What’s Loving to Yourself, and What Isn’t?

woman wearing winter hat scarf stands smiling on top of mountain in foggy weather
by Dr. Margaret Paul

Loving actions are often the opposite of actions that are self-abandoning.

Discovering the loving action toward ourselves in a particular situation – Step 4 of Inner Bonding – is a wonderful and creative process. However, since we have so few role models for loving action toward ourselves, we are often challenged in this.

It can be helpful, in discovering the loving action, to understand what are not loving actions. So, let’s take a look at some of the common unloving actions, and see what would be loving instead.

Self-judgment vs. Compassion for Self

Judging ourselves is a form of self-abandonment – a way the wounded self has learned to control. Any time we judge ourselves, we create wounded feelings such as anxiety, depression, anger, emptiness, aloneness, guilt, or shame. It is very painful to the inner child for us to judge ourselves.

The loving action toward ourselves is to consciously move into compassion and an intent to learn, so that we can move out of self-judgment and into self-acceptance.

Negative Untrue Thoughts vs. Positive True Thoughts

When we allow ourselves to think negative thoughts, we scare our inner child. Negative thoughts are a form of self-abandonment. Many of us grew up hearing many negative thoughts from our parents or other caregivers. We naturally absorbed these and often think the very same negative, untrue thoughts ourselves. But, of course, scaring our child is very unloving.

For example, how often do you find yourself thinking something like, “I’ll never finish everything. I don’t have enough time. There is never enough time.” When you think this thought, how do you feel? You likely feel tense and overwhelmed, which certainly makes it harder to get things done. But what if you said to yourself, “I always get everything done. I have enough time to get done what I really need to get done.” This is a very loving thought that will help you to feel relaxed, which will result in being able to more easily accomplish what you need to do.

Noticing your negative and likely untrue thoughts and changing them to positive, more true thoughts is a very loving action.

Complaining vs. Acceptance

Complaining to others is another form of self-abandonment. When we complain, we are not only dumping our negative energy on another, which is unloving to them, but we are allowing ourselves to feel like victims. We complain when we do not accept the reality of a situation, and when we want someone else to feel sorry for us.

Often, the wounded self complains as a way to connect with another’s wounded self. We each complain, and we can either each commiserate with each other’s misery, or we can be competitive about who’s life is harder.

The loving action in the face of difficult life circumstances is to accept what we cannot control, and control what we can – which is our own responses and actions.

For example, since I frequently fly, I often witness people complaining to an attendant behind the desk about something. One time when I was going to the East Coast, the gate had been moved without any announcement, and many of us were waiting at the wrong gate. When we finally looked at the monitor again and figured it out, we all had to rush to the new gate. While I did express to the attendant that it would certainly have been helpful if they had announced it, I heard others vociferously complaining to the attendant, as if complaining would somehow change the situation. From what I could see, all it did is agitate the complainer and the attendant.

We take loving action on our own behalf when we accept what we cannot control.

Ignoring vs. Listening

Ignoring our feelings by staying focused in our head or numbing out with addictions is another form of self-abandonment. Most of us learn to ignore our feelings in various ways, and this leads to our inner child feeling unlovable and unimportant.

Loving ourselves means moving toward our feelings rather than away from them, listening to what they are telling us. Our feelings are our inner guidance and all our feelings have important information for us. Just as listening to actual children lets them know they are important to us, listening to ourselves is a vital aspect of loving ourselves.

To learn more about self-love see: Discovering Self-Love

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