You cannot grow older disgracefully if you have no confidence to do so, and confidence comes from self-love and high self-esteem. Nothing else. How many of us cannot bear to see ourselves in a mirror, cannot stand to hear our voices coming back at us, or to see ourselves in a photo or on a video? Too few people like what they see or hear of themselves. In fact, one famous actress said she never watches her films at all as she cannot bear to see how she acts. Luckily for her, the paying public takes a different view, otherwise no one would bother to watch her performances.
We are all beautiful and unique beings, made in the image of our god, universe, nature or whatever we believe in. But some higher power is at the back of us somewhere because our body is nothing short of amazing. Everyone has some beauty which is uniquely theirs. We tend to seek the approval of others for our existence, especially when we are younger and need help in making our way into the world. That personal need follows us into old age where we continue to wait for people to approve of us before we like ourselves. But self-love and self-respect are the key items which keep us as young as possible They not only bring out the best in us, they also give us a deep feeling of oneness and happiness in ourselves which gradually affects our well-being and our interaction with others.
When we love ourself, we give permission for others to love us too, to appreciate our strengths and weaknesses, and to enhance that sense of worth and significance we all seek. Many people undervalue themselves and use either their parents or their lovers to set the standard of acceptability for them. They deliberately ignore their strengths, preferring to focus on their perceived weaknesses, to the extent that if their relationship is 'failing', they are likely to blame themselves for it too.
If they were not loved and affirmed as children, they are also likely to see themselves as unworthy and inferior to siblings or friends, always lagging behind while clinging to the judgements of significant others in a constant comparison with them. As they become older, that negative reaction would have cemented itself inside their heads and then their self-esteem takes a battering. By the time they are in their 50s or 60s, the weight of the world is likely to be upon their shoulders, helped by their loneliness, anxieties, endless problems and low opinion of themselves. In fact, the biggest tell-tale sign of this unhappiness is likely to be extra weight gain. As the weight piles on, they feel even more unattractive to themselves and to others. Gradually, their feelings begin to affect their health when the negative reaction of others unwittingly makes their fears come true in an unrelenting cycle of self-loathing.
Consequences of Lacking Self-Love
Self-love is crucial because it leads to a love of our bodies and talents. It also frees us to stop focusing upon what we lack, while we accept ourselves as the beautiful and wondrous beings we are. When we love ourselves we are likely to nurture our bodies, to be proud of who we are and to nurture others too for who they are. If we have little self-love we are hardly likely to have much love to give either. In fact, people without self-love tend to be more self-centred and uncomfortable with their surroundings, finding constant fault with their environment, nit-picking at others and whingeing eternally about the 'good old days' and what should be happening now. The present is never quite adequate, despite our phenomenal inventions and benefits.
Again, people without self-love are usually reluctant to learn new things because their identity is attached to a past life which would unravel if they strayed too far from their anchor, or were challenged to change their outlook. They tend to live in fear of new innovations while feeling confused and bewildered by rapid change. The extreme ones are likely to make people around them feel inadequate because they are still striving for what they wanted in their earlier life and haven't yet achieved. Believing they have lost their opportunities forever, they tend to be full of regret and will continually expect their children to chase those lost dreams. More likely, they will expect anyone they value to live up to the impossible standards they have set themselves in order to feel better and to fuel their sense of significance.
This kind of behaviour is not so surprising when loving the self is not an easy thing to do. It is very difficult to change years of negative treatment and a lack of reinforcement into something positive and wholesome. Someone once said that we are prisoners of our own experiences. If we were brought up on persistent abuse, we will assume that behaviour to be not only morally right, but we would also regard it as the accepted practice everywhere else too. That perception would hold until our life experience widens sufficiently to show us otherwise.
When we have been through a lifetime of neglect, put-downs, non-reinforcement, striving to please, or even having abuse of any kind, it is really difficult to change those habits and begin to value ourselves enough. There is no quick-fix remedy, but making a start at least promises some action.
How much do your really value yourself? Find out here!
Elaine Sihera (Ms CYPRAH) 2011
Emotional Health and People Management Consultant
"Respect and love begin with the self. If we have none, how can we give away any?"