On December 30, 2016, I started the journey to love myself more. I sat down at my kitchen table to write out my goals for the year. I am divorced and my kids were with their Dad that night. The house was quiet and empty; the perfect conditions for self-reflection and goal setting. I lit a candle and opened my new paisley patterned notebook from Staples, my journal for the new year. As I considered what I wanted most for myself for 2017, I realized my only goal was to have more peace in my life. I wrote in my journal about the goal and brainstormed what that meant for me.
I stopped writing for a second to catch up with my thoughts and put my pen down in my notebook. I’ll never forget when the thought came to me it wasn’t peace that needed to be my goal. I had this deep knowing that before I could find peace, I needed to increase my self-esteem.
I can only explain the thought came from my intuition/my inner wisdom. I trusted it completely because it made perfect sense.
The reason it made sense is because I had suffered with low self-esteem my entire life. I had just turned forty years old and I knew that it was beyond time that I dealt with this issue head on.
I told one of my closest friends my goal of increased self-esteem and how it had changed from the original goal of peace. She was surprised I needed to increase my self-esteem. She said she saw me as someone who was incredibly confident and brave. I was constantly doing things on my own, and stepping out of my comfort zone. To her, that took a lot of self-confidence. At the time I had just taken a solo hiking trip to Breckenridge, Colorado where I hiked McCullough Gulch Trail that gains nearly 1200 ft of elevation through the hike and ends at 11,915’.
It made me feel good that my friend saw me as someone who wasn’t lacking in confidence but I knew from all my personal development research that just because someone is confident and brave in one area of their life doesn’t mean they always have an overall healthy self-esteem.
The reason I share this is because if you are like I was, lacking in self-esteem, don’t assume everyone else around you feel great about themselves because they do things that seem to indicate high self-confidence.
People suffer inside with low self-esteem who you would never guess.
While outwardly I might have appeared confident, there was a horrible feeling, or almost a deep knowing inside that there was something wrong with me that made me unlovable. It was underlying in all of my relationships, just bubbling under the surface. I think it’s why I’ve lost so many friendships throughout my life. I assumed because there was something wrong with me, that I didn’t fit in or belong so that is what I always believed, regardless if that was true or not.
It drained me and made me feel even worse about myself, further proving that there indeed was something wrong with me.
The next day I did what I always do when I have the urge to learn something new. I went to my iPhone, hit my Amazon app and searched “increase self-confidence”. Hundreds of books appeared. After looking at reviews and snippets of handfuls of books I choose 2 and ordered them.
Thanks to Prime, two days later, two books were delivered to my front door. They were: Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant and You Are a Badass by Jennifer Sincero. These books dramatically changed the direction of my life. I hadn’t planned it in advance but I was able to use the books together.
You Are a Badass taught me about the subconscious and conscious mind.
Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by taught me about the affirmation “I love myself” and introduced me to the concept of neural pathways.
Very simply put, our conscious mind is everything we are aware of. It’s the way we process things that happen in a rational and logical way. Our subconscious mind is what is below the surface.
Author Jen Sincero defines it as, “The subconscious mind believes everything, because it has no filter, it doesn’t know the difference between what’s true and what’s not true. If our parents tell us that nobody in our family knows how to make money, we believe them.”
All that I learned in therapy and self-help books, helped me tremendously within my conscious mind. I learned how: not to get defensive, how to take criticism without feeling attacked, how to communicate in a healthy way, how not to take things personally, and on and on. I basically learned on my own how to become emotionally intelligent.
Even though rationally I knew (in my conscious mind) all of my strengths and believed as a human I had equal worth as everyone else, I had beliefs (in my subconscious mind) about myself that there was something wrong with me and that I was not deserving of love. Freud created a visual of an iceberg to illustrate the subconscious and conscious mind.
This might be where the term “deep down” comes from. I had this feeling deep down that I didn’t have worth, that I was not deserving of love, even though I knew, intellectually, that I did and I was.
I used the other book, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by, for guidance on how to change those subconscious mind beliefs.
It’s actually incredibly simple.
It’s all about creating new neural pathways.
At the risk of sounding boring or turn people away getting scientific, please let me reassure you that this is all very basic and I am admittedly horrible at science. I don’t really know what most of our organ’s jobs are and I’m just fine with that.
From my research, I learned that neurons are specialized cells that transmit nerve impulses. “Neural pathways are the circuitry in our brains. Neural pathways are the basis of your habits of thinking, feeling and acting. They are what you believe to be true and why you do what you do.” Dr. Kim & Dr. Hil
This isn’t how it scientifically works (I don’t think so anyway, again I’m at about a 3rd grade science level) but imagine that each of those little lights in the picture as neurons and the line between each light as the pathway.
In my research about neural pathways, the metaphor that comes up over and over is one of a hiking trail that has been frequently traveled on, is deep and wide.
The neural pathway I had created for myself was that there was something wrong with me, which sadly, also meant that I didn’t or couldn’t really like myself, let alone love myself. How could I love myself if I believed deeply that there was something wrong with me?
It frustrated me so much because I truly didn’t know what I thought was wrong with myself. I didn’t think I had any horrible unforgivable flaws. There was no logical reason for me to think so lowly of myself, intellectually I could list off my strengths without a second thought. Probably better than most people with healthy self-esteem would be able to do.
But none of that mattered to my subconscious mind. My subconscious mind believed there was something wrong with me and in turn, wasn’t worthy of love.
The concept of the book Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by is based on the author telling himself, “I love myself” over and over again to get out of a deep depression. He also began meditating on this affirmation. I was both extremely skeptical and utterly hopeful. It seemed way too simple but what did I have to lose by trying it out?
I immediately started repeating the affirmation from the book, “I love myself.” Then quickly revised it to feel more personal to me, “I love my life, I love myself.” Over and over in my head I would say it. In the shower, it would be the background noise in my head. Driving to work, getting out of the car, washing my hands, I would say, “I love my life, I love myself”, “I love my life, I love myself”, “I love my life, I love myself”.
The author said that you didn’t even have to believe the thought “I love myself” to create a new pathway to actually start to love yourself. He goes on to explain the reason is that as humans we are conditioned to love and to accept love. It goes a little deeper but that’s the general notion.
When I first started doing this two years ago, I saw drastic changes in myself I could have never predicted. I was changing my neural pathways. I was finally feeling better about myself and feeling like I was worthy of love. A wonderful consequence of making positive changes in yourself is that your relationships improve as well.
My feelings would still get hurt during upsetting situations but instead of feeling the hurt so deeply, the hurt was felt above the surface. Deep down I felt strong and grounded.
This created the peace in my life that I had originally hoped for. My intuition had been right, first comes self-love, then comes peace.
I was more patient with my children, more understanding in friendships and more accepting of family. That feeling below the surface that I was unlovable wasn’t gone entirely. If it had been a 10 before I did the affirmations, it was now a 4.
Kamal Ravikant says, “Here’s the best part, one that makes me smile as I write this. As you love yourself, life loves you back. I don’t think it has a choice either. I can’t explain how it works, but I know it to be true.”
I didn’t dig into the concept of neural pathways at the time.
Now, after doing research on neural pathways to help others, I feel even more hopeful about affirmations and their ability to be used to change for the better. There is a second part of creating affirmations to change neural pathways about the intensity of emotion when you say your affirmation. To make the pathway deepest, in the shortest amount of time, you need to say the affirmation with intense emotion not passively.
While simple, rewiring your pathways is a practice. It takes commitment, repetition and fierce dedication. It takes being fed up with not being able to be as happy as you know you can be. It takes not wanting to spend another day of your life believing thoughts that limit you in a very big way.
Those old pathways are deeply rooted, and especially when we are under stress, research shows the old and deepest laid paths are the ones we go to. But relatively speaking, it is so simple to change and to create positive healthy beliefs about ourselves.
Self-love might seem very indulgent on the surface but if we don’t love ourselves, we can’t possibly give real love to others. Our worlds are a reflection of what goes on inside of us. If more people really loved themselves, I think the world would be a kinder more loving place overall.
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If increasing your self-love is something you are interested in, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have created a simple process for creating affirmations in order to change neural pathways.