MEN AND WOMEN: Learning to love yourself – The good, bad and the ugly
I’m sure you’ve heard this saying: Before you can love someone, you have to love yourself. It sounds so true — but is it really?
Surely it’s always possible to love someone else, no matter how you feel about yourself?
Surprisingly, there’s been practically no research on the subject. But from my counselling experience I’ve come to realise that what really matters is this. Unless you totally accept the way you are, warts and all, you can never really be happy.
For example, I know multi-millionaires who are miserable. So money certainly can’t buy you happiness.
Having a loving partner isn’t enough either — because I also know people who genuinely care deeply for others, who have loving partners and truly love their children. But they don’t really like themselves.
So it’s possible to love and be loved, without being comfortable in your own skin. But you won’t be happy.
Think of the celebrities who seemed to have it all, and then committed suicide or overdosed on drugs, finally overwhelmed by their bad feelings about themselves.
Often that happens because their parents abused or neglected them. If your parents were encouraging, affectionate and disciplined you without putting you down, you grew up confident and self assured.
But perhaps your parents were self-absorbed, and were endlessly negative and critical? Then you end up feeling inadequate, and never really believe that you’ll be good enough to succeed.
It’s worth fixing those feelings, because once you do you’ll feel a lot happier. And it will also improve your relationships.
Because you won’t feel you have to hide or fake anything any more. And so you’ll become emotionally closer and more open with your partner.
But if you don’t love yourself already, how can you start now? After all, you can’t re-live your childhood.
A good counsellor will make a huge difference, because it’s hard work. But you can also make a start on your own, by deciding to accept everything about yourself.
Just the way you are. The good, the bad and the ugly. Like maybe sometimes you’re selfish, judgmental or lazy. You can certainly improve. But first you must learn to be comfortable with how you really are.
Think about the other people in your life, and also accept their flaws. Like the father you’ve always resented, or the ex you dream of murdering.
Stop dwelling on past events. Accept whatever it was that happened, and start to think about it all in a different way, because making mistakes doesn’t make you a failure. And doesn’t mean that you’re never going to succeed. So stop being so self-critical when things go wrong.
Instead, cut yourself some slack, and remember times you felt appreciated, or got things right. And gradually you’ll come to realise that you’re just as good as everyone else.
Different certainly. Unique perhaps. And in those differences lie the seeds of what will make you successful. And happy.