Take Jerry for example; he used to binge-drink alcohol to the point where he felt physically and emotionally sick for days after a indulging, and yet, he continued. Even he recognized that repeating the behavior was punishing, but this awareness didn’t stop him. That was until, lying in his bed with the room spinning after drinking too much the previous night, he heard a voice in his head: “You wouldn’t do that to your dog.” Surprised, Jerry examined the voice, pondering what was going on. And a thought struck him; He wouldn’t treat his dog how he treated himself. He wouldn’t pour toxins down its throat, damaging its brain and making it sick. He loved his dog, but he didn’t love himself.”
This realization changed the way Jerry behaved. From that moment on, whenever he got the urge to gulp back copious amounts of alcohol, he questioned his motivation. He decided not to treat himself worse than he would his dog as a starting point to adopting a more caring attitude.
What do you do to yourself that you wouldn’t dream of doing to someone you care about? Look deep enough and you’ll probably discover there are behaviors you might change to amplify the adoption of a caring attitude. If you truly loved yourself, you couldn’t possibly knowingly damage yourself; you just wouldn’t do it. Of course, many of the harmful actions people carry out are bad habits and addictions. Nonetheless, the root cause is likely to be a lack of self-love.
Altering the way you treat yourself begins with awareness; you need to notice those moments ‘before’ you adopt unhelpful behaviors. This means you need to be mindful about your thoughts prior to acting. Discover your motivation; why are you thinking of engaging in damaging behavior? Are you distracting yourself from painful emotions? Are you hoping to feel ‘better’? And if so, what are you trying to escape from?
As you begin to take up constructive, loving behaviors, you might, at first, feel like a fraud. But don’t let this deter you; the more you treat yourself with kindness, the easier loving yourself will become. Develop self-kindness as a habit and being unkind to yourself will be more difficult in the future. Your brain will start to accommodate the idea that you are worthy of love, and there will be more room for genuine self-compassion.