From childhood to my early 20s, I really hated myself. I would actively do things against myself.
One example was choosing to study business over psychology just because my parents discouraged me and because my classmates said I would not make any money. I also actively sought to pursue things that brought me pain, thinking I deserved suffering.
I walked a path leading away from my dreams, running away from what I truly desired. I never even dared admit to myself what I really wanted in life, because I had already defeated myself inside.
I remember myself doing everything I could to not be myself. As a Singaporean living in the US, I feigned an American accent. Despite my soft-hearted nature, I worked in investment banking amid Type A personalities. I had drifted so far from who I was that I didn’t even recognise me anymore.
As I grew older and matured, shouldn’t I have been becoming more and more myself? Why was I diverging from my inner truth?
Today I can honestly say that I’ve turned all that around and now I walk a path that’s true to myself. I am a coach and a personal development writer, living out my values of courage, perseverance, and strength. Finally I’ve allowed myself to express my true self and be vulnerable in the world.
To me, self-love is my stand for my personal growth and my greatness. Self-love is about giving myself what I need, not what I want. It’s about standing for my own truth.
Personal bank account
We each have a bank account with ourselves. Somewhere inside us, we know what’s good for us. There are certain things we value – courage, love, strength, perseverance – that give our lives meaning and substance. We also have our personal goals and dreams. We have a highest and greatest self waiting to actualise.
If we do things that are good for our highest selves, that is a positive in our personal bank account. On the other hand, we do things against our highest selves, it is a negative in our personal bank account.
When we dislike ourselves, we find many ways to make ourselves suffer:
- Sabotaging relationships
- Not being responsible for our lives
- Not taking care of our personal needs
- Trying to please others
- Finding pleasure in pain
- Procrastinating on important tasks
- Avoiding problems
- Denying problems
- Doubting ourselves
- Criticising ourselves
- Beating ourselves up emotionally
- Giving in to fear
- Abdicating personal power
All these are negatives in our personal bank account because they detract from what truly serves us. They give us instant gratification but are detrimental in the long term.
When we hate ourselves, we truly believe that we are unworthy and undeserving of love, existence, and all the nice things in the world. We want to harm ourselves as much as possible, maybe even to the point of self-destruction.
Self-love is just the opposite of self-hatred. Self-love means doing things for highest ourselves, being of personal integrity, and being in truth with ourselves. If we love ourselves, we make decisions today that our future selves would thank us for.
Acts of self-love include:
- Standing up for ourselves
- Being courageous
- Allowing ourselves to feel negative emotions
- Being responsible for our choices
- Believing in ourselves no matter what
- Delaying gratification
- Ensuring our personal needs are met
- Putting ourselves first
- Doing what we say
- Being honest with ourselves
- Fulfilling promises you made to yourself
More specifically, it means exercising when we say we’re going to exercise. It means confronting our fears and becoming the bigger self we know we can be. It means judging ourselves worthy of our own dreams and deeming ourselves deserving of good things.
Deposit more than you withdraw
So the state of our relationship to ourselves depends on how many positive and negative acts we deposit into our bank account. If we perform more positive acts, the relationship remains healthy. If we perform more negative acts, the relationship begins to deteriorate. Both result in cycles, vicious and virtuous.
If you are caught in a vicious cycle, simply do one positive act today. And then another tomorrow. You’ll see how just ONE positive act creates the energy to do another, and another, and eventually accumulates into a positive force in your life, driving your virtuous cycle.