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Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, scientist or psychological expert. The ideas and opinions in this article are my own and may not appeal to everyone.
“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.”
― Rita Mae Brown
How true is this statement for you? We as humans can take ourselves through a lifetime of self-loathing until one day we’ve had enough, we stop and take notice. When we pay attention we begin to observe the mean things we think and say about ourselves and we can resolve to make a change.
It begins in childhood, there is always that person (or people) who plant the seed of self-doubt in the garden of your mind. These seeds grow into proverbial plants of belief, they are invasive and take over. “You’re stupid”, “you’re no good”, “you’re ugly, fat, skinny, useless, lazy” “why can’t you be more like your brother/sister” and my personal favourite, “you’re so selfish”.
Is it any wonder our population is depressed, anxious, have OCD, eating disorders, are overweight, have self-esteem issues and spend millions of dollars on cosmetic improvements. The problem with hearing these hurtful comments as a child is you start to believe them. Once a belief takes root in your brain it acts as law whether it is true or not.
It’s hard to believe that any adult would want to hurt a child in this way but it happens every single day. These hurtful words can come up unconsciously, out of the pure frustration felt by a parent or caregiver. Parenting is a tough job, especially when the little person you are looking after doesn’t listen, contradicts you, hits you or won’t eat their vegetables.
As a parent I can totally relate to this frustration, children are a force to be reckoned with. Our many years of education barely equip us with the skills needed for “real life”. Having a successful marriage, buying a house, maintaining a budget and raising our children to be functioning members of society is a tall order without proper training.
Having children can feel like taking a shot in the dark. As a new parent you don’t always know what you’re doing, how you will react in difficult situations or if you will even be up for this lifelong challenge once they arrive.
This is not meant to be a post about the struggles and rewards of being a parent (that will come in another post for this series). What I’m getting at is, we each come into this world whole, loving ourselves fully because as a baby we don’t know any different. We know nothing of the hate, pain or cruelty of this world until we begin to grow and our caregivers begin to shape and mold us; for better or for worse.
Self-hate can manifest itself in many ways, one of these ways is body image. Somewhere along the way we have picked up the idea that we should be perfect. If we could be thinner, have bigger breasts or toned pecs, a six pack, a nice butt, perfect brows, flawless skin, and a year-round tan then maybe we would be happy, lovable, beautiful. If we don’t measure up to our standards of perfection we make it our mission to become what we are not. It’s not that self-improvement is bad but the feelings we have toward ourselves of unhappiness until we look the way we want can create issues.
If we can start to identify and change those nasty, untrue beliefs about ourselves, we can begin to heal from the inside out. Only then can we begin to appreciate ourselves the way we are and then make those improvements because they make us feel good rather than to make others accept how we look.
One of the ways we can begin to root out the negative beliefs we have about ourselves is to be more conscious. Meditation is a good way to train yourself to quiet your endless stream of thoughts and go within. Trying to stop the thoughts when you first begin meditating can be a losing battle and I’ll admit I don’t sit down to meditate very often. Instead you can try to just sit for 5 minutes a day and pay attention to the thoughts that come up. You don’t even need to sit in meditation to do this, throughout the day you can just begin to become aware when you have become lost in thought and gently bring yourself back to the present moment. It may take some time but slowly you will begin to catch the thoughts as you subconscious mind is playing them in your head and you will see all the negative ones you thought you’d left behind in childhood.
So you’ve discovered some of these negative, limiting beliefs. Now what? One of the ways you can begin to “reprogram” these beliefs with new positive, helpful ones. A technique call EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or tapping can help. EFT is a form of counseling intervention that draws on various theories of alternative medicine including acupuncture, neuro-linguistic programming, energy medicine and Thought Field Therapy (TFT). Advocates claim that the technique may be used to treat a wide variety of physical and psychological disorders, and as a simple form of self-administered therapy.
There is conflicting reports on whether this is an effective technique or just a result of the placebo effect. However, since beginning this treatment I have personally seen wonderful effects of this easy-to-learn technique with no ill-effects and believe it is a worthwhile form of therapy for those who want to take a non-medical approach to certain non-life-threatening issues in their lives.
The road to self-love is a long one, it may take a life-time to fully embrace ourselves entirely. As with most things, it’s not the destination that’s most important but the journey to get there. This is true with self-love, we all have a light side and dark side; by beginning to accept all the aspects of ourselves, we can begin the journey back to wholeness. Are you up to the challenge?