“Loving yourself starts with liking yourself, which starts with respecting yourself, which starts with thinking of yourself in positive ways.” ~Jerry Corsten

Useless. Hopeless. Broken.

This was how I saw myself.

I didn’t completely loathe myself, but I didn’t like myself either. At best, I tolerated myself.

I felt I had good reasons to.

I’d gotten myself into, as we say in England, a right old pickle.

If you’re not familiar with this charming expression, I had gotten myself into a big mess.

In my early twenties, over a painful period of about eighteen months, I’d gradually buried myself in personal debt with several pay-day loan companies.

The ever-growing pressure to pay off this debt played havoc on my mental health. I often found myself running into the work toilet to secretly have panic attacks, throwing water on my face like a madman, and reassuring myself that I wasn’t losing my sanity. I was suffering, and misguidedly, I’d convinced myself I would have to suffer alone.

To make myself feel better, each week I partied from Thursday through to Sunday, chain smoking and knocking back pint after pint of Guinness. Or anything else that was available. I wasn’t fussy.

I’d wake up on a Sunday, often still drunk, with a dizzy head and a heavy heart.

Do I dare to check my bank balance? How long can I go on living like this? What’s wrong with me?

Sunday evenings were the worst. I dreaded Monday morning. I disliked my job but needed to stay there to keep my head above water. It was a vicious cycle.

I’m pleased to say those days are behind me. I’m still far from being perfect, but I’ve come a long way.

I’ve learned to like and even love myself. Which I’m proud of, because I honestly believe the most important relationship we will ever have in our lives is the one we have with ourselves.

The quality of the relationship we have with ourselves determines the quality of all other relationships. Plus, I came into this world alone and I’ll leave alone. Other people will come and go, but I will always have myself. I best make sure I like the man I see in the mirror.

Here are three ways I learned to like and trust myself again.

1. Recognizing I’ve always done my best, given my level of awareness at the time

I often shock people when I tell them I believe there is no such thing as self-sabotaging behaviors. They ask, “Well, what about procrastination? Drinking? Drugs? Surely, they are self-sabotaging?”

Yes and no. Yes, they are destructive, but I wouldn’t call them self-sabotaging.

A more revealing question than what those behaviors are, is why do they exist?

I believe it’s not self-sabotage but misguided self-love.

Let’s take my binge drinking and smoking, for example—behavior that, in the eyes of many, would seem self-destructive. On top of the harmful physical and mental affects, these habits put me further into debt. But why did I indulge in those behaviors in the first place? Because my life situation was painful, and temporarily, they helped.

For a few short hours, those behaviors made me feel better. I became less anxious and happier. As far as my mind was concerned, this was helping.

The issue, as I’ve come to learn, is that the subconscious mind (the part of the mind responsible for habits and behaviors) focuses on the present moment.

What is also important to understand is that the mind’s #1 role is to maintain our survival. If you’ve ever almost stepped into the path of a speeding vehicle, you’ve seen this truth. Without even consciously thinking , your incredible mind jolted you back onto the path and off the road.

Given that the mind’s #1 role is our survival, the idea that it would allow self-sabotaging behaviors is nonsensical.

Furthermore, believing I had a sneaky self-saboteur living inside me, hell-bent on destroying my life, made me feel utterly powerless. If I couldn’t even help myself, how could anyone else?

Now I view those destructive behaviors differently, for what I believe they are: short-sighted self-love. “Helpful” in the short-term but costly in the long-term.

I wasn’t sabotaging myself on purpose. My mind allowed those behaviors because they were moving me away from perceived pain, or toward perceived pleasure.

With more awareness, I was able to stop beating myself up, stop the behaviors that we’re holding me back, and start making better choices. Which included asking for help and setting some goals for myself.

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