I’ve spent years teaching people how to reach their potential but there’s always one stumbling block, especially for us women.
Before we reach our potential we have to first believe we have some and that we’re worthy of it and this can be a massive hurdle if we struggle to love ourselves. It’s an issue for so many and one we don’t often talk about.
I used to find it hard to love myself.
I would constantly focus on the things I didn’t have and what was wrong with me, always overlooking the things that were good about my life and about me as a person. I never felt good enough and even after promotions at work I still felt like I was acting in a play and would get found out as not being as good as people seemed to think.
This lack of confidence plus my ability to focus on the negatives, not the positive, would hold me back. I would look at other people and they seemed to have it figured out. What was I missing? After coaching many clients I now know that we’re all busy thinking we’re the only one who feels like this yet we’re all having similar thoughts and feelings; comparing to others, falling short, wishing things were different, not feeling good enough.
After a series of wrong relationships I spent time on my own, discovering myself and learning to love myself. Once I began to feel comfortable in my own skin and embraced me for who I was, not who I thought I should be or the person others would like me to be, I began to be happier. Ironically, it was after 2 years of this that I met my partner and at a time I was comfortable being with me and not looking to settle down!
I realised the way I thought of myself all those years was influencing what other people thought of me too and therefore who I attracted, and not just that but who I felt worthy of settling for.
How can we expect others to love us if we don’t love ourselves? But how do we learn to love ourselves? Beyoncé said “the world will see you the way you see you, and treat you the way you treat yourself”
Self-love requires us to be gentle with ourselves and look after ourselves like we would a child we are caring for.
We love our children so we make sure they eat right, get plenty of sleep and stay safe. It should be the same for how we look after ourselves. If we don’t love ourselves we can end up self-sabotaging.
An example of how this plays out can be found in our relationships. Lack of self-love can leave us seeking validation through others due to our own lack of worth and confidence. This can be in our friendships, our social media postings and also in the intimate relationships we seek.
Looking for intimate encounters to validate the fact we’re desirable because otherwise we don’t believe it. Constantly posting glamorous selfies so that people can tell us we look great because we don’t believe it ourselves. Needing a partner or other half because we don’t feel enough by ourselves, and to be single must mean we’re not wanted and undesirable.
When we think like this we can make bad choices, end up in destructive friendships, and one sided relationships were we are desperately seeking validation from someone who will never respect us, because we don’t respect ourselves.
Another way lack of self-love can harm us is the belief that we must always come second. We don’t ask for what we want because we’re too busy worrying about what everyone else needs. We can get the boundaries for self-care all wrong when we don’t put our own needs first.
I used to be the kind of person that’d still go to a party even though I didn’t feel like it and was coming down with a cold because I didn’t want to let people down. I’d go to work when I was sick so my boss would not think I was unproductive or my colleagues would not have to fill in for me. As a result I got more sick and more exhausted.
It didn’t do me any favours but I wasn’t thinking about me and as a result the ‘me’ I speak of was tired, disconnected and unhappy. This changed when I began to love myself more and put me first, still with the intention of looking after others but not at the expense of myself. Like in the aeroplane safety demonstrations – you should always put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.
It’s making good choices from a place of self-love.
Rather than trying to carry on regardless so we don’t let anyone down. Taking that day off work and resting because we need it and not feeling guilty or beating ourselves up about it and knowing that it’ll mean we’ll be better for others when we return rested.
Yes there might be times we’ve failed or fallen short or things have not turned out how we planned.
We all make mistakes, that’s part of being human. Accepting this and thinking: How can I fix this? What have I learned from this? What will I do differently next time? Is much more beneficial than hating ourselves, regretting our actions, ruminating on what went wrong and wishing we could turn back the clock.
We do tend to make this harder, though, in the way that we talk to ourselves and the thoughts that we let into our minds. We can talk to ourselves in such a harsh way. The things we tell ourselves about our appearance or our capabilities, the way we beat ourselves up when we’ve fallen short. We wouldn’t dream of talking to anyone else in this way, so why do we do it to ourselves?
Be your own best friend.
If your friend does something crazy or asks for an opinion on the latest hideous purchase he or she has made, what’s your response? Usually, we try to be kind but truthful. So why not try this with ourselves? OK, we may have messed up, but be kind and truthful, keep that harsh tone in check, and remind the voice in our head that it’s talking to a friend.
Stop hating yourself for the things you’re not and start loving yourself for all that you are.
Put self-care first, ask those who know you well to tell you why they value you and what they’d miss most about you if you weren’t there. Keep an achievement journal and take note of something at the end of each day that you accomplished – even the small things. Not everything will turn out how we planned, we all make mistakes sometimes, go easy on yourself. Be more aware of your thoughts and how you talk to yourself – be your own best friend and learn to love yourself again.
About Jess Stuart
Jess Stuart is on a mission to empower people to realise their potential to achieve balance in life, inspiring people to find their purpose, rediscover what matters and make changes to bring about a healthier, happier world.
Jess is an author of two books, with on-line courses, events and workshops that focus on personal development with balance. She focuses on leadership development training in businesses and loves working with women to help them overcome self-doubt to achieve their potential. She is also an international key note speaker on topics such as Mindfulness, Resilience and Success and Empowering Women.
After a successful career in the corporate HR world Jess decided to follow her passions. A qualified yoga and meditation instructor with a certificate in Life Coaching. Jess has trained in Buddhist meditation and mindfulness. Having lived, worked and volunteered in many countries with some inspirational people Jess draws her life experience into her work to share the principles of health and happiness.
Jess’s latest book, Like A Girl, is a guide to leveraging our feminine potential to thrive at life.
More about Jess…