How to love yourself like you love others
I know there are parts of yourself that you really don't like. Parts of yourself that you hide from the world.
Personality traits that you've deemed unacceptable to share with other people because they don't fit in with the image of you that you want other people to see.
A recent client of mine shared how she was getting silently more and more frustrated with her new girlfriend. The anger that she was experiencing made her feel like an awful person who didn't deserve happiness or this relationship.
When we dug a little deeper, she revealed that she grew up in a home where so-called negative emotions were not allowed. Shouting, anger, and conflict of any sort was actively avoided. When she threw a tantrum she was told to grow up and control herself because it wasn't at all ladylike. Her younger self internalised that it wasn't safe to express these types of emotions and so learnt coping mechanisms that allowed her to bottle up anything she perceived as negative.
Fast forward to her new relationship, my client didn't feel safe (or even know how) to identify and express her emotions in a healthy way. Anytime she wanted to share how she felt, a little voice would appear telling her that her partner would finally see what a nasty person she was and leave.
From a young age, we receive messages about what parts of our personality are acceptable and those that are unacceptable. The characteristics and traits that were invalidated by parents, teachers, society as a whole, we push into the background, into what we call the shadow self.
But the reality is we are all humans and with that, like it or not, comes imperfection. We all have a shadow self that we suppress, neglect, and exile to some dark, remote corner that no one can access. The shadow self develops primitively and instinctively as a survival mechanism for an unmet need.
We go to great lengths to protect ourselves. We hide parts of ourselves that we deem as being unflattering. We don’t like to expose our shadows out of fear of being judged, ridiculed, and abandoned.
Take my client, when she showed frustration or anger she was told off - her safety felt threatened and so she banned these negative emotions as a way to ensure that she received love and security.
Until we learn to fully accept this shadowy part of ourselves, we can never truly show up as our most authentic self. We will live in constant fear of someone discovering our dark secrets.
Denying your shadow is to deny who you are. And all parts of you are worthy of your own love.
So how do we meet the parts of ourselves that we have long hidden? How do we learn to accept the parts of ourselves that we have rejected?
Below are a series of questions that will help you to shine a light on the shadowy parts of you so that you can begin the process of removing the mask of who you think you should be and start showing up as who the world needs you to be.
- What was I like as a child? What did I enjoy doing that I no longer do? What do I miss about that version of me? Why do you think you hid or rejected that part?
- What values did my parents (caregivers) have? How do they differ from mine?
- What was my parents' (caregivers) attitude towards expressing emotions during my childhood?
- What emotions do I struggle to be with or express in my life today?
- What do I fear would happen if I showed these emotions?
- In what ways am I similar/different to my parents (caregivers)? How do I feel about that?
- What personality traits in others irritate me? What annoys me about them?
- Be honest, do I have any of these traits?
- How do these traits show up in my life? How do they impact me or others?
- Where do you think these traits come from? Did you learn them from someone? Are they protecting your from something?
- What tends to trigger a negative response from me? Why? What is the negative response?
- What makes me jealous? What are the things/or who are the people I tend to compare myself to?
- when did I show up as my authentic self and get rejected? How did that feel?
- Have I ever felt embarrassed about who I am? Why? What made me feel that way?
- What is the worst thing someone could think/say about you? Why? What hurts the most about that?
- What are the parts of myself that I dislike?
- How do I want others to see me? What parts of myself do I need to hide to portray that image?
- What role does self-compassion play in my life?
- When is the last time I forgave myself?
Now every week (or month), pick a trait that you have identified and spend some time getting to know this part of yourself that you've rejected. At the end of the week (or month) write a letter to this part that you have rejected, sharing what you now understand and how you are learning to accept her.
Learning to love and accept yourself doesn't just come from saying affirmations in the mirror or having daily bubble baths. Self-love is often found doing the things we least want to do. It comes from taking an honest look at yourself and your life. So don't worry if you're struggling to answer some of these questions on your own.
If you would like someone to explore this with you, to safely challenge and meet the different parts of yourself that you've hidden, I'd love to hear from you. Book in for your complimentary discovery call today.