Love has always been easy enough for me to share and express. Being surrounded by supportive family, animals and children, love naturally overflowed from my heart and found others.
Receiving love, accepting love, and honoring my own heart has been a more turbulent journey. Could giving love too freely possibly be problematic? This question may seem silly in a world in which we love to say that love is about giving, and not receiving. Yes, it feels wonderful to love others, but what about receiving love? There was many a decision, in my earlier years, that should have flagged my issues with self-love, but I designed walls, fires, and excuses to block my pain and explain away my destructive behavior.
When I dove deeper into spirituality, and truly wanted more for myself, an unmistakable voice surfaced, a familiar voice; I've known my whole life. She is self-hatred, self-loathing, and she visits me daily- sometimes hourly. “Your body is huge. Everyone is looking at how disgusting you are.” Your skin, your teeth, your car, anything and everything I could hate about myself, Self-Hatred pointed out to me. Perhaps the nights I drank too much or partied too hard, I was trying to drown out Self-Hatred. Sometimes when I argued with friends they would say the very things Self-Hatred said to me. They MUST be right, all members of the “I Hate Dena Club,” begun by my own Self-Hatred.
What’s with the doom and gloom, Miss Dena? Admitting what my negative self-talk was doing to my spirit, body and life was the first time I realized—accepted — I was my own worst enemy. Ironically, this was very good news! It meant I had complete control over what had burdened me for so many years. If I was in control, there were going to be some changes! Luckily, I was surrounded by spiritual teachers and my two brothers who were on a quite similar, yet unique, spiritual journey. I began the work: the task of taking that first, hard look in the mirror, and asking the tough questions.
What do you want in your life? When you leave certain people, why do you feel like a sticky mass has coated you, and you can’t shower quick enough, or long enough to get it off? Why do you wake up after drinking with best friends, and over-analyze every expression? These are not healthy habits, yet they had become my patterns. Now, I was on my way to reprogramming them. I had gotten through the first step, identifying them when they occurred, and finding a way to turn them around. Byron Katie’s four questions helped tremendously, but just by hearing and stopping yourself before the thought is complete is powerful.
Once while doing angel readings in New Hampshire a beautiful woman in a sun dress and sparkly eyes sat before me. During her reading, an unhealthy situation seemed to be hindering her and she said, “I have a lot of self-hatred.” “What?” I thought, “how could you, so beautiful, radiating love and positive energy hold such negative emotion?” I shared how perfect and wonderful her energy was. She talked about being self-conscious, hating her body and finally acknowledging she longed for a relationship, but was fully aware that as long as she harbored such self-hatred she would not meet anyone- much less the person who would compliment her highest self. At that moment it became quite clear - many of us struggle with Self-Hatred.
Where should YOU begin?
Admit the truth to yourself, and act accordingly. Catch yourself as negative self-talk emerges, and stop it in its tracks. Be Gentle with yourself. Pay close attention to those who make you feel self-conscious, and spend a little less time in their presence. Observe how you feel differently. Identify one area that you are truly talented in - your job, sports, photography… There are many, begin with one, and compliment yourself. If you are beating yourself up for words or actions from yesterday or ten years ago, forgive yourself. You were doing the best you could at the time. It’s time to let go.
Look into the mirror - make up or no makeup - look deep into your own eyes; don’t look away. Go deeper. Then tell yourself you love yourself. This is especially helpful after a situation that left you feeling disappointed in yourself. Tell yourself that you are a beautiful woman. I am strong. If you are regretting words spoken, try to understand and explain to yourself; if I spoke those words while they may have sounded inappropriate, everything is for a reason so someone - maybe me - needed to hear them. Tell yourself “I will let it go” take a lesson and move on. Regardless of the situation, find the lesson, honor the experience and move on.
As you more easily identify and temper negative self-talk, you may notice that you also judge others silently, yet harshly. Catching yourself judging others is essential to decreasing negative self-talk. Judging - ourselves and others - takes up space in our heads, leaving little room for self-love, support or encouragement.