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I recall our very first session. She had booked a face to face individual counseling session set for a Tuesday morning. She arrived at the reception about 10minutes early, and sat quietly while scrolling her phone. When her turn came, she settled into the office rather cautiously as she took in her surroundings. I gave her a moment to take a breath and take a quick sip from her handy water bottle.

“What brings you in today?” I asked.

Her name was Lily. She was 30 years old, unmarried, and had spent most of her life feeling unloved and unworthy. Her mother, who suffered from mental illness, had always been emotionally abusive towards her, telling her that she was never good enough and constantly criticizing her every move. Lily grew up feeling as though she was a burden to her mother, and that she would never be able to measure up to her standards. In more ways than she could point out, the criticism had drained her over the years. Coming in for therapy was what she called ‘a last and desperate resort.’ Lily wanted to know if there was a way out of the endless cycle that had plagued every aspect of her life. Despite her mother’s constant abuse, Lily was determined to find a way to love herself.

We set out to have a couple of sessions with Lily, as I helped her understand that her mother’s behavior was not her fault and that she deserved to be treated with kindness and respect. Through therapy, Lily began to build up her self-esteem and learn to love herself for who she was. It was certainly not easy journey for her. She had spent so many years believing that she was not worthy of love or happiness! But as we continued to work together, she began to see herself in a different light. She started to take care of herself, both physically and mentally, and began to set boundaries with her mother.

As she began to practice self-love, Lily found that her life started to change in ways she had never imagined. She became more confident in herself and her abilities, and started to pursue her dreams without fear of failure. She found herself attracting positive people into her life, who loved and supported her unconditionally. Over the next couple of months, she also got a well-deserved promotion at her workplace.

One day, Lily’s mother came to visit her. Ordinarily, such a visit would make her anxious and worried about what her mother might say or do. But this time round, Lily greeted her with a sense of calm and inner strength. She was able to set boundaries with her mother, and let her know that she would no longer tolerate her abusive behavior. Though her mother didn’t understand at first, Lily felt a sense of relief and empowerment knowing that she was taking control of her own life. Her newly-found voice and ability to be assertive was changing her life for the better and helping her navigate life’s experiences and relationships.

Lily continued to practice self-love, and found that over time it became easier and easier to do so. She completed the assignments that I gave her after every session, and she learned that she was worthy of love and respect, and that she could be her own best friend. She realized that she no longer needed to seek validation from others, because she had found it within herself.

Lily’s journey towards self-love was a long and difficult one, but it was also one of the most rewarding experiences of her life. She has learned that true happiness and fulfillment comes from within, and that no amount of external validation can replace the love and acceptance she has for herself.

What steps can you take to improve your self-love and assertiveness?