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Loving yourself is a process and a life long journey. I choose to love myself daily.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t always like that and I had to learn to love myself.  The truth be known, I hated myself and felt inadequate most of the time.

As the captain of the cheerleading squad at East Meadow High School in New York, I loved cheering for the football and basketball teams. I also “cheered for” my friends who often came to me with their problems. They knew I would listen and wouldn’t judge them.  But what about me?  Did I cheer for myself?

I hate to admit it, but I didn’t know how to cheer for myself. I looked outside of myself for others to approve of me and tell me I was okay.  My self-esteem was like a yo-yo.  If you liked me, I felt good about myself and if you didn’t like me, I didn’t feel good about myself.  Instead of loving myself, I judged and beat up on myself.  I didn’t know how to love myself and I didn’t have a “self”.  I became a people pleaser and was loved starved.  I wasn’t in touch with my feelings (especially anger), what I wanted or who I was.  But, I looked good on the outside-like I had it all together.

About twenty five years ago, I learned about Codependency and it changed my life. I gradually learned to like myself and then to love myself. Codependency can be called “other-addiction.” Codependents have a long history of focusing their thoughts and behaviors on other people, often at the expense of themselves. They “people please” and will do almost anything to get the approval of others.  People pleasers are full of anger because their needs are rarely met because they are so busy taking care of everyone else. They look very competent on the outside but on the inside they feel quite needy, inadequate, helpless, or perhaps nothing at all. They may have experienced abuse or emotional neglect as a child. They are outwardly focused on others, and know very little about how to direct their own life from their own sense of self.  Sound familiar?

We cannot change until we are aware of our behaviors and what needs to be changed. I needed to change. I learned to stop beating up on myself and looking outside for my answers and self esteem. I began to affirm myself, “I like and approve of the person I am becoming.”  I said it constantly and after awhile, I started to believe it.  This was the beginning of self-love.  Nobody can love you like you can love yourself.  When you love yourself, you learn to love others.  Love is the answer. The bible says “love your neighbor as yourself.”  We often forget about loving ourselves first.

My journey has been one of self-discovery, self-love, self-confidence and self-trust. I started to say NO and stopped “shoulding” on myself.  I put a sticky on my phone that said, “I will not should on myself.” At first, my children and family weren’t happy when I set boundaries and said no. They thought I was being selfish. I told them it was self-care!  Today, I say no easily when I want to and so do my children.  And the best part is – I don’t feel guilty and neither do they!

Loving myself means I stop acting like a victim, blaming and judging others. I take responsibility for my feelings, actions and behaviors.  It means I forgive myself for years of not loving myself, beating up on myself and having to be perfect.  Today, if I make a mistake, I quickly forgive myself and see what I can learn from it.  If others do something that I don’t like, I choose to forgive and see the perfection in it – that I attracted it into my life for my highest good and healing. I believe everything happens for a reason and that it’s for my highest good.

                                                            MORE TIPS ON LOVING YOURSELF

1.  STOP ALL CRITICISM– Criticism never changes a thing.  Refuse to criticize yourself.  Accept and love yourself exactly as you are – knowing you are doing the best you can.

2.  DON’T SCARE YOURSELF – Stop terrorizing yourself with your negative thoughts.  Find a mental image that brings you pleasure and switch your scary thoughts to pleasurable thoughts.  Remember the good things that have happened in the past.

3.  SPEND TIME ALONE IN MEDITATION AND PRAYER-  Plug into the Power within on a daily basis. Allow yourself to receive Divine Love and healing.  Journal your feelings and focus on what you have, rather than what’s missing.  

4.  BE KIND TO YOUR MIND – Self hatred is only hating your own thoughts. Don’t hate yourself for having the thoughts.  Change your thinking and focus on the positive things in your life.  Start a gratitude journal.

5.  PRAISE YOURSELF – Criticism breaks down the inner spirit. Praise builds it up. Praise yourself as much as you can. Tell yourself how well you are doing with every little thing. Stop looking for others to validate you. Be patient with yourself and treat yourself as you would your best friend. Look into your eyes often and tell yourself the truth of who you are as a child of God.  

6.   SUPPORT YOURSELF – Find ways to support yourself. Reach out to friends and allow them to help you.  Asking for help and being vulnerable when you need it is sign of strength and courage. It gives others permission to ask for help when they need it. 

7.  TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY – Learn about nutrition. What kind of fuel does your body need to have optimum energy and vitality?  Exercise.  Cherish and revere the temple you live in.  

8.  ACCEPT YOUR GIFTS – Step into your greatness and magnificence. Stop hiding and let your light shine.  Find your passion and live it. Live your dreams.

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Pat Hastings

Author, Inspirational Speaker, Spiritual Coach, Retreat Leader & Radio Talk Show Host

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