I have spent a lot of time thinking about self-love recently. Especially when we feel guilty for showing self-love. When I first started focusing on practicing more self-love in my own life, I came face to face with a bunch of hurdles and triggers that I needed to face and heal. The first obvious issue was that I really had no idea what practicing self-love even meant. It was never anything that I really gave much thought to.
For me, the best way to phrase it is relating to yourself as you would with a friend and romantic partner that you are crazy about. You know, staring at them adoringly, letting mistakes and irritable habits slide, being there, and showing up when they are down, hurt and broken. We tend not to do this for ourselves. It is as if we don’t think we deserve it. I know you also think that sometimes, otherwise, you wouldn’t be here reading this post.
I have avoided myself and my hurts and my needs very many times in the past. When I was scared or hurt or going through something, I tended to turn to others, take care of them, nurture them even more, and love them even harder, when I was the one who needed it. It was as if I thought that I would somehow heal myself by giving love and care to others. I would feel guilty for showing self-love.
I did not know how to receive.
I felt guilty for receiving.
I felt guilty for even asking.
The reasons why we have become conditioned this way are various and vast – mostly stemming from wounds inflicted in childhood. But here we are… Beautiful. Strong. Human… and feeling guilty for asking and accepting love – even from ourselves.
What is guilt?
Guilt is the feeling or emotion we experience when we (or others) think that we have done something wrong. It is slightly less intense than its cousin, Shame – where you believe you are a terrible person for doing something wrong.
You feel guilt when you do something that you perceive as not being acceptable by universal moral standards. You could also feel it when you break your own standards of acceptable behavior. People are social creatures, and we continuously strive for acceptance and approval. Anytime we feel that we have acted in a way that is not accepted or that either ourselves or others do not approve of, we feel guilty.
Because we think that it is not acceptable, we sometimes feel guilty for showing self-love.
So why do we feel guilty for loving ourselves?
The perception of lack.
There is the idea that if you spend any sort of resource, time, money, effort, and energy on yourself, there will be less for other people. We tend to hold on to the view that all of these resources are limited, and that keeps us in a perpetual cycle of lack.
The universe exists in a vibration of abundance – love is an energy of abundance. The more you learn to vibrate at that energy, the more you can encourage it to resonate and spread out, amplified.
The more love you cultivate in yourself, for yourself, the more you are surrounded by that energy and vibration, and the more it will naturally spread out to the world around you.
Feeling loved and cared for will naturally raise your energy as you no longer spend that energy focusing on just being ok. When you are in the space of giving yourself exactly what you need – as only you know how to give it – you spend less energy trying to get that from others.
So what about time? Surely that is a limited resource? Yes, and no. Without getting into a big discussion about whether time is linear or not, there is one thing that I want to focus on here. It is how you use the time that you perceive you have. I get it. There are probably 1000 things pulling at you and demanding your attention, and you need to figure out what to focus on and where to spend your time. The one thing that I learned about my excuse of not having time to spend on myself is that I mistook motion for inspired action.
Motion is all about doing and doing and doing, always staying busy in order to keep ahead and on top of everything that needs to be done. It stems from the idea that anything worthwhile is only obtained through hard work and struggle. We, as a society has glamorised burnout.
Now, let me say this: you can get so much more done when you start taking inspired action. Inspired action is when you slow down, you get quiet, and you start to listen to your soul. Some call it intuition – I know it as that voice that urges me to do something that just doesn’t want to go away. Sometimes it is quite persistent. Sometimes it is a fleeting thought to which I respond: ‘Ok, why not?’.
Through starting to take inspired action, you begin to work with the flow of the universe. Things start to fall into place with ease and grace. As you practice following your intuition, the right situations, people, and things will naturally start to gravitate to you. Opportunities arise, help comes when you need it. You are in the flow.
But self-love is selfish, right?
Sit for a moment and think about someone you love. A friend, family member, your partner or child… Think about what you would do for them and how far you would go to make them feel cared for, nurtured, safe, and loved. Now think about whether you are doing those things for yourself. Would you do those things for yourself? Have you been?
I am suspecting that the answer is ‘No’. That is because we feel selfish for taking care of and looking after ourselves. And by seeing ourselves as being selfish, we feel guilty for showing self-love. Perhaps this is because you have been taught that it is wrong, or maybe you were just never told that it is ok. It could also be that you just never learned how to give yourself the love that you freely give to others.
Taking care of yourself is often linked to words like ‘luxury’, ‘spoil’, and ‘guilty pleasure’. These words all link to beliefs that doing things for yourself is selfish. That it isn’t normal and natural. That we do not deserve it.
Perhaps now is the time to start changing that.
Enmeshment and preoccupation with others.
When you have weak boundaries, you tend to want to live up to other people’s expectations. You do things that are expected of you even when you don’t really want to. You feel responsible for others’ emotions, happiness, and wellbeing.
This is a form of enmeshment, where there isn’t a clear distinction between yourself and someone else. In this situation, you consistently place other people’s needs or even wants before your own needs.
By being enmeshed with others, instead of helping them, you are enabling them. You are standing in their way of self-automization, self-realization, and growth. You take away the responsibility that they have for themselves.
You need to set boundaries in order to start taking better care of yourself. This is hard, and other people might not understand it. They might get upset, and they might get angry. And that is ok. It is theirs to carry. Stand in your power and give when you have to give. But also take when you need to take. There is no need to feel guilty for showing self-love.
It’s really just all excuses not to sit with ourselves.
I know – that is a harsh truth. One that I have also had to face. The times when you love yourself the least are the times when you need it the most. But I get it, you are scared. You are scared of what you might find when you enter into an intimate relationship with yourself.
Relationships have a way of bringing all your ugly bits to light. You know, once you get to know someone, maybe move in together there are things about yourself that you can no longer hide – like the way your hair stands up like a cockatoo when you get out of bed, or how you really enjoy having a good fart!
The same thing happens when you start to grow and nurture your relationship with yourself. You encounter the things that you have been hiding from yourself for a very long time.
Carl Jung called this your shadow side or your shadow self. It is all the parts of you that you find unacceptable (and that society finds unacceptable). We hide from them and avoid them because if we look at them, we will realize that we are not perfect, that we are not always right, that sometimes we are the toxic people.
But you know what: there is infinite power that lies in exploring these dark parts of yourself. It helps you to work through old hurts and ways of thinking. It leads you on a path of healing and self-acceptance. It gives you the power to change yourself and your life because you no longer have this massive blind spot for the things, behaviours, and thoughts that have been holding you back.
This, for me, is the root of all the excuses not to love yourself:
You are avoiding being present with yourself.
Think about it. Every single act of self-love stems from the need to be present with yourself.
Give yourself a facial? Presence.
Choosing a treat for yourself that you love? Presence.
Focusing on accepting your body as it is right now? Presence.
Take yourself out on a date? Presence.
How do you become more present with yourself? Well, you start with setting the intention. Every morning when you wake up, choose to be present and to pay attention to yourself (or better yet start a self-love morning ritual). Write it down and make the commitment to yourself with ink on paper.
Affirmations to be present with yourself:
“Today, I am paying attention to myself”.
“Today, I am being present with myself”.
Start with little steps and start bringing your thoughts and attention to yourself throughout the day. Focus on how your body moves while you are doing the dishes. Listen to the sound of your voice when you speak. Bring your five senses into your daily self-love practice.
As with many things, the first steps on your self-love journey are the most difficult. As you get going, you will build momentum, and the lovin’ will start flowing freely and easily. I am here to support you all the way.
You can join our Sacred Sisterhood of Self-love group on Facebook.
I also elaborate a lot more on guilt, lack, family wounds, boundaries, and loving yourself more in my Remembering Your Worth E-course. Follow the link or click below to find out more.
I would love to hear about how you show up and stay present with yourself, and how you handle moments when you feel guilty for showing self-love in the comments.