The practice of loving-kindness began to teach me to balance the love in my life out a bit. Any time I was uncomfortable making the loving aspiration towards myself, I knew that I'd be shifting focus shortly onto others, and that helped me through it.
We all mentally beat ourselves up from time to time. You know how it goes: "I can't believe I was that stupid," or "I'm too fat or thin," or "I'll never be good enough for him or her" and so forth.
Some of us, however, have deeper levels of self-denigration that have taken us to even darker places in our lives, which may stem from any number of reasons. Maybe we were abused growing up, picked on in school, abused drugs or alcohol or were sexually assaulted. Whatever the reason, it is that much more difficult for us to find a semblance of love and acceptance for ourselves than that of the average person, to which I was reminded of a few days ago while talking with a friend.
As we sat on my floor brainstorming ideas for a project, she asked me out of left field to name five things I like about myself. Well, after beginning to squirm a bit and struggling to come up with anything I said, "I'm compassionate" and "I'll help others whenever I can."
She was not impressed with my response and replied, "Yeah, those are nice, but they're more about helping others than about what you like about you," and damn, she was totally right. I have always been of the giving personality type rather than receiving, and like any good giver, it's often very difficult to receive on any level, whether material, emotional or physical.
Now, what I would have done here in the past is mentally beat myself up for not being able to name five things because, well, that's what a lot of us with low self-esteem and who are givers do. This time however, I didn't.
While I may have not done a stellar job at accomplishing her requested task, it did help me to realize I have come a long way in my process. I was able to tell her, "Yeah, I'm struggling with this, and I'm really fucking uncomfortable with it, but I know the qualities are in here somewhere," and today, I can honestly say I do know that, which is a realization I attribute much of to the practice of loving-kindness.