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More on Self-love

Part of being an emotionally healthy, mature adult means achieving permanent self-love so that you don’t channel energy into looking to others for approval, validation and love. I blog away on this subject because it’s essential to eradicating food abuse and establishing healthy body attitudes and because self-love is difficult to come by if you’re a disregulated eater who had a childhood in which you were emotionally mistreated.

If you had parents who were highly critical and frequently mistreated you by invalidating your feelings or by putting their emotional needs before yours—never mind being cruel and abusive—you couldn’t learn to love yourself because we learn self-love through being loved by our care-takers. If you are loved well, you’re likely to grow into someone who loves her/himself well. If you are loved poorly or unloved, you’re likely develop into a person who loves her/himself poorly. In too many cases, parents don’t focus on you learning to approve of and love yourself. Rather, they teach you to become dependent upon their approval and are more concerned with you loving them than with them loving you. It’s rarely this black and white and simplistic, but you get the picture.

Many of you had parents who treated you less than kindly and failed to teach you to love yourself. That doesn’t mean they didn’t love you, only that they didn’t know how to do it effectively. To become emotionally healthy now, you have to let go of approval-seeking behavior and expecting that others will love/value/validate you because you can’t do it for yourself. The ongoing wish for love at any cost springs from childhood dysfunction and was adaptive back then, but becomes maladaptive and self-destructive.

It’s hard, but not impossible, to give up people pleasing, a process that happens gradually as you push yourself to seek your own, not another’s, approval. Moreover, having parents treat you with care and respect in childhood was meant to be a vehicle for learning self-love, not a mere endpoint. The goal isn’t to keep you chasing other approval, but for you to feel lovable so you’ll love yourself. If you missed out on this process, it’s time to grow healthier now by establishing your own goals and values.

If you’re “addicted” to looking to others for self-worth, you can start weaning yourself off this behavior by resisting doing it and by turning inward, instead, for validation and approval. The more you seek these states externally, the less opportunity you have to develop them internally. The more frequently you look to yourself for assessment and recognition, the less inclined you’ll be to depend on what others think of you.