Do You Love Yourself? Here’s How to Reflect on This Tough Question

Posted by Lauren Presutti in Life After Paralysis on March 23, 2022 # Health

We spend a lot of our time focused on relationships. From music lyrics, movies, television, books, magazines, gossip, and more, we are flooded with stories about dating, finding love, breaking up, engagements, marriages, soulmates, relationship advice, and countless other romance-oriented ideas. Let’s take a moment and turn the direction inward. Do you ever think about the relationship with yourself? It seems backwards, but it’s so important to think about how you love yourself, especially as you are recovering from trauma in the early days after a spinal cord injury. Even for those who have been living with paralysis for many years – and for families and caregivers alike – it’s important for ALL of us to explore how we feel about ourselves. Thinking about self-love is a great way to assess our mental health and discover how our relationship with ourselves may be contributing to our level of happiness.

People who love themselves typically report that they understand their wants and needs and regularly act on those things to bring them nourishment and pleasure. People who love themselves are generally committed to creating a life that they truly love, instead of settling for unhappiness or attending to the expectations of others. Loving yourself includes engaging with things in the world that bring you feelings of gratitude, excitement, and personal fulfillment. Living with paralysis may mean that you have to adapt hobbies and interests to be accessible for you, but it is completely possible. Self-love also involves not being too hard on yourself (being patient through your rehabilitation goals!), giving yourself the grace to make mistakes and learn from them, forgiving yourself when needed, managing your daily life stress, and embracing your authentic self. Honoring your individuality, reframing self-defeating thoughts or feelings, accepting every aspect of who you are, and taking care of both your physical and mental health equally are all a part of self-love.

On the other hand, people who struggle to love themselves usually share that they feel flooded with negative self-talk, such as, “I hate myself, I’m never good enough, I’m a failure.” This kind of negative self-talk may lead to persistent feelings of anxiety and depression, so it’s critical to learn skills and strategies to address those thinking patterns. People who struggle with self-love also may feel ashamed of who they are, which means they may be more likely to conceal their interests, opinions, or full personalities with others. It’s important to assess for this in your life and make sure that you are not assigning negative labels to yourself, especially ones that may relate to your new identity as an individual with paralysis. People who struggle with self-love may also feed into destructive habits and disallow themselves to have pleasurable experiences. They may feel as though they’re not deserving of love and affection, which may be stemming from past abuse or neglect, the tendency to compare themselves to others, or a lack of boundaries with toxic people. Confronting these issues and identifying the root cause is often the first step to beginning a journey toward self-love.

It’s important to remember that self-love isn’t just about practicing self-care or employing coping skills. While these are certainly important, a person cannot usually shift from self-hatred to self-love with self-care or coping skills alone. Shifting to self-love must include an ongoing commitment to the healing process, which requires the willingness to be vulnerable, to reveal parts of you that are hurting, and to process and explore the past experiences that have led to a lack of self-love. For those who don’t love themselves, this process may be uncomfortable at first because it may bring up past trauma – sometimes it may directly relate to your spinal cord injury – but it can also be transformative for people to finally heal from trauma and move toward recovery.

To assess your own relationship with yourself, think about the questions below:

Are you taking care of your own needs?

Are you treating yourself with compassion and kindness?

Are you being your authentic self inwardly and outwardly?

Are you setting healthy boundaries and sticking to them?

Are you making time for personal enjoyment and fun?

Are you accepting yourself completely the way that you are?

Are you forgiving yourself for past mistakes?

Are you spending time with people who make you feel good?

Are you following what you know to be true in your heart?

Are you honoring your emotions and trusting yourself?

Are you allowing love and human connection into your life?

Reflecting on these questions may bring up some tough emotions, so please take care of yourself and reach out for help if needed.

If you have questions or if I can be a resource for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Your mental health matters.

To learn about River Oaks Psychology, visit www.riveroakspsychology.com and follow River Oaks Psychology on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.