Why self-love matters and how to get it

Self-love is important for everyone. But I think it’s particularly important for maladaptive daydreamers, because we feel so much shame about ourselves, our lives and our daydreaming. Learning to love myself on a really deep soul level has been a huge part of my healing process. In fact, it’s probably the single biggest contributor to my mental wellbeing. So, why is self-love so important, and how can you learn to love yourself if you don’t already?

Why self-love matters

Not liking yourself can be a powerful daydreaming trigger. Maladaptive daydreaming is often an escape from something that’s uncomfortable. If you don’t love yourself – if you’re not comfortable being who you are – you’ll try to avoid that feeling. For non-daydreamers, that’s a problem. They can’t just change who they are. But we can. If your daydream self isn’t you, or is a better version of you, or if you aren’t in your daydreams at all, you might be using your daydreaming to escape the discomfort of being yourself.

In addition, maladaptive daydreaming can make it hard to love yourself. You might be embarrassed or ashamed about your daydreaming. You might think you’re weak because you can’t control it. Seeing maladaptive daydreaming, not as a mental-health problem, but as a fundamental flaw in your character can make it hard for you to love yourself.

Not loving yourself will hold you back in every area of your life. When you don’t love yourself, you play small and you settle for a life that’s less than you deserve. You pass up opportunities because you don’t think you’re worthy of them. And then you use your daydreaming to escape into a world that’s more vibrant and exciting than the one your lack of self-love has created for you.

Overcoming maladaptive daydreaming takes time and effort. And that means you have to love yourself enough to believe that you deserve a life free from maladaptive daydreaming. You cannot shame yourself into change. Telling yourself repeatedly that your daydreaming is the cause of all your problems and you’re a worthless piece of shit for doing it will not work. The only way to heal from maladaptive daydreaming is by loving yourself enough to want a better life for yourself.

How to find self-love

There are many articles (examples here and here) giving good general advice on how to cultivate self-love. But I have a few suggestions that are more specific to maladaptive daydreamers.

First, use your daydream characters. Imagine them telling you that you’re worthy and capable and perfect just as you are. When I started my healing process, telling myself that I was enough felt like empty words that I was only saying because my therapist told me it would help. But imagining my daydream partner telling me I was enough landed better, because he believed it, even when I couldn’t.

Next, implement a zero-tolerance policy with your inner critic. Do not allow negative thoughts to go unchallenged. If you agree with the mean things your inner critic is saying, try recruiting one of your most loving characters to do the arguing for you. Every time your inner critic says you’re not good enough, imagine one of your characters reminding you that you are.

Also, don’t judge yourself for being a daydreamer. Stop telling yourself you’re weak or broken just because you can’t stop daydreaming. Instead, remind yourself that you have a powerful imagination that’s currently out of control but can be tamed.

And, finally, it helped me to acknowledge that there were aspects of how I was showing up in the world that weren’t good. I used to care far too much about what other people thought. I used to put everyone else’s needs before my own. Learning to love myself meant letting some of those behaviours go. And to do that, I asked for help from the version of me that I admire the most – my daydream self. She taught me how to become more like the person she has always been, the person I was born to be.

Benefits of self-love

Learning to love yourself is its own reward. It opens doors to levels of inner peace and happiness that you might never have experienced. It also makes your day-to-day life much easier. And it makes it easier to keep your daydreaming under control. You find the confidence to pursue your biggest, most compelling goals. You show up differently in your relationships because you expect other people to see your value. And you start looking after yourself better, because you believe you’re worth taking care of. All of that improves your real life, so you don’t need to escape into your daydream life.

That’s why releasing shame and embracing self-love is the first, and most important, step in overcoming maladaptive daydreaming.

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