Why you have to love yourself from the inside out

Woman in Field of Flowers

If you can learn to love yourself and all the flaws, you can love other people so much better. And that makes you so happy. ~ Kristin Chenoweth

For the first five years of my life, I was such a happy and carefree child. I always had a positive outlook and enjoyed all the freedoms that being a child offers. I think that, no matter what, as we get older and learn more, we make a choice. That choice is to be taken down by the bad things we learn about life and the world or to let them just be and pass, like clouds in the sky.

I am not advocating to not care about these things, but just to not let them ruin who you are or your ego. Ego, that is an interesting word. When Sigmund Freud came up with it, there were three things, ID (Impulsive and unconscious action and thinking), Ego (Balance or your reality and reasoning side), and Superego (Craving Power or trying to be more than who you are). You might note that Ego is the balance and so, being Egotistical is not really the negative word we think it is. It means you love yourself inside and believe in yourself. That is so important and I hope you agree. But, let me take you on my journey as to how I learned this. Hold on, it’s a bumpy ride.

Back to the five-year-old me. I definitely was my own definition of egotistical. I loved myself from the inside and out. I loved my mom, dad, and sister. I loved my friends.

Then we moved.

In this new place, I didn’t know anyone. I quickly became the boy who got picked on, beat up, threatened, bullied relentlessly and ignored at school. From ages six to thirteen, I was bullied daily and lost it all. My self-worth was gone, my self-esteem non-existent. I eventually believed in what the outside world was telling me and stopped loving myself. I now pretty much hated myself and my life. I gave up and accepted that this was my lot in life.

We finally moved again when I was thirteen, but, for me, the damage was done. I needed to feel loved from the outside in, because I didn’t like myself. This continued to be a story for me for the next thirty years (yes, I said it). Maybe a youth of abuse for you led to the same trap. Today, we call this issue Complex PTSD (C-PTSD). Boy did I have it and I didn’t even know it. I just thought that I was not worth anyone’s love, even my own.

But something in my mind clicked for me. I got a job where the owners believed in me, even when I didn’t. It was about this time that I decided to revisit my bullying years in a blog to share my story. I thought it would help me. It didn’t, at least not yet. I finally had a full breakdown of stress, anxiety, panic and depression, all common for C-PTSD victims. It was time to get help.

Jump forward two years, several therapy sessions and talk session later, as well as working with professionals to help me get over my C-PTSD. I did eventually and my ego returned. The hardest part of the journey was learning to love myself again. I spent so many years hating myself, this was the hardest part. But I learned a few things on my journey.

There is only one person who will love you 7 days a week, 365 days a year for your whole life. YOU! It is not an option, it is a must if you want to live a healthier life, a happier life, a life you can share your love with others. This is not super egotistical, it is simply feeding your ego, which again is your balance.

To get there, I learned to do a few things:

  1. Talk positively to myself – instead of letting my mind tell me how stupid I was and what a loser I was, I learned to change the voice and live in the present. We all make mistakes. I learned to accept that and move on.
  2. Take yourself out on a date – I spent alone time with myself. I went to dinner alone, the movies alone, a hike alone. I talked to me and learned that I am a pretty good guy to hang out with. I know this sounds crazy, but I needed to stop allowing how I felt to be dictated by other’s thoughts about me. I needed to love myself from the inside out.
  3. Learn to say no – When you have low to no self-esteem, you become a full people pleaser. I was doing everything to make people like me and never said no to anything, even the things I hated doing. You can and have the right to say no and do the things you want to do. Life is too short to do otherwise.
  4. Keep a gratitude journal – Every day you do great things. Maybe it’s just breathing and waking up. Maybe you did something good for yourself or someone else. Every night before bed, write down three things you are “thankful” for that day. Read them the next morning. Eventually, your mind will know you are right.
  5. Exercise – So many of us fail at this. I hated exercising. I didn’t want to do it. Then I started doing it regularly. You know what? That story about the endorphins when you exercise making you feel positive are true. Now I exercise 4-5 times a week. I love it. I ran a half-marathon this year. Me, the old wimpy kid. It makes me feel so positive about myself. It works and stick with it and you will find that it does as well.
  6. Practice Mindfulness – This is not some mystical thing. Mindfulness means that you focus on the present. Don’t worry about the past you can’t change and don’t worry about the future you can’t predict. Some good ways I found to learn to do this are meditation, yoga and those “take yourself on a date” ideas I mentioned earlier.

My journey back to loving myself has now taken place. It took me two years to get my self-esteem back, but it was worth all the hardships for me to be my authentic self. Are you your authentic self? Do you want to love yourself again if you don’t? I hope so, because to truly love others, you must love yourself first…from the inside out.

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About Alan Eisenberg

Alan Eisenberg is a Certified Life Coach, Bullying Recovery activist and author of "A Ladder In The Dark: My journey from bullying to self-acceptance" and "Crossing the Line". He has been writing and speaking to various audiences about the issue of C-PTSD and Bullying Recovery. Mr. Eisenberg has been featured on several print, radio shows and podcasts on this issue, including NPR and in the Boston Globe. He is currently working toward his Master's Degree in Mental Health Counseling.
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