I just do not love this phrase.
Because for those who have stories in their heads about being ‘not good enough’ this affirmation or meme becomes an actual demand which results in furthering a person’s thoughts about their inadequacy. Obviously if they could ‘love themselves’ they would. So throwing the meme out there doesn’t help. In fact, it likely hurts because they have been trying to —possibly all their lives. What the message is lacking is the how to do it.
Because love isn’t actually a verb, the ‘love yourself’ demand is vague and impossible. what does it even mean to those who struggle believing in their own value?
Loving ourselves is so deeply mixed in our history of not receiving love (or being seen and celebrated) for who we actually were. Many of us got messages growing up about how unlovable we were (often unintentionally) in a variety of ways. Add in years and years of trying to get our love needs from outside —wanting others to love us —most often unsuccessfully, the idea of loving ourselves is like gibberish, we don’t have a reference point.
Here’s the funny (not funny) thing. It is the same kind of impossible that demanding someone else love us is. We don’t really get that either. We are so lacking in confidence in our worth or having a deep sense that we matter in the world (or to anyone). Many of us grow up lacking a genuine experience of belonging that we feel desperate. Understanding this allows me to have compassion for those of us who choose to stay in relationships at almost any cost, so we can try and believe that someone cares, or that we have an idea that we belong (family).
The idea here is to unpack the loaded word love as a verb, shift your thinking and consider what your life would be like if someone else (or you yourself) loved you. Then re-package it in a way that is do-able.
Here’s how I have re-packaged love yourself so I can celebrate this as a life —maybe even life-long practice:
1. Lose the vague and un-doable objective of loving yourself. Replace it with connecting to the needs that will be met if you did indeed love yourself. You could even consider what needs would be met if ‘someone else loved you’. Belonging, to matter and care are a few that come to my mind.
2. Make a list of ways you might get those needs met. A long list. 12 or more. The list will include ways you might never say yes to as well as very practical strategies. It may not seem romantic. The Hollywood driven idea of associating love with romance seems to get in the way so, so often. But don’t rule out the dreamy and fantastical ways to meet these needs on your list.
Here are a few examples:
~ volunteer at a place where what they do has meaning for you.
~volunteer at a place where you can pet puppies or kitty cats.
~join a meetup group doing something that is interesting to you. I think they have thousands of groups – knitting, photography, travel, meditation, hiking, NVC (hehe).
~start your own meetup gorup if you don’t see one that floats your boat.
~invite someone over to help you do something at your house.
~call a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while.
~hang out at a coffee shop regularly – get to know the people who work there and also hang out there.
~take a class (pottery, spanish, cooking, whatever you enjoy)
~start a book club and read romance novels (ugh!)
3. After a month or two, check in with yourself and see if your needs are actually being met or if you want to do something else. See if you feel genuinely a bit more satisfied in life.
The shift here is in your perspective of what it looks like to have your love needs met. Hold on tightly to the needs being, and very loosely to how you imagine that will happen.
Marshall Rosenberg taught us, and evolutionary psychology confirms that the needs of belonging, to matter and care are so deeply rooted in a satisfying human experience that it warrants the time and energy to make a plan to get them met —if you want to have a happy life.
Rather than wallow in the romantic idea of someone loving you enough to fill that unexplored, unspoken about and bottomless pit of unworthiness, get out there and find the ways that people will freely let you know how much you belong, and how much you contribute.
Give it a try?!?!?