The first self-help book I ever read was Louise Hay’s ‘Heal Your Life’. I found it in a bookshop in Sydney in 1992, a few months after my accident. I bought it on the spot and read it cover to cover over the next few weeks. (If you haven’t read it I highly recommend it!)

I absolutely ‘got’ and ‘get’ how important it is to love ourselves (the core idea of the book). Such a simple idea! Not simple to do however, and here’s my theory on why it’s so hard…

When we were kids our Shady told us that we were not loved when we did a shady thing, like, when we were selfish, greedy, nasty, when we told lies, when we stole, when we cheated, when we manipulated, threw tantrums, yelled, swore and the list goes on (when we were human basically)! So in a nutshell, we learnt that we were only loved when we were not being shady.

But that’s not true – is it?

You love your child or children no matter what shady things they do or say. You don’t approve of their behaviour but you love them anyway. This is called unconditional love. If we assume the same of our parents then there is a high probability that our parents loved us unconditionally too.

Sure, they may not have shown it when we did shady things but weren’t they just doing what their Shady told them to because they were scared we were going to turn out to be ratbags? And don’t you and I do the exact same thing when our kids are rude, disrespectful and unkind?

The difference in one generation is that we now say to our kids, “I love you no matter what!” “I love you even when you make mistakes.” “I love you even when you are horrible to me. I don’t like your behaviour, but I still love you.” And maybe you even say this to your kids, “I love your Shady!” (I do, in fact I say it to lots of people!)

In retrospect if your parents told you, showed you or somehow communicated to you that they loved you unconditionally and loved your Shady when you were a kid (while they simultaneously taught you to be kind, thoughtful and respectful) do you think you would you have a better chance of loving yourself completely now?

What if when you were little you were also taught that you had a part of you (Sparky) that loved you no matter what you said or did too? (Hence my mission to introduce kids to their Sparky!)

Back to us…

It is easy to love ourselves when we are living up to our own expectations of ourselves, or when we are being ‘Sparky’. When we are eating well, exercising, being great parents, making time for our friends, doing something to contribute or whatever your expectations of yourself are.

It is a lot harder to love ourselves when we are ‘letting ourselves down’ or being shady.

To love ourselves unconditionally we have to accept, forgive and love Shady!

Shady continually tells us why we are not lovable. She tells us why we are flawed, incompetent, and a disappointment to ourselves and those we love. Then we get so overwhelmed with bad feelings that we do something shady to avoid or lessen our pain, like binge eat, take drugs, smoke, control others, or some other ‘fake high’ that seems to ease our pain for a short time.

This isn’t helpful in the long term because it sets up unhealthy habits that make us feel worse, which in turn make Shady even more disappointed in us, which makes it even harder to accept, forgive and love ourselves.

To break the cycle we have to LOVE Shady unconditionally! And here’s how you do that…

  1. Make your image of Shady (in your imagination) something lovable and vulnerable (mine is me when I was about 8).
  1. Spend time ‘loving’ that part of you everyday by listening to everything Shady has to say and allow yourself to feel and express your disappointment, sadness, anger, fear, guilt, or whatever other painful feeling you have inside, whether they are about you or others too. (Take a Shady short cut or a Pit Stop if you want to do it to a formula, otherwise just say it all, write it all down and get your feelings out too.)

I took this advice myself just now as I was feeling bad that this post is late and that I’m way behind on work stuff and I thought to ask Shady why this step is so important and here is what she said…

“I want you to love me, I want you to hold me while I cry. I want you to listen to me, pat me, cuddle me, and be there for me. I want to feel your love even though I know I’m probably not helping you. I want to believe you love me even when I stuff up. I want to be able to trust you. I want to tell you everything and then trust you can and will take care of it and me.”

Sounds fair enough don’t you reckon? (Also sounds a lot like what our kids need too!)

Some people tell me they don’t want to give their Shady too much attention. They think Shady will get more powerful if they listen to her everyday and that they won’t stop crying if they start. This is another one of Shady’s fears. It is the fear of being vulnerable, of really opening up and finding out what the most scared part of us has been thinking, believing and bottling up for years. Yes it is hard, yes it does mean you cry a lot but it also means you are accepting, forgiving and loving the part of you that stops you loving yourself unconditionally.

Open your heart to your Shady, she just wants to know you love her no matter what so she can trust you and Sparky to take care of her!

Go fall in love with your Shady! It will heal your life! (Sorry Louise I had to steal your line!)

PS For those of you who already know Louise’s work it is all about affirmations and basically brainwashing yourself to believe you are lovable regardless of the beliefs in your subconscious. Louise doesn’t suggest crying and letting your baggage go explicitly but if you do what she ways you end up doing it automatically because when you say, ‘I am lovable. I am lovable. I am lovable.’ to yourself in the mirror three times a day your Shady pipes up (sooner or later) and says, ‘That’s crap, I hate myself’ and then you cry about that, get it all out and replace it with ‘I am lovable. I am lovable. I am lovable.’ (Which you totally are!)