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  • Writer's pictureKris Barling

Finding Self-Love and Respect and how it will change your life

Self-love has almost become fashionable these days. There are so many Facebook posts and articles related to the topic, so many people talk about it and about finding it. Deep down though, there are still so many people that do not truly value themselves even though they may claim that they do.

Developing feelings of self-hate and criticising yourself stems from so many different places and situations. It is truly scary when you stop and think about the fact that there are so many people who have these feelings about themselves. Repeating a commonly said fact, it is true, we are stuck in a relationship with ourselves for our entire lives. It’s like a marriage that, no matter what, you cannot escape. You are forced to wake up being the same person every day. You are forced to look at that person in the mirror or catch glances of yourself in windows, EVERY SINGLE DAY OF YOUR LIFE. The relationship that you have with yourself is the number one relationship in your life and the cause of every thought, feeling and action that you experience. If that relationship is no good, there is no possible way that your life can become good. It may become tolerable, you might have some great people around you, a job, money, fancy cars, whatever, but there will always be a missing component.

For some people, they may have had a great childhood and then been exposed to bullying at some point in school. For others, they may have had a difficult upbringing. Even though the end result is similar, the journey to get there is vastly different for everyone. I think it is important that you can identify the turning point or the factors that led to feeling the way that you feel about yourself. It’s not a case of dwelling on what has happened in the past, but instead understanding the factors at play. By doing this, you can help to reduce the amount of judgement you have toward yourself for ending up in this place and not be so hard on yourself. More importantly than identifying what led to you ending up this way, you need to deal with it. You need to be able to accept that it happened, do what needs to be done and move forward. If you continue to push things under a rug and never actually deal with them, you will never be able to move forward. It will always be there. I will write more about this topic in another blog, because this is a whole other subject. But don’t panic. In the meantime of being able to deal with what happened in your past, you can definitely begin your journey toward finding self-love. In fact, it may be easier to accept and forgive people and your past when you find this. For me, I certainly found it to be much easier, and it also enabled me to make further changes so that I was able to remove some of my own reasons that had led to my self-hate.

How you feel about yourself determines how you treat yourself. It is a FACT. I never really was able to completely grasp this concept until I was able to change the way I felt about myself. Since having done this, I can almost step outside of my body and observe my actions and how differently they are compared to when I hated the person I was. Scarily, how you treat yourself will also influence how some other people will treat you and sometimes how you treat others. Or to be more accurate, it will determine how you ALLOW others to treat you. When you feel poorly about yourself, you will keep people in your life that don’t treat you well even though you are fully aware of this fact. If you were to think about this on a logical level, it all starts from you. You set the standard of how you deserve to be treated and when these people follow your lead you continue to allow them to do so. You don’t stand up to yourself and put a stop to your own self-destructive words and behaviour, so why would you stand up to these people. It’s not that the people around you will change when you finally learn to love yourself, it’s that you will no longer allow those people to continue to be a part of your life or you will find yourself standing up to them and their words and actions will have little effect on you. Finding that level of respect for yourself enables you to decide how you wish to be treated by other people and will empower you to either call them out on their bullshit, or simply just walk away. In the early stages of finding self-love you will tend to just walk away from them and avoid any confrontation. Unfortunately, this can sometimes cause even more harm because they have become so used to being able to treat you poorly with no repercussions. They probably don’t even realise how they treat you make you feel. I have had this happen to me multiple times since I have changed my own perception of myself. To be fair to the other person, their reaction is not really their fault. You have allowed this behaviour to continue and as far as they are concerned, they haven’t done anything wrong and all of a sudden, you have just decided that you will not tolerate them anymore. I hope that this is making sense…… But at the end of the day, these people don’t matter and once you are at a point of self-love and respect you will be able to deal with this easier.

I have often talked about reaching the pain threshold where you decide that something HAS to change. Changing your perception of yourself is a very challenging experience. It is hard work and at times it will be extremely painful. It is not a case of making a decision that you are going to love yourself from this point forward and then go skipping off into the distance with rainbows and lollipops. It is tough. People around you that are used to the old you won’t know what is going on and it will be met with resistance. Not only do you have to make the decision to change but you have to put in the work EVERY SINGLE DAY. You might be lucky and one day it might become second nature but you also may have to be conscious of this for the rest of your life. Here’s the thing…..the kind of shitty and scary thing…….you might have zero idea of what it is like to love and respect yourself. In fact, you don’t even know if it is achievable for you. Let’s look at it this way. Susan and Debbie are both extremely overweight and decide to go on a health kick. This obviously involves changing their nutrition and exercise habits. Susan has been overweight and unfit for her entire life. Debbie has been at a healthy weight and quite fit for most of her life but over the last two years she has been focussed on her family and career and as a result has gained quite a bit of weight. Debbie as an advantage over Susan because it’s as though Debbie has a crystal ball. She knows what it feels like to be fit and healthy and knows what the result should be if she works hard and gets great results. Poor Susan has no idea how it will feel and has no idea whether or not it will even work. The thought of putting in all of that work, putting herself through the perceived pain of dieting and exercise and then not getting the results is probably greater than the perceived pain of staying the same. Mentally, Susan has a much more challenging road ahead of her. But if she wants it badly enough, decides that she will no longer tolerate her current state and sets a strong focus on what she believes it will look and feel like when she gets there, it is possible.

One of the hardest things with changing your self-perception is that it is almost quite wishy washy and there’s not a one size fits all. As a general rule, you eat better and exercise, you will get great results. In most cases weight loss (there are always exceptions), on a physical level, if you are removing all psychological components, is a fairly logical game. Changing the way you feel about yourself, is definitely not. What works for one person may not work for another person. You have to be consistent, you have to be willing to put in the hard work, you have to be willing to change your entire life. For so many people it is easier just to stay the same.

For me, that was not the case. Staying the same meant that I was going to commit suicide. Staying the same was going to result in my own death. I reached a threshold where the pain of staying the same was so painful that I had to change. I think, once I accepted the reality of the situation that I was in and stopped living in a world of denial, I had a chance to actually make long lasting changes. I’m not a Psychologist and I am definitely not an expert in this matter. I know that I probably write this or a similar sentence in most things that I write but I want to make it crystal clear that I do not have all of the answers and what worked for me may or may not work for other people. But I believe that in order to begin to change something, you need to acknowledge and accept the reality of the situation that you are in, in all of its glory. No bullshit. You have to give yourself a wake-up call like no other. I think that is truly, the only way that you will be able to change your life permanently. You have to acknowledge the extreme level of shittiness you are feeling and use that to fuel you when your motivation dwindles. I remind myself on a regular basis of how close I was to taking my own life. I am reminded on a regular basis what being bulimic for over 20 years did to my body. Rather than judging myself and beating myself up for my past actions, I use these things to drive me to never ever go back to that place of self-loathing again. If you cannot be honest with yourself and recognise the true cost of staying the same, then you will not be able to change. That is the scary reality. I really do wish that it wasn’t the case because I see so many people that I know have very little self-love and respect and I can see snippets of the damage that they do to themselves. I wish that I had some form of secret power to be able to get people to put in the hard and consistent work because of the changes that I know it will have in their lives but I just can’t. The only way that a person can make these changes is by doing it for themselves and the only way they can do this is by cutting the bullshit, acknowledging how much damage it is doing to your life to continue down the same pathway and accepting that things need to change and why. If you can do this, then you will take action, even if you don’t know whether or not it will work.

I had no idea whether or not the things that I was doing were going to lead to finding love and respect for myself. But I did them anyway. Once I had made the decision that I was going to do everything in my power to change, I researched how to find self-love. There are so many articles on the internet and so many books that you can buy on this topic which is really awesome. For me, finding self-love went hand in hand with becoming grateful for the good things that were already in my life. I found that by focussing on gratitude, it helped me to feel better during the process of learning to love myself.

One of the methods that can be quite useful and effective is positive mirror talk. Standing in front of a mirror and telling yourself positive things. For me, in the early stages this wasn’t a possibility. I had spent so many years looking into the mirror and telling myself things I would never tell my worst enemy that the action of now telling myself nice things seemed completely ridiculous, let alone a lie. I did try it a few times, but I knew that the words that I was using were not genuine so it was a bit of a waste of time. I realised very quickly that this wasn’t going to work for me. Over 30 years of believing that I was worthless meant that telling myself the complete opposite felt completely fake. It was too big of a difference to be believable and effective. This is certainly not going to be the case for everyone. Positive mirror talk definitely works for some people, but I think when these thoughts and feelings are so deep, this method may not work. There’s only one way to find out if it would work for you- just try it. Start with small compliments and build from there. If it’s right for you then you will know. If it’s not right for you, again, you will know. For me, as much as I even tried to start small, like saying things like “you have nice eyes”, I felt like it meant absolutely nothing. Instead, I chose my own version. I chose that, instead of looking in the mirror and telling myself horrible and nasty things, I would use the mirror for what it’s actually supposed to be used for and then simply walk away. I would do my hair/pluck my eyebrows/check that I didn’t have boogers hanging out of my nose and then walk away once the job was done. I didn’t allow myself to engage in any negative self-talk. When I would find myself saying things that weren’t productive I would catch myself straight away and cease. At that stage I wasn’t able to replace it with anything positive so I simply stopped and focussed my attention on something completely different. I have always had numerous journals and notebooks on the go so daily I would try to write a few things that I actually did like about myself and focus on those things. If you look hard enough, you will be able to find them. Some days it might be something that almost feels ridiculous and you might feel as though you are grasping. It could be something as silly as liking your little toe, really whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. No matter what, you need to be able to find things to add to the list. I think the most important first step though is to cease the negative talk. It simply has to just STOP. NOW! If you have truly made the decision that you have no choice but to change, I really believe that this is achievable, even if you can’t yet say positive things about yourself.

Just for a moment, stop and think about it though. If you look hard enough, if you try hard enough, you will be able to find something positive to say about your worst enemy…..and the fact that you can do this means that you WILL be able to find something positive about yourself.

You have to be consistent. You have to set aside time every single day to be grateful and to show love and respect for yourself. Put it on your to-do list or as an appointment in your diary. If you want to change badly enough, you will do this. Read books, articles and surround yourself with people that are good for you and know that this will take time. Be patient and forgiving when you relapse and get back on track as soon as you can. At the same time, you need to focus on gratitude and as I mentioned earlier on letting go of things and thoughts that do not serve you. Forgiveness is crucial and you need to learn how to forgive others, more importantly how to forgive yourself. Learning to love yourself is the first step toward achieving self-forgiveness.

So, what can you do from here? Firstly, if I was you, I would identify all of the things that I did as a result of my lack of self-love and respect. Write your list and make it as long as it needs to be. For me, it was things like making myself vomit, self-harm, drinking too much, binge eating, overtraining, exercising even when I was sick or injured, allowing some people to treat me like shit……. List everything that you can think of. For you it might be different. It might be staying home and avoiding people, eating junk food…..again, everyone is different, so every list will be different.

Step back and look at your list in all of its glory. Right there, right in front of you is your wake up call to change, your motivation. It is that point where you have reached your pain threshold. Then make the decision that enough is enough. From there, immerse yourself in everything you can to find self-love. Read articles on the internet, books, follow people on Facebook and Instagram, surround yourself with great people and set up your resources for success. It may even help to find yourself a mentor who you can be accountable to. Then it’s time to take action. Cut the negative self-talk, replace it with kind words and start treating yourself the way that you deserve to be treated.

Be patient, be consistent, be resilient. You’ve made the decision that you WILL CHANGE and that you will be successful. There are no other options. Believe in yourself because YOU CAN DO THIS. I believe in you. I know how it feels to hate yourself and how out of reach self-love may seem, but if I can do it, so can you. And once you get there, everything will change in ways that you never saw coming. I truly believe that self-love and respect is the reason why I have been able to completely overhaul my diet and to allow myself to rest and recover from this injury rather than being down in the dumps and hating life.

I am so passionate about this topic and I really do hope that you have gained something from reading this blog post. Feel free to contact me via my Facebook page with any questions.

Love Kris xx

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