There are many ways to learn to love yourself and understanding yourself is just the start!
Self love can be one of the most rewarding and difficult tasks anyone can accomplish. It is difficult because you know yourself so well, you know all of your secrets, humiliations and insecurities. It is not easy knowing so much and still accepting yourself, but like many things we have some blind spots in our own understanding of ourselves. Below are some ways to uncover some of these blind spots.
1. Explore Your Past- You are a complicated individual, your life has been shaped by many things including: your genetics, family dynamics, environment, education, internal dialogue and a lot more. It is okay to approach yourself with investigative curiosity and wonderment. The more you explore your past, the experiences you have had, the reasons you have not loved yourself before, the more likely you are to start being more compassionate to yourself.
2. Be Around Those Who Support You- This does not mean that the person has to be the biggest cheerleader on the planet, although that is fantastic, it can be the person who expresses simple acts of kindness, like asking "How was your day?". These can also be the people who quietly encourage you in your goals or healthy choices, or the ones who are willing to be with you even if you have nothing to say. This support does not have to be human, it can be an animal, there are few things in this world as wonderful as being greeted by your dog after a long day. By choosing who you have around you, you are giving yourself an opportunity to see yourself from a different perspective.
3. Try Something New- Often times we hold ourselves back because "I have never had that before" or "I am not good at that". You will never know until you give it a shot, who knows you may really like mountain biking or Vietnamese food. Opening yourself up to new experiences allows you to better understand your own process, method and limitations. When you challenge yourself to something new the world becomes bigger and that will give you an opportunity to see yourself on a whole new scale.
4. Go Outside- It is hard to understand yourself when you have been molded into something that fits in four walls, see how you grow when you are not limited. Going outside is a great way to reconnect with your potential, it allows you to explore and be curious without getting bored or being guided by someone else. Follow a path you normally miss, pay attention to the fine details, observe nature and take some time to get out of your head and into an experience. When you allow yourself the opportunity to live in a bigger world, you will learn that you have a lot more to understand about yourself.
5. Clean Your Space- As humans we need some form of organization because our brain likes to group things together and when there is chaos, a lack of coherent groupings, in our space, there is chaos in our mind. It is also a simple practice of self love, you are making the choice to improve your quality of life. Keep in mind that your order may not look like mine or someone else, but that is because we all already have our own grouping system from our many experiences. So when you create a clean environment you are freeing yourself from one more distraction that has allowed you to avoid exploration of yourself.
6. Think of Others- Sometimes understanding yourself is not about you at all, it is about learning about your environment, seeing how others live their lives. A great way to do this is just to talk to people, ask them about themselves, what makes them tick, what is their passion. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of interacting with others then go to the library and pick up a biography or a story. If you don't really like reading or speaking to others then you can just observe others by listening to podcasts, or music or just people watching. There is liberation in understanding how others work and it serves as a guideline for changes you may want to make in your own life.
7. Acknowledge Your Strengths- It is important to know your strengths, it is a first step in using them to compensate for other areas of weakness you may feel that you have. Also remember that everyone has different strengths so the ability to do well in school is a strength, but so is the ability to have a conversation with a stranger. Assess different areas for strengths you may have such as: knowledge, social skills, aptitude, creativity, business, spirituality, emotional, physical, relational, economic, environmental, etc. Knowledge of these strengths will lead to a greater understanding of your needs and potential.
8. Eliminate Those Who Break You Down- Sometimes there are people who are toxic to you, they might be the person who gossips, the person who uses you, the person who abuses you. It is an act of self love to eliminate these people from your life. You are allowed to chose who you want in your life, so you have the choice of compassion or the choice of degradation. You can eliminate those in your mind that have served as anchors to your potential- remember that 9th grade teacher who told you that you would be nothing more than a drain on the system- get her out of your head and instead invite the teacher who told you that you were important and worth effort. It is your choice how you let these people exist in your environment and in your head.
9. Stop Apologizing- If you engage in poor behavior choices or have an accident, then apologize and then after an apology do something to correct the behavior or incident. Sometimes people apologize for their existence in small ways that build up over time. You are not something that needs to be apologized for, you are someone that is valuable. Your behavior is sometimes something to apologize for, your existence is not. So by learning to stop apologizing you can now start to understand yourself without shame.
10. Challenge Yourself- Everyday you have an opportunity to try something new, see the world in a different way, change your relationships, and explore. Challenge yourself with a goal that scares you because it is "too big" or "will never work". Challenge yourself to say what you have always wanted to say to your partner. Challenge yourself to learn something new about yourself. Challenge yourself to treat yourself better than you did yesterday. Challenge yourself to love yourself. Challenging yourself is a great way to learn about how powerful you truly are.
I hope that this article can be the start of you learning more about yourself and serve as a platform to start building self compassion and love.