Whether you are consciously aware of it or not, on the deepest level, we all crave intimacy and connection. In order to experience true intimacy and connection you have to love yourself at the deepest levels. The reason why self-love isn’t as easy as it sounds is because most of us have cut ourselves off from being able to receive love at the deepest level. This happens early on. We come into these bodies wide open and highly sensational, ready to experience the world. Starting in the womb, we are assessing what kind of world this is based on early experiences. Is it safe or unsafe? Loving or unloving? Then we respond accordingly. If it feels safe, we relax into a sense of safety and remain open to positive emotions like love and joy. If we feel unsafe, we begin to close ourselves off from feeling so much, because it’s uncomfortable. It makes sense then when we don’t want to feel pain or discomfort, so we close down. In the process of closing down, we also shut ourselves off from experiencing even the good emotions.
We essentially make up who we believe we are based on these early life experiences, before our prefrontal cortex is fully formed. Meaning, before we are able to rationally understand the whole situation we end up defining our sense of worthiness based on how well our needs were tended to.
As a basic example, if your parents were too busy to give you the love and attention you needed, that could easily translate to “you don’t deserve to be loved” or that “you are not valuable.” This is absolutely not true, but the formula is quite simple to your child mind who doesn’t take into consideration that your parents may have been just trying to make ends meet. Or they didn’t have loving parents who tended to their needs so they never had an example of loving parenting.
Another example could be if you were teased or criticized by your parents or your peers, you might have translated that as “there is something wrong with you” when of course there is nothing wrong with you. You are beautiful and perfect exactly as you are, but it makes sense how a young developing mind might interpret rejection. These are just a couple of examples of common experiences that lead to deep feelings of shame which is one of the most unbearable human emotions to feel.
What ends up happening is the mind splits into two. There’s the “inner critic” born out of the shame that is constantly telling you how pathetic you are and then there is the “innocent self” that buries itself under layers of protection against these brutal attacks. Now this is really deep stuff overly-simplified, but it makes sense why self-love can feel challenging. You can’t love yourself while also criticizing yourself or others. Criticizing yourself isn’t an act of love, it’s an act of rejection. There is basically an inner war going on for most people which is not a safe environment for intimacy. Intimacy requires openness. It’s impossible to relax and open in a war zone. But I get it, self-love can seem daunting, because it requires a lifetime of dedication, meeting yourself with love every single day. Here’s the good news, intimacy only requires that you are on the journey of self-love today, and that is enough to crack the door open.