Barriers to Self-Love

Take a moment to consider within yourself, what your definition of love is. If there are no words that arise, feel what it feels like in your body to tap into the concept of love. For some of you, an initial feeling of warmth and expansion may wash over your heart, your shoulders may soften, your gaze may deepen. For others, the idea of love feels foreign, without much real life experience or context.  For some, love has come hand-in-hand with hurt. Conjure up an image of someone or something that you love without conditions or strings attached. Maybe it is  a person, maybe it is  a pet, maybe it is a plant, the act of cooking, playing music, or baseball. Allow yourself to imagine the finest type of feeling in this love visualization.

Gay Hendricks shares: “The kind of love that truly enriches people’s lives is both tender and tough at the same time. There is a warm, accepting, embracing sort of love that welcomes all, forgives all. This is the type of love you can snuggle up to. We need to embrace ourselves with this kind of love. Then there is the tougher kind of love, the kind that will generate discipline in your life.”

Learn more about the musings on love here.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”― Rumi

In the mind, body, and spirit domains, we explore different aspects of the ‘self’ and what loving that realm of who we are could look like. We touch on aspects like the perfectionist who can live in the mind, trauma that can live in the body, and the shadow parts of us that can feel unable to grasp or integrate. We talk about ways to powerfully interface with these aspects of the self, and acknowledge the challenge they can bring.  As much as self-love may sound like a lovely concept, it is not likely to be readily accessible the moment we get interested in the topic. There are barriers toward unconditionally loving oneself.  Let’s dive in to explore these barriers and ways to build bridges from where you currently are on your quest toward self-acceptance and where you long to be.

The Inner Critic

Our inner critic is the voice that can keep us playing small in life. It is the judge. It is stuck within the philosophy of there being a right and a wrong way of being. It delivers negative messages that we are not good enough and are unlovable.
Whether we want to admit it or not, it’s there.

Practice: Hearing Your Inner Critic

Make a list of things it has said to you in the past week.

Your phrases may be similar to :

  1. Once they get to know me they probably won’t be interested in me anymore.
  2. I don’t know enough to follow that dream or desire
  3. There are people who could do that better than me, so I shouldn’t try.
  4. I should have done more/ should have done it better
  5. I am not (fill in the blank)  enough.

Psychotherapist, Mia Bolte, shares her guide to the inner critic (at no cost) on her website: www.miabolte.com.

Rather than pretending the inner critic doesn’t exist, berating it, or listening to its every word as truth, she offers that there is an opportunity to work with it consciously and powerfully. You can pause, acknowledge what it is saying, and choose to not listen to  its negative messages. As you get curious, be gentle with yourself, as this takes awareness and practice. Once again, Mindfulness is a helpful skill here. Self Compassion, which is covered in this section as well, may also be a helpful tool for you.

Practice: Acknowledge Your List

For now, go back to the list you made of negative messages your inner critic has delivered to you within the past week. Make a choice to acknowledge that this part of you is trying to protect you. Now, thank it for its efforts and practice not internalizing these statements as truth. Integrate the tools in the Mind page to replace negative thinking with validating statements about who you really are.

If the subject of your inner critic speaks to you, you may also like to read through our sections on Hope/Optimism and Your Storied Life.

Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotaging creates problems in our life and interferes with our goals. The inner saboteur can be subtle or quite obvious. It is draining, often an unconscious pattern, and can sneakily avoid showing itself as what is really… unhealthy.

Some examples include:

  • procrastination
  • numbing (through the over-consumption of drugs/ alcohol /sex / exercise/ food & more)
  • self harm
  • always finding something to fight about in relationships ( as a way of avoiding being vulnerable/ experiencing more emotional intimacy)
  • chronically showing up to places late
  • disempowering relationships
  • dysfunctional and distorted beliefs about self worth

Debbie Ford writes, “ So it is essential to think of yourself- your body, your mind, and your spirit- as your very sacred temple, to honor and care for. Then you will understand that even the tiniest unconscious act becomes one of self-sabotage that will add to your self-loathing instead of your self-esteem.”

“ When we are self-sabotaging, we deny ourselves the right to have what we want and we unconsciously give other people the false perception that it’s okay to deprive themselves of their dreams, too.
…Often it is difficult to see or admit to self- sabotaging behaviors because they are painful to look at, and it’s even more painful to take responsibility for them. We come up with elaborate ways to avoid confronting our self- destruction. We blame our parents, our spouses, our circumstances, our governments, or the universe for not supplying us the goodies we deserve. We don’t stop to examine the choices and behaviors we make that have contributed to our situation and have led us astray.”

These concepts are similar to 100% Responsibility.

 Watch this ted talk on Kicking Self-Sabotage to the Curb by Leading health, mindset and lifestyle coach Debi Silber.

She approaches the ‘why’ behind self sabotaging patterns.  She validates that change is scary as it poses a threat to what is familiar.  When we come to learn we aren’t happy with the way things are and are invited to take steps toward a big  (or small) life change,  we are being asked to face a death of sorts. Either we face the death of who we have been and embrace who we are becoming, or we die to what we have just learned we really want (if we aren’t willing to make those changes that are required for us to have that new thing we want).

This crossroads can trigger a stress response in the body that creates the impulse to sabotage and go numb to keep the feelings down. Stepping into the unknown in order to change can feel too hard, so you go back to what you know. You sabotage in order to stay “safe.”  She shares there can come a moment “where the pain of where you are becomes greater than the fear of the unknown.” You are terrified but you know you can’t move forward until you let go of where you are currently.

Here are some articles on Self- Sabotage & some take-aways from each.

  • Our brains default to routines, which can look like repetitive thoughts that lead to self-sabotage
  • These tiny (often unconscious) negative thought patterns are ‘self sabotage triggers’
  • “Our minds strive for cognitive consonance. We want to achieve harmony between thoughts and actions, and hate cognitive dissonance, which occurs when we think one way and act another. When we have negative thoughts, our behaviors typically follow suit, and that’s when we can find ourselves acting against our own best interests.”
  • ”Our minds prefer to confirm what we already know, a phenomenon that psychologists call confirmation bias…This can drive self-sabotage, especially when new information could actually cause us to take a closer look at our current behaviors and change the ones that aren’t working.”
  • Starting to track one’s thoughts is a way to catch old, stored, automatic self-sabotage triggers.
  • Give up dwelling on “If only…” ( If only I hadn’t dropped out of college).
  • Befriend and work with your thoughts opposed to being afraid of them.
  • Acknowledge your feelings instead of burying them
  • Create a ‘clean slate’ for today, opposed to habitually telling yourself you will start tomorrow.
  • Address the inertia underneath your resistance to change, opposed to ignoring it ( look at the underlying issues  that prevent you from going to the gym… like it being farther from your house than is convenient for you. Buying new workout clothes is a start, but may not address the issues that are needing to shift in order to change the habit.)

Why We Self-Sabotage
by Psychology Today

  • The roots of self-sabotage are a part of an ancestral evolutionary adaptation, in that we develop systems to keep ourselves safe and advancing as a species.
  • Dopamine is triggered in the same way when we complete goals we have set and when we avoid psychological/ physical threats.
  • The tricky piece is that we can unconsciously avoid what we perceive as threats at the expense of attaining rewards that would lead us to reaching our goals.
  • “Self-sabotage occurs when your drive to reduce threats is higher than your drive to attain rewards”.
  • The internal conflict between going for what you want and being held back by perceived threats that are not actually harmful can be fueled by: low self-concept, internalized beliefs, fear of change or the unknown, excessive need for control.
  • Self sabotage can be subtle, and therefore easy to miss- such as disorganization as a distraction that keeps someone behind on accomplishing tasks.
  •  Often habits that lead to self-sabotage are related to one’s feelings of self-worth. It’s hard to step into your dream future, when you feel like you don’t deserve success.
  • A negative self- view can be unconscious, stemming from shame.
  • Getting support to work through negative self-talk, self-deprecating beliefs can decrease shame and support the path away from self-sabotage.

Check out these related sections:

Numbing

You may have seen the concept of numbing on the previous list of self-sabotaging behaviors. Sometimes being human is overwhelming. Rather than gracefully navigating the discomfort and pain that can come with our humanity, the majority of people are simply doing their best to get by. This existence often leads to numbing.

We all have our go-to’s for “taking the edge off.” It can look like:

  • Imbibing substances
  • Working
  • Having sex
  • Social media use (scrolling!)
  • Excessive socializing
  • Shopping
  • Fantasizing about the future
  • Eating
  • Exercising
  • Playing video games
  • Binging on Netflix
  • Traveling
  • Dating
  • Cleaning

As you see, it is not only behaviors you would immediately categorize as “bad” taken at face value. Some numbing strategies can have a “positive” bend to them (exercise, work, dating, etc).
Numbing is a pattern that can be so unconscious and so subtle that before we are even feeling the uncomfortable feeling, our numbing strategy has already swooped in “to save the day.”

Before we work with ways to unravel and re-work numbing patterns, let’s take a moment to acknowledge this fierce protector within many of us.

Practice: Recognize Numbing

If you acknowledge that you too may numb out from time to time, take a moment to consider how this has helped you in the past. Perhaps you grew up in an emotionally unstable home, and numbing was the only way to survive day to day. Maybe you were taught it’s weak and not appropriate to feel your feelings all the way through to completion. Maybe feeling is such a foreign concept that you wouldn’t even know where to begin. All of that is welcome here. 

Take a breath ( that’s right- inhale… exhale) and find a way to thank the part of you who has learned that numbing is the only way to move through the world and feel safe.  Let this part of you know that moments in life can be overwhelming and it has done a great job to keep you feeling okay. 

As mentioned above, numbing takes many shapes and sizes. Perhaps yours looks like:
One upping, showing off, comparing yourself socially to others, or wanting to compete and always win. Maybe you express  hate and anger you feel internally toward those around you through irritability or negative judgment.
Perhaps the voice inside your head keeps you small, or directs you to think of others in ways that keeps them small or inadequate. 

*A note on trauma*

Sometimes horrible things happen, and one’s body responds/ adapts by cutting off one’s access to feeling. It can be a strategy that allows someone to continue to function because feeling some of it means feeling all of it, and sometimes feelings related to unprocessed trauma can be overwhelming to address. We acknowledge the complexity of being with one’s sensations. Being human is not a cookie cutter experience and all of these concepts will land differently when filtered through an individual’s perception ( which is based on their personal history which informs the present) .  See more about trauma and embodiment in our musings on The Body.

Also, we have extensive sections on both Fear, and Grief/Loss/Death & Dying.

Now- the question arises… *Why change? And what does this have to do with self-love? *

Listen to Your Deepest Self

Consider what it would be like to embrace the entire range of your human experience. There is a chance to find more intimacy with yourself and the world around you.
More truth. More softness. More vulnerability… more LOVE.
A greater sense of aliveness is accessible when the ice thaws and the feeling is welcomed in.
A gateway in: learning to feel your feelings all the way through.

In her book, The Language of Emotions, Karla Mclaren offers that our emotions have priceless information for us. Instead of ignoring them, judging them as good/bad, or suppressing them, she invites us to get to know the wisdom they hold.

She discusses the hiding that can happen when we do not slow down enough to feel. Sometimes, when we slow down it can bring up uncomfortable sensations and emotions that we immediately want to resist. ( A prime place for one’s numbing behaviors to be activated.)

McLaren addresses this kind of resistance as a type of discovery process.  She suggests, “your task is not to erase resistance but to embrace it, to notice what you’re resisting and why, to notice what you’re stressing over and why, and to understand why you’ve brought your soul to a dead stop and dropped yourself into the sacred territory of suffering”. By getting curious about and allowing our resistance to be touched, we can actually collect gems of knowledge and eventually move through the discomfort of the resistance.

Perhaps you are one of the many individuals who resists feeling anxiety. If so, you may also know that bit of irony: unless it is addressed, anxiety does not usually evaporate for good.

McLaren describes worry and anxiety as a result of the emotion of fear getting trapped. She explains that anxiety is only an issue when it is trapped in your body. Once released, similar to the experience of resistance, we can channel it into a resource for Discovery.  McLaren suggests the practice of strengthening your personal boundary. A personal boundary allows you to be with feelings without losing one’s power to them. She acknowledges this may be hard, while stuck in the space of being overwhelmed by anxiety.

So, how does one both feel the feelings and set a boundary? McLaren recommends connecting to Nature as a resource to feel and release tension and reconnect to feeling safe. There is more inspiration of this kind in our section on awe. Before going to sleep, rather than checking your Facebook or text messages as your last activity of the day, try checking out the stars.  Take off your shoes on your lunch break and feel the grass in between your toes. A little bit of connection to the Earth you’re standing on can go a long way.  She also suggests reducing stimulation and finding ways to reconnect to the breath or still-mind.

McLaren suggests “working with the body instead of running from your discomfort.” In Gabrielle Roth’s moving meditation practice, 5Rhythms®, the student is guided through the rhythm of the psyche, capturing the essence of the body in motion. The practice invites the individual to put their emotions into their bodies. Fear, anxiety, sadness, joy, curiosity, and the full range of the human experience can be felt, touched, and moved. In her book Sweat Your Prayers, Roth encourages the reader to, “pay attention to your resistances and dare to explore these undiscovered regions of yourself”.  Find out more about the 5Rhythms here: http://www.5rhythms.com.

Another tool offered by John Welwood in his book Awakening the Heart is to concentrate on the feeling that arises, not on the thoughts about it. Welwood shares,

“Thus, in turning to face our emotions directly, we may get a glimpse of the fullness of life. Emotion, as something that touches us, expresses the dynamic energy of life itself. Transmuting emotion requires a gesture of opening to its energy without backing off or getting caught in emotionally charged thoughts and images arising from it.”

Pema Chodran writes in her book When Things Fall Apart, “Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”

“There have been so many times I have seen a man wanting to weep but instead beat his heart until it was unconscious.” — Nayyirah Waheed

See the following video about understanding our feelings from the School of Life.

There are several emotions that go unprocessed in our daily experience. We fill our time with things that will keep us from meeting what scares us head on.

“We avoid processing emotions because what we feel is so contrary to our self image, so threatening to our society’s ideas of normality, and so at odds of who we would really like to be.”…“We fail to know ourselves not out of laziness or casual neglect, it simply hurts a lot.”

Other gateways to move from numbing to experiencing aliveness :

  1. Being part of something more than the self — being in Service
  2. Stepping into love as a way of being
  3. Working to manifest something that has a very long arc and meaning to oneself . . .

Explore more of these ideas here.

Low Sense of Self-Worth

It is easy to walk around feeling “less-than” or  “not enough”. It can be hard to fully love yourself when there is a distortion of how you view your worth.  Clinical psychologist Adia Gooden shares in the following talk that for many of us our self-worth is tied to our accomplishments and possessions. As soon as we fail or lose approval, we experience low self worth. She offers that loving oneself unconditionally is the way out of self criticism, shame,  unhealthy behaviors, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

Here are 4 ways that Adia Gooden shares in the video clip  to create a new narrative toward unconditionally loving yourself

  1. Forgive yourself & reflect on what you’ve learned – (as opposed to denying the pain or bypassing the pain)
  2. Practice self-acceptance (as opposed to thinking there is something wrong with you)
  3. Be there for yourself when life gets rough (as opposed to abandoning yourself)
    Being there for yourself means letting yourself know “I am here for you!” opposed to engaging in self-criticism when experiencing challenging emotions. Instead of leaving your own side when going through a hard time, you can place your head on your chest and practice self-soothing inner dialog.
  4. Connect to supportive people (as opposed to isolating yourself)

Practice: Let’s Get Personal

Take a moment to center yourself & ask yourself the following questions:

  • What would you find the courage to do if you knew you were worthy ?
  • What would you stop doing if you knew you were worthy?
  • Who would you pursue romantically if you felt worthy enough to be loved?
  • What professional or creative risks would you take if you knew your work was worth others engaging with?

Abuse

As we briefly explore the barrier that abuse (physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual) may have on one’s capacity to love themselves, it may be helpful to take a breath and bring a sense of kindness toward your heart. This content is not easy to think about or lean into for growth.  This address is also an extremely brief interaction with a massively important and sensitive topic.

If this is tender for you, we encourage you to seek support from your community and a mental health professional. Whether you have been abused, been an abuser, or been a witness to abuse (directly or indirectly) abuse likely holds an impact on your heart, your sense of self, and your sense of humanity.

You can find more information on the body and trauma within this study of self love here.

You can also find helpful tools for dealing with grief in our section on the subject.

While abuse is prevalent across all ages, we will briefly acknowledge the impact of child abuse here. We are all a part of this narrative of our humanity (directly or indirectly).

What we know about childhood attachment theory states that during the first stage of development, children are asking the developmental questions “Am I safe?” “Is the world okay?” “Am I okay?” Erik Erikson maps the first stage out as “Trust vs. Mistrust”  and offers that infants are uncertain about the world in which they live, and look toward their primary caregiver for stability and consistency of care.

Learn more about his stages here
You can also check out his plethora of books here.

What his developmental theory suggests is that if the primary caregiver is unable to create a stable environment for the infant, they may not develop trust toward the world (or themselves). Within abusive scenarios (at any age of development), the child is put into the confusing scenario in which they receive the message that “their person”, who is meant to be a source of trust, love, and care, is a source of pain.

Bell Hooks writes in her book All About Love,  “Like many adults who were verbally and/or physically abused as children, I spent a lot of my life trying to deny the bad things that had happened, trying to cling only to the memory of good and delicious moments in which I had known care…”  She also explains that care is a dimension of love- but giving care does not mean we are actually loving.  “Years of therapy and critical reflection enabled me to accept that there is no stigma attached to acknowledging a lack of love in one’s primary relationships. And if one’s goal is self-recovery, to be well in one’s soul, honestly and realistically confronting lovelessness is part of the healing process.”

“We like to imagine that most children will be born into homes where they will be loved. But love will not be present if the grown-ups who parent do not know how to love.  Although lots of children are raised in homes where they are given some degree of care, love may not be sustained or even present.”

“Everyday thousands of children in our culture are verbally and physically abused, starved, tortured, and murdered.”
“Until we live in a culture that not only respects but also upholds basic civil rights for children, most children will not know love.”
“We needed to make sure that loving action is never tainted with abuse.”

She offers the following two resources:

  1. The road less traveled by Dr. M. Scott Peck
  2. Raised in captivity: why does America fail its children by Lucia Hodgson

This following video made by School of Life, quickly shares the complexity of self hatred that can come from not being loved as much as was needed in early years of childhood. It discusses that no one is born liking themselves, and that one’s sense of self as a love-able individual comes from one’s early life caregivers. We are the only animal whose sense of survival comes from the quality of love from those who made us. Because it is so challenging for one to believe the individuals who brought them into the world did not, in fact, provide them with the necessary quality or quantity of love, it is most common for that judgment to be directed towards oneself instead of one’s family. It is hard to sustain this anger, and so often these individuals then go numb through addictions ( of all kinds) and a variety of distracting behaviors. The anecdote is to become a historian of oneself, and to mourn the original catastrophe of not receiving enough love in the fragile moments of one’s first days on earth.

The knots of child abuse and negelct are in the threads of humanities’ tapestry. It may be a big task to imagine loving yourself, when you are recovering from abuse yourself or feeling the impact of it on any level. We see you. We acknowledge you. We bow to your experience and your resilience.

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us– Find a counselor near you. ( in the U.S)
https://www.childhelp.org/child-abuse-statistics/ – Learn more about child abuse
https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/700childrens/2018/10/what-to-do-when-you-see-someone-being-abused– How to Help?
http://www.vachss.com/help_text/hotlines.html– Emergency hotlines

Learn more about Self-Love for Kids here

Discrimination

Bryan Stevenson is the author of Just Mercy  and the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.  He is one example of a brave human who is standing up for and giving a voice to oppressed populations in the United States.

Learn more about his work here.
And, documentary here.

For the individuals who fall outside of the descriptors of the “right” kind of person under the judgments of fear-based cultures, self-love can feel extra difficult. The internalized messages of being “less-than” that are based on things outside of one’s control have the capacity to feel debilitating and exhausting.

In the following talk entitled, Black Self/ White World  community leader, activist and educator Jabari Lyles shares his experience of loving himself as a Black man, after years of suppressing memories of racism. He discusses the unique experience of internalized racism that needs to be addressed. He shares, “I learned to love myself in ways I didn’t think I could.” “Black love and black joy is something to be cherished.”  Jabari Lyles is a change maker in Baltimore, Maryland, where he works to facilitate positive outcomes for youth and the LGBTQ community, especially LGBTQ youth of color.

Learning to love ourselves not only means coming to terms with our own insecurities, but the injustices of our world and how we interact with them as an individual. Through our human web, there is an exchange of love from self to other.  Getting that in balance can mean looking at the hard stuff. The stuff we don’t want to talk about in regard to how we treat others who are “different” from us. Material that may be triggering found in this audio poem by Andrea Gibson.

If we are to cultivate hope for creating a society that is moving from and with love, may we work together to feed this love ethic in one another. May we lift ourselves up and through our denial, the paralyzing guilt, and even through the inertia, take a step… even if it is  just one step toward love. Perhaps we can only know love and freedom within ourselves to the extent that the rest of our species knows love and freedom.

Lilla Watson is an Indigenous Australian or Murri visual artist, activist and academic working in the field of Women’s issues and Aboriginal epistemology. She brings her perspective of activism in these words…

 “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Find out more about her here: https://www.theblackcard.com.au/content/dr-lilla-watson

The more we love and accept ourselves, the more we can show up for others through a lens of love and acceptance.

“The more we accept ourselves, the better prepared we are to take responsibility in all areas of our lives.  Taking responsibility does not mean that we deny the reality of institutionalized  injustice. For example, racism, sexism, and homophobia all create barriers and concrete incidents of discrimination. Simply taking responsibility does not mean that we can prevent discriminatory acts from happening. But we can choose how we respond to acts of injustice. Taking responsibility means that in the face of barriers we still have the capacity to invent our lives, to shape our destinies in ways that maximize our well-being.  Everyday we practice this shape shifting to cope with realities we cannot easily change.” – Bell Hooks

“When we are taught that safety lies always with sameness, then difference, of any kind, will appear as a threat. When we choose to love we choose to move against fear- against alienation and separation. The choice to love is a choice to connect- to find ourselves in the other.  – Bell Hooks

“To understand what love really is we must realize that it’s not a feeling, for a feeling is inevitably subject to variations according to the person it is directed at. Love is a state of consciousness independent of beings and circumstances.” –Omraam Mikhael Aivanho

Watson also encourages us to think of love as an action rather than a *feeling* – for when we think of it as a verb/ an action we automatically assume accountability and responsibility.

Loving yourself is not a solitary act that is just about you.

Loving yourself may feel more accessible when you extend that love to others… and perhaps we can only feel the depth of love within ourselves to the capacity that we know those around us also have access to such love.

More on Service as a cornerstone of meaning and fulfillment of life here:

Practice: Feeling Inspired to Serve?

Take a moment to think about what “lights your path.”
Who and What do you want to bring more love to?

Here’s an example of an organization in Asheville, North Carolina who is allowing self love to cycle from the internal to the external.
https://www.lightapath.org

Look here for some extra inspiration

Money (Specifically in the United States)

The following is a potent excerpt from Bell Hook’s book All About Love that tells an important story about a barrier to being self-loving:

“Among the poor and the other underclass, the worship of money became most evident by the unprecedented increase in the street drug industry, one of the rare locations where capitalism worked well for a few individuals. Quick money, often large amounts made from drug sales, allowed the poor to satisfy the same material longing as the rich. While the desired objects might have differed, the satisfaction of acquisition and possession was the same. Greed was the order of the day. Mirroring the dominant capitalist culture, a few individuals in poor communities prospered while the vast majority suffered endless unsatisfied cravings.

Imagine a mother living in poverty who has always taught her children the difference between right and wrong, who has taught them to value being honest because she wants to provide them with a moral and ethical universe, who suddenly accepts a child selling drugs because it brings into the home financial resources for both necessary and unnecessary expenses. Her ethical values are eroded by the intensity of longing and lack. But she no longer sees herself at living at odds with the consumer culture she lives in; she has become connected, one with the culture of consumption and driven by its demands.

Love is not a topic she thinks about. Her life has been characterized by a lack of love. She has found it makes life easier when she hardens her heart and turns her attention toward more attainable goals- acquiring shelter and food, making ends meet, and finding ways to satisfy desires for little material luxuries. Thinking about love may simply cause her pain. She, and hordes of women like her, have had enough pain. She may even turn to addiction to experience pleasure and satisfaction she never found when seeking love.”

Poverty is an issue in the United States and across the globe. When researching the intersection between self-love and poverty, not a lot of resources present themselves. Perhaps that is because this is a new kind of conversation- a new kind of question: How, when in the cycle of poverty, can individuals still cultivate love toward themselves?

Check out our section on the subject of Money and how it relates to well-being.

Work

Many of us were not taught that the work we do in the world and the amount that our work enhances or diminishes our well-being will play a role in our ability to be self-loving.  Many people in the job force in America feel a general sense of burnout, as many jobs are seen as something we “have to do.” In this way, many jobs suppress the human spirit, creating exhausting cycles. Practicing love also takes time, and many people working overtime on jobs that do not enhance their self-esteem may feel they do not have the luxury to work on the art of loving themselves. This state is a reality for many people. Our collaborative goal is to bring a love ethic into all facets of life, even into the workplace.

“Growing up is, at heart, the process of learning to take responsibility for whatever happens in your life. To choose growth is to embrace a love that heals.” – Bell Hooks

Practice: Taking Responsibility & Choosing to Embrace Love

Take a moment to consider the work you do in the world.
While practicing compassion for yourself, imagine one way in which you could bring a loving perspective to this area of your reality.

Some ideas:

  • Perhaps it is listing off a few things you are grateful for in regard to your work
  • If in a place where you can choose to make a change, maybe it is taking responsibility that you’re doing a job that you don’t want to be doing anymore and the best way to love yourself is to seek support and take action.
  • You could feel inspired to bring your co-worker their favorite treat on Monday as a way of thanking them for their presence in your work life
  • Imagine loving yourself fully while you are doing your work in the world- what would stay the same about how you currently show up professionally? What would change?

Screen Time

There is no denying that we are living in a digital age, in which we are learning to love ourselves both on and off-screen. We aren’t only asked to exist in our 3D lives by cultivating meaningful work, building communities, and potentially raising families. We are laying out these aspects of ourselves on the internet through social media. Choosing not to engage in social media is an option, and yet the number of individuals who are spending time on facebook, instagram, twitter, whats app, snapchat, ( the list goes on ) is still rapidly growing.

Being “instafamous” is now a goal for many individuals.  A study by Sheldon and Bryant entitled, ‘Instagram: motives for its use and relationship to narcissism and contextual age’ published in Computers in Human Behavior, used a survey which measured where participants were in life in regard to relationships, social activity, and overall satisfaction and its correlations to instagram use.

Results suggest that instagram is used mainly for:

  1. Documentation of social activity/ travels
  2. Coolness
  3. Surveillance/Knowledge about others
  4. Creativity

The amount of time spent editing photos was significantly related to narcissism. (You can take a narcissism test hereBell Hooks describes healthy narcissism as self-acceptance which includes self-worth. These are cornerstones of self-love. The pathological term narcissism is the belief that only the self matters and therefore any action can be justified that enables the satisfying of desires.

In addition to looking at narcissism and social media, many studies suggest that social media can cause users to create negative social comparisons. Negative social comparison is correlated with negative effects on self-reported self-esteem and life satisfaction.

Suls, Martin,and Wheeler (2002) state that social media use is making the already-widespread social phenomenon of comparing the self with others even more prevalent. We are social creatures.

Comparing ourselves to others is inevitable. Social comparison can be used to validate one’s life, but it can also sneakily create low self-regard. People can compare themselves to people standing in the same room, and that comparison is happening with millions of people, as well. The impact of the social comparison relates to self-esteem and self perception.

We offer a section focused solely on the subject of Social Comparison. You can check it out here:

Practice: Connect with your WHY

WHY are you using these social media tools, or, why not?

If you are a part of social media.
Get curious…
-How much time do you spend using social media?
-What do you use it for? Expression? Growing your business?

Next time you are using it :
-Tune into the sensations in your body: what is going on?
-How do you feel during your time on social media?
-How do you feel after?

Practice: When will they text me back?

During these times of having access to instant communication, it’s important to consider the impact of the digital realm of relationship.
It can be vulnerable to put yourself out there via text, instagram, email, twitter… the list goes on.
There’s a moment after the text is sent or the picture is posted in which our brain is seeking the dopamine hit of our outreach being received.
This moment ( whether it lasts 30 seconds or 30 hours) is a crucial time for us to practice cultivating love for ourselves.
Your attachment style may impact how you navigate screen correspondence.
You may send a text and immediately become anxious about when they will respond.
You may receive a text and want to want to respond but feel frozen and begin to distract from the process of drafting a response.
You may hate screens all together and choose to not partake in the latest technology upgrades.
As you interact with your device today, practice asking yourself the question “ If I was loving myself fully right now, how would I hold this interaction in my heart and mind?”
“What is the most self-loving and self-serving story I can choose to write about this experience?”

Examples:
Instead of “ They aren’t responding because I look needy and they are turned off.”
You could write something like, “ I do not know what they are doing. They could be driving a car… they could be taking a shower… they could be out of cell range… they could be intentionally pondering their response. They might not have the time to sit with their phone and respond right now.”
Notice when you go into blame / shame mode.
Find the place where that lands in your body.
Take a breath and offer yourself compassion and empathy for your experience.
Remember anything that another person does/ doesn’t do is not actually about you.
Ex. “ It’s understandable that I am feeling activated about how they are going to respond to this. I care. My anxiety means I care.”
Or “ It’s okay that I don’t know what to say back right now. It’s okay to ask for time, or take time. I care about myself and this person.”
Allow today to be an experiment. Notice the stories you write in your mind about your screen interactions. When you can, choose to write love stories to yourself instead of self deprecating ( and most likely make believe) tales.

Practice: What are you seeking / what are you avoiding?

The Buddha may not have known years after he shared the teachings of “craving and aversion”  they’d be coming into play with tiny devices in our hands and large monitors on our desks.  As a very quick summary, the Buddha offered that all suffering comes from our craving and our aversion… our wanting and our resisting of what is happening ( or not happening) in each moment.

Obsessively checking email, checking facebook, checking to see if there have been text messages are all playing grounds to check in and ask with this repetitive behavior of checking “ What am I craving/ seeking/ wanting?” “What am I wanting to avoid/ stop doing/ push away?”

Are you craving validation? Are you wanting connection?

  • Next step would be to access, is this a healthy strategy to get those needs met?

( Read more about strategies & needs in the NVC section of our site )

Are you avoiding the work task you’re currently attempting? Are you feeling something uncomfortable you are trying to numb?

  • Next step is to notice the desire to mentally run away from the moment you’re in.
  • Unless you’re in imminent danger, practice allowing yourself to stay where you are…To lean into the discomfort and get curious about it.
    More tricks found in the Mindfulness Section and Presence Section.

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