In creating healthy, loving relationships with others, we need to comes to terms with any parts of ourselves that we feel uncomfortable with. We may have parts of ourselves that we have disowned, denied, or stuck away in some obscure corner of our psyche because we can’t stand to hang out with the uneasy feelings they generate. These parts may have to do with a traumatic time in our past; how we view some aspect of our lives such as our bodies or career; or some dysfunctional pattern we continually engage in. The problem is that anything we disown creates an imbalance. Because the nature of life is to seek balance and integration, those parts will be like the proverbial squeaky wheel, acting out in even more extreme ways to get us to pay attention to an inner need for healing. Moreover, if we can’t love ourselves, we will look for someone else to love us, in hopes that if they give us enough love our unlovable part will get better or just go away. Unfortunately, we will tend to attract others who don’t love and accept themselves either, thus setting ourselves up for even more hurt and disappointment. So let’s talk about how we can learn to love ourselves more fully and unconditionally, and see what a wonderful effect that can have in creating healthier relationships in all aspects of our lives.
1. Dismantle Your Inner Critic – many of us have a mental bully, the Inner Critic, who seems to delight in hurling negative thoughts at us. Whenever a positive experience occurs, the Critic rises up to criticize, put down, discount and otherwise beat the experience into submission. This Inner Critic must be dismantled because our thoughts are creative and powerful: we literally become what we think, and we don’t want to become our critic. The Inner Critic can and will sabotage your success more easily than any external, real-world obstacle. Letting the Critic bully you is like driving on a freeway with the parking brake on – you just can’t go very fast or far. In relationships, the inner critic will tell you that you don’t deserve or can’t attract a healthier relationship.
Dismantling your Inner Critic is wonderfully liberating. Many energy psychology techniques such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Thought Field Therapy (TFT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can help dissolve the negative feelings of hurt, shame and/or inadequacy that your Inner Critic can elicit. They can also neutralize the fear and intimidation associated with the Critic. Also, having a written or verbal dialogue with your Inner Critic can result in a major power shift in your inner world. Tell your Critic off for once, then do it again and again, and see what happens. This inner bully isn’t used to being confronted and will often meekly recoil when challenged. If your Inner Critic still resists these efforts, seek professional help.
2. Befriend and Nurture All Parts of Yourself – if there are parts of yourself from your past or present that you feel shame, embarrassment, guilt or inadequacy about, treat those parts as you would a sad or frightened child: with love, nurturing and warmth. These parts really need the healing power of love. Many forms of Inner Child work can be very helpful in this process, where you visualize yourself actually being with and nurturing a part of yourself or your past.
3. Confront Your Own Denial – looking at yourself honestly is another essential ingredient to loving yourself. Imagine stepping back from the drama of your own life, and looking at your relationship history totally objectively. What do you see? What are the themes? What are the successes? What are the recurring unhealthy patterns? Notice if you tend to deny certain problems or issues, or blame them on your partners. Take responsibility and become as healthy as you can be: you can only attract as healthy a partner as you are yourself! Whenever denial is present, you are living with a false sense of who you really are, which contributes to not loving your true self. And as anyone who has worked a recovery program will tell you, confronting your own denial is often the first and most essential step to genuine growth.
4. Access Healthy Inner Resources – once you have dismantled your Inner Critic, you then can take full advantage of all of the fabulous healthy resources available in your inner world. This can be anything from modeling healthy people you know (i.e. when confronted with a relationship challenge, ask yourself, “What would my healthy friend do in this situation?”) to accessing inner spiritual guidance. Review methods or techniques you have ever practiced such as prayer, meditation, yoga, breathwork, bodywork or chanting. Notice which ones have been most helpful for you in opening up realms of peace, serenity, bliss and inner knowingness. Practice these techniques on a daily basis, and continue to learn new ways to deeply connect with your inner guidance. In this way, you honor the full range of gifts that you were born with, which makes it easier than ever to love the person that you are.
Take time to forge an honest, open relationship with all parts of yourself, even if you’ve spent your life running away from some of them. Befriend those parts. Accept without denial or distortion who you are, and acknowledge the many gifts that you bring to this life. Actualize your capacities for self-love and inner guidance. And remember that no one else can love a part of you that you disown, and no one else can make up for or give you what you cannot give yourself. So be gentle, kind, and forgiving of yourself, yet also challenge yourself to do more, be more, and honor the highest purpose of your existence. Only then can your heart’s true desire for love, companionship and deep connection be truly fulfilled.