How to love yourself

Rob Liu

Rob Liu,
Founder ContactOut

5 mins read

We really should stop judging ourselves since:

Learning how to love yourself can be a painful process. I, myself, have to go through a lot of self-doubts before realizing my worth. To figure out how to love yourself, you will have to acknowledge all your insecurities and imperfections as a human being. While it is a difficult journey, I always tell everyone that knowing how to love yourself is the only way to gain genuine happiness. The question is, why is it so hard to find self-love?

Nobody abuses us more than we abuse ourselves. We pay for our mistakes thousands of times. We make a mistake, we punish ourselves. And you’d think that would be enough, but every time we remember, we punish ourselves again, and again. – Adapted from Don Miguel Ruiz

The anxiety I feel before I do something awkward or the embarassment that comes after (like in alot of social situations) isn’t even that bad. What is 10 times worse is me beating myself up after.

So why am I beating myself up? How do I stop?

My unrealistic self image.

I’ve created this self image that I need to be a confident, charismatic guy all the time, and that if I don’t act confident, no one will like me. No one likes weak people.

The slight problem with this is that no one is confident all the time. And when I inevitably fail to live up to my own expectations, it causes me to question the foundations of my identity. Am I really a cool guy? or am I some loser who doesn’t know how to socialize? I hate weak people, and I hate myself when I am weak. I am only worthy of love when I meet my own standards.

So why did I feel like I need to act confident all the time?

This was ingrained in me from when I was a kid.

My family immigrated to Australia when I was five. I couldn’t speak a word of English. The other kids in school teased me. I learned from an early age that I needed to be confident and defend myself.

Also my parents were very critical.

Father would tell me:

You are selfish.

You are lazy.

Why are you so stupid?

And that I needed to study harder, speak confidently and above all: respect your father.

Father didn’t believe in praise. “If you’re already doing something well, there’s no need to point it out. I am here to point out all the things you are doing wrong, so you can improve”.

I grew up in a Chinese household with strong Confucian values. Confucius says you should criticize yourself in order to keep yourself in line – focusing on meeting the needs of others, instead of your own.

Because of all this criticism I learned from a young age that I am so bad and flawed that I have no right to be accepted for who I am. Only by being smart, considerate, and confident will I be loved.

But things are too complicated for us to be able to fully control either our external circumstances or our internal responses to them. Given that perfection is impossible, I come to expect that rejection is inevitable. – adapted from Kristen Neff

I slowly realize:

What if I don’t need to do anything in order to be loved?

What if:

We are perfect just the way we are

Zen master Seng-tsan taught that “true freedom is being without anxiety about imperfection.”

I gradually begin to accept that: sometimes I act awkward, other times I’m confident. There’s parts of my personality that I like, parts that I don’t like. But, at the end of the day I’m human, a unique individual. And I am learning to love and accept all parts of myself.

At this present moment: I feel a little anxious, a little depressed.

But hey I am still alive. Isn’t that wondrous?

How is it that I can see, hear and feel?

How is it that I’m conscious?

What magic runs this universe?

It may be luck? fate? god’s will?

Somehow the universe has aligned to gift me this experience of life.

What a miracle that is.

All the shit that goes on in my life is petty compared to the fact that:

I am alive

There is a life force that runs through all living things. Some people call it god. It is the creator, the enabler of life. It runs through all of us. God runs through us. We are life. We are god. We don’t need to do anything or achieve anything. We are already perfect. We are already worthy of love. Because love is the very essence of the life that runs through us. We are love.

Philosopher Alan Watts talks about how:

You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself

How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself anything less than a god?

Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out who you really are. In our culture they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house. However, if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relatives, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.’

Alan Watts describes how: we are God, we are already perfect. There’s no need to “achieve something beyond ourselves.”

The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.

We over analyze things and judge ourselves too harshly. This does not help us.

Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.

Embracing imperfection

Psychologist Dr Kristen Neff talks about how:

There isn’t anything wrong with the imperfection of life as long as we don’t expect it to be other than it is. 

Our successes and failures come and go – they neither define us, nor do they determine our worthiness. 

Happiness is not dependent on circumstances being exactly as we want them to be, or on ourselves being exactly as we’d like to be. Rather, happiness stems from loving ourselves and our lives exactly as they are, knowing that joy and pain, strength and weakness, glory and failure are all essential to the full human experience.” 

Carl Jung once wrote: “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” 

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. -Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person