‘Just LOVE Yourself?!’ OH Please!

The term ‘self love’ often comes with negative associations of self indulgence and narcissism. It is however quite simply a way to describe considering and valuing yourself as much as you might those people close to you. Self love holds within it the belief that you are worthy of care, consideration and respect as much as the next person and that you have a place in this world. You belong. Ultimately to love yourself is to treat yourself as kindly and compassionately as you would a cherished loved one. 

Many of us have received messages in childhood that were less than loving and more about judgement and criticism. In these formative years, such messages, whether from parents, siblings, school or bullies, run deep, when we have such a fragile sense of self. Inevitable feelings of low self worth can then develop as a result. Once adults, it can then feel very alien to behave in ways that are kind and loving to ourselves. Like a colour we have never seen. What feels more familiar is to do what was done to us, to replicate the past.

There can also be an unconscious loyalty to our parents playing out, in the case of family wounding, whereby we will ‘honour’ them by treating ourselves as they once treated us. It’s as if we are silently saying ‘I will stay loyal to you, father of mine by abandoning myself, the way you abandoned me.’ This can be a very powerful and invisible force that makes self love feel impossible. We may find that we can be loving or kind to ourselves in one area of our life, eg. Looking after our body, but then sabotage ourselves in another area, like financially or in intimate relationships. On the surface we may reject our parents and their negative ways but our behaviour towards ourself tells a very different story of how we remain loyal to them.

At The Bridge Retreat we believe, grief and its safe expression, offer the missing link for so many in their journey towards self love and wholeness. It is only when we fully grieve what we did not receive in childhood, (i.e. our essential needs of love, attention, nurture and safety), that we can finally begin to heal our core wounds and move beyond them. It’s like the grieving process allows our ‘wounded child’ within to heal and frees up space inside of us for love to grow. We can slowly begin to reparent ourselves in new and healthier ways and from here, self worth and identity strengthen.

The inner critic of course goes hand in hand with low self worth, just as healing the inner critic, goes hand in hand with self love. That inner voice that judges, berates and criticises us and others is often simply the internalised messages from the past, given our own voice. Once we have grieved our core wounds, the voice of this inner judge gets quieter and quieter, moving from a shout to a whisper. It is then the moment by moment choices and actions we take that enhance our self worth and reduce our harsh inner voice as we begin to like and approve of ourselves more and more. Until one ordinary (and extraordinary) day arrives, whereby the voice in your head is one simply of kindness, compassion, encouragement and support. Like a negative inner parent has moved out and a new love of your life has finally arrived…which indeed it has. You!