“If you can love me, you can love yourself.”

These words from the talented performer and self-love guru Lizzo emphasize a reality that we all too often overlook when it comes to our ability to exercise self-compassion, acceptance, and gentleness. The idea that we need to love ourselves before we can love others offers us a false framework in which to love. I have witnessed my clients demonstrate unimaginable levels of love for their spouses, children, friends, and even their counselor while also holding themselves to be unworthy of love or lacking value. These clients often act as the greatest advocate for their own sense of unloveableness.

Often clients ask how to start the process of loving themselves, and Lizzo’s words guide the way.

Loving someone is an action, it takes the form of showing up for people, being present with them, holding space for them, making them a priority in life, and respecting the boundaries and needs they ask for from us. If we can perform these acts, we can demonstrate our ability to love. The question then becomes how do we direct those actions back towards ourselves rather than never being the recipient of our own profound loving?

Start small.

Deep, enduring love takes time. It grows and strengthens through those little moments of being valued, protected, and chosen. We are not a market commodity. My value as a person does not fluctuate like the price of gas, milk, or a Malibu mansion, it remains a constant which I can choose to accept or dismiss, and yet it remains the same. Hold yourself to have a value that does not diminish from falling short, making mistakes, or being around those who choose to treat you less than your true value.

We protect the people we love.

In light of the current pandemic, we’ve witnessed the multitude of steps taken to help protect our families, from masks and gloves to temporarily relocating out of the family home. Do we take steps to protect ourselves? How we protect ourselves often comes in the form of the boundaries we establish and maintain. When you feel exhausted, step back from the inundation of work and productivity. Allow yourself to breath and recognize how often you are holding your breath. Be patient with yourself as too much demand and expectation wear you down. I find the determination in my clients to meet their goals and hit their targets to be a laudable endeavor, yet we are not meant to be ground-down or polished to be enough. Self-acceptance can be the hardiest and most powerful form of loving yourself, and yet we are often more than willing to excuse with ease and understanding the faults of others.

Choose yourself.

The distance from sacrificial to narcissistic spans further than you would think. From pizza toppings to ice cream flavors, and music genres to film, we choose the things we love. You are free to choose yourself and be spared the title of narcissist. Turning down an invitation because you don’t have the energy, leaving a relationship where you feel overburdened and undervalued, or simply letting go of productivity to take time and relax.

Lizzo is right in that if we can love her, or others, we can love ourselves. The question remains, are you ready to?

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