Why Is it So Hard For Us To Love Ourselves?
Have you seen that Dove video called Dove Real Beauty Sketches?
(Spoiler alert! If you want to watch it before knowing the ending, you might want to watch it now before reading any further.)
In the video, women go into a large room individually. In front of them is a man with his back to them so he cannot see them. He is a forensic composite artist and he asks each woman to describe himself to him, and as they do so, he starts drawing. The woman then leaves and a second person comes in, and, using the same process, describes what the first person looks like. At no time does the artist look at the second person or show the second person the drawing described by the first person.
The interesting part comes next: both drawings are put side-by-side, and the first woman comes back in and looks at the two of them. In every single instance, the drawings are very different. When asked to describe themselves, the women unconsciously exaggerated those parts of their face that they thought were bad or lack and were extremely self-critical. I’d go so far as to say that they didn’t completely love themselves. Loving ourselves goes much further than loving our physical appearance, but Dove’s video is a great example of how we tend to minimize and drag ourselves down without even realizing that we are doing it.
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Why is it so Difficult for Us to Love Ourselves?
For starters, we are wired to be negative. We have this thing called Negative Bias, which means that our brains tend to focus on the negative, unpleasant things in life more than those that are neutral or pleasant. Scientists believe that this bias is a survival mechanism that helped us during cavemen times: having the ability to quickly recognize something negative (such as that saber-toothed tiger that is licking his chops while looking at you) could save your life.
The kicker is that this negativity bias is so much a part of our psyche that we often don’t even realize that we are doing it. We don’t hear or focus on that voice in our head that says things such as: I’m stupid, worthless, fat, ugly…and yet that voice is relentless, hammering home negative thoughts about ourselves that make it difficult for us to love ourselves.
We’re also taught at a young age that we can’t fully be ourselves. We may take on roles and personas that aren’t quite who we are because of our life situation and family dynamics. We may tone down aspects of ourselves because they were not “acceptable” – perhaps we were told we laughed too loudly, so we became self-conscious of our laugh and did our best not to, or maybe our friends made fun of us because we liked and were good in math and science, so we pretended to not care about and even be stupid in those areas.
Add into that all of the expectations that surround us, and it can be very difficult to love ourselves.
Comparisons and Society
For example, our society places a lot of emphasis on our physical appearance. We are bombarded daily with images of what perfection looks like – which is an airbrushed, modified version of a “typical” person that is impossible to obtain even by the person in the picture.
We have been fed an image of what success looks like: the type of home successful people have, what cars they drive, the job level and salary they have, where they vacation, where they eat out and even what their personal relationships are like. Advertisers make us feel unsuccessful if we aren’t wearing the right jeans and sneakers or using the right phone. And then we compare ourselves to the ideal and we come up short. Even if we had everything that is deemed “successful” and could check off each box on the list, we would still most likely find a gap somewhere and focus on that rather than on everything we do have.
Comparisons are one of the ways we set ourselves up for a lack of self-love, and social media has made it easier for us to compare and ultimately fall short. On social media, many people post only the “best versions” of themselves – the awards and recognition, the dream vacations, the love-filled posts about their significant other, the perfect children they have, etc. It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, and when we do this against someone who is only showing the best parts of their lives, we can feel depressed and negative about our lives and ourselves. One other thing some of us do is choose to not love ourselves until we reach some type of ideal – maybe we say we will love ourselves when we lose those 20 pounds that have lingering around for the last 5 years, or perhaps we will love ourselves when we get that promotion at work, or maybe we decide we will love ourselves when someone else truly loves us and we can then believe that we are loveable.
Loving Yourself is the Best Gift You Can Give Yourself.
Regardless of how we hold ourselves back, the truth is that most of us fall in the “not loving ourselves” camp, which means that we miss out on so many benefits that come with loving ourselves.
- For starters, when you love yourself, you feel better about yourself and have more self-confidence, which carries over to all aspects of your life – your relationships, your work, and your personal life. People who love themselves find themselves getting the jobs they want. Their relationships improve – whether because the current ones get better or the current ones end and new ones come in.
- You live in a state of love, coming from your heart, that will not only fill you with self-love but also shine out to others.
- You accept yourself completely – even when you are not perfect (or maybe because of your imperfections!). You accept and love yourself when you are angry, sad, scared, lazy, undependable, mean or any other “less desirable” traits or attributes. You may still decide to do some self-improvement, but you’ll be doing it from a place of love rather than from self-judgment, lack or shame.
- You also recognize and accept your unique gifts, skills, and talents, rather than feeling unworthy of these gifts.
- You accept how life is and know that there will be good days and bad days — and that these are part of life – and are no reflection of you. You have the inner strength and power and confidence to weather whatever storms come your way and do so without self-blame, or at least with more clarity about who you are and your role (if any) in your current situation.
- You will have better health. Self-love reduces stress, depression, cardiovascular conditions, and autoimmune diseases.
- You let go of a lot of negative emotions like guilt, shame, failure, and isolation. In fact, self-love gives you the confidence and courage to pick yourself up and try again when life knocks you down.
- You learn to accept “what is” and are open to sharing who you really are. And you accept others as they are as well, which is another great gift to give all of humankind.
- You recognize, accept and are grateful for the abundance in your life.
- When you love yourself, you’ll find that you smile more and are happier. You won’t be able to not do this – how you feel about yourself bubbles up inside of your and comes out! Look at little kids. Most small children have not learned to criticize themselves and are generally accepting of themselves. They feel what they are feeling in the moment, and in a normal life situation, they are generally happy. They may have a melt down in the supermarket, but it passes quickly and they go back to being happy and loving. That is self-love – allowing yourself to feel what you need to feel and then returning to your natural state, which is one of peacefulness, happiness and smiles. You are meant to be happy, and when you love yourself, you are happy.
- And finally, you recognize and accept that you will never be perfect, but that doesn’t prevent you from loving yourself and living your life everyday, instead of “someday.”
Loving yourself is a mindset and a belief and it takes practice. It’s waking up every day knowing that you are lovable exactly as you are and truly living your life, rather than just going through the motions because you don’t feel that you deserve to truly live.
Want to learn ways to begin loving yourself? Listen to my podcast on self-love and then download my free e-book. Interested in knowing more about how to live your courageous authentic life? Check out my website (www.SpiritEvlution.co) – it’s full of free information to help you get started.
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