The First Step in Learning to Love Yourself: Knowing Who You Are
We’ve all seen it somewhere. That quote that makes us roll our eyes a little because while it may be sort of true, it’s also a bit cheesy.
“You can’t love someone else until you love yourself.”
(Insert teensy eye roll and grimace.)
While I do think there is some validity to this statement, I also believe it’s actually quite easy to love others without fully loving yourself. So often we find ourselves putting the needs of our friends, family, and loved ones in front of our own without even realizing it. It is not until days, weeks, months later when we find ourselves at the very end of our ropes (literally not a single shred of rope left) that we figure out we might just need a break. And I don’t know about you, but my breaking points have never been pretty. In fact, they can get really, REALLY ugly.
But how can we recognize a breakdown is coming so we can prepare to love ourselves through it?
I think first we must know who we are. And not just like a “I’m Katie and I drink way too much coffee and I think my dog is better than any other dog on the planet and I love to read but have book ADD so I rarely finish any one book and I’ll cut you for a piece of chocolate” type of knowing yourself. But more of a “I’m Katie and I often have a hard time articulating what it is that I am in need of at a given moment, and I’d rather talk about how you’re doing and your problems than face what is really going on inside of my heart and I cry a lot and I have four different kinds of tears (excitement tears, tired tears, when something is overly sweet tears, and sobbing tears)” type of knowing yourself.
But how do we get to that point of knowing ourselves? I honestly think it takes a bit of practice, and a whole lot of self-awareness. It means having to pay attention to yourself, which can often be hard to do. I am 30 years old and it hasn’t really been until my 30th year that I feel like I’ve finally begun to figure out who I really am, and there are 3 tools that have helped me get there:
Prayer. This is a pretty self-explanatory tool. An active prayer life is not something that only helps us understand ourselves better but it is also necessary in every aspect of our lives. God reveals so much about who He is in our time with him, and in that we uncover who we are. An active prayer life with intentional time in God’s word is key to knowing not only who you are, but also whose you are.
Counseling. Oh, how I love counseling. I may be one of the biggest supporters of counseling that you’ll find. I believe it is helpful to everyone, no matter what they have or have not been through. Counseling helps us understand why we react to things the way we do, and how our perceptions have been formed. Counseling is one of those things that often gets harder before it gets easier, but the things you learn about yourself can only help you in the long run. It helps us learn who you are at our very core, and how to navigate we can best navigate the stuff life throws at us.
The Enneagram. I’m a girl in love with taking personality tests. I know they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and some of them can be far-fetched, but throw me a multiple choice test asking questions about my tendencies and I’ll bring my own no. 2 pencil. Many personality tests can be hit and miss when it comes to really shedding light on who we are at our core, but one that I have found to be more accurate and thorough than any of the others is The Enneagram.
“At its core, the Enneagram helps us to see ourselves at a deeper, more objective level and can be of invaluable assistance on our path to self-knowledge,” states the Enneagram Institute website. The Enneagram has been around for decades but has come into the light a bit more as of recently. Describing each of the nine personality types as who they are as children, who they are in relationships, and in their spiritual lives, The Enneagram has taught me more about myself than most of my years combined. It has put words to my feelings and has helped me reconcile my head and my heart. Taking the test, along with reading the book “The Road Back to You” by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile, has proven to be helpful as I continue to learn who I am and how I need to be cared for. I love it so much and could literally write 7,000 and one million words about it, but I won’t do that. Instead I’m going to encourage you to take the test here for $12, or to download the free-but-not-as-thorough Enneagram app and get to learning.
At the end of the day, I believe that the first step to learning to love who we are as the person God made us to be is truly knowing who we are. It is not until we know who we are at the depths of our souls – figuring out what makes us tick, what makes us passionate, what makes us mad/sad/angry – that we can fully know how we need to be cared for, how to sense our breaking point coming, and how to understand how we’re wired (and how to accept it). As we begin to figure these things out, we can then figure out how to love ourselves well. We’ll soon know when we need more sleep, or when we need a good cry. When we need to take a drive, or when we need a bath. When we need someone to fix something for us, or when we just need someone to listen. When we need a hug, or when we need 75 pieces of chocolate. You can’t sincerely love someone well until you actually know them well…and the very same rule applies to ourselves.