There are many benefits to taking the time to really get to know who we are and accepting ourselves. We tend to forget that we are also valid people. We certainly expect others to accept us as deserving of love. But do we have this same expectation of ourselves?
Studies show that we often neglect to validate ourselves and our identity which can lead us to mistrust our own decisions and become dependent upon others to make decisions for us. This can lead to feelings of insecurity when others do not validate us. We hold little value in ourselves and begin to feel isolated and alone. In my own life I found that I hindered and prevented myself from opening up and feeling secure around others.
One should not be ashamed to seek counseling. It becomes imperative that we seek help when our self esteem becomes so damaged as a result of personal trauma or loss that it begins to affect our quality of life. I was able to work through my insecurities with the purpose of overcoming social anxiety. But counseling taught me to love myself as well as love those around me. Once I was able to do this, love was returned to me from everyone I met.
What is love?
What is love? There are many interpretations, but in a nutshell, love is giving freely of yourself with no expectation of receiving anything in return. Imagine for a moment the implication of this simple definition. How vulnerable would you now feel if you loved someone? Imagine the trust that would be required to achieve true love. It’s frightening. By this definition, do you love yourself?
What is there about me to love?
I had never considered doing a self evaluation before. Several weeks of my counseling sessions were dedicated to this question. I was surprised at how difficult it was for me to list even one page of personal qualities I possessed that deemed me deserving of love. It was easier to focus on the negatives. So a different approach was needed. What would others appreciate about me once they get to know me?
When I look at myself in the mirror and I expect me to be thinner, younger looking and more appealing overall. I instantly place unreasonable demands upon myself both physically and emotionally. No one knows me like I know myself and I am not very appreciative of myself. During my sessions I was told, “You are the first person you should love without expectation.” After a close self evaluation I was ashamed at how little I regarded my own self worth. Had a partner treated me the way I often regard myself I would not feel much loved at all.
Do others in my life love me?
This doesn’t get any easier. When I compared our simplified definition of love to myself I was heartbroken. I was frightened to learn how others felt about me. I asked my closest friends and family what they loved about me. I had already determined who in my life I felt I could safely love without reservation or expectation. Again, my findings were astonishing. The question was, “What do you love about me?” Some whom I have trusted my entire life responded as if I had asked, “What would I have to do to earn your love?” If this is the response you get from others they do not regard you as a friend, partner or even family. This is not love but emotional abuse. I was devastated at how little I was regarded by others whom I deeply loved.
To make matters worse, the friends in my life that I had not shown much regard for actually surprised me with their response. These are the friends and family I had always typically taken for granted. “Are you okay? Why would you ask such a question? If you need anything you know all you have to do is let me know.“
Changing my outlook
I became aware that I needed to hold myself in higher regard. Low self esteem had affected every aspect of my life. It not only influenced my personal outlook but how I was perceived by every one around me. These startling realizations had shown me who in my life I could trust to love without expectation and without fear of being used, manipulated or hurt. I learned why I was being hurt so often by those I had invested so much of myself emotionally. I had to redefine my view of friendship and family. It was a painful task in many ways but repaid with much more joy than I could have imagined. I now have a closer bond with those true friends and family in my life. I also have an inner peace with myself. I envy the person I see in the mirror today.