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Why do many people struggle with liking themselves?

As someone that struggled to like themselves for the majority of my life, I was shocked and surprised to learn that many people struggle with liking themselves. It’s an incredibly complex issue that often stems from childhood experiences and limiting beliefs imposed upon us by parents, teachers, friends, society and that boy on the bus that threatened to punch you because you accidently clipped him with your school bag!

I believe one of the main reasons people struggle to like themselves is due to unresolved issues from their inner child. We all have an inner child within us, which represents our younger selves. The inner child holds all the pain, joys, and fears that we experienced as children (Did a childhood experience just pop to mind?).

Unfortunately, some of us never dealt with these experiences, and they continue to haunt us in adulthood.


An early unresolved childhood issue

It’s the autumn of 1996 – I’m 11 years old. A new school meant new classes, new friends and new experiences. However, I did not realise that it would also mean experiencing a level of embarrassment and pain that I never thought possible.

I was always self-conscious about my body, even though I was quite active. The idea of showering with other boys at school terrified me, but I knew that it was a routine part of secondary school life. So, reluctantly, I joined the other boys in the communal shower after PE.

But as soon as I stepped into the shower room, my worst fears were realised. Some of the boys pointed and laughed at me, teasing me about my “chubby” body. A teacher made a comment about my shape that sliced through me like a hot knife through butter. I wanted to sink into the ground and disappear.

From that day on, I dreaded every PE lesson, every rugby training, because I knew what was coming.

Body shaming

Every time I was naked I felt exposed, vulnerable and ashamed. I began to obsess over my appearance, checking myself out in the mirror for hours on end and scrutinising every inch of my body. I would borrow my brother’s weights, hide in my room and do bicep curls and press-ups until bedtime. I began to see flaws everywhere I looked, and I hated myself for it.

Years went by and my trauma only grew worse. I refused to take my shirt off in public, shower with the rest of the team after rugby matches, sleep naked or topless in relationships. I would wear make-up to cover spots. There would be times in relationships, I struggled to be intimate with my partners, afraid that they would judge me in the way the boys and the teacher at school had.

It wasn’t until I changed my relationship with my physical self that I began to recover from years of body shaming and self-hatred. With time, I learned to love myself for who I was – flaws and all. I gained a sense of comfort in my own skin.

It feels like my experience is far too common in our society. No one should have to fear being naked or ashamed of their body.

Connect and heal with your inner child

When we aren’t able to connect and heal our inner child, we may develop limiting beliefs about ourselves. Do you remember a time where you were told as a child that you weren’t good enough or not capable of achieving your dreams? These beliefs can lead to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and a lack of confidence. Sound familiar?

Moreover, limiting beliefs can be perpetuated by negative self-talk, which reinforces these ideas about ourselves. As a result, we may grow up with negative self-image and feel stuck in a cycle of self-sabotage.

It’s essential to recognise that these beliefs and feelings aren’t the fault of the individual but rather the result of learned behaviour from the childhood. However, we have the power to change them. By acknowledging our inner child (Read Ed Bassett’s thoughts on the inner child here – ) and working towards healing, we can break free from limiting beliefs and star to see ourselves in a more positive light.

Self-love isn’t something that comes naturally for everyone. It’s a complicated process that requires a deep understanding of our past experiences and the beliefs that drive our behaviours. Through introspection, therapy and personal development, we can learn to love and accept ourselves fully. We owe it to ourselves to work towards this goal because ultimately, how we feel about ourselves impacts every aspect of our lives.

Learn how to like yourself

Liking yourself can be a challenging journey, especially if you have experienced hardships such as divorce, addiction, and emotional eating. However, it is possible overcome these obstacles with patience, self-compassion, and a willingness to heal – I’ll offer some helpful tips and strategies that might benefit you on this path towards liking yourself.

Recovering from divorce and separation.

Divorce can leave you feeling lost, alone, and unworthy of love. However, it’s important to remind yourself that divorce does not define your worth as a person. Begin by practicing self-compassion and forgiveness. It’s okay to feel hurt and angry, but holding onto those feelings will only prevent you from moving forward. Try writing down your thoughts and emotions in a journal to process them. Seek out support from friends, family, or a therapist who can help you navigate this difficult time. Take care of yourself by engaging in activities that bring you joy and make you feel good. It would be wise to be avoid alcohol and drugs.

Healing from a gambling addiction

Gambling addiction can be destructive and cause significant financial and emotional harm. The first step towards healing is admitting that you have a problem and seeking help. Join a support group or seek out a therapist or a coach. Someone that has actually been through the experience.

Managing emotional eating.

Emotional eating is a common way to cope with stress and negative emotions. However, it can lead to weight gain, health problems, and feelings of shame and guilt. Learning to identify and manage your emotions without turning to food is key to managing emotional eating. Try keeping a food diary to identify triggers that lead to emotional eating episodes. Instead of reaching for food, try finding alternative coping mechanisms like going for a walk, talking to a friend, or practicing deep breathing exercises. Seek out professional help if you need it, such as seeing a dietitian or therapist who specializes specifically on the topic.

Self-compassion, honesty, and a willingness to heal will help you. 

In conclusion, liking yourself requires self-compassion, honesty, and a willingness to heal. Take things one step at a time, and seek support from loved ones or professionals when needed. Remember that setbacks are part of the journey, and it’s okay to ask for help. You deserve happiness and a fulfilling life, and with time and patience, you can achieve it.