HIH Ask A Therapist : Self-Love

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This week we are bringing you answers to some of your questions about self-love. We hope you find these helpful. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @soutientherapy, or visit us at www.soutiencounselling.ca for more. 

Q: I used to be very confident and social but as now I find it very difficult to socialize freely. I find myself plagued with acne later in life and feel embarrassed at work as well! How can I stop being so self-conscious?

A: Most of us feel more judged for what we look like, rather than who we are and what we do. I am sure you have tried every face cream or medical ointment on the market already. It can be so frustrating to grapple with something so outside our control, like our hormones! The best way to conquer your self-consciousness about your looks is to shift your attention from what you cannot control, to what you can. It might be more fruitful to invest your time and energy in your partner, a special project at work, or your hobbies. The more extreme meaning we give to this sudden bout of skin issues, the more extreme our emotional response will be. Most of the time others do not notice any changes, or don’t make them out to be a big deal - it is just our inner critic making us hyperconscious! But at the end of the day we just have to simply accept that we cannot change, and sometimes skin issues are just out of our control. We can choose to spend countless hours in time and energy in changing what we cannot, or simply chose to embrace this as another part of life which will resolve in time! I hope you can ground yourself in this discomfort, and allow your personality to shine through this uncomfortable phase in life! 

Q: I was in a terrible relationship where my partner always made me feel like there was something wrong with me. As a result, I have become very self-conscious. How do I move on from a toxic relationship and be myself again?

A: It can be very difficult to undo the impact of a toxic partner, especially if the relationship lasted a very long time. I sincerely want you to know that there is nothing wrong with you. Thank you for reaching out and I hope you are, or will consider, speaking with a therapist to undo some of the messages you might have learned in the toxic relationship. It doesn’t surprise me that you’re having difficulty being yourself, or finding your voice again. Countless men and women feel similarly after a toxic relationship. Probably the most important thing you can do right now is to practice patience, and give yourself permission to heal. We can often feel a sense of urgency to move past things and “get over it already”, but there is wisdom in going slow. Everyone has their own pace when it comes to healing. Also know that healing is not a linear process; there will be days when you feel like yourself again, but there will also be ‘bad days’. Just know that this is normal. If you’re having a hard time starting somewhere, maybe trying your hand at the hobbies that you used to enjoy in the past. If nothing sticks, try enrolling yourself in social groups like art or cooking classes. Take up a new sport or start learning a new skill. These active distractions will not only immerse you in a rich and fulfilling experience, but will also help you rebuild confidence. 

Q: My last partner and I split up over a year ago but I still have a hard time forgetting him. I never thought it would be this bad. Why can’t I get over him? 

A: I am afraid heartbreaks can be “this bad”. Not only did you give your love and affection to this person but you also probably envisioned a happy future together. You have not just lost the relationship, but also this envisioned future and all of its promises. No wonder you feel so heart broken. Please know that your feelings are not unusual, and there is not set standard or timeline on how long it should be before you’re “over him”. It might be helpful to explore what are some aspects of the relationship you’re having a hard time forgetting. My spiritual clients often find it cathartic to take part in a ‘letting go ritual’ or practice. Also, be honest with yourself: have you really allowed yourself to feel that hurt and the grief? Have you allowed yourself to grieve this relationship? No one likes to feel painful emotions so instead of honouring our emotions we just keep burying them and stifling them as they come up. Research is now showing us that the more you stifle an emotion, the more likely it is to come back - with higher intensity. I believe that we cannot leave place without arriving there first. The same is true for our emotions: how can we expect to move on and leave this painful place if we haven’t allowed ourself to feel it, learn from it and process it? I hope you will reach out to a therapist to unpack some of these questions and allow yourself some care and compassion throughout this process.