Learning To Love Yourself (How Did You Do It?)

For several days now, I have been debating over how to use my 3,000[sup]th[/sup] post at these message boards. I was reading Soda’s thread and saw the supportive messages sent to her by other participants here. Some of them commiserated about feelings of isolation, loneliness and self destructive thoughts. I was reflecting upon what it takes to mitigate such negative emotions. All too often, I find that Western medicine attempts to counteract such morose behavior through prescription drugs and not much else. Having seen, first hand, the often deleterious side effects and ineffectual “Band-Aid” treatment of symptoms in friends and acquaintances, I was compelled to consider what better methods exist.

A distinct portion of clinical practitioners honestly acknowledge the greater efficacy of therapeutic psychiatry over medication. Sadly, the prohibitive cost of individual treatment more often results in medication without corollary patient therapy interviews. I am keenly aware of how important a role these boards can play in providing cogent interaction to many who are suffering from isolation or lack of constructive input. I firmly believe that one of the higher functions of these boards is to provide such affirmation. To dispel the darkness cast by lack of fellowship is just as critical as fighting ignorance.

To that end, it struck me rather strongly that one primary asset in fighting morose and sometimes even debilitating frames of mind is simply, to love oneself. I have met many people who were heavily engaged in long term self-destructive behavior and managed to abate it somewhat through religious commitment. As a devout agnostic, my own view of this method is that it is one of displacement. Too often a semblance of loving one’s self has only been attained through reallocation of such important feelings to a more consensually accepted receptacle.

In quite a few cases, I have witnessed people wholly surrender their self-determination and pursuit of personal ideals over to such surrogate institutions. The organization’s role as a quasi-family provides the ostensible social intercourse needed for such individuals to believe that they have attained both group and self acceptance. I am glad to say that I have been friends with enough people who remain free thinkers above and beyond their religion to where I do not think that absolving oneself of free will is intrinsic to religious experience.

My major concern is that the love of self can, does, and quite possibly should, arise more out of a realization of self worth than that of group acceptance. The elevation of individual spirit need not be contrary to nor restricted by religious experience. Herein lies the purpose of this thread.

After almost forty years of dire confusion concerning personal purpose and self worth, I began to see a light in the darkness. However much familial abuse and misuse by so-called friends attempted to shroud that flame, I managed to keep it alive. As I slowly came to realize that many outside forces did not have my best interests at heart, I began to more carefully investigate what they really were. I found that all of the most prized things in my life usually were not best served by what I had been taught was important. These “important” things were supposed to be family and kin with all of the unconditional love and loyalty that is supposed to attend them.

I experienced much conflict due to the wishes of others for compassion and understanding without any return of the same by them. In short, it was a very Hellish one way street. However Herculean my own efforts were they never seemed to make the grade for those around me. I finally arrived at a marvelously simple solution. One by one, I dismissed these people from my life. Excruciating as the isolation might have been, the lack of turmoil was, in a word, deafening.

Thus began a perilous and sometimes torturous road to loving myself. I often half-joke about how, now that I have begun to love myself, I am totally insufferable. So be it. The benefits of self-acceptance and internal positive outlook so far outweigh any perceived worth of interaction with halfhearted family and fairweather friends that I can never look back.

I ask any of you who have read this far; What was it that made you realize the importance of loving yourself? Were you among the fortunate that had stable and rational families to nurture this? Was there an underlying strata of coherence and consistent philosophy that enabled you to be sure of yourself? For those of you who came to love yourselves later in life, what precipitated this event? Were there drastic measures required to achieve it or was some other internal realignment necessary?

What brought me to my senses was an epiphany of realizing how I was “feeding the hand that bit me.” So many people I once knew were quite content to foster my insecurities since they manifested in overcompensation with extreme generosity and attention. Too often at the precise detriment to my own needs and goals. Needless to say, that crap is over with for once and all. I still exhibit these same tendencies but it is now a habit that is broken instead of dominant.

Despite the sometimes lukewarm reception I obtain at these boards, the free interchange of ideas and emphasis upon constructive criticism keep me coming back for more. I often marvel at how the decency and warmth I find here far surpasses any encouragement I ever received from my own family. I shall not be in the least surprised if many of you feel the same as well.

And so ends my tale of self discovery. I hope that others here will reply with their own experiences in self realization. However rocky the road has been for this self-declared orphan, I can only shout out in joy that I have shrugged off these chains from my soul and begun to let it take wing.

Though this is more of a MPSIMSish type of thread, I am loath to move it. Instead(if Zenster doesn’t mind) I am going to use it as a base to ask these questions:

What do you love about yourself?

Why don’t you love yourself?

[Edited by Czarcasm on 03-06-2001 at 05:44 PM]

Czarcasm, I appreciate your own attempt to validate my thread’s presence in this forum. As you run the show here I certainly will not dispute you upon your own turf. I do feel as though I rather distinctly polled everybody with the questions cited below. I’ll freely confess that they were submerged a bit in the bulk of my text (perhaps I should have opened with them). I was rather moved by the responses to Soda’s thread and had a deep desire to try and open a toolbox for people experiencing any doubts in themselves.

In this thread I am attempting to survey our members about the paths leading towards self love and not just whether they do or do not love them selves. Had there been someone in my life able to clearly articulate such issues as I once had, as I am trying to now, my own experiences might not have been so excruciating. I see this from both sides of the mirror as I now do my best to serve as a mentor to a teenager I have known since he was a child.
In order to reiterate, I shall isolate the questions from my OP:

I learned with a copy of Playboy, a bottle of Lubriderm, and way too much free time.

I realized the importance of loving myself because my family is so unstable and dysfunctional. Far from being a consistent philosophy or surrender of free will, it was precipitated by the realization that it did not matter that sometimes I had and have moments of self-doubt. Not that I’m particularly wild these days, but in essence, I learned to tolerate certain aspects of my character without worrying on how they would be judged by others. I very slowly came to feel comfortable with the fact that I tend to see things differently than most of my friends. That said, I can also accept that there are times when I do feel self doubt and use them to catch up on sleep or do something fun and distracting. I don’t think I can put these scrambled thoughts must more clearly, but when times have been hard I’ve had friends more than family stand by me. It made all the difference, and to a certain point I agree the boards social function is very important. I appreciate Czarcasm’s attempts to simplify a difficult question but wonder if he has simplified it too much? I don’t think anyone really loves “themself” all the time, and if so, maybe the unexamined life is not worth living. Maybe I just finally learned to say “no”.

Or like Mr.Cynical without the Lubiderm.

Interesting OP, Zenster - we sound like twins.

The realization that those who should be loving (family), were actually almost successful in killing me. I decided that I wanted to live more than I wanted to make them happy.

I can’t really say I love myself, but I surely can say that I am happy, and I love my life, the life that I’ve created for myself. I made myself learn happiness, one step at a time, but first I had to un-learn putting up with cruelty, hate, manipulation and abuse. It took quite a while for me to realize that these were not acceptable behaviours, and I still get blindsided once in a while. For good or bad, my technique for defense is distance. I moved far away from the bad influences for starters. Then I had to learn what good relationships were all about, and how to participate in a good relationship without using any of the learned (history) bad behaviours. (still learning :slight_smile: )

I also had to learn to face up to and deal with the original problem people, and I had to learn a lot to be able to do this. I had to learn how to talk calmly when being yelled at; how to say “no, the last dollar in my purse does not belong to my drug addicted sibling”; how to say “no, I chose not to visit/bail you out of jail”; how to tell my parents that their behavior was not going to be allowed in my house, and that they would not be allowed to abuse the next generation of kids like they did their own.
I found (corny as it sounds) that some self-help books gave me the phrases I could use in dealing with abusive people, and the assurances that I needed to hear to give me the courage to use those phrases.

So, basically, I used moving away and learning from sources that I accepted as honest and caring (books, co-workers, friends) about what’s acceptable behaviour and what’s not, to set my standards, and to make a happy life for myself.

I, too, am counselling my young nephews, helping them understand that the course of their lives is their own chosing, helping them set their values and explaining that the bad behaviour around them doesn’t have to be part of their grown up lives, and that I’ll be by to help them as they go.



Well, I’m done here I guess.

Basically, one day I decided ‘okay, fuck everyone else. I’m me, people. Deal.’ I went a bit extreme at first, but eventually settled into a nice balance between myself and my surroundings. I am who I am, all the time, and because I chose to be so, I ended up with people who could accept that. Everyone seemed to accept it, myself included, and there have you.

Okay, granted, it’s a long, boring story of my life, but that’s the gist of it.

I found myself isolated for a stretch of time. During that time I discovered that I could be alone. I don’t have to have other people around me. I can live with myself. It doesn’t read like any big deal, but it really made me think. Most of my friends are the opposite way, moving from one friendship or relationship directly to another, with no space in between. It seemed like they didn’t know themselve, something many have since admitted to. The things I dislike about myself are small and insignifigant and are far outweighed by the fact that, while I still strive for self-improvement, I’m happy with the way I am, overall. It was a revelation.

I’m gonna mess up even the re-defined definitions because I can’t quite make them fit.

See, for me it wasn’t/isn’t a matter of loving or not loving. It was a simple matter of acceptance. Or maybe that is the same thing. Whatever.

Several key in my life were hyper-critical and I accepted their judgment. The fault was split: theirs for controlling, lack of charity, unkindness, etc. but mine too for letting their viewpoint warp mine for way too long. Their voices were the ones I heard. (And the battle isn’t over; note that word “fault”?)

The sweet light of common sense and acceptance didn’t dawn until just about everything had frayed apart, including me. I couldn’t hold everything together, couldn’t make everything right, couldn’t DO everything right and blamed myself for it all. No guilt was too small or too ludicrous.

It took kind, wise folks–my sister, friends, some people here–to provide a reality check. Basically I started hearing other, more balanced voices and that made all the difference. They’d been there all along; I just hadn’t listened. They were the ones who croggled, then laughed, then sighed over my “gotta somehow do it ALL perfectly” despair. (Hubris, anyone? One lump or two?)

In less high falutin’ terms, they clonked me upside the head a few times (stubborness, not mention habit were issues) and basically turned the tables on me: can’t grant anything to others that I’m not willing to accept for myself. In my case that meant forgiving.

It’s a huge relief even though it still feels odd sometimes. I can tell you one thing: it’s a helluva lot healhier for all concerned. And I’m damned grateful for the lesson.


I’m still learning, and I’m making good progress.

To answer Zenster’s questions,

Realising that some people whom I found really cool loved themselves, knowing that I didn’t.

Yes and no, but much more good than bad. When I started to build a slightly more secure sense of self, I was able to identify the good bits and the bad bits.

Not entirely sure what you mean. Things were mostly coherent, I think.

I made one mistake too many.

The change is internal, and it’s still under way.

Veb’s post rings a hell of a lot of bells with me. My biggest fault is perfectionism and an over-active sense of guilt, sin (not Biblical sins - just faults that I define myself) and punishment. For a long time, I wasn’t able to forgive myself anything.

I think Dr_Paprika said it best:

Basically, I did the same thing–stopped worrying about what others thought, and learned to like myself just the way I am. And the great thing was that the friends I made after that are truly great friends–no pretension, not judgemental, just good friends I can trust.

As TVeblen also noted, acceptance is key. I think that if you can accept yourself, you can love yourself–but not vice-versa.

But I’ll also add that I believe that it may be necessary to define yourself before you can accept yourself. You must know your character, and your likes and dislikes, for example, before you can begin acceptance. And you must not allow others to define these for you.

At the risk of sounding like the self-help guru Brad Goodman on The Simpsons, do what you feel like. (Well, as long as it’s legal, of course.) Try something you’ve always wanted to. See if you like it; if you do, do it again. When others ask disdainfully, “Why would you want to do that?” just answer that you’ve always wanted to, and don’t let their reaction affect you.

This way, you can learn about yourself while filtering out the opinions of those who want to judge, and attracting those who take you just as you are.

Well, that’s my opinion, anyway.

If you have been haunted by ugly thoughts about yourself, put yourself on trial; confront the charges honestly and openly. (Defend yourself vehemently, too; the goal is honesty, not self-pity).

Be concerned not so much with ‘loving yourself’ as ‘admiring yourself’. Be your own hero.

Look around, figure out what everyone else around you believes and thinks and does. Then pick a different path that looks better to you, and follow it.

I was in a pretty sick relationship for a long time. He was jealous and controlling, but insisted upon his freedom to do whatever he wanted.

I stayed because I believed I couldn’t live without him. My dependence upon a person who would do that to me was a species of self-hatred.

When he left, I survived. It took a while, but it eventually dawned upon me that there were things I simply didn’t have to put up with. Gee, what a revelation! I feel like I must have been an idiot not to realize it before, but it was a lack of self-love and self-confidence.

It’s also surprising to me how much it helped to forgive that man. Being angry with him was empowering in the short run; getting over it and forgiving him has brought me a lot of peace in the long run. That’s a lot easier said than done, obviously, and I apologize because it sounds like something Dr. Laura would say, but it’s true.

I’ve come to respect myself and to expect a certain amount of respect from others. I’m very fortunate that my family has always treated me with respect and love, and I have some very good friends who have always accepted and loved me more than I did myself – I guess they provided the “underlying strata” that helped me.

And if a new person in my life doesn’t give me respect and acceptance, then that’s something I don’t have to take. As both Zenster and Dr_Paprika said in different ways, it’s about saying “no.”

I look at what I love best about people in general and see how very much of it I manage to do most of the time. I can be smart, funny, nice, warm, caring, thoughtful and talanted. Which, when I think about it, is really, really cool. Way to go me!

Not to say I don’t think other people are wonderful, because I do. But there are days where I just take special delight in being me. Other people can do as they will, but I can have so much fun being myself.

I hope that ramble almost makes sense, if not…oops.

Part of it came from being raised in a family that loved me regardless of my decisions, gave me a good moral and ethical foundation, and supported me. The more people I meet, the more I find that this kind of family is rare so maybe I got dealt better cards.

OTOH, it still took me a while to realize that I am worthwhile, that I didn’t give a flying fig what people thought about me, and that I liked myself.

The biggest thing I think that helped me was to realize that [ul]
[li]I’ll never be like So-and-so on TV[/li][li]I don’t have to please everyone all the time (I was a big perfectionist)[/li][li]Some people’s opinions really don’t matter[/li][li]The opinions of Madison Avenue and the media are unrealistic and don’t fit with my lifestyle[/li][li]I am unique; there is no one like me (despite Scylla’s post in the Pit :wink: )[/li][/ul]
There’s the old saying “You are what you eat” but I feel “You are what you think you are” is also true. Focus and meditation on positive affirmations (no matter how cheesy it sounds!) work.

I found the best way to “love myself” is to realize
“Gee, you were just a dumb schmuck who didn’t know any better” and let myself off the hook for all the pointlessly stupid things I’ve done. Stop beating myself up for what’s over and can’t be changed. Gee, that was easy. Gosh I’m a good person. Tra-la-la, all’s well.

Then came the hard part. I had to STOP being a dumb schmuck that did pointlessly stupid things. I had to THINK about what I was doing, and who I would let into my life. This was HARD. Bad habits kept cropping up and I’d have to knock them back down. Again and again for some of the really dumb stuff.

Finally I got to the point where what I was doing in my life actually worked (for me). Simplify, simplify. And my dog really seems to like me. If she thinks I’m O.K., how bad can I be. (Really sorta serious here. My dog liked me. People I liked actually liked me back. If I’m such a nut-case, how am I fooling ALL of these people?)
Get over the past. (Easy to say- hard to do)
Suck it up.
Get on with your life.
If you’re not actively ripping people apart you must be O.K.
If you ARE actively ripping people apart, stop it.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.

Egads, Zenster, a thread after my own heart. I’d kind of been marvelling at how I wasn’t really getting “personal” on the boards (after having just made my way through all three Ask The Gay Guy! threads and Ask The Closeted Bisexual Guy!), then this comes along.

While I kind of raise my hackles at the phrase “learning to love yourself”–I have issues with being seen as too corny, too self-help-ish or new-age-y–I think what you’ve brought up is a very important topic and one near and dear to me. :slight_smile:

Point-blank: I was miserable. I didn’t like myself, my body, my thoughts, my life. Needless to say, I didn’t have a great social support group for these issues, so I spent a lot of time by myself. Thinking. Being miserable. And then I had the epiphany: Was life always going to be like this? Did I have to feel this way? Who was in control here? And, seeing as I had very little to lose, I placed a bet that I was in control, and I could change what I didn’t like about myself and my life. I was fairly young at the time–in my early teens–and it was a momentous lesson to learn so early in life. I made a list of traits I found attractive or desirable in other people…a kind of “wish list” of who I wanted to be. And I started to “act” like that person. I’ve been reevaluating and working toward those goals every day since.

My mum wishes this were true, but, at the time that I was at rock bottom, I felt pretty isolated. When I started making changes in my life, she was supportive, up to a point. In all honesty, I think the “down and dark” point in my life was just a phase to her.

Yes, but I don’t think I picked it up from any book or from religion.

I love this: “internal realignment” That’s exactly the phrase. I had been playing the game of life based on rules I had subconsciously picked up at some point in my life. I consciously rewrote those rules and have been playing by those rules instead.

The strangest bit of all this, and I suppose what compelled me to add to this thread, is that since I made this realignment so early in life, it’s become almost second nature to me. Yes, I slip; yes, I forget sometimes–but it always remains possible to me. And I kinda assumed, up until I went to college, that everyone else had made similar discoveries. During a few late night college chats, I realized that I was alone…maybe others believed that could change or control their lives, but didn’t carry that belief into action. So, I guess in my case, what we have is a step beyond self-love and acceptance (I couldn’t accept myself as I was), into self-determination.

Zenster, glad you started this thread.

I've never been able to figure out why people find it so difficult to love themselves. It's so easy to do, and it doesn't cost any money.
I think I've always had a high degree of love and respect for myself, even when I'm sad or upset with the latest idiot I've met or I've done naughty things. It's helped that my family and friends accept me, even though they think I'm from another planet. It's also helped that I've decided never to grow up. :-) Being an adult's a royal pain in the ass.
Yes, it helps to accept oneself, and certainly to turn off the tv, radio, computer, stop listening to friends, acquaintances, and family and get quiet and listen to yourself. Ask yourself what you want and need irregardless of anyone else.
However, I think the key to loving oneself is to just decide to do it and then do it. Believe that you are worthy of love and that it will be enough if only you out of every living creature on this earth love yourself because it is the one thing YOU CAN CONTROL. Decide how you want to love yourself. You can opt for the Lubriderm + hand method--guys wouldn't Lubriderm irritate Mr. Winkie? Or, you can practice random acts of kindness on yourself.
It's true, you know. We are all capable and worthy of loving ourselves if only we'd just believe it.

Whew! That’s a tough one Zenster, and a great topic. And great responses. I’m really impressed, and humbled.

Anyway, I fell oddly compelled to have a go at this one also, so please bear with me.

I don’t know if I would describe it as learning to love myself so much as learning to like, respect, and trust myself.

For want of a better analogy, here’s my five step program: The steps can be performed in any order, or concurrently.
Of course, it goes without saying that this is an ongoing process. When I get it right, I’ll let you know.

The first step, for me anyway, was accepting that I was a dirty, horny, selfish little monkey, that evolution had made me that way, (a survival trait in the wild, I suppose), and that my body will always want to do things my rational mind (and the law) says I shouldn’t, and that I should stop feeling guilty about that. (as long as I remembered that I was in control, not that monkey.)

The second step was when I realized that I needed to arrive at my own ethical standards through rational thought. This was brought home to me when I noticed that the authority figures who taught me that I should love and honor my neighbors were the same people who were teaching me that my (their) religion was superior to all others, and adherents to other religions were stupid, inferior pawns of the Devil who were going to Hell for their sins.

The third step was realizing that my own opinion of myself was more important to me than other peoples’ opinions, and that I could get along without them (the other people, that is). Everybody desires love and acceptance from others, even an anti-social old bastard like myself, but compromising your principles to please others can leave you feeling pretty bad about yourself.

The fourth step was understanding that I was ultimately responsible for my own actions.
I chose my path and I had to deal with the consequences. I don’t get to blame anything on anybody else, much as I might want to.

The fifth step was accepting that I was going to make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, even Cecil. It’s part and parcel of being human.

Anyway, I just do the best I can, according to my own standards, and cut myself a little slack when I screw up, (and boy can I screw up!), and try to learn from my mistakes