Tuesday, June 9, 2015

When Self-Love is Elusive

For folks who've been through traumatic experiences or tend towards anxiety and depression, learning to love ourselves can be tricky business. We get the importance of being kind to ourselves, which makes it more frustrating that self-love eludes us. If the person you want to become, a person who loves herself, feels painfully far away, this post is for you. It's for me because I've been there, too. It's for all who would benefit from direct coaching when cheesy platitudes aren't enough.

What is self-love? Well, it's the opposite of self hate, a common symptom in trauma survivors and folks with anxiety and depression alike. After a difficult experience, you might find yourself thinking negatively about yourself, others, and the world. This makes sense after your basic sense of trust has been shaken as it is with trauma but hyper-focusing on what's wrong keeps us unable to relax and feel safe- the very thing our mind is trying to accomplish by remaining on the lookout for danger.

For many of us, the first step to self-love is establishing a sense of inner and outer safety. It's hard to be happy until the fear response is turned off more of the time than not. This doesn't mean you'll never experience another nightmare, panic attack, or other unwanted reaction but it means you'll have less and less bad days as you learn to cope well with your most challenging symptoms. I hope you weren't looking for a quick fix or magic pill. In my experience, most of us prefer the truth.

As we begin to feel safer, we can more readily pursue a path of self-love- and there is no destination. Again, sorry to disappoint you if you hoped there was but isn't it a relief to know that you'll always have another chance to do things differently as you continually grow and change? I find comfort in knowing that no one single event defines us. I am not the words I offer you today, although they're part of me. You are much more than just the thoughts going through your mind, right now.

Self love requires safety, patience, and willingness to practice looking for what's right, letting ourselves enjoy things, and letting ourselves off the hook when things don't go according to plan. Your very desire to love yourself more fully puts you on the path. Now, it's just a matter of how you respond to yourself, especially when you're stressed, again and again... Want more specific feedback? A trusted friend, relative, or counselor such as myself can help you discover and use your best coping strategies. Wherever you are, I wish you blessings on your path...

Further questions for your consideration:
  • What are your worst symptoms?
  • How do you remind yourself that you're safe, now?
  • What grounds you when you're feeling overwhelmed?
  • Name a few ways you can distract yourself from inner distress.
  • Who can you call for coaching or support when you need it?
  • Where can you go if you need a break from your current surroundings?
  • List people, places, and things, that calm, motivate, and inspire you.