Click on the link above for this vitally important and approachable piece by Liz Gilbert (‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and ‘Big Magic’) on how to make sense of the – so difficult for so many – idea of loving yourself:-
“Pretend you’ve just adopted that dog from a kill shelter. You don’t know anything about this animal’s history – and you don’t need to know. You can see she’s been abused, and she’s afraid of being abandoned or hurt again. Now imagine this: It’s your first night home alone with that dog, and she’s trembling in fear. How would you treat her? Would you scream at her and tell her she’s an idiot? Would you kick her? Would you lock her in a dark room all alone? Would you starve her or let her binge-eat a bunch of garbage? Would you let her stay in an environment where other dogs attack her every day?”
The writer had a conversation with someone at the weekend about ‘self esteem’ and ‘self love’. He said he could make little headway with the idea of ‘improving’ his ‘low self esteem’, but was much more able to engage with the idea of connecting with/loving his animal. It struck us both that there is a key distinction: the idea of ‘raising self esteem’ starts with the idea that we are not acceptable as we are, and need to get ourselves somewhere else (‘higher self esteem’); by contrast, loving ourselves requires no movement – indeed the essential element is that we simply love whatever needs loving, in whatever condition, right now, just as we are.
Ironically, this is far more likely to allow us to expand and grow, than any amount of self help (or therapeutic help) designed to ‘raise self esteem’. And, of course, that perception connects into the heart of the person centred approach:-
“I find I am more effective when I can listen acceptantly to myself, and can be myself. I feel that over the years I have learned to become more adequate in listening to myself; so that I know, somewhat more adequately than I used to, what I am feeling in any given moment … One way of putting this is that I feel I have become more adequate in letting myself be what I am. It becomes easier for me to accept myself as a decidedly imperfect person, who by no means functions at all times in the way in which I would like to function. This must seem to some like a very strange direction in which to move. It seems to me to have value because the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change.”
Carl Rogers: On Becoming a Person
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter
Counselling Exeter since 1994