The Optimist Loves Self Through Bad Times and Good

Many people see my constant, happy smile and make instant assumptions about me and my past. However, my childhood was a pretty traumatic one. In the bad old days, as I call them, I would pass a mirror, momentarily liked what I saw but then suddenly, and inexplicably, would start telling myself that I was 'crap', that I 'hated' myself and I was 'pathetic'. I had buried my trauma deep inside me, refusing to face them and, slowly, it took its toll in a continuous lack of self-love and low self-esteem. Gradually, and painfully, I learned that I had to sort out my past, face it and move on, and then begin the slow process of self-love. The wonderful result is clear to see now.

At the root of our main problems is likely to be a lack of self-love. It is much easier for us not to love ourself because the natural instinct to blame always seeks a scapegoat. When we do not wish to blame someone else for the hurt, pain or unappreciation we feel, we go inwards with the anger and beat ourselves up instead.

For example, victims of racism are likely to loathe themselves or their children, likely to tell their children how 'ugly' or 'horrible' they are, externalising the self-hate they feel. The same with victims of domestic abuse. They usually blame themselves for the violence, being willing to believe that they must have done something to deserve it and they are not worthy of anything else. This lack of self love merely perpetuates the negative situations, reinforcing the very behaviour which is hurting them.

Self-love is the Key

To value, feelings of worth, inclusion significance and ultimately respect. We cannot earn the respect of others if we have no respect for ourself. We cannot expect others to love what we reject if we have no love for ourself and we cannot expect value from others if we give ourself no value. What happens in our life happens in circular motion: whatever we feel we then give out to our world which comes back to us ten-fold through the natural Law of Attraction. So if we feel awful and negative, we give that out, the energy we send out attracts similar negative energy which then returns to haunt us even more. That is why certain people constantly have negative experiences. Nothing will change until they change their thought processes. So you need to be careful what you focus on because that is all you will get in life!

However, how do you begin to love yourself when others might not have affirmed or loved you?

A very good question, not so glib to answer because it is difficult to do. It means you have to try to overturn years of negativity and being undervalued by parents or lovers. However, it starts with establishing 5 things:

  1. The value you place on yourself, 
  2. Gratitude for your life and blessings, 
  3. What you wish to do with that life, 
  4. Self-appreciation and living in the present and
  5. Self-forgiveness.
Who is Your Personal Manager?
First, begin by looking at yourself from the outside. Ask yourself, if you were your own manager would you employ you? Would you employ someone who puts you down, tells you how terrible you are, beat you up for every mistake, loathes you and does nothing to motivate you? One who forces you to put up with violence or putdowns, to be treated like a doormat? Of course not. Yet you constantly do that to yourself! Time to sack that personal manager, that little voice of negativity within you, and get a new motivational one!

Second, begin to give thanks for your LIFE and its blessings. Your time on earth is very precious because many people have no life. Theirs have been taken while you are still enjoying yours. Appreciate that simple fact and give thanks. It is a fact of life that the more we give thanks is the more we have to be thankful for (that Law of Attraction again). Our gratitude energy goes out and attract other similar energy and bring us back much more in return.

To begin the process of self-love, we have to ask ourself these questions. When did I last give deliberate thanks for...

  • waking up and seeing another day?
  • the people in my life?
  • the things I have been blessed with?
  • the talents I have?
  • the faculties that still work?
  • my beauty, life and experiences?
  • Do I just take everything and people around me for granted?
  • When did I affirm and reinforce someone?

Third, what do you wish to do with that life? We are not talking about your job here. We are talking about your PURPOSE. What makes you want to jump out of bed in the mornings, makes you want to fly, thrills you with a warm glow when you think of it? That's your purpose. If you are feeling generally unhappy, you have not identified your life purpose yet, otherwise you would be almost delirious with excitement, as I am every day of my life. My work is just magic. I can actually see the difference it makes to others and that is so empowering - both to me and the receivers. You are probably just doing your job for the sake of the money, trapped by a mortgage or being a slave to material things. That will not make you feel good in the long term. It will not give you much value. When we are living to purpose the world is our oyster and everything we want gradually comes into being. We don't even have to try too hard, we just do our best and the Universe delivers.

Keep out of the past unless it is positive!

Fourth, I have learned that when we keep ourself in the past it is because we don't like our present too much. We probably feel isolated, excluded, unloved, unappreciated, so we secretly blame ourself, we use our depression to maintain attention, but of a sort which, sadly, alienates us from others and have counter-productive effects. In short, our current unhappiness helps us to hark back to the past to remind ourself of how terrible we are while making our situation worse.

We keep the negatives stuck in our head, perhaps for sympathy, instead of facing them, acknowledging them, forgiving OURSELF and others and moving on. I could not forgive until I found love .. my own self-love. To find true love from someone else, you have to love yourself first. No one can love you for you.

But people who live in the past tend to take their present for granted, while many others have not been so privileged to have one. We have no present or future if we live in the past. We are so busy looking back there, we have no time to make a future or to appreciate what we have. Hence we come across as selfish and ungrateful.

Someone once said, "If you want to know what your future will be like, look at your habits now". Whatever habits you have today will dictate your tomorrow. If you have negative habits that keep you stuck in the past, you will only keep getting what you've always got. Your future will be no different from today. Your habits, the way you do things now, will guarantee that.

So, in a nutshell, we have to stop beating ourself up over past actions, stop aiming for perfection and stop comparing ourself to others, otherwise we will always feel inadequate. You also have to appreciate your limitations, praise yourself DAILY for being a wonderful and unique human being. Stop seeking the approval of others when the only standard should be your own, and look outwards to others in love and appreciation than just focusing on yourself.

I have found all these to be most helpful in developing self-love but, most of all, accepting myself as I am and giving thanks for every new day of my life, instead of taking it for granted, has been the biggest factor in nurturing my self love and moving me from feeling like 'crap' to feeling fabulous and fantastic.

I hope this has been of some help.

How confident are you? Try our CONFIDENCE QUIZ to test how you feel about yourself just now. Low confidence and self-esteem rob you of achievements and success. See if you're being affected by it.

ELAINE SIHERA is an expert author, public speaker, media contributor and lifestyle columnist. The first Black graduate of the OU and a post-graduate of Cambridge University. Elaine is a Personal Empowerment and Relationships Consultant. Author of: 10 Easy Steps to Growing Older Disgracefully; 10 Easy Steps to Finding Your Ideal Soulmate!; Money, Sex & Compromise, among others (available on as well as her personal website). She describes herself as, "Fit, Fabulous, Over-fifty and Ready to Fly!"
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Thanks so much for commenting! Your wisdom & sharing helps someone else along their journey to life-long happiness and daily optimism! ~Cynthia