You’ve probably heard the term “Self-Love” before. Like many buzz words and hashtags on the internet, this phrase has become very popular and, in some cases, very polarising.
Perhaps due to its overuse, the term has become associated with vanity and selfishness. However, according to the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation, “self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others.”
Since we are all unique, this expression and what it means to us as an individual will vary somewhat. We all have different needs, so how each person cares for themselves and interacts with others may differ. Regardless of our views of this term, we can all agree that a balanced “love of self” is healthy and entirely appropriate. In fact, we can even go as far as saying that if we do not have a balanced love for ourselves and set certain emotional boundaries, we can never truly love others and enjoy healthy relationships. One of the obstacles, however, to achieving balanced self-love is self-criticism.
Self-Love Vs. Self-Criticism
Our inner voice can be our friend or our foe. For many, the inner voice is demanding and critical. It may constantly whisper in your ear, telling you what you should have done or where you went wrong. Interestingly, self-criticism isn’t always unhealthy. Like a GPS that tells us we are going in the wrong direction, self-criticism can alert us to the wrong course and put us back on track. However, suppose negative self-criticism becomes the only voice that you hear. In that case, your view of yourself can be seriously warped, leading to adverse emotional and mental states. Furthermore, self-criticism can affect not just your mental health, but it can impact you physically too. For example, negative thinking can affect the circulatory system, including the heart, the lungs, and arteries, leading to chronic congestion and chest pain.
The impact that our thinking and emotions have on our overall health cannot be ignored. Hence, at the Budwig Center, we provide several emotional therapies to help people control their thinking, overcome past trauma and find balance. To learn more, read our article Emotional Healing At The Budwig Center (Guide). Once you realize that your inner voice might not be so kind to you, it is time to take action and do what you can to turn that self-criticism into self-love.
1. Confront the Inner Voice.
As you know, the first step is almost always the most difficult one to take, and in most cases, it’s the most important. The first step to confronting self-criticism is consciously taking note of and analyzing what your inner voice tells you. Listen to it. What is it saying? Is it loving and supportive? If not, why not? Is any of the criticism that it is telling you true? Or has it been taken out of context or overly exaggerated?
Challenge your inner voice. As soon as you begin questioning and reexamining it, you start the journey of discovering self-love.
2. Do Not Compare.
Nowadays, it’s so easy to compare ourselves with others. We see what everyone seems to be doing and achieving on social media, and we tend to compare. If kept in balance, sometimes this can be a good thing. Observing the example of those we admire can motivate us to do better and inspire us to reach specific goals. However, if not kept in check, our expectations for ourselves can become too high, and we could become disappointed when we do not reach all our objectives.
It is much more productive to have a realistic view of yourself instead of comparing yourself to others. For example, it’s normal to make mistakes. So our focus should not be on the fact that we made a mistake, but rather on what we can do to fix it or how we can avoid the same error in the future. This way, the slip-ups we make in life actually can serve to push us to become better individuals. We will celebrate those errors because they helped to make us the man or woman we are today. Once you change how you look at your progress and your mistakes, a great deal of self-love can start to blossom.
3. Remember to Forget (and Forgive).
Forgiving ourselves does not always come naturally. It is something that often needs to be learned and practiced. A key component to true forgiveness is: to forget. When we are self-critical, we are harboring memories of what we did wrong. We are constantly kicking ourselves and ruminating over the fact that we messed up. So as mentioned in step 1, we have to confront this inner voice. Then according to step 2, we have to acknowledge that making mistakes is a part of the human experience and, if viewed correctly, can even benefit us. Once we take these steps, then it becomes easier to accept what we did and forgive ourselves.
After we have achieved the above, the next goal is to forget. Push out of your mind the sorrow you felt for the miss-step and replace those feelings with a determination to do better next time. In some cases, it helps to write down in a journal what happened and how you will handle the same situation in the future. Once you practice these steps, you will gain more freedom from your inner critical voice. The inner voice will start listening to your reasoning conscious mind; you will be more in control of the internal dialogue and be calmer and more at peace.
4. Change the tone.
Depending on our taste, some music can be soothing. Others can be exciting and motivating, while others can be jarring and irritating. We have to control the music of our minds and hearts. We need to change the tone and the melody. We have to flood our minds with pleasant sounds rather than allow those harsh negative tones to dominate. How? The more we can consciously fill our minds with positive thoughts and affirmations, the more our subconscious mind will join in and play the same melody.
For example, if you have been telling yourself, “I am not productive enough,” think of what you have achieved and examine ways to be more productive in the future. Read books about productivity; start making small goals; celebrate those improvements and marginal gains. By doing so, you are changing the tone and your pattern of thinking. Rather than dwelling on what you are not (or what you cannot do), you are putting your mental energy into what you can do and who you will be. Change the tone.
Self-Love Can Be Achieved
Once you begin to challenge your self-critical voice, you will be well on the road to balanced and healthy self-love. Self-criticism wastes valuable time and energy while productive and active self-analysis can help us find solutions rather than leaving us dwelling on the problems. The results? More inner peace, you will feel liberated and more in control. As you confront your inner voice and work at being kind, patient, and compassionate to yourself, you will be ready for tomorrow’s challenges.
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