5 ways to start loving yourself the way you deserve to be loved
Updated: Jun 22, 2019
As a person with a chronic, long-term health condition, or even as a carer for someone with a long-term health condition, it can be easy to forget to love yourself and your body...
You may experience many mixed emotions towards your body. Maybe having feelings of anger, frustration, despair, even self-hatred at your body, especially if it no longer looks, or functions the way that you want it to. Complications from your condition, or side effects from your medication may prevent you from working, studying, socialising, or participating in sports, or other pastimes that you used to enjoy.
So where do you start in the process of beginning to love yourself again? In this blog I would like to look at five different areas as a starting point for cultivating self-love and acceptance.
1. A good starting point can be to learn to separate out your feelings about yourself from your feelings about your pain. Remember that you are still here. You are still you. You are experiencing pain, but pain is not the totality of who you are. There is always more to you than your pain. Love that.
This is where personal counselling and mindfulness practices can be invaluable tools in helping you to become more self-aware and give you the space that you need to process your feelings.
2. Find small and manageable ways to start to be more compassionate, soft, and kind to yourself. We live in a fast-paced accomplishment-oriented society and often transfer this solution focused, or quick-fix approach that we have for our work lives to our approach to physical healing. But as a person with a chronic illness myself I have found that the body does not always respond well to pushing it to heal.
You can be kinder to yourself by:
> asking for help when you need it
> resting often
> reducing or throwing away your to-do list
> trusting the wisdom of your body, allowing your body the time it takes to heal and acknowledging what you’re going through and giving yourself a break from trying to keep up with everyone else.
3. Remember that healing does not occur in a straight line. It goes up and down and spirals around. Some days you will feel better. Some days you will feel worse. This has nothing to do with your worth as a person, it is simply part of the healing journey. Don’t blame yourself on your bad days. Be gentle and during pain flare ups know that this is a day to pull back in as many ways as you can. Say no when you need to. Instead of hating that you can’t be productive, love yourself by pampering and taking care of yourself. Know that there is no more important job for you right now than to heal.
You can still partake in simple pleasures during pain flare-ups, you might play your favourite music, you might like to watch a favourite film, or do some mindful colouring for a few minutes, what is important is that it is an activity that you enjoy doing and it will help you to feel a bit more comfortable whilst you are resting.
4. Maybe a more challenging one here, but maybe consider not only being more loving and kind to yourself, but being kinder and more loving to the painful parts of you too. Remember, pain is a signal from your body. It really isn’t the enemy. I have found that the more I fight it, resist it, or hate it, the more stubborn it is. If I can find ways to be softer with pain, understanding that it is a sign that my body is trying to heal, then I can relax a little more about having it in my life. The less I fight it and hate it, the sooner it begins to move, to release, to ease. So, as strange as this sounds, find ways to be more loving with your pain. Speak to it softly. Ask it what it needs. Treat it like a wounded animal, or an injured child that needs love and tenderness.
A regular mindfulness practice can be useful here, as you learn to pay attention to your body and pain-signals on a moment-by-moment basis. You eventually may see that pain isn't this constant, immovable force, it waxes and wanes in intensity and may vary in the types of sensations that it gives you. The pain may vary from feeling hot, cold, pins and needles, numbness, sharp stabbing pains and you may also begin to notice times when you are not in pain.
4. Remember that there are still joys and pleasures that can be had in life, even in pain. Yes, pain may still be there, but you don’t need to starve yourself of the things you enjoy. You deserve to feel good about yourself and to be able to connect with and love the people, things, events, smells, and sounds that you have always loved. Maybe for now they must be experienced in smaller doses. Maybe pain has to come along for the ride, but love yourself enough to indulge where and when you can in simple pleasures. It’s not just more enjoyable, it’s crucial to keeping depression and hopelessness at bay.
You may need to adapt your goals from what they once were, but with the support of counselling, or speaking with a trusted friend, or family member you may get new ideas, different perspectives and renewed motivation to try different things. For example instead of running marathons, you might be able to ride shorter distances on a bike, or go swimming. Instead of working full-time, you may be able to work a part-time job.
Congratulate yourself warmly and wholeheartedly for each new day you meet, for still being here, for carrying on, for sticking with yourself and for loving yourself through this challenging path.
5. Recognise your positive attributes and interests with the following creative exercise:
The ‘I AM…’ exercise is a fantastic way of acknowledging, positive qualities and traits within ourselves. It enables us to identify our strengths, learn more about our character and recognise the fact that we are all unique in our selves.
In a journal, or piece of paper take the time to consider any positive traits and qualities that you recognise within yourself. On one side of the paper you may like to write out the quality, on the other side you may write a brief statement recognising the quality within yourself. This may help you in affirming and evidencing this belief.
Are you able to identify some of your strengths and qualities?
Examples could include:
I am strong
I am resilient
I am loving
I am creative
I am nurturing
I am a good cook
I am a loving mum, dad
And so on...
I hope that this blog post has been useful. Please keep checking my page out for new blog posts. If you have any suggestions for topics that you would like to read about please don't hesitate to get in contact.
If you would like to book an initial appointment for counselling at Flourishing MK with one of our counsellors please use the contact form, or phone: 07525 592121.
If you are finding that your mood is deteriorating, or you are having thoughts of self-harm, or suicide, please contact your GP. Alternatively the Samaritans are a great resource to use if you need someone to talk to outside of your GP's opening hours. Their number is a freephone number which you can phone at any time of day, or night and you can phone them any time of the year. The number if you need it is: 116 123.
Until next time,