Help me be my own best friend
November 3, 2009 9:46 AM   Subscribe

What epiphanies and thought processes have helped you love yourself?

I don't always like myself, and I think that negatively impacts my relationships with others as well as my self-confidence and mental health. When things aren't going well, I tend to fall into a pattern of self-sabotage.

I've heard all the usual suggestions on how to love yourself - repeating self-affirmations in the mirror, writing lists of your strengths, etc. I feel like at this point, these kinds of external exercises would get me nowhere. What I'd really like is a glimpse into the mind of somebody who has reached a healthy place where they accept their faults and recognize their strong points. They take good care of themselves and make good decisions that they can look back on with satisfaction. If this is you, what realizations or experiences helped you get there? When you're going through a rough patch, what is your inner monologue like?

Thanks in advance for sharing.
posted by mossicle to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 140 users marked this as a favorite
Love 101 helped me. The site is down right now, but you can find it on Google's cache.
posted by Solomon at 9:58 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Someone here once mentioned that one of their tricks for taking care of self was that they framed it as if they were doing a favor for a friend. I take that advice to heart now and find that it really helps me, and reminds me that I need to be on friendly helpful terms with myself.
posted by maloon at 10:01 AM on November 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

I am a mostly positive person but with fairly regular intervals I have to battle negative self-thoughts. Nothing suicide-inducing, more cringe-inducing, if you know what I mean - the types of thoughts where you remember something totally random from 5 years ago and once again become completely mortified and convinced that you are a complete idiot and how could you have done something so stupid?

What helped the most for me was to try to remember the following:
1) I am the ONLY one who will remember or care about this (stupid thing I just did) tomorrow.
2) Every single person in the world, including those who witnessed (stupid thing I just did) has made their own share of mortifying mistakes.
3) Making mortifying mistakes keeps me from making life-changing mistakes.
4) I don't have to be perfect.
5) Nobody is perfect.

I also like to read and remember quotes that address this. I'll dig some up now.

Good luck!
posted by widdershins at 10:05 AM on November 3, 2009 [10 favorites]

Here you go - some of my favorite quotes about learning to not be so hard on ourselves (I'm becoming the official quote lady of MeFi):

A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. -- Alexander Pope (this one is my all-time favorite)

If you have made mistakes...there is always another chance for may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down. -- Mary Pickford

Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must first be overcome. -- Samuel Johnson

You probably wouldn't worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do. -- Olin Miller

A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner. -- English proverb

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. -- Mark Twain

The saints are the sinners who keep on going. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

No matter who says what, you should accept it with a smile and do your own work. -- Mother Teresa

And lastly:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. -- Marianne Williamson
posted by widdershins at 10:12 AM on November 3, 2009 [38 favorites]

I don't know how helpful this will be, but having a child has helped me tremendously on two fronts:

Body image. I basically gave birth to myself, in male form. There it is in flesh and blood, everything I always disliked about my own body - short, thick legs, no waist, big head, brick shaped body. I've long harbored this idea that the last 10 pounds was stored on my waist and if I could just lose it I'd have an hourglass figure. No, I just come from muscular stock; it's genetic, and there's the proof. My kid has not an ounce of extra fat, and we have the EXACT same body shape. Knowing this has helped me a lot.

Generally beating myself up. I get into really bad cycles of kicking my own ass over stupid things (I'm spacy and sort of klutzy, so for me this means dropping stuff, spilling things, making a mess while cooking, forgetting appointments, etc.). For one thing, just having a child around forced me to stop (literally) yelling, "God, you're so fucking stupid!" at myself. But I would still occasionally mutter to myself or say "stupid!" or whatever. Then, as he got older, I would see him doing the same thing to himself as he tried to put on a sock, or get a toy to work. It got to the point where tiny frustrations caused him to absolutely rage at himself. This was a real gut-punch.

Trying to help him put those things in perspective has forced me to do the same. I try to encourage him to be gentle with himself; to stop and realize that being frustrated is OK, but not to get mad at himself. Slowly but surely (and I mean years), I am finally doing the same thing for myself. When I find myself shaking with anger after spilling a glass of juice, I try to imagine how sad I would be if my son was beating himself up over the same thing. Why shouldn't I want the same thing for myself?
posted by peep at 10:16 AM on November 3, 2009 [7 favorites]

A big trick for me was to start with other people. I noticed when I was angry or internally berating someone for something they said or did (and it happened all the time). I tried to meditate if you will on compassion, reminding myself that everyone was really doing their best with all the good and bad they had been given in life and that day, combined what they thought they needed in life and on that day. This helped with accepting everyone from people driving "like idiots" to stories of criminals in the news (oh and maybe don't participate in MeFi comments for awhile heh) . Anyway eventually the *snap* between doing this with myself as well as others happened. It's just easier for some people to start one place or the other. This was the most helpful idea from a book that I wish I remembered more about, so I could cite specifically. Best of luck on this worthy endeavor!
posted by Bokononist at 10:16 AM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

I like to frame it in terms of being "relative to what?". I worked in NYC for a long time and just looking at all the other folks made me realize that there were a whole lot of folks much worse off than me, some really stupid people out there that I could not emulate if I tried, and a lot of very successful people who make mistakes everyday.

Whenever I get down on myself I think about how I am relative to others. Quite frankly, reading all the relationshipfilter questions on AskMe helps me understand there is a lot of misery out there. It is normal to lose confidence once in a while.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:17 AM on November 3, 2009

Take the part of that you hate, and realize that if you continue to loathe a certain part of yourself that you will never be able to truly love yourself. For me, it was primarily my rage, but some other things as well. I had seen some pretty negative things concerning anger growing up and I had boxed it away as a huge negative thing to be avoided at all costs. Of course, this was impossible and over time my temper would flare up more and I would make more effort to shove it inside of myself - making me more miserable. The thing that really sent it home for me was when I realized that all the people I disliked primarily exhibited traits that I disliked in myself: namely temper, arrogance, and selfishness. It wasn't just me that had these problems: they were normal things and not negative in their own right. I had to realize that just because I felt a certain way didn't make it wrong. If anything my emotion was just a signal to myself that I could then choose to act on or not. But to truly get over everything, I had to do more than just accept my anger and my arrogance and my selfishness - I had to love them as part of my being as much as any other part. They were all part of me, and thus were all important. The funny thing is, after I did that I became much more calm, self-effacing and selfless. Once I quit trying to bury everything I became a much more balanced person and all of a sudden started making tons of friends. It was totally weird, and I look back at it in hindsight and I'm still not really sure how everything happened like that.

My advice for you is this: those things that you dislike about yourself, ask why you dislike them. Is it because they are, in and of themselves, bad? Are you the only person to respond that way? That's likely not the case. For me, I just asserted something was bad and that was the end of it. But that doesn't make sense at all. If you do something you dislike, try to understand the emotion underneath it, realize that it is okay to feel that way and you don't have to go out of your way to avoid feeling it. It might sound crazy that I'm telling you to appreciate something about yourself that you think is bad or wrong, but that's just it: there is no part of you that is wrong. To assert that some emotion you're feeling is wrong is to say that there is something wrong with you, which is as much self-deception as facing yourself in the mirror and trying to convince yourself that you're a good person. The way you feel is part of who you are. You may not choose to act on it, you may not choose to tell people about it, but you'll know it's there. As you understand and know yourself you'll come to love yourself, and once you understand yourself and why you act a certain way, you'll begin to understand others as well, coming to love them as much as you love yourself.
posted by scrutiny at 10:18 AM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

I am a pretty sweet guy. However, I can be absolutely vicious to myself. What has worked quite well for me is to try to never use words or concepts against myself that I would never use against someone else. I would never call someone stupid or a failure, but goddamn it if I don't use those words regularly against myself.
posted by milarepa at 10:25 AM on November 3, 2009 [8 favorites]

This was the most helpful idea from a book that I wish I remembered more about, so I could cite specifically

Bokononist, I came in here to say pretty much what you said, and the book I first read it in was Self-Esteem by Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning. Could this be the book you were referencing? It's a great book and I highly recommend it.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:26 AM on November 3, 2009

Best answer: widdershins, thanks for that really lovely group of quotations. I'd never heard any but the last one, and found them all worth remembering.

Here's one I just read, in the same vein. It's meant to be advice for writers but can be ported to all kinds of people:

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time the expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep that channel open."

-- Ursula Nordstrom
posted by meadowlark lime at 10:31 AM on November 3, 2009 [10 favorites]

Self -sabotage can be a habit, and you can break it. The only time I ever make any change really, is when I get into some emotional pain.

I often don't like myself, and sometimes I deserve that. Especially when I am being mean or selfish or nasty to other people. It always comes back on me anyway, I treat myself that way too. So in that respect it is probably right that I don't like myself.

Forgive yourself when you find that you are wiping yourself out. What is the payoff? Being around people who love me helps, and seeing that it is a bad habit has helped too.
posted by chocolatetiara at 10:34 AM on November 3, 2009

A New Earth, by Eckardt Tolle is helping me. Many will be put off that this was recommended by Oprah so YMMV.
posted by jmmpangaea at 10:35 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes bad judgment." (Source?)

This saying reminds me that mistakes are essential learning tools.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:39 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

In terms of physical self-image, one of the best things that I did for myself was watch The Making Of 300. Yeah, 300, the cinematic equivalent of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog, with violence thrown in.

The movie showed a group of men in the kind of physical shape that I'd always wanted to be in, but had never achieved. I constantly felt guilty about not looking that good, ever.

Then I saw what it had taken to achieve that look.

Ten to twelve hours a day in the gym, five days a week.

That realization helped me not only get rid of some really pesky body issues, but it made me think hard about what I choose to do, and own up to the consequences of my actions. In other words, I don't choose to work out all the time, so I don't look like a Greek god; but I can put a half-hour a day into a reasonable workout, and keep a reasonable diet, and look pretty good. It taught me that comparing myself to others, without taking into account what they'd sacrificed to get where they were, was madness.

I've been a lot happier with myself since then.
posted by MrVisible at 10:48 AM on November 3, 2009 [11 favorites]

Nthing other comments about treating yourself as you would someone you loved dearly. I had to actively work on not saying anything to myself that I wouldn't say to a friend so all those thoughts I had (like "you are such a dumbass. What is wrong with you?") are ones I would not say in a spirit of love to someone else. Therefore, I chose not to say it to myself. (Have to admit this is harder than it sounds. Sometimes I have to ask "Would you say this to someone else?" when I am being particularly hard on myself.

That is not to say I don't occasionally ask "Self, what in the hell are you doing??" but it's said more with a sweetness as if I were saying "you silly little dork, wake up over there!". That (and age/incipient wisdom) has helped so much.
posted by Mysticalchick at 10:50 AM on November 3, 2009 [6 favorites]

I can't say what brought me TO this realization, but the realization that I DESERVED all the things I wanted was an epiphany. I DESERVED to fall in love with someone who'd be good to me, I DESERVED to have a good job, I DESERVED to have friends treat me well...

I realized that up until that point I wasn't fully convinced that I actually deserved such things, or that if I didn't get those things, it was kind of my fault or that I should be happy with what I want, or something like that -- but suddenly realizing that I actually DESERVED good things seemed to do the trick. It suddenly gave me the impetus to assess relationships/jobs/everything really, and decide, "no, dammit, I deserve better than what I got." And then I try to go get it.

I still don't necessarily get everything I strive for, but the fundamental difference is that before I believed that the reason I didn't get it was because I was somehow unworthy of it on a fundamental, baseline sense. And now, if I don't get something I strive for, I chalk it up to either "those are the breaks" or dumb luck. The closest I come to "I didn't deserve it" these days is if it's some kind of a skill assessment thing, where I realize that "oh well, maybe I didn't have the exact specific qualifications to earn that job/win that contest/blank, but that's just THAT specific situation, I still deserve to have A boon like this, I just have to look elsewhere/train more/find a better fit".

So yeah -- believing that I, at a fundamental level, deserved good things is what did it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:10 AM on November 3, 2009 [6 favorites]

Hmm. Well, I'm not sure it's always possible to like yourself, but loving is a lot easier in my opinion. It took a long time to get to a point where I loved myself once I realized that I hadn't been, but it's well worth it. That said, I don't always like myself. Here's a few things I learned:
  • Write out a list of things that you like about yourself and all of the things you can think of that you don't like about yourself. Be as honest as you can, including things like "I'm a huge dork," "I have a short temper that I need to work on," or "I really like the shape of my nose.
  • Check one or two items to work on at a time, one "good" and one "bad." The goal shouldn't be to change anything right away, but to accept the things you think are bad and either play up or embrace the things you really like.
  • Whenever you're feeling bad about something on that list or you have trouble accepting something, think about how you can relate it to one of the "good" items on the list and remember that you are indeed a good person. Work toward accepting the "bad" and, if you wish to, work on changing one item at a time. Again, "change" should not be the goal, but it can certainly happen if you want it to.
  • Work, work, work. It might not be possible to accept something on that list, but don't worry about that - as long as you can accept some of it you're good. If there's something there you can't accept, try to figure out why you can't accept it and work on that instead.
I focused on acceptance rather than change because the goal isn't to change yourself but to accept yourself - acceptance being the primary road to loving yourself in my opinion.

For example, when writing out my list (it was actually a few years' worth of lists), I wrote things like: "I'm a huge, weird dork," "I apologize far too often for things I have no reason to apologize for," and "I don't like the shape of my butt."
I began to take pride in my weirdness and dorkishness and stopped being ashamed of it. A part of accepting the gratuitous apologizing was to change it, for me, and so I caught myself whenever I said "sorry," but I didn't stop myself entirely and reasoned that when I did apologize, I have no reason to regret it and would defend myself if I felt it justified. There isn't a damn thing I can do about changing the shape of my butt, so I worked to accept it. Eventually, I did.

Notes on the mirror never worked for me and seemed a little distasteful, a little too kooky for me (but whatever works for others is great). The lists helped me, they might or might not help you, but acceptance is a big part of loving yourself and it's well worth working on. It helped me in ways I didn't anticipate and I will never regret the work and mistakes it took me to get to this point.
posted by neewom at 11:19 AM on November 3, 2009 [5 favorites]

It was/is a combination of things. Most through nature. Recognizing that there was a Creator who created the smallest amoeba with such care and detail, surely must have put some thought into the design of this one. Then through years of hashing and rehashing the circumstance of my beingness it dawned on me that there is nothing random in the universe. All things have patterns, rhythms, cycles, space and dimensions and that perhaps there was a science to all the events that transpired in my life and they all happened for various reasons that were also designed.

Then I thought about that for a long time. And I started learning about Cause and Effect and Reciprocity and how everything we do has an effect on the rest of the cosmos and nothing goes unseen. And all of these considerations started to penetrate into consciousness till I began seeing what the Creator saw while designing me - and not to love that would be an insult to God/Creator. So I looked at love and decided that it might be a good idea to start finding that - inside - and working towards making it strong enough to eventually reach others and in that to heal the world.
posted by watercarrier at 11:22 AM on November 3, 2009

I like doing favors for my future self. So if there are a lot of dishes piled up, I'll wash them as a favor to Future Me, who will then notice that the dishes are all clean and be happy about it.
posted by lauranesson at 11:23 AM on November 3, 2009 [33 favorites]

I hope this will help in some way. I'm not sure what you'd call this viewpoint... anti-nihilism? Whatever i called it would be made up, and FWIW I'm currently where I am through a path consisting mostly of Buddhism and Toltec Castaneda-ism.

I find it very useful to remember that I don't matter. Nothing I do matters, nor can it. At least not any more or less than the particular way that any rock in the universe erodes or which galaxies collapse. What's more, no one cares. As near as I can tell, most people have only the dimmest inkling that other people exist in any meaningful way, and the other end of the spectrum still doesn't care about you specifically.

With that in mind, what greater freedom could you have? You are exactly as important as the whole universe, and everything in it. Without getting into the reinforcing ramifications of not being in any way separate from from either the universe or the six and a half billion people who are unaware of and indifferent to you, I find this to be extremely powerful and empowering in all kinds of ways.

It taught me that comparing myself to others, without taking into account what they'd sacrificed to get where they were, was madness.


posted by cmoj at 11:32 AM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

I know it sounds bizarre, but what helped me was learning a lot about multiple personality disorder and starting to think of myself as a multiplicity of selves who needed to work together in order to function properly and happily.

Certain selves are too wounded, too stuck in the past for me to allow them to have any say in how the ship is run -- they are allowed to ride along, but they are not allowed to steer. I have done a lot of deep meditations in which I reach back into my past and connect with these selves at the moment in which they were formed, I communicate with them and give them the comfort they never received at the time. By embracing them into the herd of selves instead of letting them fester in their self-perceived isolation, I've actually been able to confront and reconcile a lot of hurts that I'd mostly forgotten about.

You know why you should love yourself? Because you are not just you. You contain myriads, and the splendor of self-discovery is near limitless when you remember that you're not ever really in it alone.
posted by hermitosis at 11:32 AM on November 3, 2009 [24 favorites]

Lots of good advice here. One of the things that I do is read this poem over and over and over:

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott
posted by triggerfinger at 12:01 PM on November 3, 2009 [10 favorites]

Like a lot of people, I have up days and down days that I can't always control as well as I'd like to. Over the past, maybe, five years I've noticed that there are some things I can do to sort of tip the scales at least a little bit and I try to do them: exercise, eating decently, going outside a lot, prioritizing sleep and low stress options, seeing real life friends and staying decently clean and well-dressed [if you know me, you'll know that this is not a very high bar]

I have a lot [really a lot] of routines that are calming to me generally because I like structure and order. What I've done, over time, is add stuff to those routines that are good for me in various ways. So I've always had a wake up and have coffee routine and I've added brushing teeth to it. This seems laughably teeny of a thing, but I was really having trouble fitting tooth brushing into my life for some awful reason and now it's just part of what I do.

Also as lauranesson says, I do things for myself that I don't really like doing, in the doing of them, but I like the results. So before I go on a trip [I travel often] I do all the dishes, make my bed, put all my clothes away and basically tidy up before I leave. This is good because it balances my pre-trip spazzy energy and also when I come home, the house is nice. And I always tell myself "I cleaned this house because I love myself" or something similar. And it makes sloggy work like cleaning have a better (to me) purpose and reminds me that in a lot of ways I do a good job looking after me.

I can't say I'm always in touch with myself but I've been pleased with my ability to assess what's wrong and incrementally work on it so that things don't become festering cesspools of "UGH!" When I do go through a rough patch, for me personally, I spend less time sort of hand-flapping about it [especially to others, sometimes complaining to high drama friends is NOT a good way to move past obstacles] and more time either laying low until it passes or addressing the issue head on. I try very hard not to say "I just can't do that" when "that" is something that I think normal people do [open mail, pay bills, brush teeth] but forgive myself when I just need to regroup and maybe bail on a social event or a promised phone call.

Though people may say otherwise, generally speaking no one cares about you like you do. Ignoring people who are like bad tape loops and teaching yourself your own strategies -- even if they're weird, as long as they work -- is a good path to be on.
posted by jessamyn at 12:04 PM on November 3, 2009 [8 favorites]

It's been a journey.

The very first thing I did was to empower myself. I realized that I had options and I was making choices -- even if the choice was to Do Nothing And See What Happens -- and that I could make different choices. Part and parcel of this process was taking a good hard look at what "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" and other rules I'd internalized from childhood and individually accepting, rejecting, or modifying them. I jettisoned a lot of weight that was holding me down. I actually worked through I Never Knew I Had A Choice and found it very useful.

Second, as others have said, I changed the things I said to myself so that they were no harsher than what I'd say to a friend. I might tell a close friend, "That was a dumbass move," or "I'll bet you won't do that again," but I'd never say, "You're such a dumbass." Why shouldn't I be as compassionate to myself as I would to others?

Third, I learned to recognize that I really was reaping benefits from my mistakes. Yes, I make them, but I learn from them. I'm wiser today than I was yesterday, and I wouldn't be if I hadn't made the choice that turned out not to be so good in hindsight. If you see the benefits of your mistakes and find a way to be thankful, it's harder to beat yourself up for them.

Fourth, I had someone call me "flawed and fabulous" and latched on to the phrase. There is absolutely no reason that flawed and fabulous can't coexist, and they do, all the time! I'm living proof, and I bet you are, too.

Finally, I look for reinforcement to these ideas in quotes (“You have to laugh at yourself, because you'll cry your eyes out if you don't”, Emily Saliers), broken rainbows, cultural memes (such as deliberately making flawed pottery to avoid angering gods), and experiences of various kinds. I try to see everyone's personal mistakes* as opportunities for learning and growth (for them and for me).

*It doesn't work so well for me in terms of big, public mistakes/errors in judgement, like invading a country, withholding medical care from millions, or encouraging genocide, and it can be tough on violent or aggressive personal mistakes, too, but works for just about everything else.
posted by notashroom at 12:17 PM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I imagine my future self. Future prefpara is in her mid-sixties, has those nice smile-wrinkles, and is sitting in a cozy chair. She is thinking about me, present day prefpara, and smiling, because she knows how worried I am - but she also knows that everything is going to turn out OK, and that a lot of good things are around the corner. She has a lot of compassion for me, because she was me and remembers how I feel right now. She thinks I am doing a good job, though. She can see the big picture. Sometimes I imagine her patting my hand and saying, "don't worry." She knows that the mistakes are good too. They make us more compassionate, more willing to help others, better friends, better parents, better partners. She knows I'm trying. Also she's like, daaaaaamn, I was hot when I was younger!

This really helps me when I start to judge myself.
posted by prefpara at 12:20 PM on November 3, 2009 [26 favorites]

Realizing that I am not competing with anyone else. That I need contentment only from being the best I can be, however it measures up against anyone else.

Mary Schmich said it well in her famous "Wear Sunscreen" column:

"Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself."

Or, as my mother well put it, "Nobody gets it all." Everyone has a little pain, a little rain, in their life, and everyone has a lot of joy if they let it in.
posted by MarkMoran at 12:30 PM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Bokononist, I came in here to say pretty much what you said, and the book I first read it in was Self-Esteem by Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning. Could this be the book you were referencing? It's a great book and I highly recommend it.

Yes, that's it! An apt but forgettable title. The contents are excellent (and memorable). Go buy it now (before you forget).
posted by Bokononist at 12:51 PM on November 3, 2009

I fell in love. When I saw all of the things that he hated about himself that I accepted about him without a second thought, and all of the things that I saw in realistic terms rather than black-and-white critical judgements, I realized I could see myself that way, too. Pretty quickly, I became much more accepting & realistic about my own foibles, and saw the things that make me a great person that I'd been overlooking before. It's changed my life.
posted by AthenaPolias at 12:56 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Love is not a judgment (even one that's positive). Don't use your mind to love yourself. It's the wrong tool. You don't love yourself because of the wonderful strengths you can think of, because your mind can also come up with horrible weaknesses. Your mind can also contradict any positive affirmation you might devise. Instead: sit quietly and think of someone or something you love unconditionally, perhaps a pet or even a beloved plant or object. Fully feel that love in your heart (yes, your physical heart). Then think of yourself, and direct that feeling of love towards yourself. If it makes it easier, direct that feeling towards yourself as a baby or small child. Repeat often; watch what happens.
posted by Wordwoman at 2:43 PM on November 3, 2009 [12 favorites]

Setting boundaries and respectfully but firmly protecting them, especially with people I loved who were in the mindless habit of pushing my buttons, was huge. Creating Safe and Healthy Boundaries has a somewhat airy-fairy feel and the creators have a course they'd like readers to sign up for, but it's a quick informative read on the subject. Insights from that page have helped me tackle difficult* conversations that turned out to be vital to my sanity, particularly this:
As I’ve “practiced” and enacted more healthy boundaries with people who can hear them and respect them, it gets easier. And I realized that I don’t want people who can’t honor my boundaries in my life. . . . Other people ignoring our boundaries is NOT what causes us to get angry. We get angry when we do not gracefully and compassionately honor our own boundaries (whether with or without the other person’s cooperation).
It's a very concrete way of practicing love and respect for oneself. Also, it gets easier and feels more natural, the more you do it.

*"difficult" as in, "This is going to be bloody awkward. Bringing this up is could very well hurt this person, whom I love. Yeah, but this status quo is fucking up my health and peace of mind. If this person really loves me in return, s/he will understand or at least respect that this is really really important to me. Regardless of their reaction, if I keep on not mentioning that they're trampling all over my boundaries, will I be happy with myself? Well, no. Do I love myself enough to protect my health and peace of mind? Yes. So i have to say something. OK. Now, next step is to work out how I say my piece in a loving, respectful, but inarguable manner."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:21 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I second/third/nth those who recommend treating yourself as you would treat others. If a friend of yours burned the rice she was making for dinner, you wouldn't berate her and call her a useless moron, would you? Be gentle with yourself.

Also, when I was at a really low point a few years ago, my mom said something to me that I will always remember: "I wish you could see yourself for just 5 seconds the way that I see you every day." It reminds me that no matter how awful I may feel about myself or how much of a failure I think I am, I have people in my corner who fiercely love me, and don't give a rip about the teeny picky things over which I agonize.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 6:21 PM on November 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

Greatest epiphany I ever had was realizing my picking at myself WAS a form of self love-- just twisted enough for me to allow. When all I could think about what how much was wrong with me, I needed to feel like something was right, and my ability to recognize and acknowledge my own failures was that thing. I couldn't meet my standard, but at least I could hold it. I realized I had never been able to shake my self-doubt and shame because it would mean losing the only thing I was really sure I could be proud of: my 'wisdom' and 'unflinching honesty with myself.' So, first, I had finally identified a major mental pattern and it was no longer a major subconscious force and all that. Second, when I realized that even in my hopeless confusion I'd actually been working to keep myself sane and feeling good all along-- well, it looked like I literally could not screw up my psyche if I tried. Like an invincibility star for the soul. It was wonderful. I think everyone probably has that, that even our worst selves have a deep-down, unshakeable loyalty to us-- if you can experience that personally, it'll do wonders.

Perhaps more on topic, I arrived at all this while comfy in bed, alone, mentally talking to myself like a separate person and asking big, simple "why?" questions, in sentences and everything, and getting answers in kind. I kinda felt like one of those child therapists on crime shows, I guess because I don't really have any experience with actual children. Anyway, it's an approach I can recommend.
posted by jinjo at 9:14 PM on November 3, 2009 [5 favorites]

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry
posted by sickinthehead at 8:24 PM on November 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

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