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Why you don’t love yourself more. And how to.

by Dr. Amy Johnson on May 1, 2011

Please Share!

Improving self-love and decreasing the desire for approval are part of my life every single day. I’m either helping other people through it, or I’m working on my own issues with it. Constantly.

We love ourselves just fine at first. Then something happens. I remember this vividly from my own childhood.

I’d have an idea I just knew was utterly brilliant. I couldn’t wait to see the look of amazement on adult faces when I told them. Except when I revealed it, it was immediately shot down. Really? I was wrong about that?

Or I’d say something I just knew would make my adults roll on the floor in laughter. They’d think, “Damn, that girl of ours is hilarious!” Except when I delivered my punch-line I was told to stop goofing off. They didn’t even crack a smile.

And of course we don’t consider that maybe our adults are just grumpy or have no sense of humor or can’t recognize our brilliance because of their own stuff. Kids always (always, always) assume they are the cause of everything.

It’s the way our brains develop. At first the world revolves around us. We’re the cause of everything. We don’t even have the ability to make external attributions until later.

So if they didn’t like my idea it’s because I’m not smart enough. If they didn’t laugh it’s because I’m not funny. How could it be any other way?

And just like that, we don’t love ourselves the same because beliefs are planted:

  • I’m not as smart as I thought.
  • I’m not as funny as I thought.
  • I’m not quite good enough.
  • It’s in my best interest to find out what they want and be that. That’s the only sure way to get the love and approval I need to survive.

After a while, we’re really in a pickle: we’ve spent so much time trying to figure out what they want that we’re not quite sure what we want. We still want love and approval, we know that much. But when we’re waiting for that approval from someone else, here’s how it’s going to turn out:

We continue the cycle of predicting what they want from us and delivering that –>

Their approval is inconsistent. Because it’s not about us, it’s about them. Sometimes they’ll feel like approving, sometimes they won’t, no matter what we do –>

We’re left more disillusioned than ever. We thought we were doing everything right?!? Now we not only don’t have the kind of approval we’re craving, but we’re not even being the real us.  And the cycle continues –>

There’s really only one solution. Obviously.

You are the generator of the love you’ve been waiting for. Any other source of that love and approval might feel nice but it’s not sustainable. It’s not something you can rely on or control or even influence very much.

Clients tell me all the time that love and approval seems better—more valid, more deserved—when it comes from someone else.

(Setting aside how totally ironic and backwards that is for a moment)…the reason it feels that way is because you’re still in that little kid mode of trusting others more than you trust yourself. And now you’ve trained yourself into that mode as an adult.

You’ve stopped trusting your own judgment and respecting yourself.  But I have good news for you: beginning to trust and respect your own judgment again is easier than it sounds.

You just start. Start small, but start.

1. Say, “I love that about me” often. The more unsure you are, the more you should say it.

I get mad at my husband for something that wasn’t his fault. Again. I apologize to him and silently say to myself, “I did it again and I apologized. I love that about me”.

I’m wishing I was better than I am at something. I love that about me.

I got caught in the rain and show up for the meeting soaking wet. I love that about me.

2. Also, practice seeing yourself the way you see some living thing you totally adore. Babies and pets work well.

There’s your dog, so excited to see you, so adorable and loving and cuddly. Transfer those feelings to yourself. Swooooosh…from over there on the dog to over here on you. You’re excited, adorable, loving, cuddly. The way you feel about the dog…feel that way about yourself.

3. Begin listening to yourself, first. Don’t look for advice so much. Don’t ask other people what they think all the time. Don’t even share what you’re up to if you’re doing so with an agenda for approval. Just do what feels right to you and let that be enough. It’s your business, your life, not theirs.

4. Notice how little you judge others. Actually you envy them for stepping out of the mold and being themselves, don’t you? Why would different rules apply when it comes to you?

5. And, remember how you were as a kid and that your ideas and jokes fell flat. You don’t have to remember specific instances like I do, just know that unless you were raised by wolves, this happened to you, too. You had no choice then but to assume you weren’t good enough, but now you do have a choice. Your parents just weren’t in the mood for a joke, that’s all. It doesn’t mean what your 5 year old brain made it mean.

Practice and repeat. Often.

Sound too simple? Try it for a while first, please. “Too simplistic; that will never work for me” is a thought that is a cover-up for fear. I know change can feel scary. But you can handle a little fear—you’ve survived much worse.

Related Posts:

Do you care what other people think of you?

Self-love: To my daughter

Give yourself some sound advice

Please Share!
Steve M May 2, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Nice post Amy – thanks for the reminder. It baffles me how we can be so compassionate, supportive, understanding, and loving towards others and yet when it comes to ourselves we become judgmental, harsh, and generally tough. Go figure that one out..!

I love that “I love that about me” tip – I’ll definitely be putting that into practice. Learning to accept and love ourselves for who we are, warts and all, is really important – part of our journey and purpose here.

Loved the post – thanks


Amy May 2, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Thanks for your comment, Steve. I know…it’s crazy how we’re always hardest on ourselves. And even people who appear to be really judgmental of, or hard on others are really only like that because of how they feel about themselves. It’s a good reminder that people aren’t really mean by nature…they’re just hurting.

Keep on ‘loving that about you’!

Glad Doggett May 2, 2011 at 7:53 pm

I honestly believe self-love and self-validation are the foundation of a happy life. So many people
let their negative self talk run rampant, and they believe all the mean things they hear in their heads all day long.

I agree that if we all took more time honoring what’s unique about ourselves and expressing those traits to the world, we’d all be a lot richer. And happier.

Amy May 5, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Right on, Glad!

Carolyn May 5, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Loved the post. To put it in perspective, I started thinking of all the things I love and admire about others and these are all traits that I also possess, in abundance. Sometimes we are so involved in our own “woe is me” party that we don’t see how truly wonderful we really are.

Amy May 5, 2011 at 7:50 pm

YES…isn’t that cool? The things we admire in others are always things WE also possess (or have the capacity for). Great realization, thanks for sharing!

Karen Mead May 5, 2011 at 2:47 pm

This is a wonderfully true perspective. And I wanted to let you know it is something I will remember – I love that about myself!

Amy May 5, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I love that about you, too! And I love that about me that I could put something out there that you remember 🙂

Paula May 6, 2011 at 11:58 am

This really resonated with me! I think its brilliant. I just shared with several friends as I’m excited about this post….not for approval (I love that about me!!)

Amy May 6, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Love that about you, too 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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