Bulletproof Self-Love: How to Build an Unshakeable Relationship with Yourself

Relaxation

“Before you put yourself down, please consider everything you’ve accomplished to get to this point, every life you’ve touched, and every moment you’ve pushed beyond your fears. You are a champion, a fighter. You are worthy of nothing less than the deepest love you have to share.” ~Scott Stabile

It seems that we’re being bombarded daily with heart-felt messages to love ourselves more. It’s everywhere—from our Instagram newsfeed to handprinted tote bags to the “You are worthy” mural at your local coffee shop.

I appreciate the society-wide agreement we seem to have made to remind ourselves to choose self-love.

But endless commandments like “Put yourself first!” and “Remember your worth!” rarely explain how to actually follow through with it. We talk about self-love and self-worth as though it’s a matter of remembering to floss your teeth at night—as if you can choose better relationships, set healthy boundaries, and take care of your body by just remembering to do so.

If it doesn’t come easily, loving yourself might feel like walking into a new job with no training and being expected to figure it out without a manual or supervisor. Through no fault of your own, you may not have developed the muscle for self-love and care.

I know this because I’ve had in-depth conversations with people who flat out told me, “I don’t know how to have compassion for myself.”

You don’t have an arduous, uphill struggle to feel worthy and self-loving because you lack the inner capacity for it.

If you know how to feel hand-on-chest, lower-lip-puckered-out sympathy and compassion for others—even if it’s for endangered polar bears—then you have the capacity to cultivate this feeling for yourself. And it’s not your fault if you feel lost on where to begin.

Working with Your Unloved Parts

The culprits that thwart your best efforts to practice self-love often come from your shadow—an unconscious receptacle that safeguards all the parts of yourself that’ve been rejected and pushed away. Your shadow deploys a lot of unconscious strategies to make sure you keep sabotaging yourself and avoiding your rejected parts.

Because laziness was deeply entrenched in my shadow, I learned early in life to cope with my unlovable parts by overworking myself. Every nook and cranny of my calendar was chock full of social outings, chores, hurried “leisure” walks, and things to occupy my mind. I only felt good enough when I was constantly busy, so I developed a wicked good avoidance strategy that kept the inner scarcity just below my level of awareness.

Eventually, I noticed this endless game of tag between me and the horrific emptiness. I learned to stop pushing it away and instead developed a capacity to be with the sensations it stirred up in my body.

There are remarkable benefits to working with any fear or disgust you have toward your shadow parts, but a lot of folks run into roadblocks because we’re wired to avoid pain and move toward pleasure.

When the terror of shadow parts arises in the body, our visceral reaction is often to push it away, lodging it further away into our psyche.

Neuroscience has also shown us that negative self-talk can actually give you a dopamine hit if it’s what your brain thinks is “correct,” even if the beliefs are negative and sabotaging.

This leads us to push away our unloved parts and berate them.

Thankfully, there’s another option.

Integrate your shadow parts by creating a safe space for them—more specifically, for the uncomfortable emotions that emerge around them. For example, if you habitually feel anxious in social situations because you think of yourself as being awkward, you can practice integrating your “awkward self” by creating space for the disgust or fear associated with it.

Being with difficult emotions means being with the sensations without feeding them negative thoughts. This actually sends signals of safety to your brain and nervous system that lowers the internal red flags. With continued practice, your brain loses a reason to push the pedal to the metal on stress responses like anxiety, and the uncomfortable sensations begin to subside. This is the true meaning of “facing your fears.”

When you reach the other side of a difficult emotion, it often feels divinely euphoric and empowering—like you’re walking across the finish line of a marathon. Allowing emotions to pass through your body builds resilience. Every time you practice the art of allowing, it becomes easier to anchor back into your power.

Practicing Self-Love

Nurturing your capacity to think self-loving thoughts, be self-loving, and feel the sensations of self-love is also a necessary practice.

You might be surprised to learn that you could be projecting all your love onto other people. Whether it’s a romantic partner, friend, or tv character, if you shower them with adoration, there’s love inside you, but perhaps it doesn’t feel quite at home. Parts of you might feel deeply flawed or incomplete—whether you’re conscious of it or not—so you’re shoving your love into the hands of someone else instead. Projecting love onto others is a way of defending yourself against inner parts you’ve deemed unlovable. Everyone does this in some form or another.

The remedy to this situation is taking back those projections and investing time and energy into finding and loving those qualities in yourself.

We all have a negativity bias in our brains, so we pay more attention to what’s wrong, unsafe, or not good enough about ourselves and the world around us. If this default setting is left unchecked, it leads to major brain ruts—and well, we’ve all met a curmudgeon before!

If you want to lean into what’s radiantly loveable about yourself, you have to shamelessly focus on what you want to love about yourself. If you’re not sure what that is, then choose something and nurture the hell out of it. Tenacity goes a long way when you want to reverse old patterns.

Around the time I began learning to face my own inner void, I took myself on a journey of self-love and self-care through embodied sensual movement and pole dancing.

I call it my divine intervention.

Seemingly out of nowhere, I instinctively knew one day I wanted to become a pole dancer. Even though I had literally zero background in dancing or physical exercise in general, I realized that I had a dancer’s heart inside of me. As luck would have it, a brand-new studio had just opened up in my city six months earlier.

I signed up for an assortment of classes, but it was the feminine movement pole dancing class that captivated me. I’d been in a rush my whole life—for no particular reason at any given moment—but this slow-as-honey practice forced me to start paying attention to myself in ways I never had before.

I invested in myself by taking these classes. It allowed me to stop feeling guilty for being lazy. I didn’t need to overstuff myself with work, relationships, or other outside sources of validation anymore. I learned to slow down, feel my body, and take better care of myself.

Learning to love yourself and know your worth is like having direct access to your inner authority. The self-doubt, sabotage, and low self-esteem lose their power and you finally get to take the helm. If you’re ready to stop second-guessing and minimizing yourself, here’s how to get started.

5 Ways to Start Loving Yourself

1. Expand your capacity to be with your unloved parts.

Every time you create space for an unloved part, you’re changing the relationship between you and that part. Even if you have lots of deep wounds, your relationship to yourself is always changing. The key to creating safe space for your parts is staying with the sensations of fear or disgust and away from stories. If you allow thoughts of worry or self-judgment to run the show, the unloved parts won’t get reconditioned.

The best way to do this is to work with emotions in real time. Find a quiet place to breathe through the sensations. Emotions run a lifespan of ninety seconds at most if you don’t retrigger the emotion with negative thoughts.

2. Open up your nervous system to receive love.

This is about practicing the art of receiving goodwill and kindness in all forms—positive feedback, compliments, and words of affirmation.

How often do you fully accept a compliment? How often do you pause to let kind words—whether it’s a thank-you email from a friend or gratitude from a stranger—land in your body? We’re so quick to brush off affirmations, so what if you rewarded yourself by unapologetically receiving them instead? Make a practice of slowing down enough to take it all in. When you do, you’re reinforcing the pathway to connection and self-love in your nervous system.

3. Affirm yourself with the love you give to others.

If you already have the capacity to love others, then there’s an existing pathway to self-love. It just needs to be rerouted back to you.

On a neurological level, if self-love feels like a stranger to you, the neural networks related to your self-image probably have a poor association with the biochemicals related to emotions around love and worthiness. Thankfully, neurons that fire together, wire together!

Try this exercise in front of a mirror. Think of someone you deeply love and would describe as being super “loveable.” Close your eyes, see that person in your head, and think about why you love them so much that you can literally feel the tingly sensations coursing through your body. Then quickly open your eyes and repeat to yourself while looking in the mirror, “I am so loveable” with an extra emphasis on “I.” Make sure to work up the feeling on a visceral level in your body before you open your eyes. You’re “borrowing” the feel-good neurons while activating the self-image neurons to create new neural pathways.

Have fun with this and change out “loveable” with other qualities you want to feel toward yourself in each round. Repetition matters, so make this a regular practice.

4. Create actionable self-love.

If you truly loved yourself in the way you wanted to, what would you do differently? Make a list of specific behaviors you want to change. For each one, ask yourself, “What’s the absolute smallest step I can take to work toward creating this behavior—something so small, I can do it right now?”

Hint: the smallest step is always smaller than you think. For instance, if you want to ask for the pay raise you deserve, you might think the next smallest step is writing a letter of justification. If you feel head-to-toe inspired to do that right now, by all means, please do! But give yourself permission to start even smaller if the thought of drafting a letter immediately gives you anxiety. The goal is to start building momentum right NOW, so keep the steps super small and easy to do.

5. “Drop in” to your embodied self-worth.

You have access to your self-worth anytime you want because it’s inherent. There’s nothing you ever need to do to earn it. Even if you’re not sure what it feels like, your worthiness is always there, waiting for you to reconnect to it.

Getting into your body senses is a fantastic way to find where dignity lives in your body so that you can deepen your relationship with it. Make it a regular practice to take a few minutes to turn inward and “get to know” your non-negotiable worthiness. Where is it located? If it was a color, what color would it be? If it was a shape, what shape would it be? What’s the texture, movement, and sound of your self-worth? Bring it to life and revisit it often. Remember that every good relationship requires nurturing.

About Krissy Loveman

Krissy Loveman is a trauma-sensitive life coach and shadow worker who helps people build confidence and reclaim their power over anxiety, people-pleasing, and low self-esteem. She specializes in rewiring neural pathways to create deep and lasting change. Get her free Centering practice, a guided somatic meditation that invites you to tap into your inherent sense of self-worth and who you’re becoming.

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