Part of chapter Self Love

f humans don’t love themselves, they cannot possibly love anyone or anything else. For this reason, I am beginning this book with a chapter on self-love.

Connect with your inner child

What was your childhood like? Were you punished by your parents? Were your parents absent-minded, chaotic, scared, or depressed? Most of you will have encountered difficulties, sorrow, and pain in your early life.

The first step toward opening your heart and experiencing self-love is to recognize your own inner child. You will have to love the child within you — the child that did not get the love he or she deserved. You alone are capable of healing the child that was mistreated in some way.

How can you heal your inner child?

First, find an old picture of yourself as a child. Choose a picture that is representative of your inner girl or boy. Place this picture where you can look at it every day. As you look at the picture, ask your inner child what it needs today. Maybe it wants to play. Maybe it wants to take a walk. Maybe it wants more rest. Make a habit of doing at least one thing for your inner child every day.

As you honor your inner child like this, you love it and heal it and help it to grow so it can take on the radiance that is the real you.

Another thing you can do for your inner child is play more. Find activities that are fun — pick flowers, watch a funny movie, or giggle with a girl friend. Activities that nurture you and your inner child are healing. Take a warm bath, buy some nice clothes, or enjoy perfumes and healing oils. Of course, you can nurture you inner child in many more ways. Make a habit of connecting with your inner child to discover the playful, nurturing activities he or she most enjoys. As you do more of these activities, you fill yourself with love — the love you lacked in the early days of your life.

Find a comfortable place in your body for your inner child — someplace where you can rest the palms of your hands — perhaps your abdomen or your knees. When your inner child is upset, use your hands and your words to comfort, reassure, and nourish him or her. For example, before you speak to an audience or go to the dentist, reassure and comfort your inner child.

You may experience more inner children: one might be sad, another might be angry. In that case, find two pictures, give them a special place in your home, and connect with both of them.

Most of you have forgotten your inner children. You have learned to be grown ups. Your early experiences taught you to develop survival strategies such as working hard and pushing your emotions aside. You learned to use activities like these to compensate for the love you didn’t get.

So if your life is filled with endless hard work and perfectionism, take time to reconnect with your inner child and with your playfulness. That is one way you can start loving yourself — one of the most important ways.

Although you may long for recognition from other people, this won’t really make you feel better. But when you love yourself for who you are — regardless of what you do — you can experience real love. When you recognize that you are perfect just as you are, you are experiencing real love.

Illustration by Mike Monaghan, Tekenteam Delft