Yesterday I was having a chat with a dear friend of mine about getting life back together, doing things that help us grow, and committing to practices that will keep us healthy long term.
I made a comment that it is important to exercise, eat healthy, etc… but it is also important to offer some forgiveness and take some baby steps instead of being hard on yourself.
She took a different approach, claiming she would rather keep hating the parts of herself that are not up to speed with where she would rather be, and it is in this self-hatred she is able to motivate herself into making the necessary changes happen.
I respect her view and her beliefs, but this conversation got me to think about the misconception that may have evolved around the self love movement.
With full transparency, many people use self love and forgiving themselves as an excuse not to change, and continue making the same bad choices.
I agree in her words that this is “complete and utter bullshit.”
We are all going to change whether we want to or not. It’s part of life. It is up to us to choose the direction we want to change in, whether that be growth or the same self deprecating behaviors.
Allow me to clear up some misconception around self love and offer you what it was intended to be, rather than what it has been turned into.
Self Love is about acceptance. It is about honoring where we have been, where we are currently, and all we are capable of creating from within.
When we forgive ourselves for every misstep and harmful choice we have made, we are freeing ourselves from who we were and making space to step into who we are now.
It is from this vantage point, this blank slate, that we are then able to make true, lasting impacts on our own lives.
When we love and accept ourselves where we are now, we can make choices that are founded on this love, rather than a desire to change or manipulate our behavior.
We are all going to change whether we want to or not.
If we keep making choices to change ourselves from a place of self hatred, we will keep striving for more, more, and more. It will never be enough to satisfy us. This can lead us further into the hole we have already dug for ourselves, making us fall into lower lows if we slip up. It will be far more difficult to get back up when we do fall (which will inevitably happen – it’s human nature) if we’re standing deep in a pit of self hatred than it would be were we standing on the solid ground of love and forgiveness.
If we forgive and accept ourselves where we are in the moment, then we are filling that hole up, making for solid ground that we can comfortably stand on. Think of it as rewiring brain.
Practices such as expressing gratitude regularly have been shown to activate and strengthen the neural pathways that focus on positivity and bliss, releasing more serotonin and dopamine into the body. Consciously continuing to activate these pathways makes them more automatic, effectively rewiring the brain to see the positive in life rather than the negative.
Expressing appreciation for life and ourselves is also a proven antidepressant and method of anxiety relief. A similar thing happens when we begin to love and forgive ourselves. Releasing the attachment to the negativity, which strengthens a different not-so-helpful set of neural pathways.
When we continue to stay in a negative, hateful state of mind toward ourselves and the world around us, we are actually strengthening the parts of the brain that activate a stress response. By strengthening these pathways, we put ourselves into a state of chronic stress. This is a less-than-desirable outcome.
Both are great motivators. Wanting what is best for yourself and keeping your body in fight-or-flight mode just to survive can get the job done. However, the later could lead to immense burnout and the running down of valuable hormonal systems, potentially leading to immune failure and a fried nervous system.
The fight-or-flight mode is necessary for our health as well. A little stress here and there is healthy for the body, keeping us safe and getting our midterm projects done at the last minute. It becomes less helpful when we stay in that place, making it less powerful and more of the neutral state we live life at.
If you prefer to stress about your own life and express self hatred as your main motivator, I respect your choices.
The rest of you who have a clear choice on the table, which would you prefer?
To move from a place of fight-or-flight and fear response?
Or from a place of gratitude and love for yourself? Increasing productivity by acting from a clear mind, and state of inner peace and love?