Learning how to love yourself is something codependents and love addicts get stuck on, repeatedly.
I get asked how people can start loving themselves regularly. All the therapists say it, all good friends say it, but how do we do it? Codependents generally have an unfortunate history. We didn’t just acquire the symptoms we learned them. We learned them from a childhood that usually involves abandonment, neglect and possibly other abuse. This means we don’t have a healthy baseline of what love is, or how to love yourself. I for one have been told that I need to love myself, then growled as I fought my imaginary corner.” But I do” I would plead and reel off a list of stuff I do to love myself (the usual defensiveness that comes with the label). Then I would walk straight into a relationship that wasn’t healthy and reel off a list of what they did to love me. Which again was rose tinted and missed all the bits which showed they didn’t.
When you are a codependent or love addict and self neglect, you have a very warped idea of love. To you, love is what you do when you find someone new. Before they either start being vile or getting on your nerves. Thinking about them all the time (obsessing), doing whatever they want (manipulative), not saying when something is afoot (avoidance). This to us is love. This is where we feel safe, this is what we know. Learning how to love yourself is a habit and a muscle that needs to be flexed about 30 times a day.
Why learn to love yourself? So you have a baseline, so you can tell if another person loves you. So that when someone makes you feel bad you can identify that is not love and walk away.That’s fine but where do you start?
- The basics are the most important. Are you eating properly? If neglect is in your history chances are, you are not. Us humans need to eat three times a day. Regular healthy meals with some treats thrown in. Stuffing hunks of chocolate in your face is not loving. That’s stuffing and using chocolate to make you feel better is not going to make you feel better after is has reached your stomach. Nobody has ever sat there with a stretched tummy full of chocolate and said “I feel great, lets go fight the world”. On the same hand not eating til the afternoon is no good either, no wonder you are feeling fragile and anxious. Eating is about pattern and routine, forever. No diets, no shakes, just normal clean food that matches your calories for height and gender.
- Water is to the body what oil is to a car. And just like when the oil light comes on you’ve already damaged the car, when you are thirsty, you are dehydrated. Thirst is an emergency response. Your body has to be very low to send the thirsty signal. Drink before you are thirsty. Check here for the newest guidelines and effects of dehydration. Sleep? Just as important. When you have these three licked you have a really good foundation to start the other stuff. Learning how to love yourself is hard work at first.
- Treat yourself like a four year old. That is how precious you are and always will be. Would we tell a four year old that it is fine to go chase their alcoholic father into the night? Would you tell them to stay and listen to another person who is being mean? When you are just starting to love yourself that is how you have to look at where you are placing yourself. Is this situation good for a child to be in? If the answer is no, it’s highly likely that it is no good for an adult either (obviously with “adult time” and such activities barred from this generalisation).
- Be kind to yourself. It is no good being tough on yourself. You have to stick up for yourself by being your own best friend. Would you call your best friend a thicko if they forgot to take the bins out? Likely no, or you probably don’t have a best friend! Would you go into a tirade about how they forget everything and this is just one more thing they can’t get right, again, no. So stop doing it to yourself. You don’t get happiness, food or money from talking to yourself like crap, so stop it. It doesn’t serve you. As soon as you know you are doing it, stop. Counteract each negative thing with a positive. Yes I forgot that but I remembered such and such. Being kind to yourself is loving and a huge step in learning how to love yourself.
- Evaluate before acting. This is by far the hardest thing I have learned. Not everything deserves a reaction, in fact very little deserves a reaction, basically just life or death situations. That really is it. I spent my whole life reacting but didn’t realise that was what I was doing. As melody Beattie said in her book “don’t be blown about by every breeze”. I was, and every thing that came into my life left me emotional. Aunt Peggie’s cat dies and I couldn’t haul my ass out of bed for a week. I was consumed by emotion about everything, apart from what mattered. Eventually you will get to a place where you feel. You will feel hurt, angry, embarrassed, shame and more but you will just feel it. You will recognise it and think oh, that’s a pretty strong reaction I should go work out who’s shit that is and if I need to act on it.
- Put the effort in. Make the effort to start the journey towards loving yourself. Boo hoo you’ve had a crap life, join the queue. Boo hoo nothing goes right and people take advantage. Boo hoo it gets really hard. Regardless of anything you need to put the effort in. Dogs give up, fleas give up (see learned helplessness) we are humans. We kick ass, we do unimaginable things like go to the moon and run businesses. It’s hard sometimes, but not forever. It may feel like it, but it has ups and downs. Learn something, help someone, exercise. You are all that matters, happy people give, succeed and help, the world needs people that put effort in. Then they can teach others how to love themselves.
Now you know how to love yourself you can you can begin your journey. Everyday, little by little you are making your baseline for how others treat you. And you know what? You will slowly begin to see and feel those who do not do this. When you are being kind to yourself you will not put up with others being mean to you. Why should you? It takes effort to do this stuff and if you’re putting effort in, so should everyone around you.
With a bit of playing around these could also be boundaries, worth a thought. When you see people doing the opposite they also serve as red flags.
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