

Make peace with childhood wounds and traumatic life experiences.

The memory of a past traumatic experience may cause you psychic pain and/or make you feel wounded and scarred. Moving this memory from your direct vision, where you relive it regularly, into your peripheral vision will help you heal. You know the memory is there, but it no longer has its hold on you. Some wounds cannot be completely healed and may resurface during stressful times. When we release the emotional pain from these experiences, space in our psyche is freed up for vitality and joy.

Identify and assert our needs, and ensure they are met.

Many of us go through life unaware of our needs, or too afraid to express them to others. As children, many of us gave our power away to well meaning, and sometimes not well meaning, adults. We were told how to behave, act, and feel. Most of us were not encouraged to discover our interests and preferences. Decisions were made for us, and our needs and desires were not taken into account. Many of us still have those helpless children locked inside our psyches. Becoming an adult includes taking conscious control of our lives through actions such as expressing our needs, finding solutions, meeting our own needs, etc. It is important to claim our power and not feel helpless.

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Establish boundaries.

Individuals who establish emotional, physical, and sexual boundaries respect themselves enough and prevent others from crossing them. A sense of self requires physical boundaries to protect our bodies, and emotional boundaries to indicate where our emotions end and other people's emotions begin. Emotional boundaries are necessary to separate our own feelings from those of others. Without strong boundaries we have trouble saying no and we lose touch with our needs and wants. Setting boundaries empowers us to decide what we are willing to put up with. And in so doing, we teach others how to treat us.

Have the strength to decide, on our own, what is good for us.

When faced with important decisions, do your homework. Consult with family members, friends and colleagues. Empower yourself with as much information as possible. Then spend some quiet time listening to your intuitive voice. It is always communicating with us and letting us know which direction to take.

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Engage in relationships with people who are supportive, respectful, loving and kind.

Your external environment reflects your inner world. If you want to assess your sense of self, look to your outer reality. Do you surround yourself with angry, disrespectful and critical people who are toxic and drain your energy? People cannot take advantage of us without our permission. The better we feel about ourselves, the more we engage in relationships with people who treat us with kindness and respect. We feel worthy and deserving of this type of treatment, and we will not put up with disrespectful behaviors.

Give up the need for approval and to be liked by everyone; tolerate criticism.

With low levels of self-esteem, we look for outside approval and suffer from the "disease to please." The better we feel about ourselves, the more we can tolerate criticism and people's disappointment in us. We no longer need to do things to please others because we want them to like us.

Create a living environment that nourishes us.

Your external environment is also a reflection of your inner process. A messy living environment (home, workplace, car) may be a reflection of the inner chaos of your psyche. As you get in touch with unresolved issues, bring them to consciousness, and heal them, your external environment will become more organized. Clutter impacts on our health by blocking energy in our bodies and minds. People often comment how much lighter they feel when they give away clothes they no longer wear. The same is true when outdated magazines are passed on to others. Do you love the things in your home? Are they pleasing to your senses? Do they reflect who you are today? When you enter your home, do you experience feelings of well-being, or is your energy drained? Answer these questions honestly. Then take action to create a living space which nourishes and replenishes you. Read more about whether multi-tasking is healthy

Honor ourselves with acts of loving kindness and respect.

Do something special for yourself on a regular basis. In so doing, you give yourself a message in which you are deserving of this special effort, and are important enough to take the time to do it. It can be as simple as preparing a quiet bath, watching a favorite movie, cooking a special meal, etc. The key is scheduling adequate time with no interruption. The message is: "I am important enough to do this for myself."

Participate in pleasurable activities that give joy and meaning to your life. Ask yourself the question "What makes me happy?" Answer, then go out and do it!

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Myra Giberovitch is an educator, consultant, author and professional speaker. She is adjunct professor, McGill University School of Social Work and author of Recovering from Genocidal Trauma: An Information and Practice Guide for Working with Holocaust Survivors (University of Toronto Press, 2014). Watch her speak at TedxMontreal – Genocide Survivors: Contributors Not Victims.