Part 1 - When self-love feels hard, start with self-knowledge, self acceptance & self compassion
Updated: Feb 27
Self Love. It’s a BIG thing. And while it’s something that we should all be able to claim as part of our relationship with ourselves, all too often it feels like a far off dream.
But there are steps we can take to cultivate this relationship. In this blog series I’m going to explore how you can start to lay the foundations for self-love by focusing on self-knowledge, self-acceptance and self-compassion.
If you’re currently in a place where you can’t imagine anything other than self-dislike, that’s ok. We’ll start by working towards self-like and appreciating the qualities you already have, and over time, you can build on this to create a relationship with yourself which brings you joy, support and a feeling of being at ease with yourself, liking yourself and eventually loving yourself.
This part of the series will focus on Self-Knowledge.
Self-knowledge and self-understanding are much closer to “fact” than self-acceptance and compassion which are far more emotionally loaded.
Approaching a change in your relationship with yourself through self-knowledge can help guide you more gently into these more emotionally loaded aspects of self-love.
When you understand yourself better, you can use this to help you see how so much of your life “makes sense” when it maybe didn’t before.
This “sense making” is part of leaning into being kinder to yourself and showing yourself some compassion. I’ll cover this in part 2 of this series but for now it’s helpful to be aware that everything you do makes total sense on a certain level - you’ll just have to trust me on this for now!
But back to self-knowledge…
When you know what comes easily to you, what you struggle with, and what helps you feel supported with the things you find harder, you can start to create a life based on these strengths and getting the support you need.
The problem is, we spend so much time responding to what we think other people expect from us and rules that life, and work, put on us. It then becomes easy to lose sight of what we’re really great at, AND where we might need more support.
This happens a lot in employment scenarios. Nowadays we’re expected to be Jackie of all trades - have you seen job specs recently?
This often means not enough time doing the things we’re great at and far too much work which doesn’t come naturally to us. Often without the support and training we need to get better at these things.
An example from my past corporate life. My role included problem solving, mentoring, customer service, teambuilding, thinking on my feet and juggling multiple things at once - all of which I found pretty easy to do.
It also involved many meetings (often about meetings), schmoozing, creating presentations, juggling complicated spreadsheets and having a constant pressure to hit targets - none of which I loved, and some of which felt like they were melting my brain.
I now know, thanks to wanting to understand myself more deeply, that I have ADHD and there’s no wonder some of the aspects of corporate life were super challenging for me (you can read my blog about ADHD here).
But you don’t need to be ADHD or indeed anything else to be able to benefit from increased self-knowledge and awareness. And likewise you don’t need a diagnosis to find stuff challenging. This stuff can help EVERYONE.
I love anything which leads us to having more of this personal insight and use a number of profiling tools with my clients. If you’re interested in these you can download a free guide to my favourite self-knowledge resources here.
Of course, any tool you explore will be a largely generic categorisation, however, they can offer incredible insight and often moments of “wow! That makes so much sense” (and we love this sense-making, see above).
The idea isn’t to then label yourself with any particular trait, but instead to use this to guide your awareness, which is another huge part of self-knowledge.
How much of your life do you think you currently do on autopilot without REALLY thinking about what you’re doing?
Day to day tasks tend to fall into key areas:
-neutral, you don’t even notice you’re doing them because they’re so much part of how you operate
It can be incredibly helpful to notice how much of our day is taken up with things which feel boring or challenging (and by this I mean challenging in a frustrating way rather than on our growth edge!)
When you’re constantly working AGAINST yourself, by trying to do things in a way you’re told to, but which is someone else’s best way, not yours, it’s no wonder you end up feeling stuck or frustrated.
Rather than questioning the method, this usually leads us to question ourselves and often assign blame, criticism and shame to our self as a whole, rather than simply acknowledging that we might be struggling with one particular task or approach.
Over time, small instances can build to create an overall self-perception of being “rubbish” at things. Making a stance of Self-Love pretty damn challenging.
A brilliant way to start to cultivate a deeper understanding is to raise your awareness level of what’s going on.
It takes a little bit of practice, but starting to notice more frequently when we’re doing things which fall into these categories can provide incredible insight into what’s going on.
I would encourage you, on a daily basis, to start to notice when you’re doing things which in particular fall into the fun / boring and challenging camps, because this is when you can start to use the information to help you shape your future choices and how you view yourself.
But there can be a problem here…
What happens when you learn something about yourself that you’re not thrilled to claim?
This is where we start to cultivate self-acceptance as an essential part of moving towards self-like and self-love.
I’ll be covering this in blog 2 of this series, so watch this space, and if you want to make sure you don’t miss it, just sign up to my newsletter here to receive an update when it’s posted.