RuPaul sums it up quite well. Permission to be loved begins with allowing yourself to love YOU! I'm sure I'm not the only one who grew up being taught that loving myself was selfish, even sinful. I grew up in an environment that taught me to hate myself. At an extremely low point in my life when I was so miserable because I felt trapped and hopeless as a gay man in a straight marriage with children, I would stand in the mirror and say "You are despicable. You are disgusting. You make me sick." I thought if I could hate myself and my "sin" enough that it would shame me into being straight. I had no love for myself. When you don't love yourself it is a shield that deflects the love others try to give to you. It also sends a unspoken signal to others to keep their distance. In the style of RuPaul I would add part 2 to his quote: "If you don't love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna let somebody else love you?"
Are you uncomfortable with the idea of loving yourself? Self love has been corrupted by religion. Yet Jesus himself told us to love our neighbor as ourself. If you don't love yourself, you're sure not going to be able to give love to others because you don't know how to love. Here are some self-affirmation exercises I often recommend to those I mentor to help them begin loving themselves.
Make a list of everything you've ever done. Nothing is too big or too small. The first time I did this I was shocked at how impressive my list was. I did this in preparation for a new resume. When I was finished I must say, I was very impressed with myself.
Make a list of everything you are good at. Again, nothing is too big or too small. If you feel you are good at making your bed, baking a cake, encouraging others, or driving your car, write it down!
Make a list of your good qualities and personality traits. Guess what? Nothing is too big or too small. Maybe you are compassionate or friendly or loving, the possibilities are endless. Write them all down.
Make a list of your physical characteristics that you feel good about. This is often very hard for people because we all tend to focus on what we don't like instead of what we do like. So, if you have nice eyelashes or soft skin or a friendly smile or shapely legs...write it down! Oh, and remember, nothing is too big or too small.
This last one is often the most difficult. Take a moment every day and as you stand looking at yourself in the mirror, (naked if possible) say 3 or 4 self-affirmations aloud to yourself. Simply finish this sentence: "I am____________." Try to pull one affirmation from each of the categories above. They should vary from day to day, but it's okay to repeat occasionally. Just don't get stuck on the same ones. Challenge yourself to think outside the obvious.
At this point you may be thinking, "I thought this blog post was about giving yourself permission to be loved!" it is, but being able to accept love from others requires you being able to accept love from yourself. As you love yourself, you'll find that it is easier to accept love from others.
If you get uncomfortable, scared, angry, or feel panic when someone expresses love to you, I encourage you to do some serious self-examination. Why is it hard for you to accept love? Do you push it away? Deflect it? Minimize it? Fear it? Ignore it? Why?
The answer is in you. Start with the exercises I listed above. I also encourage you to seek some professional therapy to help you unpack why you struggle to give yourself permission to be loved. You are worthy of love. You are loveable. There are people ready to love you. But first, you have to grant yourself permission to be loved.
Just before Christmas 2017 I published the 12 Permission for a Better Life. Now that 2018 is here, let's take a 12 week journey together. Each week I'll take one of the 12 permissions and explore it more deeply. Together we will learn and grow. It's a fantastic way to kick off the new year!
Joel Barrett LGBTQ Writer, Speaker, Gatherer