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electric_blonde

What Does It Mean To Love Yourself?

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What does it mean to love yourself?

 

I have had more than one friend tell me recently that I need to learn to do this, but I have no idea how. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever "loved myself." I don't think I even know what that really means. I know what it means to love someone else, but I don't have those feelings for myself. I'm not sure I ever have. Is this an easier concept to grasp than I'm making it out to be?

 

I am about 30 lbs. overweight and constantly beat myself up over it. I am becoming obsessed with it, to the point that I am turning down invitations to go out with friends because I am mad that I am overweight and don't feel attractive at all. I have one pair of jeans that barely fit me anymore, and I am too cheap to go buy a bigger pair because it will be yet another sign of failure (I had tried for a very long time to lose weight). Yesterday I sat on the floor in a fitting room in tears because I could not believe how bad I looked in the three-way mirror.

 

Please offer me any advice you may have on how I can work on loving myself. If I can accomplish this, perhaps my life will finally change and stay changed. I need to take a new approach to things before I have a complete breakdown, and maybe this is it?

 

 

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Posted · Report post  

I would love to answer this; but, have to type on a cellphone and it is quite a pain as I have a lot to say. I will chime in when I get home if no one else responds.

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I don't know the answer to your question, but a psychiatrist taught me an approach to this that helps me.  To be quite honest, I do not have a clue to whether this would help you "love yourself" or help others.  I only know it helps me.

 

I will try to paraphrase what the psychiatrist told me:  "Try to imagine your brain.  It weighs about 3 pounds and works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to try to keep you and the 30,000,000,000,000 or so cells in your body alive and healthy.  At only about 3 pounds, it is certainly not an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-perfect Being.  Of course it makes mistakes.  But it tries hard.  And it certainly does not intentionally try to fail you.  It prioritizes everything with an eye to your survival and health.  In addition, it tries to "please" you by helping you realize goals, ideals and plans.  From a certain perspective, you might say your brain is your best friend.  You are always #1 to it.  It never abandons you while it is alive unless it is injured.  Even then it struggles to keep you alive and healthy.  In a way, your brain does hundreds of little strong things, brave things, clever and wise things, beautiful and good things each and every day.  So it "deserves" respect, understanding, compassion, encouragement, consolation and basically love.  Many of us have learned how to scold our brains, how to mentally beat them up over falls and errors.  Many of us have learned how to even hate our brains.  But our brains do not really deserve that."

 

The psychiatrist then told me:  "You can talk to your brain like a wonderful parent might talk to a very loved small child:  encourage it when it is feeling afraid, comfort it when it is hurting, console it when it suffers a loss, be understanding when it goes though its mood and emotions.  As your brain loves you with no strings attached, so you can love it back the same way.  That means, that whatever happens in your life, you are never going to stop loving your brain:  a terrible loss, an embarrassing failure, anything . . . Your love is going to be constant.  Whether you reach the highest heights or the lowest depths, for better or worse, you are going to respect and dignify and honor and love your brain because it is really doing a huge and heroic job for you.  If you ended up completely poverty-stricken and homeless, you would still stand by your brain and love it.  If you fell in a bad way and even ended up in prison: still you would go on loving your brain like some mothers might do for their children, no matter what.

 

If you are interested, I could tell you how the psychiatrist said I could do this in practical terms.

 

None of this is "advice."  I can only share with you what helps me personally.  Hopefully others here will be more helpful to you than I have been!  I wish you all good things!!!

 

Respectfully,   Epictetus

Edited by Epictetus

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Hi electric_blonde!  You are asking a good question.  I think the suggestion to learn to love yourself is a good one.  I quite like the post Epictetus created. 

 

I am learning to do this too.  Perhaps another way to look at it would be to learn to be more accepting of yourself.  So often we are quite supportive and loving to others but are merciless to ourselves.  Sometimes a first step can involve just paying attention to how we speak to ourselves - the tone we use, the words.  There are some lovely books out there that may help.  Tara Brach wrote Radical Acceptance and the Dalia Lama and Howard Cutler wrote The Art of Happiness.  There are many many more books, I'm sure! 

 

What I have been doing for a while is mindfulness meditation.  I am currently in a group program learning mindfulness based cognitive therapy.  We learn to pay attention to how we react to and think about ourselves and what happens in our lives.  I don't think this is for everyone but some ppl do find it helpful.  Perhaps if you could discuss your concerns with a therapist it might be helpful. 

 

I certainly do feel for you and wish you well.

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Posted · Report post  

 

 

If you are interested, I could tell you how the psychiatrist said I could do this in practical terms.

 

 

 

Thanks so much for your reply. Great post. Yes, I am interested in learning what more your psychiatrist said about how to do this. I need help.

 

Thank you!

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I want to accept myself, but I don't know how. Maybe I am overthinking it. When I think about looking in the mirror and not feeling ashamed anymore of the weight I have gained, it does not compute. There is a disconnect there. I just can't do it. When I think about all the hours I have spent at the gym and all the times I cooked when I didn't want to, and could have eaten out instead, and all the times I went to bed without a snack hoping for a good weigh-in in the morning and not getting one, looking at my body in the mirror and accepting it as it is is the furthest thing from my mind. The only thing I feel in those moments is an ungodly amount of rage and shame against myself for having put forth so much effort, and then somewhere along the way sabotaging it all.

 

How can I be my own best friend if I am also my worst enemy? Ruining any progress I make towards anything that would make me feel happy again? What kind of a friend is that?! It's like trying to love and accept a friend who is two-faced and cunning.

 

I liked E's brain story above - I have never in my life heard anyone talk about the brain that way, only "ourselves" which is really our world that exists because we have brains. It's an interesting perspective to say the least.

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That's the problem: how do we love ourselves UNCONDITIONALLY?

 

So the best I can answer "What does it mean to love yourself?" is

If you're able to subject yourself to moments/events of pleasure, without feeling any guilt.

Even if it means splurging once in a while

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Superb question!

 

First, what is "yourself"?  Body?  Mind?  Spirit/soul/emotions?

 

And is that love unconditional?  You mention being overweight.  Perhaps you didn't love yourself when you gained that weight - I think maybe that's the case with me.  (When I was in my early twenties, I weighted 185-190.  When I was thirty-five I weighted 212.  Now, after years of pretty heavy depression and a rigid couch-potato'ing regimen, I weigh around 270.)  But you can be determined to lose that excess weight so that you are more mobile, more able to do more things (walking, running, working out, hiking, swimming, fit better in your clothes, feel better about yourself), and thus love yourself.  Because not only would you be working toward a fitter, better you, you'd have that mentality that said "I'm doing good things for myself!",

 

Maybe loving yourself is as simple as having a plan and executing it.  A plan for life.  I've thought about it long and hard and I want to do this, this, and this in my life.  These things will enable me to be safe, financially secure, to help others, to keep myself healthy, and to ensure that I am loved and that I have people to love.  No questions.

 

And then work on it.  Every day.  To be happy with your decisions and know that they align with your plan.  "I'm going HERE because it makes sense to me."

 

I dunno.

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A friend of mine who went through a divorce a few years ago and had to learn to love herself again after living with a mentally abusive husband sent me this article tonight:

 

http://tinybuddha.com/blog/love-yourself-accept-yourself-forgive-yourself/

 

I just read it and thought it was very well written and easy to understand. Maybe it could help someone else reading through this post. I'm not sure if we are allowed to post links here, but I'm going to try...

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I don't know the answer to your question, but a psychiatrist taught me an approach to this that helps me.  To be quite honest, I do not have a clue to whether this would help you "love yourself" or help others.  I only know it helps me.

 

I will try to paraphrase what the psychiatrist told me:  "Try to imagine your brain.  It weighs about 3 pounds and works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to try to keep you and the 30,000,000,000,000 or so cells in your body alive and healthy.  At only about 3 pounds, it is certainly not an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-perfect Being.  Of course it makes mistakes.  But it tries hard.  And it certainly does not intentionally try to fail you.  It prioritizes everything with an eye to your survival and health.  In addition, it tries to "please" you by helping you realize goals, ideals and plans.  From a certain perspective, you might say your brain is your best friend.  You are always #1 to it.  It never abandons you while it is alive unless it is injured.  Even then it struggles to keep you alive and healthy.  In a way, your brain does hundreds of little strong things, brave things, clever and wise things, beautiful and good things each and every day.  So it "deserves" respect, understanding, compassion, encouragement, consolation and basically love.  Many of us have learned how to scold our brains, how to mentally beat them up over falls and errors.  Many of us have learned how to even hate our brains.  But our brains do not really deserve that."

 

The psychiatrist then told me:  "You can talk to your brain like a wonderful parent might talk to a very loved small child:  encourage it when it is feeling afraid, comfort it when it is hurting, console it when it suffers a loss, be understanding when it goes though its mood and emotions.  As your brain loves you with no strings attached, so you can love it back the same way.  That means, that whatever happens in your life, you are never going to stop loving your brain:  a terrible loss, an embarrassing failure, anything . . . Your love is going to be constant.  Whether you reach the highest heights or the lowest depths, for better or worse, you are going to respect and dignify and honor and love your brain because it is really doing a huge and heroic job for you.  If you ended up completely poverty-stricken and homeless, you would still stand by your brain and love it.  If you fell in a bad way and even ended up in prison: still you would go on loving your brain like some mothers might do for their children, no matter what.

 

If you are interested, I could tell you how the psychiatrist said I could do this in practical terms.

 

None of this is "advice."  I can only share with you what helps me personally.  Hopefully others here will be more helpful to you than I have been!  I wish you all good things!!!

 

Respectfully,   Epictetus

 

For some reason, this made me cry. Which was probably a good thing because I've started to feel sad tonight but I can't tell why. I have the haunting feeling I was supposed to do something, but I can't think what. I'm not sure if it's just from dwelling on bad things for too long. This will happen sometimes if I let bad stuff "in" too far. Especially with sad stuff. I wanted to move forward, and I have been moving forward. I have the right to focus on that, don't I, and to keep going?

 

electric blonde, I don't know how to multiquote on this forum, but what you said about not being able to love yourself because it feels like you're your own worst enemy - I believe that's the trickiest and the most deceptive aspect of it all. I don't believe you are your own worst enemy at all, but rather, that you're "sabotaging yourself" because your poor beleaguered brain is stuck in a kind of maze, always retracing a pattern it's learned from being unloved. I don't think I'm saying this well. You have all these emotions, and if you're anything like me, they've been beaten and stomped on and put in a blender for a long, long time. You can't just destroy or neutralize them or get them to step into line by force. Force will only make it worse, because you're increasing your brain's or body's or heart's awareness that they're unloved. So then you start acting even more from a place of pain, stress, and desperation. I'm guessing that your sabotage involved seeking comfort through food or alcohol? I do similar things, though not with those things anymore. I do things that are very destructive and bad for me, even when I know there will be consequences. Someone once told me that it's natural and almost inevitable to seek any comfort that's available when you feel unloved. That's because the goal that you've set yourself, that far-away comfort on the horizon (feeling good about your weight, or having accomplished anything you set out to do) feels unattainable. If we don't feel lovable, we don't feel capable doing things that would "earn" us love. Or else the pain is just too great, even if it's below our awareness, to avoid seeking comfort and distraction in the present. We become sort of trapped in the present, where we can no longer really hope for the future. The pressure of needing to accomplish a goal seems to overload me with a burden too heavy to carry many times. I fall even lower than I was when I started out. I do much better when I try to go slowly and be gentler and less demanding of myself. So, I think your real enemy isn't yourself, even though you engage in self-destructive behavior sometimes out of a kind of despair (I think); your real enemy is whatever caused you this pain and to feel unlovable. I hope I'm not taking liberties or assuming too much about you. This is how I think it is for me. I only know that the harder I am on myself, the more I try to view myself as my own enemy, the worse I fare. This way of thinking has brought me to my absolute lowest points. I become non-functional.

 

I hope this doesn't read like the rambling mess I feel it is. I hope it gives you some food for thought that might help you, anyway.

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