According to psychotherapist, David Richo, PhD. one way to improve your relationship with your significant other is to set an intention to consistently give each other “The Five A’s of Love: Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection, and Allowing.” But what about the relationship with yourself? Whether in a couple or not, we still need to give ourselves these things.
These five aspects of love represent qualities that are essential for a child to receive from a parent or caregiver in order to feel secure and to develop a healthy sense of self. An absence of these five qualities of love and nurturing could be considered a form of childhood emotional neglect and relationship trauma. If we don’t receive a consistent, sufficient amount of the five A’s as children, we can experience anxiety, depression and shame, or go through life feeling not good enough.
Guess what? Very few people received the 5 A’s consistently or in sufficient amounts! I’ve never had a coaching or therapy client who did not need to engage in some level of self re-parenting. People always like to say, “parenting is hard.” I want to say, “Have you tried re-parenting?!”
We never outgrow the need to receive attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing. Giving and receiving the Five A’s of love in your romantic relationships is groovy! This can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and help fill the void created by childhood relationship trauma. But, receiving this from someone else can never heal you or fill a void if you don’t truly love yourself.
Here’s the good news; You don’t have to sit around waiting to receive the 5 A’s from someone else! You can and should start giving them to yourself today! Because it is the child who needed and needs these things, it may be more impactful to think of your ‘self’ as your inner child and your ‘Self’ as the adult or parent. If you are already doing this then congratulations! If your relationship with yourself could use a little help, read on. Start with setting an intention to give these dimensions of love to yourself/inner child and see how you feel.
Notice, listen, focus and really engage with your inner child and other aspects of yourself (more on this later). Notice and hear words, feelings, experiences. Think about how your words (self-talk) and actions affect your inner child. When we give the inner child this type of attention, she feels respected, understood and that she really matters to you.
Demonstrate in your words and actions that you approve of who the inner child is as a person; her unique personality traits, her values, her choices, her lifestyle. Acceptance means appreciating differences without judgment. (Acceptance creates deeper intimacy because it demonstrates that each person can be themselves and share their thoughts, feelings and wishes without fear of rejection, ridicule or abandonment. Acceptance leads to self-confidence and a sense of security in the world.)
Express gratitude daily for who you are. Say thank you for the individual qualities that you cherish and admire. (If you have not already done so, create a list of at least 10 assets you possess.)
For example: positive attitude, a calm demeanor, taking an interest in friends and family, your talents. Notice and make a list daily of three good things you do for yourself i.e. making a healthy breakfast, getting exercise, getting a massage, spending time with supportive friends and family, tending to your spirit and any manner of self-care.
Affection refers not just to physical closeness but also feeling close to someone through conversation, gestures, and presence. This means really listen to and engage with your inner child. Maybe she wants to play, maybe she needs a nap, maybe she needs a treat. Any form of healthy self-care should be viewed as expressions of love for self. Affection can also be expressed via kind words, i.e. positive self-talk, affirmations. Stop being so hard on yourself! Listen to your self-talk. If it’s negative imagine saying that to an infant! Would you do that? I hope not, because that’s abuse. Think of how you have and should speak to babies, then do that!
On Sunday (which is my day of rest), I like to take a hot bath in candlelight then really take some time moisturizing. I even give myself a foot massage. Does this sound weird? Well, I love it and so does Little Nicky.
Allowing means letting someone be themselves. It means giving them the freedom to do things in their own way. It means we don’t try to control or manipulate the person to make them into someone they are not naturally meant to be (sound familiar). How can you be allowing to yourself and your inner child? 1) Stop judging yourself, 2) stop comparing yourself to others, 3) stop pretending to be someone you think the world wants you to be, 4) start paying attention to your feelings and wants 5) honor those feelings, 6) be authentic!
If you struggle with giving or receiving the Five A’s, to your inner child/self your past parenting is most likely interfering. Many people did not receive “good enough” parenting. We tend to continue the job our parents started by parenting ourselves the way they parented us. Some of it was good, keep doing that. Some of it was not good, stop doing that and start employing the Five A’s today!
Stop waiting to receive this type of love from others. You can’t change the past, but you can determine what you will do today and be the beautifully powerful woman you were born to be. It takes work, but it’s so worth it!
*Parts of above adapted from Kalpana Murthy (2012) in an article geared toward coupling. This author has adapted Richo’s 5 A’s as important aspects of self-love.