Many who suffer from addiction, depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric issues do not love themselves. Instead, they are harshly self-critical. They have suffered injury to the sense of their innate goodness. Victims of the disease of self-hatred experience a deep insecurity about the value of their existence. They lack a sense of wholeness.
This is usually because of trauma or emotional neglect. To love ourselves, we need to have experienced others loving and nurturing us when we were young. Many experienced a lack of emotional warmth and nurturing growing up. Instead, their parents subjected them to negative, critical, or punitive parenting. Parental overprotection can also bring on insecurity and self-criticism. Painful peer relationships while growing up, including experiences of rejection, also contribute to self-hatred.
Self-criticism is damaging. It promotes depression and anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and other psychiatric illnesses. It damages relationships. Victims experience fearful avoidance in their relationships, less intimacy, more rejection, and less satisfaction.
Self-criticism robs people of happiness, peace, and serenity. It poisons the joy of existence.
The opposite of self-criticism is self-compassion. Those blessed with self-compassion are kind to themselves. They give themselves understanding when facing personal inadequacies and failures. They do not engage in self-judgment and self-criticism. Instead, they have a sense of our common humanity as perfectly-imperfect people each trying to get by as best we can. If negative or self-critical thoughts arise, people who love themselves don’t get hooked.
Self-compassion diminishes psychiatric illness and promotes healthy, fulfilling relationships. Self-compassion promotes happiness. It reduces negativity when times are tough. It protects against depression and anxiety. It reduces fear of failure and helps you get up and try again when you fall. When you love yourself, you can learn from your mistakes.
When you love yourself, you take care of yourself. When you take care of yourself, you feel better and function better. Life goes better. Self-love is also a prerequisite for the capacity to love others. When you refrain from judging or criticizing yourself, you then refrain from inflicting this damage on others as well. As a result, you experience healthier, more rewarding relationships.
Self-compassion shifts life motivation from fear-based avoidance of mistakes to love-based pursuit of meaning and fulfillment. This stimulates motivation. It also enhances resilience in the face of inevitable difficulties. Self-compassion thus promotes success in life.
Self-compassion promotes positivity and optimism. This leads to happiness.
You can reverse toxic self-criticism. Start each day consciously affirming not only your basic goodness, but even cherishing your many gifts. Remind yourself that you are sacred. Practice nurturing yourself. Act as if you love yourself, and the feeling will eventually follow. Provide yourself with the support and guidance of the loving parent you may have never had. Imagine what you would say to a friend and then say that to yourself.
Journaling can help. Writing about your difficulties with a kind attitude towards yourself fosters self-love. Write about the advantages and disadvantages of self-criticism and self-compassion. See that self-compassion gives you the benefits you falsely believed you were getting by beating yourself up, without the pain.
Embrace your suffering with caring warmth for yourself. Practice mindfulness so as to not get lost in your pain. When you see your harsh self-critic at work, note your negative thoughts, smile at them, and let them go. Remind yourself of your basic goodness and let negative states pass. Practice mindfully showing yourself unconditional love day by day, moment by moment.
Healing from the traumas of a lack of love, judgment, criticality, and rejection takes effort. Make a persistent, gentle, daily effort to intentionally practice self-compassion. Over time the practice of self-compassion will transform your experience of yourself and your life.
Dr. Kristen Neff’s website on self-compassion: http://self-compassion.org/ provides further information on self-compassion.
Image taken from: http://happierhuman.com/self-compassion/.