3 Signs You Aren’t Loving Yourself

What is Love?

Love: a loaded word with extremely subjective meaning.  Some of us see the word and feel inspired, while others of us are triggered by memories of disappointment, abandonment, or an extreme sense of longing.

Love, despite its subjectivity, is a universal concept.  People all over the world are reaching for alignment with it every day.  We can’t quantify love, but we can qualify it based on our experience.

Yes, love is experiential.  

We experience love through our emotions (admiration, appreciation, connection, elation, joy, forgiveness, etc.).  

But, love is also expressive.

We express love through our actions and behaviors.

The Physicality of Love (Psycho-Somatic Responses)

We can’t measure love by any scientific or mathematical standard, but there’s a way to qualify it.  We know love is present (whether we’re feeling love or expressing it) by the sensations we experience in the body.

Feeling tightness in your chest?  Fists clenched?  Jaw rigid?  Tears stinging your eyes?  Chances are love is not in the vicinity of your experience.  

It’s important to pay attention to your emotions, not intellectually, but physically.  Emotions are physical, and are signposts or indicators of what we need.  When tuning into what you feel, connect to your body.  Is anger a lump in your throat?  Is sadness an inexplicable tiredness?  Is unexpressed rage a clenched fist?  Is anxiety a tightness in the chest?  

Identifying emotions in the body is an excellent way to not only connect with them, but release them.  By giving your attention to the sensations in your body, you can directly apply a loving touch where it’s needed, healing the discomfort and releasing trapped energy.

When we ignore our feelings, the energy becomes trapped in the body and can manifest as disease, aches, pains, and fatigue.

Disconnecting From The Body Through Substance Abuse

A number of us use substances like drugs, food, and alcohol to disconnect from our emotions.  We also engage in self-gratifying behaviors as a way to flood the pain with pleasure.  The result is a never ending search for the next “high.”  And in seeking out these highs, we miss out on so much that is taking place in the present moment, both good and bad.  Our closest relationships begin to lack depth, connection, and emotional intimacy.  We lose touch with our core needs and desires.  In between the highs, life sucks.  We aren’t living, just existing until the next bout of relief comes.

I know this isn’t news, but it’s something to think about as it relates to connecting to sensations in your body.  Many of us are cut off from these sensations because of substances and escapist behavior.  This disconnection translates to an inability to experience intimacy, with ourselves and others.  

Intimacy is a type of closeness we achieve through vulnerability.  It requires exposing parts of ourselves which we usually keep hidden.  Emotional intimacy can never be experienced if we are cut off from our feelings to begin with.  An unwillingness to be in tune with and experience the fullness of your feelings dampens your experience of life, and ultimately your expression of love.  

Emotions are a compass.  When we are cut off from ourselves, we are cut off from our deepest desires, our intuition, and our needs.  And when we aren’t in tune with what we want, need, and feel, we have no direction.  This lack of direction can be felt in our results.  Look around.  Do you feel grounded, or in constant fear about what’s going to happen next?  Are you self-assured, or do you feel powerless to the circumstances in your life?  Are you growing, or are you feeling stuck and stagnant?  The difference between either experience is in our ability to harness the power of our emotions.

So, What’s Love Got To Do With It?  

Love has everything to do with the things that matter most to humans, like relationships, health, and even our financial success.  Love is the thread which beautifies the tapestry of our lives.  We’ve all seen “loveless” marriages; we’ve met rich people who are miserable; we’ve worked with successful people who’ve become estranged from their friends and family members; we’ve interacted with (and maybe we are) people who sacrificed their most cherished values for things that look good on the outside, but feel bad on the inside. 

We’ve also heard of people facing debilitating illnesses, injuries, poverty, and grief express joy and gratitude in spite of their suffering.  People with every reason to wither away in darkness, shining their lights on the world instead.  What makes the difference between having it all and feeling empty, or having nothing but feeling fulfilled? 

Love. 

Love is available to us in every moment, unconditionally. 

My goal here is to emphasize the importance of our experience and expression (physical and emotional) of love within ourselves. 

Our experience of life is a result of our inner world: beliefs, attitudes, fears, desires, etc.  When love is the lens with which we view life, it’s beautiful.  But when love is absent, we cannot thrive.

So, how can we enhance our experience and expression of love?  Where do we start?  We start with ourselves.

Yes, I know, the concept of “self-love” has  been used so much that it has begun to lose its meaning.  Raise your hand if you roll your eyes whenever you see the phrase, “No one can love you if you don’t love yourself.”  *raises hand*

Despite how watered down the concept is, all cliches are founded upon a fundamental, unshakeable truth.  The reality is, you cannot realize love in your life if you are not experiencing and expressing love with yourself.

Life is a mirror.  Relationships are mirrors.  The way we treat ourselves will be reflected back to us, not only in our circumstances, but in our bodies.  Making the connection between physical reactions and your feelings is the absolute best way to tell when love is missing from the moment.  As you cultivate this sense of yourself and the way you experience emotions in your body, there are a few signs you can look for to see if you are actively hindering the fullness of love’s expression in your life.  

3 Signs You Aren’t Loving Yourself

1.    Saying “Yes” when your heart is saying “No,” and vice versa.

When we ignore our core desires and gut instincts for the sake of looking good, avoiding conflict, refusing to face our fears, laziness, or for a quick fix, we’re demonstrating betrayal.  By dishonoring our truth and leading inauthentic lives, we live as liars.  How does this affect us in the long run?  Think about people you know as liars.  Do you trust them?  Are you open with them?  Your relationship with them is likely strained or nonexistent.  When we betray ourselves in this way, we lose our ability to trust ourselves. 

Saying yes to things you don’t want to do, like ignoring/de-prioritizing your needs to please others; engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors despite the painful after-effects; and, depriving yourself of the things you really want because you don’t feel worthy is evidence you are betraying yourself and blocking your expression and experience of love with yourself.  

Pay attention to what you feel in your body when faced with a choice.  Learn to get a sense of what “yes” feels like, and what “no” feels like.  “Yes” might feel like your chest rising, while “no” will feel like your chest tightening up.  Everyone is different.  As you pay attention to your body, you can literally feel when you are honoring yourself or not.

2.    Obsessing over past hurts and disappointments.

Healing from trauma is extremely personal and sacred.  Healing is also not a linear process.  We may believe we’ve moved beyond a painful situation, only to find ourselves unexpectedly gripped with pain over it.  It is no one’s right to tell you when and how to get over something painful in your life.

At the same time, many of us hinder the healing process, often subconsciously.  Reliving painful experiences over and over again is a form of self-preservation.  Pain is useful in that it can serve as a reminder of what to avoid, but sometimes this form of self-protection becomes maladaptive.  In the process of preventing bad things from happening to us, we hinder the good.

A prime example of this is within our relationships.  We’ve all experienced some kind of hurt at the hands of another from the moment we are born.  There’s no escaping life unscathed.  But some of us have developed so many defense mechanisms against pain that we fail to let love in.  We sabotage opportunities to be successful and joyful in order to prevent potential disappointment.  We catastrophize, envisioning everything that might go wrong and disallow the potential rewards from becoming a reality.

Something to be mindful of is our habit of personalizing and internalizing the bad things we’ve experienced.  It is very common for us, especially as children, to create labels about who we are because of the way others treated us.  This serves to perpetuate the pain and prevent healing.  When working through trauma, loss, and grief, ask yourself what belief you made up about yourself as a result of the experience.  We cannot live beyond the barriers of our beliefs, expectations, and identities.  If you’ve created an identity around suffering, you will always suffer.

As you heal, tune into your body’s reaction to painful thoughts and memories.  I was abused as a child, and at times I can tell a past memory is triggered because of sensations in my body–parts of the body which were beaten.  I recall being punched in the chest so hard that I fell backwards and the back of my head slammed against the floor.  To this day, I feel fear and sadness in my chest.  When healing from the trauma of abuse, I’ve had to physically rub and soothe my chest with my hands, and even hold pillows and teddy bears close to my chest to provide a sense of relief from the energy that has been trapped there for years.

3.    Lack of Kindness (Towards Ourselves & Others)

One of my favorite quotes is from Samuel Johnson: “Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.”  In life, there will be people, places and things we dislike or are not fond of, but through acceptance, we can exercise unconditional kindness in spite of it.

Don’t confuse kindness with being a pushover, and please don’t mistake acceptance for putting up with unacceptable behavior. 

Acceptance: the practice of observing characteristics and conditions without internalizing or assigning judgement or meaning to them. 

Kindness: the practice of honoring others without dishonoring ourselves.

Kindness and acceptance are offshoots of love.  Think about the people you are fond of.  Most likely you accept and even embrace their imperfections.  Kindness and acceptance are easy practices when it comes to people we like, and seemingly impossible in the face of people and conditions we really dislike, even abhor.  But the better we get at bestowing ourselves with unconditional kindness and acceptance, the easier it is to see the good in others and in the world.

As I mentioned earlier, life is a mirror.  Your experience of it is a reflection of your internal world.  If you find yourself looking out around you and seeing only the worst life has to offer, check in with the way you look at yourself.  How gracious are you with yourself when you make a mistake or fail?  How forgiving of yourself are you?  How authentic are you with yourself?  Have you acknowledged, accepted and embraced all of you, or just the parts of you other people like?

While grace, kindness and acceptance are the children of love, judgement is often a secondary emotion, a reaction to fear.  If you sit back and look at your judgements, you can find your biggest fears just beneath the surface.

Love or Fear is the basis for every action we take.  They are opposing energies and as such, cannot co-exist.  Many of us are living in reaction to our fears.  We are not striving towards our desires or looking at solutions; instead, we are actively avoiding the things we fear and focusing on problems.  Fear-based living does not leave space for love to thrive.  And in the absence of love, we wither.

Pay attention to where you feel fear, anger, and judgement in your body.  These emotions are usually associated with “closing” up.  For me, I clench my left fist, my throat closes up and my jaw tightens.  I’ve learned to associate these reactions with failing to express myself authentically to the people in my life.  Once I realize that, I’m able to address what it is I feel is missing or needed, and I use that to find a way to communicate with kindness–expressing and honoring my needs without dishonoring others.

The process of identifying and acknowledging emotions in the body takes time, practice, and lots of grace.  But giving yourself the room to cultivate emotional awareness is one the most sacred acts of love you can bestow on yourself.  Some suggestions for going through this process, especially if it’s new for you:

  1. Seek Support: It’s important to establish a community of love and support in your life, period.  If you the people in your life are not contributing to your overall good and well-being, why are they there?  In addition to ensuring you are supported and loved in your relationships, it is especially helpful to seek professional support, especially if you are working through trauma.

  2. Write it Out: Journaling has been such an amazing tool for connecting to my thoughts and feelings.  I liken it to trying to sort laundry while it’s in the bag–it can’t be done!  Your best bet is to dump the clothes out and sort your clothes that way.  So it goes with the thoughts in our heads.  We try so hard to sort things out in our heads, where the problem usually began in the first place.  Journaling is a way of “dumping your laundry” onto the page so that you can look at yourself from OUTSIDE of yourself, and sort things out.

  3. Practice Self-Care: Downtime, rest, and finding constructive ways to feel good are essential to leading a balanced life.  This is especially true if you’re in recovery from addiction and looking to find healthy ways of experiencing joy.  Listen to your body and your heart.  Nourish your mind.  Take good care of yourself, the way you would someone you love and care for.  Self-care means you honor the needs and desires of your highest self.  

Thank you for reading!  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.  Feel free to reach out anytime.  Until next time, take care!  xoxo

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