Learning to Love Yourself

By Cheryl Francis

We are approaching the day when everyone wonders if they matter enough to be someone’s Valentine. Some people may be asked out on dates, others may be given flowers and candy and others may simply be reminded that they matter through some other type of loving gesture. 

Then, there are those who struggle with the thought of not being given any of these things. Should they? What should truly matter is one’s own perspective of self. Not “who” will give me what I need to feel good, but how I feel about myself, first. 

The Desire for Acceptance

In the world of selfies, slofies, photo editing, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter, we strive to show the world the best of us, though inside we may be feeling nothing but the opposite. On any given platform, there are more than 10 photo editing applications available for download. 

In the world of selfies, slofies, photo editing, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter, we strive to show the world the best of us, though inside we may be feeling nothing but the opposite.

There is a demand for this as individuals desire to redesign their identities to feel as if they belong and to be accepted and affirmed. Responses to the photo editing trend suggest that individuals believe something is inherently wrong with them. 

Cosmetic surgeons are seeing a rise in individuals who desire a better looking version of themselves. In fact, invasive cosmetic procedures tripled between 2000 and 2018, according to Psychology Today. 

Is this what our new normal has become? Are we no longer okay with the wonderfully and fearfully created masterpieces that we have matured into from birth? Granted, there are necessary cosmetic surgeries that have given people back their lives and helped them regain a confidence lost. However, there are countless articles about cosmetic surgeries gone wrong as individuals tamper with and attempt to remodel their features. Yet, the trend continues. 

This trend causes me to question the underlying emotion leading to this need to be transformed. 

Many who desire to change their image, whether through surgery or electronic touch-ups, may experience some form of psychological impact. A study published in the April 2004 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that cosmetic procedures could have a negative outcome for the patient. Difficulties included depression, problems adjusting after the procedure, requesting repeated procedures, dysfunction within the family, social isolation, behaving in self-destructive ways and becoming angry with the surgeon and her staff.

These problems seemed to occur more in people who were young, those who had a history of personality disorders, anxiety and depression and people who had unrealistic expectations of surgical results, among others.

The Psychological Impact

Feelings of inadequacy contribute to psychological impact coupled with the underlying problem of lack of self-love. When we begin comparing ourselves with others, there is often some form of anxiety present. Increased anxiety about how we look and feel often trigger symptoms of low self-esteem. Low self-esteem often leads to social anxiety, which prevents us from authentically engaging directly with others. It keeps us focused on being stuck, ruminating about what we should have done or on the “what ifs,” all the while second guessing our presentation and performance.  

When we are not comfortable with who we are and desire to have others affirm whether we matter by changing our body image, we are expressing that we have insecurities. These insecurities oftentimes correlate to poor boundary setting and may eventually contribute to being abused. When we are not able to be ourselves, or do not feel comfortable with our original masterpiece, we create a clone of ourselves to hide behind so we can feel safe and significant.   

To realize that you are and will be okay whether or not you are acknowledged on Valentine’s Day, it is important to reduce the anxiety surrounding how you view yourself. If anxiety and emotional pain were always visible we would be gentler, more concerned and less judgmental toward ourselves and others. Treating this issue would be a huge emotional and psychological return on our investment in ourselves. 

Achieving Self-love 

Achieving acceptance and self-love to reduce anxiety can be developed in a variety of ways. 

First and foremost, be realistic. If you are not getting the outcome you desire, is it a body image problem, or a character deficit? Those perfect images and relationships we see as we move through life are not entirely a true picture. Think about social media and what you posted last. The best of everything, correct? Character deficits can be improved if you are willing. There are self-help and support groups as well as psychotherapy to support you with improving your unmet emotional needs. 

Instead of waiting for someone to affirm you, be your biggest cheerleader. How we view ourselves in general stems from what we say to ourselves consistently. There are unhelpful behaviors and thought patterns that plague each of us. Identify those unhelpful thought patterns that prevent you from feeling your best and decide to set them aside. If these thoughts are not helpful to you, there is no reason to give them space in your head. An easy way to affirm yourself is to use sticky notes to write down what you want to hear about yourself from others and stick them all over your mirror. Each morning repeat each phrase on the notes out loud. For example, “I am beautiful just the way I am;” “I am intelligent;” “I am a talented artist;” “I am a good mother;” or “I matter.” Be intentional about reframing the way you view yourself.

Emphasize your strengths. What is it that you do well?  Does it fuel your passion? Find it and spend time doing it. Identify your biggest assets and seek out opportunities to amplify them. In doing these things, what affirms you will be derived from within yourself. You will not feel as if you have to depend on external forces to affirm you, nor will you need to compare yourself to others to feel empowered. By focusing on your strengths, you are building your self-esteem. 

Be gentle with yourself. Based on past negative experiences, we develop narratives in our head that shame and belittle us. It is important to be careful of our negative self-talk as we do listen and create scenarios that are likely to harm us by being self-critical. Replace criticism by focusing and incorporating gentle, helpful adjectives about yourself. Doing this will help you nurture who you are inside and out. When negative thoughts begin to creep in, acknowledge them and set them aside. Then, replace those with positive thoughts about yourself. 

Take a fast from social media. Taking a social media fast is of great benefit and will help you increase self-control. Not only will you have less people to compare with yourself, you will also experience decreased stress and anxiety. You may also notice that you sleep better and have the state of mind to focus on the present. 

Incorporating these suggested strategies should help ease the emotional pain derived from feeling rejected or alone on Valentine’s Day. The desire to change who you are to fit a certain profile and be accepted by others, and the psychological impact created from the increased anxiety should be significantly reduced. 

Learning to love and accept yourself aren’t always easy things to do. If you find that you continue to have increased stress or anxiety surrounding your body image or self-esteem, or if your anxiety worsens or becomes out of control, it is important to seek out a licensed professional counselor to help you work through these feelings. You matter, and you can learn to become your biggest fan. WGW

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.